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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) Build Review

First chore on the Zvesda T-34/76 is drilling out the main gun and with that done, it’s time to start on the hull. There is actually very little construction involved. The headlight and antenna base are added as are the toolboxes. I’ll be leaving off the tow cables to paint separately. The exhausts must be fitted to the rear of the upper hull and, just as on the Zvesda SU-85, there is a small but noticable gap on either side that needs to be filled. 

After complaining that the fit between the upper and lower hull on the SU-85 wasn’t great, here it’s very good indeed. No filler needed and only a quick swipe with a sanding stick though unlike the SU-85, the exhausts aren’t moulded open here.

Then, it’s on to the turret. There are no fit problems with the mantlet, main gun or turret base, and no filler is needed but the hatches have a moulding seam and some distortion once they’re cut off the sprue and they do need a fair bit of sanding to make them flat.

It’s only when I try fitting the turret in place that I realise I have made a mistake in construction. I glued the turret base in place in the upper hull. Then, the turret snaps on to that part. However, it won’t rotate because I have glued the base in place. If I had just pushed this into place from the inside and then snapped the turret on from the top, it would have then revolved. Note to self: read the instructions! At least by glueing the base in position I can keep the turret separate for painting and snap it in place at the end.

I also fit all the roadwheels and the inner halves of the sprockets and idlers – the outer halves will have to wait until the tracks are fitted and I’ll be painting these separately. These wheels fit much better than the same parts on the SU-85 which were a very tight fit.  

It all then gets a base coat of flat white, and then it’s time for the main colour. When building the SU-85, I confidently said that just about any colour of green will do for a Russian tank from World War Two. Protective Green 4BO, the standard green used on Russian AFVs, certainly varied in colour both as it was applied and due to weathering and fading. However, I felt that the SU-85 ended up just too dark, so this time, I’m mixing my own base colour for brush-painting.

After a great deal of experimentation, I come up with something I’m fairly happy with. It’s very light at this stage, but I know that adding varnish and oil washes will darken it quite a bit. One problem quickly becomes apparent – once the two hatches on the turret roof are sanded to make them flat, they fit so closely and flush with the roof that they virtually disappear under the paint. I distress the finish with a scourer to highlight worn areas.

Then I add the decals to the turret and paint on some light chipping and then it all gets a coat of matt varnish.

Then, it gets a dark grey oil wash to bring out shadows and some white oil streaking to give some visual interest to flat panels. 

Then I paint the roadwheel tyres and exhaust and the tracks get the usual dark grey undercoat, with highlights added with a soft pencil, then a coat of clear varnish and some brown acrylic wash on the tracks and roadwheels to simulate mud. Assembly of the tracks is a little fiddly, and might have been better done before joining the upper and lower hull halves. I didn’t do it that way because I want to paint the tracks separately and I was concerned that the upper/lower hull join might need filling and sanding. In the event, this join was fine and I could probably have painted the upper and lower hull separately and then joined them once the tracks had been added. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

The upper and lower runs are anchored on to pegs on the inner halves of the idlers and sprockets as are the curved end sections. Getting these all neatly in place with the upper and lower hulls joined is tricky, but the end result isn’t bad at all. Overall, I rather like this method of creating the tracks. It’s also nice to see that the upper run isn’t completely straight – it does incorporate a little sag.

All that then remains is to add the tow cables and a radio antenna and the Zvesda T-34 is finished.

After-Action Report

I’m still struggling to get a good representation of Protective Green 4BO. I think this is better than the darker green I used on the SU-85, but my brush painting is still far from perfect.

The kit itself isn’t bad. Fit is generally very good and I do like the tracks. The snap-together nature of this kit doesn’t really affect construction and the fact that I ended up with a non-rotating turret was entirely up to my failing to follow the instructions. I also managed to snap off and lose the headlight to the carpet monster and I was forced to make a replacement.

However, as a kit, this is pretty good. Perhaps the surface detail isn’t quite as sharp as some newer kits, the turret hatches could be better defined and maybe this would have looked good with some tools, spare track links and other bits and pieces of outside storage, but in general this is a good representation of a T-34/76 early Model 1934.

