Minairons Miniatures 1/72 IGC Sandurni Tank (20GEV001) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

If you are anything like me, your first reaction on reading the title of this review is probably something along the lines of “Who are Minairons?” quickly followed by “and what the heck is an IDC Sandurni anyway”? Fear not, dear reader, these and other questions will all be answered…

Actually, the first one is pretty easy. Minairons Miniatures is a company based in the Catalonia region of Spain, near the city of Barcelona, that produces a small range of kits and figures. The company was started around ten years ago with the intention of covering subjects from the Spanish Civil War in 1/72 and 1/100 scales with emphasis on the region of Catalonia (the company name recalls the minairó, mythical, fairy-like creatures that live in the valleys of the Pyrenees). The range has now expanded to cover figures from the War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714), a range of 1/600 ships from the age of sail and 1/72 racing cars from 1938.

In terms of kits, Minairons produce both resin cast models and simplified injection moulded plastic kits. What surprised me about the company is that it is essentially a one-man operation! Lluís Vilalta founded the company and runs it himself. Digital design, sculpting, resin casting and white metal tooling are all subcontracted to other small companies in the area – this is truly kit and figure production as a cottage industry.

Minairons’ kit output is focussed on wargaming, which calls for completed kits that are sturdy and fairly simple, so in some ways it is unfair to compare their kits to those of dedicated 1/72 model manufacturers. However, the Minairons range of 1/72 AFVs includes several vehicles not covered by (as far as I know) any other manufacturer. For example, in addition to the IGC Sandurni, they also produce 1/72 kits of the Trubia A4 tank, the Trubia-Naval tank and the Hispano-Suiza MC-36 armoured car.

Before I stumbled across the Minairons website (you’ll find a link at the end of this review) I confess that I had never heard of this company or many of the Spanish Civil War AFVs they cover. I have also never attempted a resin-based kit so, when the company kindly offered to provide a kit for review, I was delighted to take a look. Can a simple resin kit produce a decent model?

History

To many people (myself included) the Spanish Civil War can seem a baffling conflict. Spain had already endured decades of political turmoil when in 1936, the Popular Front, a bewilderingly complex coalition of left-wing groups, won the majority in the election. As a direct result, a military coup was attempted in June 1936 under the leadership of General José Sanjurjo. The coup was only partially successful, with the rebels taking control of just one major city, Seville and the port of Cadiz in the south and areas of the north and centre including the city of Corunna on the Atlantic coast. Most of the country, including the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, remained under the control of the government. Spain was divided into two groups that became known as the Nationalists (the Army-led rebels) and the Republicans (the elected government). For the next three years these two opposing forces battled for control of Spain.

Republican soldiers and T-26 tanks at the Battle of Brunete in July 1937.

Image: George Brown via the George Brown memorial website: https://www.g-brown-brigadista.com/

When General Sanjurjo died in an air crash a few days after the beginning of the coup, control of rebel forces fell to General Francisco Franco. Under Franco’s control, the Nationalists became centralist and authoritarian and formed associations with the fascist regimes in Italy and Germany which provided weapons, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and volunteers. The Republicans purchased tanks, aircraft and weapons from the Soviet Union which also supplied a small number of trainers and advisors.

A Republican T-26 somewhere near the Ebro River

Image: The Robert Capa and Cornell Capa Archive at the ICP museum

The limited number of tanks used in the conflict were mainly German and Italian on the Nationalist side and Russian on the Republican side – the most effective and feared tank of the war was the Russian T-26 armed with the 45mm gun which proved much more effective than the German Panzer I or the Italian L3/35 tankette. Both sides also used improvised AFVs and there was some indigenous design and production of tanks during the conflict. On the Republican side a few industrial works in Catalonia began designing tanks.

Fabrication of the personnel carrier version of the IGC Sadurni in the Benach Works in San Sadurní de Noya.

Image: Unknown

One of these was Maquinaria Moderna para Construcciones y Obras Publicas S.A.E., a company based in the town of San Sadurní de Noya that produced the tracked Benach agricultural tractor. The Industria de Guerra Cataluña (War Council for Catalonia – IGC) commissioned the company to build a small tank based on the Benach caterpillar tractor that they had already manufactured. The result was the Carro IGC Sadurni – most Republican tanks were named after the place in which they were manufactured.

The Carro IGC Sandurni tank.

Image: Unknown

This small, lightly armoured tank was powered by a four-cylinder, 60hp Hispano-Suiza petrol engine, housed a crew of two and was planned to be armed with a single 7.5 mm Mle 1914 Hotchkiss machine gun in a ball mount. The hull was constructed from rivetted panels of light steel, possibly 7.5mm thick with a double layer on the glacis plate and front hull. Prototypes of two other versions were also produced – an artillery tractor and an open-topped personnel carrier similar to the British Universal Carrier (Minairons produce kits of all three versions of the IGC Sandurni). No-one is certain how many were produced, but it seems likely that only a handful of the tank version were actually manufactured.

