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James H

1:35 Soviet Ball Tank ‘Sharotank’

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1:35 Soviet Ball Tank ‘Sharotank’
MiniArt

Catalogue # 40001
 

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I have to say that I usually steer well clear from What-If subjects, almost to the point of purposeful avoidance. There are times though that I do get tempted, and then overcome the temptation. In this instance, MiniArt’s new Sharotank is one subject that I just hadto take a closer look at. Of course, this armoured ball tank never existed, but I’m pretty sure that there was more than an ounce of influence and inspiration taken from Item No.37 at the Kubinka Tank Museum, just to the west of Moscow, Russia. Here, a rather curious exhibit, called a Kugelpanzer, is painted in what I assume is a totally unauthentic glossy grey paint. As far as I know, there are no photos of the inside of this curiosity, and even now, it seems sort of shrouded in secrecy/mystery. The Kugelpanzer isn’t a ball tank, but it is fairly close, being a squat drum shape, with two tracks running around its circumference, and with a rear stabiliser to support it. In the front is a vision slit and a welded port with what appears to have originally had a gun protruding from it. The tracks look almost welded into position, so I don’t know if this was a mock-up, or a later-welded machine. Either way, it’s intriguing. 

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I don’t suppose it’s inconceivable that there could have been such a weapon eventually enter production, that was similar and entirely viable. It also appears that MiniArt have had that same idea with their Soviet version of the Kugelpanzer, except this one is entirely spherical and has two side stabilisers instead of a single rear one. Quite how that would actually work is beyond me! It also has a single track running around its circumference, leaving little in the way of front-back transverse stability. But hey….this is a What-If, right, so let’s enjoy the moment!

 

The kit

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I have to say that the artwork on Sharotank really is quite nice, with two machines depicted in different schemes, kicking up dust behind them as they race on towards their targets. As can also be seen on the lid, this is the first in MiniArt’s new ‘What If Series’, and is also an ‘Interior Kit’, meaning that yes, it has a full interior! Now we can get down and dirty with what would theoretically make these curios actually tick. The box sides contain profiles for the SIX schemes that can be modelled.

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Inside the box, all TWENTY-FOUR sprues are packed into a single, clear sleeve. All except one of these are moulded in light grey styrene, with the single clear sprue being wrapped individually. Despite the high sprue count, some of these are quite small. There are only two parts on the clear sprue, and again, these are small. A nicely illustrated instruction manual and a single decal sheet complete the ensemble. 

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I think it would be easiest to explain the Sharotank from the inside-out, and for you to relate the photos of the sprues to those details, as this is of course a fictitious machine. It’ll also give the opportunity to know a few basics about the design, plus the opportunity to look at the possibilities that it offers n terms on display and diorama work. 

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The Sharotank is based around two large, circular disc frames onto which are fastened the rollers that aid the smooth movement of the single, central track. These two frames are held apart by a series of rectangular frames which hold the interior equipment of the machine. The tank has FIVE crew (which I thought surprising), and the guns and ammunition fit into the large side dome shells. Of course, those guns (two main guns and two machine guns) can be moved either in the ball mantlets or shields into which they are fitted into. There are no forward-firing main weapons, meaning the tank driver will need some good communication with both gun operators, and it’s to be hoped they both don’t want the driver to manoeuvre for them at the same time! Access to the tank is via a large circular door in each metal domed side. These are locked by means of valve-style handle that pushes out a series of locking arms into the circumference of the door opening, rather like how the door of a large vault would operate.

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Construction begins with the detailed engine, and this really does look very good, and again would lead this model to be an ideal diorama subject, and at least on display with the large doors open. The engine is connected to a gearbox what operates a roller that comes into contact with the inside of the single track. Just below the engine is what I believe to be an oil tank. This is quite small, so I’m thinking that two tank-like shapes in the inner domes are probably the fuel tanks. Just imagine dropping your lit cigarette into the rolling track area of this thing, and then sending it spinning around the interior with your crew cussing you J

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There are no crew positions within the main framework of the Sharotank, but instead, these are supported external to the frame, in various elevations and locations, so suit the crew role. The crew positions are rather spaced out in the tank layout, with no side-by-side positions. As for the guns, MiniArt has realised that both main gun and machine gun operators would indeed need bags to catch their spent cartridges, or else they would be spinning around in the interior! Gun detail is excellent, as is that of the spent shell bags. A box feeds each MG, whilst racks built into the side domes, contain the main shells. Those domes also are home to the engine radiators etc.

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The guns themselves can be positioned, but the doors appear to be an either/or option for open and closed. I don’t think it would take much ingenuity to make those also open and close to suit.

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The main track is moulded in four sections , and look very good, and certainly suitable for a vehicle from Russian terrain. How they would work in the Berlin streets is another matter. 

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A single decal sheet is included, printed by Decograph, in the Ukraine. Printing is excellent with nice thin ink layers and perfect registration. Colour is also sold and carrier film minimal. My only gripe is that the sheet was in the same bag as the parts and is a little dented in places, with one decal being damaged. The six fictitious schemes available are shown in these images.

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I quite like the instructions manual for this kit, with the first inner page showing three schemes, and the last page showing the same. Construction is broken down into 40 stages, using shaded CAD images for illustration, and paint references given throughout. Paint codes are supplied for Vallejo, Mr. Color, Life Color, Tamiya, Testors, AK Real Color, Humbrol, Revell and Mission Models brands, as well as standard names.

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Conclusion
It really does take something quite extraordinary to make me look twice, when it comes to What-Ifmodels, but this is most definitely one that appeals to me. MiniArt has taken the ball-tank concept and produced something that is reasonably credible, and with the complete interior, would give that extra buildability factor. Moulding and execution is first rate, and only minor parts clean-up is required. The finished result is also fairly small, so no issues with display space here! A lovely little model which will doubtless provide many fun hours in the workshop.

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My sincere thanks to MiniArt for the review sample seen here.

 

 

 

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