These little Zvesda 1/72 armour kits are good value and simple to build, which makes a nice change from some more complex 1/35 kits I have built. I don’t feel that this T-34 is quite up to the standard of the same manufacturer’s SU-85, especially in terms of the sharpness of the detail, but it certainly isn’t terrible. This makes a pleasant and relaxing way to while away some lockdown hours and there isn’t anything here that would challenge most kit-builders.

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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) In-Box Review and History

Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I recently built a 1/72 SU-85 kit by Russian kit-maker Zvesda. I thoroughly enjoyed that one, so I thought I’d try another offering by the same company, a Model 1943 version of the iconic T-34. Like the SU-85 this is a “Snap-Fit. No Glue Required” kit. I was originally put off these small Zvesda kits because I felt that a snap-together kit sounded like something aimed at kids (and this was at one time marked on the box as “My first model kit”) but the SU-85 went together well with some sanding and filling and I’m now looking forward to building another small-scale Zvesda kit.

I had assumed (always a dangerous thing to do) that this would be very similar to the SU-85 kit, which is basically a T-34 chassis and running gear with an 85mm main gun in a fixed mount, but I was wrong. This is an older kit, first released in 2011 (the SU-85 was released in 2020) and in terms of, for example, track construction, this is quite different though the quality of moulding looks just as good.

I have already built a T-34 in 1/72, the Revell version of the later T-34/85, and that was very nice indeed. Can this snap-together kit be as good? Let’s take a look…

History

Much of my working life has been spent in engineering, and I find a comparison of German and Russian approaches to tank design and construction during World War Two fascinating. German designers generally aimed for technical excellence and that involved almost continual change and improvement of initial designs. The T-34 represents a very different approach. The T-34/76 tank that invading German forces met in the Summer of 1941 was good, but it was far from perfect. A major problem was the cramped, two-man turret that provided poor outside vision and required the commander to issue orders to the crew while maintaining situational awareness and identifying targets as well as aiming and firing the main gun.

A Model 1941 T-34 in the Victory Park Museum, Moscow.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Russians were well aware of these problems and as early as the Summer of 1941 plans were well advanced for the T-34M (also known as the T-43) which would have included torsion bar suspension and a three-man turret mounting a more powerful main gun. However, the invasion changed all that and a decision was taken to retain the T-34/76 as it was to ensure the highest possible rate of production. The GABTU (Main Auto-Armoured Technical Directorate) permitted no changes to the basic design that might slow the rate at which T-34s rolled out of factories.

One of the principal locations producing the T-34 was Factory 183 in Kharkov. However, in late 1941 the city was evacuated as the Germans approached and the factory was disassembled and shipped east. Factory 183 was merged with the Dzerzhinsky Ural Railroad Car Factory and re-established in the Ural city of Nizhny Tagil to create the Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 which soon became the world’s single largest producer of tanks.

Finishing a cast Gaika T-34 turret in Factory 183.

One of the few changes allowed was the creation in 1942 at Factory 183 of a new, cast Gaika (hex-nut) turret that was a little wider and less cramped than the original, though it was still a two-man turret with two circular hatches in the roof rather than a single, large hatch. The final modification to the T-34/76 before the introduction of the T-34/85 in early 1944 was the addition of a turret cupola for the commander that was introduced in the second half of 1943.

However, also in 1943 a shortage of rubber forced another change. Instead of the road wheels being covered with rubber tyres, a small rubber shock-absorber was placed in the centre of a steel roadwheel which became known as a “locomotive wheel”. This saved rubber, but the sound it produced was so loud that it was difficult for the crew to communicate and Germans were given ample warning of any approaching T-34. A compromise was developed in which only the middle three roadwheels were steel and this was found to reduce noise notably while still saving rubber.

The T-34 production line in Factory 183. If you look closely, you will see that the tank on the right has rubber-tyred roadwheels at front and rear with steel locomotive wheels between.

The Russian focus on maintaining production paid off. More than one thousand, five hundred T-34s were produced in the month of December 1942 alone. Despite suffering massive tank losses in actions throughout 1942, the Red Army had almost twelve thousand more tanks in its inventory in January 1943 compared to one year earlier. The T-34/76 certainly wasn’t perfect, but enough of them were available that they caused major problems for German forces or, as Stalin is reputed to have said, “quantity has a quality of its own.”  

What’s in the Box?