Another IGC Sandurni. This is not the same tank shown in the previous image – this one has a bulge on the glacis plate, vertical louvres on the sides of the rear engine compartment and it lacks a flap over the driver’s vision slot. The markings shown here are provided with this kit.

Image: Unknown

I have been able to find out nothing at all about the operational use of the IGC Sadurni during the civil war, nor what it was finally armed with. Several were seen at a military parade in Madrid in the early summer of 1937 but they were unarmed and I have been unable to find any photograph of this tank with a machine gun fitted. Conflict between Communist and Anarchist factions in Barcelona in May of that year seems to have ended plans for mass-production of this tank. I have found suggestions, but no definitive evidence, that at least one IGC Sadurni was captured by Nationalist forces and used by them as late as November 1938.

A dramatic image of an IGC Sandurni in the field.

Image: Unknown

What’s in the Box

This is a resin cast kit with just three basic components. The tracks, suspension, roadwheels, sprockets, etc. for each side are modelled as a single part as is the main hull. All arrive nicely packed in a small packet of protective material.

No instructions are provided – the assembly instructions and painting scheme are shown on the rear of the box.

This is my first resin kit and I was expecting relatively poor surface detail, but the detail here really isn’t bad at all with the roadwheels and tyres clearly separate and things like the rivets on the suspension cover plates being very well done.

This detail isn’t as sharp as you’d find on, for example, a quality injection-moulded kit, but it’s better than I expected and you have to remember here that you are dealing with a low-volume kit of a very rare tank.

As to dimensional accuracy, well, that is something that is the subject of some dispute. The few websites that mention this tank generally specify a length of 2.8m and a width of 1.56m. The same sites also often mention that this tank was powered by a 43hp CEFA engine. However, this information seems to originate in a couple of Spanish language books about the Civil War by Javier de Mazarrasa. No blueprints for this tank have been discovered and after studying photographs, Lluís Vilalta, the man who runs Minairons, disagrees – he believes that the actual overall size of the IGC Sandurni was 3.30m long and 1.80m wide and that it was powered by a 60hp Hispano-Suiza engine, the same type that was used in the Benach tractor. The kit is based on this larger estimate of size. Creating an accurate kit of such a little-known tank must be extremely difficult compared to the better documented AFVs of World War Two.

The barrel for the machine gun is finely moulded in white metal. Early versions of this kit (and the boxtop art) show a Hotchkiss machine gun, which this clearly isn’t. I spoke to Lluís Vilalta and he explained that while early versions of the kit were provided with a plastic version of the Hotchkiss barrel, these were not aesthetically great – they certainly look a little oversize. This is a more detailed and scaled generic machine gun barrel and, given that we don’t know how the original was armed, I guess that’s entirely reasonable.

The decal sheet is very comprehensive. It includes specific decals for one of the few IGC Sadurnis photographed, with white lettering. There are also more generic decals for Republican units so you can pretty much decide how to use them.

As you can see, it even includes Scottish markings! Apparently this is for use in A Very British Civil War, an alternative history wargame published by Solway Crafts and Miniatures – you’ll find a link at the end of this review. Despite the appeal of the Scottish markings, I think I’ll be using the decals that match the one of the few known photographs. The only paint scheme suggested is overall Vallejo Military Green but you are free to let your imagination and your Google skills run wild – both in Republican service and as a captured Nationalist tank, there are a large number of possible colour schemes for this tank.

Image: Tank Encyclopedia via Wikimedia Commons

Would You Want One?

If you fancy building a model of the IGC Sandurni in any scale, there simply aren’t any alternatives. As far as I am aware, Minairons are the only company currently offering a kit of this tank. Instead, what about another version of the IGC Sandurni provided by Minairons – this is the personnel carrier which comes with a white-metal driver and five soldiers.

This is a small and simple kit. But then, the IGC Sandurni was a small and simple tank that never really got beyond the prototype stage. If you’re bored with the usual Tigers, Shermans and T-34s, here is something truly different, produced by a very small company that seems passionate about what they do.

If you are a regulr reader, you’ll know that I don’t enjoy building kits with bazillions of tiny parts so you can probably guess that I am looking forward to building and painting this tiny kit and I can’t wait to see how it looks next to models of larger tanks in the same scale. 

Thanks to Minairons Miniatures for providing this kit for review.

Related Posts

Minairons Miniatures 1/72 IGC Sandurni Tank (20GEV001) Build Review

Links

Minairons Miniatures web site.

Solway Crafts and Miniatures A Very British Civil War page.

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