Another first for me this time – a 1/72 kit by Trumpeter. I have heard good things about the kits from this manufacturer and I was keen to find out if they are as impressive as some reviews suggest.
Chinese company Trumpeter began producing plastic model kits in 1995, but many of their early efforts were poor copies of existing kits from other manufacturers. However, from around 2000, the company introduced CAD-CAM and slide moulding technology to produce first-class kits that are said to be close to the quality to those produced by Dragon and Tamiya.
Beginning in 2005, Trumpeter introduced several variants of the KV-1 in 1/72 to join a large range of World War Two subjects in this scale. Even the Model 1942 gets two variations with both a heavy cast turret version and this kit with the smaller “lightweight” cast turret.
Only two days into Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, German forces received a very unpleasant surprise – a Soviet tank so heavily armoured that it could not be penetrated by virtually any tank or anti-tank gun. The standard 37mm PAK 36, the anti-tank weapon with which most German units were equipped, had no effect on the tank at all and even the dreaded 88mm gun struggled – one of the new tanks took thirteen hits from an 88 before it was stopped.
KV-1s in action near Stalingrad
The new tank was the KV-1, a tank that the Germans had been completely unaware of before the invasion. Designed as a “breakthrough tank,” heavily armoured and intended to give close support to infantry, the KV-1 began production in June 1940. Named after People’s Commissar Kliment Voroshilov, one of Stalin’s most trusted aides, the new tank featured a welded or cast turret housing initially an F-34 76mm main gun (as fitted to the T-34/76), torsion bar suspension and the same diesel engine fitted to the T-34. It had massive armour all round, but this brought its weight close to forty-five tons (the T-34, for comparison, weighed around twenty-six tons).
KV-1 with additional bolt-on armour on the turret
Was the KV-1 an unstoppable supertank? Well, not quite. In the early stages of the German invasion, where Soviet tanks were mainly used in a defensive role, it often provided an impregnable steel roadblock. However, when Soviet operations began to switch to the offensive, its main limitation became very obvious. The KV-1 was slow. Painfully, horribly slow. Provided with essentially the same engine as the T-34 but weighing almost twenty tons more, the KV-1 struggled to reach 3mph off-road and its transmission broke frequently. Russian commanders complained bitterly that when mixed groups of T-34s, light tanks and KV-1s were used together, the crews of the T-34s and other tanks had time for a picnic and a few hands of cards before the KV-1s finally lumbered into view, usually having demolished a few bridges on the way. Or, as more often happened, by the time that the KV-1s arrived on the battlefield, the other tanks and supporting infantry had been sent in to attack leaving the heavy tanks to operate in isolation.
The Model 1942 featured a slightly more powerful 76.2 mm ZiS-5 main gun and even more armour which brought overall weight close to forty-eight tons, causing regular transmission and suspension failures. The subsequent history of the KV-1 was mainly concerned with improving its mobility and speed. The most notable effort in this respect was the KV-1S (Skorostnoi – fast) of late 1942, though a marginal improvement in performance was only achieved at the expense of dropping five tons of armour, the main asset of the KV-1. By that time, it hardly mattered anyway because improvements in German tank and anti-tank weapons had made the KV-1 vulnerable.
A knocked-out KV-1 Model 1942
The last version of the KV-1 featured the same 85mm gun fitted to the T-34/85 and most KV production ended in 1943. However, this tank was used as the basis for the later and more successful IS (Iosif Stalin) series of heavy tanks.
What’s in the Box?
This kit represents a KV-1 built in early 1942 and featuring the slightly smaller version of the cast turret. A quick look seems to confirm that everything provided is fairly accurate and appropriate for a KV-1 built at this time. If you want to get really picky, you might note that the grab-handles on the turret sides are moulded as solid and the separate hubs for the sprockets have the wrong number of bolts – they should have eight but they are moulded with sixteen but at this scale, I can live with this.
The ninety-four parts come as five sprues moulded in hard, fairly brittle grey plastic (two are identical, one for each set of roadwheels and return rollers) plus the lower hull.
It’s nice to see that slide-moulding means that the gun barrel is moulded open – no drilling required! The exhausts are moulded as integral parts of the upper rear deck and are not open, which is perhaps slightly disappointing, and there are no tools or other stowage items though a browse through wartime photographs seems to confirm that few KV-1s had many items stowed externally.
Surface detail looks very good and the turret and driver’s hatches are not only separate parts, they have appropriate internal detail, which is good to see. The mesh intake screens on the engine deck aren’t especially well done and perhaps some PE parts would have looked better here? It is notable that parts are attached to the sprues with fairly thick connections, so some care will be required when cutting off small parts.