This kit represents a T-34 produced in the first half of 1943 at Factory 183 in Nizhny Tagil and features a Gaika cast turret with two “Mickey Mouse ear” hatches but no cupola and steel locomotive roadwheels in the middle three positions. This T-34 is modelled without rear external fuel tanks, spare track links, a horn or tools. The box contains less than eighty parts comprising a single sprue and the lower hull moulded in light grey plastic and the tracks moulded in two separate sprues in black plastic. There are also decals and assembly instructions that include suggested paint schemes.

The single main sprue contains everything but the lower hull.

The upper hull is a single part with the driver’s hatch included. Surface detail looks reasonably good, though perhaps not quite as well-defined and crisp as the detail on the SU-85. There is virtually no flash and I can’t see any visible mould release marks. The main gun is moulded as a single part and is solid so it will need to be drilled out as will the exhausts. Two tow-cables are provided as separate parts but no tools or other items are provided for external stowage.

Roadwheels are nicely detailed and all lightening holes are moulded as open, so no drilling is required. The two types of roadwheel are clearly different and appear to be correctly modelled.  

The turret hatches are moulded as separate parts but there is little interior detail, no crew and no simple way to model these open as extended legs on the inside of the hatches help to snap the turret into place.

The tracks themselves are different to the single-piece, semi-flexible tracks provided with, for example, the more recent Zvesda 1/72 SU-85. Each track comprises four separate parts – a top and bottom run and two curved end-pieces to fit over the sprocket and idler. The curved end pieces fit into pegs inside the sprocket and idler. Interior and exterior detail on the tracks looks acceptable and they appear to be to scale.  

The instructions look clear with 3D views of all steps.

Decals and colour schemes are provided for two tanks.

One, all in Protective Green 4BO, is for a tank from the 22nd Heavy tank Brigade in the Summer of 1943 and the other, with a tan camouflage pattern over the green base, is for the 8th Heavy Tank Brigade in the same period.

I have not been able to find details of either of these units, but the main action on the Eastern Front in the Summer of 1943 was the massive Battle of Kursk in July/August and it is certainly possible that either unit may have been involved there.

Would You Want One?

This looks like a fairly simple little kit. Overall detail and accuracy look good and I like the fact that this represents a very specific point in the minor modification of the T-34/76. I also like the fact that this is a “bare” T-34 without fuel tanks, tools or spare track links which does make it look a little different. My previous experience with a Zvesda snap-together kit suggests that some sanding and filling may be required to get things like the upper and lower hull and exhausts to join without gaps, but I’m hopeful that this will create a reasonably detailed and accurate early T-34/76 Model 1943.

Kit builders are well-served with a plethora of T-34/76 kits in a range of scales. If you are looking specifically for a Model 1943, DML do one in 1/72, though this is a slightly later version with the commander’s cupola and, though it also features three locomotive wheels on either side, the holes in these are not moulded as open so you had better be prepared for an extended drilling session.  The DML kit does include external fuel tanks and stowage items. Italeri also do a very similar kit in 1/72 depicting a T-34/76 Model 1943 with cupola which was first released in 2020.

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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) Build Review

Revell 1/72 T-34/85 (03302) Build Review

Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of Zvesda’s 1/72 SU-85 and, given that this kit is “Snap together – no glue required” I obviously won’t be needing any glue. Except, that’s not quite how it turned out…

The first job, as usual on most 1/72 kits, is drilling out the bore of the main gun. I don’t enjoy this – it’s just too easy to drill a fraction off-centre, but in this case, it all goes well.

Construction begins with the upper hull. The parts required to assemble the gun, mounting and mantlet fit fairly cleanly and are indeed designed to snap together leaving the gun free to traverse and elevate. However, you will be wanting to use glue to hold things like the rain cover and mantlet securely in place. Likewise the small vents on the roof and the rear part of the upper hull. These do all have mounting pegs and corresponding holes, but IMHO, glue is needed for a secure fix.

Just two parts (the handrails on either side of the hull) have no means of fixing other than glue. In general, the whole snap-together approach actually works very well in as much as it provides clear locations for all parts but really, you’ll be wanting to use glue too. Things like the rear fuel tanks are very nicely made – construction is idiot proof (they will only assemble in the correct orientation) and fit on these is superb.

