1/550 Scale Minsk
Review by Graeme Martin
I recently purchased this kit primarily as a reference model from Naval Base Hobbies in New York. I'm hoping to build a 1:200 scale scratch built waterline model of this ship at some stage in the near future. At this point, I am slowly collecting plans, photos and other materials. I also have a 1:700 scale Aoshima Minsk as a building reference.
Firstly the box art is simplistic, almost amateurish in its execution. This actually helps the first time builder as it clearly depicts the ship and most of its detail. More sophisticated and dramatic box art while seducing the buyer in store to purchase, tends to somewhat blur the detail for the first time builder. I would recommend to any modeler to get as much photographic reference of any ship they are building in books, magazines or on the web so that one has a full understanding of the model they are putting together. But in this case there is very good, clear graphics depicting the plan and side elevation of the ship.
The kit comes with approximately 300 parts. The main parts are the motorized one-piece hull and the three-piece flight deck. The mid-deck section is the largest of the three, apparently for easy access to the motor and batteries. The deck details appear to be quite good with aircraft deck tie down markings included. There is a motor switch slot in the rear starboard side of the mid flight deck section, so any modeler wanting to build a static display will have to fill this with a small rectangle piece of scratch plastic. Motorizing a kit immediately relegates it to toy status in my book. I know that Tamiya did it to the original 1:350 scale Bismarck and Yamato kits in the very early `80's. But correct me if I'm wrong, they have dropped the motor in later kits of these ships. This kit also comes with a display base, which I find most unusual as it is a motorized kit.
The kit comes with water transfer decals which contain the red stars for the aircraft, a couple of white 011 for the ship's sides and a pair of MINSKs in black Cyrillic lettering, presumably for the display stand.
Visual instructions are clear and straightforward. A sonar dome is just under the clipper bow but due to the kit being motorized, authenticity at the stern around the propeller area is very suspect. The kit comes with two glue-on bilge keels. But who knows whether there are any stabilizers on a ship of this size? The waterline is not marked at all. There are a series of bilge pump outlets running the entire length of the ship just above where the waterline would be. So this makes for some very careful masking when painting the white boot topping.
There is a degree of flash on certain smaller parts, which will need filing and cleaning up. There has been much speculation about the quality of the aircraft and helicopters in this kit. For the scale, they're OK but not as good or as sharp as the aircraft in the Aoshima 1:700 kit. If I could make a comparison of an existing popular kit, I'd say the aircraft were a little less sophisticated than Otaki's 1:400 scale Enterprise aircraft of 18 years ago.
At this point I have not put the kit together so cannot judge its final look. But everything points to a reasonable looking model and since the ship is large in real life, quite impressive at this scale. Given that I paid US$ for the kit and had it airmailed to me in Australia, it is not worth what I paid for it. But I console myself in that it's for reference only.