The tracks are the vinyl rubber-band type and they have fair external detail but not much on the inside. Four tow cables are also provided in black vinyl though only two are used. I do have to say a few words about the tracks here. Perhaps this rant more properly belongs in a build review, but I think it’s important if you’re thinking about buying one of these kits.
Back in the late 1960s, one of the most frustrating experiences of my early modelling career was trying to get a set of too-tight vinyl tracks on to an Airfix 1/76 Panther, my very first tank kit. The initial problem was that I couldn’t find any glue that would join the tracks satisfactorily and when I finally achieved an approximately secure join using several staples, the tracks were so tight that when they were stretched into position, they snapped off both sprockets. That, of course, was a kit first produced in 1961, and I certainly didn’t expect to be facing the same problems with a relatively modern kit…
The instructions provided with this kit confidently state that the tracks can be “glued using plastic cement.” They can’t. Such is my dislike of this type of track that I actually tried joining them while doing this in-box look-around. Like most vinyl tracks I have come across, they ignore plastic cement entirely, shrug off superglue and laugh in the face of two-pack epoxy resin glue. I joined one track using a needle and thread, added the sprocket, idler and roadwheels to the hull and did a quick dry fit and guess what? They’re also so tight that the join is pulled open and obvious when the track is in place! When I tried fitting the second track, it was even worse – the track began to tear where it was stretched tight over the sprocket and then the idler snapped off. Impressed? No!
This is the good side, but, as you can see, the track is stretched so tight that the join is gaping.
This seems odd because other reviews of this kit note that the tracks are a very loose fit and if you look at the boxtop illustration, you’ll see that the completed model in the photo has improbably droopy tracks. Not on mine where the vinyl tracks are stretched drum-tight. Come on Trumpeter – this isn’t good enough! If you must provide vinyl tracks that are impervious to any known glue, at least make sure they’re long enough. Apologies for the rant – for me, this is a major flaw. If I’d known how the tracks really were, I might not have purchased this kit.
Anyway, decals are provided for three different KV-1s, though the colour scheme and placement for these decals only shows one version. No details are provided of the units these markings represent. The two-colour scheme shown in the black and white instructions is not easy to follow and the boxtop illustration doesn’t help because it shows a KV-1 finished in overall green. A much clearer version of this colour scheme is provided in in the Trumpeter instructions for the 1/35 version of this kit, shown below.
As far as I can tell, the colour scheme shown in the instructions is appropriate for two of the sets of decals (with the yellow number “708” or the large white “V” on the turret) but the KV-1 identified as “Kim” seems to have been painted with a different camouflage scheme, as shown below.
Image: Wydawnictwo Militaria 168 KW vol. II, p68
Whichever scheme you choose to follow, at least it’s nice to see a Russian tank that isn’t simply green.
Would You Want One?
Overall, detail and accuracy look very good here. Surface detail is crisp, there is virtually no flash and all the mould ejection marks I can see are placed where they won’t show on the finished model, unless you decide to show the hatches open. Perhaps having the exhausts as separate parts and the mesh intake screens with more detail might have been nice, but these aren’t major problems.
The tracks are simply horrible. I mean, the detail on them looks sort of OK, but they’re made from glue-resistant vinyl (even though the instructions claim otherwise) and they’re just too short which means that it will be very difficult to model any of the characteristic sag seen in the heavy KV-1 track. That’s a major frustration in what otherwise seems to be a reasonable, accurate and well-modelled kit.
The lack of information about the history of the vehicles covered by the decals and the poor black and white rendering of the colour scheme is also disappointing. I don’t expect a full history of the vehicle in a tank kit, but some information about the units to which the decals apply is always nice and providing three sets of decals without explaining where they go or what the accompanying colour schemes should be just seems lazy.
If you don’t fancy the Trumpeter KV-1, perhaps surprisingly for such a well-known tank, there aren’t actually many alternatives in 1/72. Italeri do a KV-1 M41 in 1/72, though this is based on a 1975 Esci kit. It actually isn’t bad and it comes with several sets of decals, external fuel tanks and a couple of figures though it also has vinyl tracks. Russian manufacturer PST also do several versions of the KV-1 in 1/72 and these are generally very good including link and length tracks, though it has been said that detail on things like the roadwheels leaves something to be desired. I guess perhaps we’re still waiting for the ideal 1/72 KV-1 kit. Hello, DML and Revell – are you listening?
And, if you want to see how to do a decent job of Russian tank tracks in 1/72: Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) Build Review