However, I was less happy with the fit in other places. In particular, there is a notable gap on the right side and top of the main gun mounting. This is sufficiently wide on the right that you can see inside the hull, so filler is required. The rear plate of the upper hull also has fit issues and it took some sanding, filling and re-scribing panel lines to get something that looks right.

Both the exhausts fit into cut-outs in the rear hull that are a fraction wider than the exhausts, so again, filler is required to fill these gaps. The upper and lower hull halves also snap together, but again, glue is required for a secure fit. Both front and rear joins required sanding and filling. The rear join in particular needs a fair amount of sanding to get something that looks right.

The lower hull incorporates part of the track guards that fit into holes in the upper hull. I was concerned that these would be visible from above, but the joins are generally covered by toolboxes and other equipment, so these aren’t really a problem.

I have left off the tracks, sprockets, idlers, roadwheels, tools and tow cables at this stage simply because I want to paint these separately. I find that painting tyres on roadwheels in particular is much easier while these are loose and they can be mounted on a match or cocktail stick and rotated.

With the sanding and filling done, it’s time for something completely different. Rather than using a black or dark base for the main coat, I am going to use white. The reason is simple – I’ll follow this with a coat of varnish and then a coat of olive green. I will then buff the surface, hoping that the white will show through the green on high spots to replicate, wear, fading and highlights. That’s the plan, anyway…

I begin with a coat of matt white from an aerosol can. This is followed by a coat of clear, matt varnish. This also gives me a chance to check that my attempts at sanding have blended in the worst of the gaps. You’ll have to take my word for it because I forgot to take any photos of the kit at this stage. Just visualise an all-white SU-85…

Then I spray a top coat of Vallejo Olive Drab, also from a can. OK, I know, there is great deal of debate about precisely the shade of green used on Soviet tanks in World War Two. There seem to have been several different shades of green depending on where the paint was mixed and the tank painted. Some paints seem to have reacted to exposure to sunlight by becoming darker while others faded to a lighter colour. Then, you have to take into account colour scaling… For what it’s worth and in my view, just about anything resembling olive green is acceptable for a WW2 Russian AFV.

Then I buff with the abrasive side of an ordinary household scourer to create lighter areas on high spots by revealing the white undercoat. Then, it gets a coat of clear varnish mixed with a little olive drab to tone down the highlights a little.

Overall, this is close to what I was looking for. I then add the decals, though I put these on the right side only as that seems to accord with the vehicle in the museum in Moscow. I add paint chipping around hatches and other areas using dark grey and then it gets another coat of clear varnish and then it’s on to the oil washes.

I use a dark grey oil for shadows and to highlight things like the grilles on the rear deck and I add some white streaking and highlights to larger panels. I’m not too unhappy with the overall result, though it has turned out a darker green that I had hoped. If I’m doing another Russian WW2 AFV in this scale, I may use a different, lighter green as the base colour.

Then, it’s time to start on the tracks. You must follow the sequence of construction noted in the instructions here. First, the inner halves of the roadwheels, idler and sprocket are added. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. I really struggled at this stage. The problem is that all are a very tight fit on the spindles or sockets to which they attach. I guess this is to make them snap together, but it took so much force to get things like the sprocket inner half in place that I was concerned that it would snap. So, it took quite a bit of sanding, fitting and re-fitting to get to this point.  

Then, the tracks are added. The inner roadwheel with the pegs on it goes in the centre, and this locates the tracks in place.

I did a fairly simple paint-job on the tracks before fitting, just a coat of dark gunmetal followed by dry-brushed lighter gunmetal highlights and some brown for rust and dirt.

Finally, the outer halves of the wheels are added. Again, this isn’t easy and it takes more force than I was happy with. If I was doing this again (and I will be, soon…) I’d fix the inner halves in place during hull construction, dry-fit the outer halves and sand as required and then and paint the inner halves in-situ rather than trying to add them after painting the hull.

With the tracks done, all that’s left is to add the tools, tow cables and other bits and pieces. And here I found that, once again, the snap together construction means that I might have better to follow the sequence of construction in the instructions. If, as I did, you assemble the toolboxes on the hull, for example, before you try to fit things like the tow cable and saw, they don’t snap into place. To get these to fit, I had to cut off the locating pegs and glue them into position.

All that remains is to add a stretched-sprue radio antenna, and that’s the Zvesda SU-85 done…  

After-Action Report

I have been building mainly 1/35 kits recently, and I had almost forgotten how quick and fun these little 1/72 kits can be. Most construction was done in a single, short session and even the painting took much less time than usual. I also rather like the fact that these smaller scale kits are cheaper and take up less display space than their larger counterparts.

Overall, I was very impressed with this, my first Zvesda kit. Detail is crisp, accurate and complete, there was a total absence of flash and the only mould-release marks are placed inside, where they can’t be seen. As far as I can tell, this builds into a good representation of the SU-85 with no major inaccuracies or problems.

I’m not so sure about the whole “snap together – no glue required” thing. A couple of parts must be glued in place and I am not at all certain that some of the smaller parts could be fitted securely without the use of glue. On some small parts such as the sprockets, the amount of force needed to snap these into place is so great that I was concerned that I’d break them and I ended up sanding these and gluing them into position. It’s not a major problem, but I suggest you do have glue and sandpaper to hand if you’re building one of these.

This approach also means that you must either follow the recommended steps for construction or be prepared to glue some small parts into place. For example, I left things like the tow cables and tools until I had finished constructing and painting the hull, and that meant that some of these parts couldn’t be easily snapped into place.

Fit was, well, all right. Some filing and sanding was needed in a few places but no worse than I have experienced on several other kits. I do like the semi-hard plastic tracks provided on this kit. They look much more to scale than most rubber-band style tracks, they’re less fiddly than link-and-length tracks, especially in this small scale, and they bend round the sprocket and idler convincingly. These do mean that you must follow the recommended steps for assembly, but this isn’t difficult, just different.

I suppose the most important question is: having built this one, would I buy another Zvesda 1/72 kit? And the answer is an emphatic: Yes! In fact, I think I can feel a T-34 sort of mood approaching…

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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) In-Box Review and History

Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I recently purchased a 1/72 kit by Russian kit-maker Zvesda, the first time I have tried one of this company’s products. I confess that I have been rather put off by “Snap-Fit. No Glue Required” proudly emblazoned across Zvesda tank kit boxes. That sounds, well, a bit toy-like. Surely a snap together kit can’t be much good. Can it?

However, having read various reviews, it seems that this isn’t necessarily so. Zvesda tank kits in both 1/72 and 1/35 seem to be well regarded and the images I have seen of completed kits look rather good. So, I bit the bullet and ordered this kit from a local stockist here in Spain. I was slightly stunned when I did some initial research and discovered that this is a new-tool kit released in 2020. I’m more used to kits that are forty or even fifty year sold but hey, even us oldies can be persuaded to take a trip into the future now and again.

And I even have a tenuous personal connection with the vehicle depicted in this kit. In 2010 during a trip to Moscow I was able to visit the Central Armed Forces Museum on Ulitsa Sovetskoy Armii. It’s a fantastic museum with (as you’d expect) lots of Soviet hardware from World War Two and one of the exhibits I noted was an SU-85 – until then, I had never seen one in real life. Back then in 2010, it looked a little sad, with faded and chipped paintwork, but it has now been refurbished and repainted and, I strongly suspect, used as the basis for this little kit – the decals provided with the kit certainly match the current paint scheme of the SU-85 in the museum.

Zvesda themselves (the word means “Star,” by the way) were established in 1990 and are based in Lobnya, a town twenty miles north-west of Moscow. They produce a range of kits covering civil and military aircraft, ships and figures as well as an extensive range of AFV kits in 1/72 and 1/35 covering subjects from the inter-war period, to World War Two and later.

So, let’s take a look. Can a snap-together kit really provide a satisfactory modelling experience?     

History

The creation of the SU-85 was, like many other wartime developments, a short-term and expedient solution to a particular problem. By the summer of 1943, it was becoming clear that the T-34/76 had some major problems. Most significantly, it’s 76mm main gun was not capable of penetrating the frontal armour of the latest German tanks including the Tiger and Panther. In addition, it was recognised that its two-man turret, with the Commander being required to operate the gun, was partly responsible for inefficiency in combat. The solution was the T-34/85 with a more powerful main gun, upgraded armour and a three-man turret, but the new tank would not be ready until early 1944. What was needed in the meantime was a new vehicle mounting the 85mm main gun that could be produced quickly until the new tank reached frontline units.

By the late summer of 1943, the T-34 was becoming vulnerable to new German tanks and upgunned existing versions.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

In response to this requirement, the SU-85 (SU simply means Samohodnaya ustanovka, self-propelled vehicle) was proposed. The Soviet Army had been considering plans for a medium tank destroyer since 1940, but no prototypes had been built. The Ural’s’kiy Mashinostroitelnyy Zavod (the Ural Heavy Machinery Plant, UZTM) near the city of Sverdlovsk had been producing the SU-122 heavy howitzer based on the T-34 chassis since mid-1942, and so it seemed logical that the same factory could quickly produce a vehicle using the T-34/76 chassis but mounting an 85mm main gun. Nevertheless, development of what became the SU-85 happened in a staggeringly short space of time.  

The SU-122 was also produced at the UZTM factory

A decree ordering UZTM to begin development of an SPG based on the T-34 was issued on August 8th 1943. The design used the chassis, lower hull, running gear, suspension, engine and transmission of the existing T-34/76 with a fixed superstructure holding four crew and an 85mm main gun. Production had to start by 25th August with no less than once hundred examples being produced by the end of the same month. Compared to protracted Allied and German AFV development, this is little short of incredible, but somehow UZTM produced the first SU-85s within the deadline and the first examples reached front-line units before the end of September.

Given this rush to produce, unsurprisingly the SU-85 design was refined and improved throughout its production history, though this was mostly done on an ad-hoc basis with no clearly defined sub-types. For example, the first SU-85s had a gun shield attached with four bolts. This was found to be insufficient and was soon increased to six. Changes were also made to armour, hatches, visors, pistol ports and other elements throughout production. There are a great many detail differences between vehicles simply designated as SU-85. Only two changes were sufficiently important to warrant formal recognition. SU-85s were produced in two factories at UZTM, #8 and #9. The SU-85 was designed for the D-5S85 gun, a development of an existing 85mm towed anti-tank weapon. However, Factory #8 also produced 85mm anti-aircraft guns, and on SU-85s produced at that factory, the barrel and breech from these were used. This gun was identified as the D-5S85A and SU-85s fitted with this gun are generally referred to as SU-85As, though they are externally identical to other models.

The SU-85A at the Central Armed Forces Museum, Moscow

Image: Yuri Pasholok athttps://www.facebook.com/yuripasholok

The need for the SU-85 declined sharply when the T-34/85 entered service in the first quarter of 1944. It was decided that a new SPG, the SU-100 would be produced using a more powerful 100 mm D-10S main gun and equipped with a full commander’s cupola. However, shortages of the new gun led to interim production of the SU-85M, essentially an SU-100 fitted with the D-5S85A gun.

In total, around two thousand SU-85s were produced from August 1943 to November 1944. The SU-85 remained in service with the Red Army throughout World War Two and after and was also used by armies around the world including Vietnam, North Korea, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. This kit appears to be based on an SU-85A manufactured in June 1944 and currently on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.      

What’s in the Box?

The box contains a total of just eighty-one parts comprising a single sprue, the lower hull moulded in light grey plastic and the tracks moulded in a black, semi-soft plastic. There are also decals, instructions and suggested paint schemes.

The single sprue contains everything but the lower hull.

Surface detail looks very good indeed, with sharp panel lines, weld beads and even tyre treads on the tiny roadwheels. I do note that there are two completely different tread patterns on the tyres of the roadwheels. However, an examination of photographs of the SU-85 in the museum in Moscow confirms that it too has this assortment of tyres. I have no idea if this reflects wartime practice or just the use of an assortment of tyres by the museum. The main gun is moulded as a single part and is solid so it will need to be drilled out.

The tracks themselves are quite interesting, being moulded in a black plastic that isn’t as flexible as vinyl but seems notably softer and less brittle than the plastic from which other parts are formed. Assembling the tracks looks a little different too, due to the method of construction. First the inner roadwheels and the inner halves of the idler and sprocket are attached to the hull. Then, the tracks are assembled and added, being anchored in cut-outs in the centre roadwheel. Then the outer half of all the roadwheels , idler and sprocket are added. It certainly sounds different but at least the tracks are nicely detailed.

A look at the instructions also reveals that “no glue required” is not entirely true. While most main parts do seem to be designed to snap together, some tiny parts like the handrails on the sides of the hull must be glued in place. The instructions note that “you can fix some additional parts with the help of glue.

Decals are provided for two vehicles, one from the 1047th Kalinkovichi SPG regiment with a suitably warlike slogan, Смерть немецкого оккупанта (Death to the German occupier) and the other from the 251st Guards SPG regiment which includes the text советский разведчик (Soviet prospector) for the hull side. The second option is the vehicle displayed in the Armed Forces Museum though it’s notable that the SU-85 in the museum only has the slogan “Cоветский разведчик” on the right side, not on both sides as the colour scheme and decals suggest. The overall colour for both schemes is Protective Green 4BO (though the instructions simply refer to it as “protective, which is a little confusing) , the standard green used on virtually all Russian AFVs during World War Two.

Would You Want One?

This looks like an interesting little kit. The overall detail and accuracy look very good indeed in the box but I’ll have to reserve judgement on the whole snap-together thing until I actually build this, something I’m really looking forward to. It’s always good to see things like the tools and tow cables being provided as separate parts as this does simplify painting. All the hatches are moulded as integral parts of the hull and can’t be constructed open, but that’s not unusual at this scale.  

The SU-85 isn’t a particularly popular subject in 1/72 – up to 2000, there wasn’t a single example available. AER were the first to release a 1/72 SU-85 back in 2000 and Unimodel followed soon after with their version. DML also do both an SU-85 and an SU-85M in 1/72, both nicely detailed kits first released in 2011. Armourfast also do a snap-together SU-85 in 1/72. All of these are perfectly acceptable kits with no huge problems.

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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) Build Review – coming soon

Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I thoroughly enjoyed building a couple of Tamiya 1/35 kits from the 60s and 70s (The Panzer II and M41 Walker Bulldog, as you ask…). So, when I saw another Tamiya kit from the 70s in the Special Offer section of a kit vendor’s website, I didn’t hesitate. What I liked about those other kits was their relative simplicity, as well as the fact that despite being fifty plus years old, they still fit perfectly together to make a reasonable representation of the original.  

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I don’t much care for lots of tiny parts or a pile of PE. Not only is my eyesight a whole lot worse than it was when I first built kits in the late 1960s, my fingers seem to have got clumsier too and I seem to spend more time than productive on my hands and knees trying to find tiny parts that I have dropped. That’s one of the reasons these old kit appeal to me, but of course there’s a downside in that they’re just not as detailed as some more recent kits.

The mould date on this kit is 1975, which makes it one of the earlier vehicles in the Military Miniatures series. Unsurprisingly, it shares the lower hull, suspension, running gear, Schurzen side armour and tracks from the Tamiya Panzer IV Ausf. H (35054) released in 1975. Like most other Tamiya kits of this period, it was originally produced as a motorised kit and you’ll find holes for switches and mounting places for batteries in the lower hull.  As ever here in Model Kit World, the question is: does this forty-five-year-old kit deserve your attention and your hard-earned cash?

History

The Sturmgeschütz (StuG) IV came about, like many other things in the chaos of wartime Nazi Germany, by accident and at the whim of Adolf Hitler. By early 1943, the value of the StuG III as an anti-tank weapon was very obvious and production of that vehicle increased until it outstripped that of most other German AFVs. However, the continuation of intense fighting on the Eastern Front and the Allied landings in North Africa meant that more still were needed. Krupp, manufacturers of the Panzer IV, submitted a design for a new StuG using modified superstructure from a StuG III Ausf. F mounted on a Panzer IV chassis in February 1943, but this was rejected. The StuG III was considered perfectly adequate and Krupp were directed instead to concentrate on development of the planned Panzerjäger IV, another assault gun that would be equipped with the same 7.5 cm L/70 main gun used on the Panther tank.

A Panzerjäger IV. A fine anti-tank weapon, but relatively few were built due to shortages of the L/70 gun.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

However, a shortage of the 7.5 cm L/70 guns delayed production of the Panzerjäger IV and in November 1943 an Allied bombing raid on Berlin severely damaged the Altmärkische Kettenwerk (Alkett) works where the StuG III was produced. At a conference in early December, Hitler agreed that a proposal from Krupp for creating a new assault gun by combining the superstructure of the StuG III Ausf. G with the chassis of the Panzer IV should go ahead immediately.

A StuG IV draped with lots of spare track links in Ebling, East Prussia in February 1945.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

Production of the StuG IV ran from December 1943 to March 1945 and totalled a little over eleven hundred vehicles. All were armed with the same 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 seen on the StuG III in a “Saukopf” (pig snout) mantlet and most were fitted with Schurzen side armour to protect against attack by hollow-charge projectiles and a rough, zimmerit anti-magnetic coating. By this stage of the war, most Sturmgeschütz (Assault Guns) were being as much used for their ability as tank-killers as for their original purpose of providing mobile fire support to infantry units.  No co-axial machine gun was fitted on the StuG IV but an MG34 on a shielded mount was provided on the upper hull. The StuG IV served on the Eastern front, in Italy and in Western Europe following the Allied landings in Normandy and it proved just as effective as the StuG III in the tank-killing role.

A StuG IV and crew

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

All German AFVs in World War Two were given an inventory number by the ordinance department. However and oddly, the StuG IV seems to have had two different numbers. This vehicle was classified as a Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Special Purpose Vehicle, usually abbreviated as Sd.Kfz.) and it appears on some versions of the ordinance department designation lists twice, as Sd.Kfz. 163, “Sturmgeschütz IV” and as Sd.Kfz. 167, “Sturmgeschütz IV mit 7,5 cm StuK 40”. I don’t really understand that as all StuG IVs were fitted with the same main gun but it probably explains why this kit is designated as “Sd.Kfz. 163” while almost all other StuG IV kits are shown as “Sd.Kfz. 167.” I suspect that Tamiya may have got it wrong here and the most common designation for this vehicle in Wermacht service seems to have been Sd.Kfz. 167.

What’s in the Box?

This box contains four sprues moulded in light brown plastic, the lower hull, two rubber-band style tracks, a set of soft plastic polycap retainers for the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets, a set of decals and the instructions.

The parts seem crisply moulded with good surface detail. A single figure in appropriate uniform is provided as well as Schurzen side armour and optional concrete block additional armour for the left and right sides of the hull front. No zimmerit finish is modelled.

Decals are provided for several units including 2nd Panzer Division, 9th Panzer Division, 116th Panzer Division and the Panzer-Lehr Division as well as three different Assault Gun Brigades. That covers vehicles serving on the Eastern Front and in Normandy, Belgium and Germany following the Allied landings. You can make up your own three-digit identification number because you are provided with several numerals in red with white outlines and a set of “kill” markings for the barrel are also included. The decal sheet actually references a different Tamiya kit – it’s from the Jagdpanzer IV kit (35088). But that kit doesn’t include side identification numbers, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here.  

The suggested colour scheme is overall “dark yellow” which sounds right as all German tanks after February 1943 were finished in overall dunkelgelb. The instructions also correctly note that in the field, tanks were often camouflaged with brown (rotbraun) and green (olivgrün) paint applied either by brush or by spraying.

There are a total of well over 200 parts here, and detail generally looks good though there is a complete lack of any items representing stowage on the rear hull.

The flexible vinyl tracks have reasonable detail on the external surfaces but rather less on the inside – presumably this is a legacy from this kit’s motorised origin.

The instructions are the usual Tamiya fare and are generally clear with good, three-dimensional views of all steps of construction. The text is somewhat clumsy in terms of English usage, but there is nothing here that should cause any major problems. The instructions also provide a some very brief history of the StuG III and IV.

Would You Want One?

A quick look at the parts in the box suggests that this shares many good things with other early Tamiya kits: there aren’t too many tiny parts, what there is looks crisply moulded with decent surface detail and, going on my previous experience of similar kits, I’d expect everything to fit together nicely.

The lack of stowage bins and items for the rear hull is a little disappointing, but crafting these from scratch or the spares box shouldn’t be beyond the capacity of most modellers. The lack of a zimmerit finish is also notable as many, perhaps most, StuG IVs, carried this distinctive, wrinkled finish.

There are a number of alternatives if you fancy a kit of the StuG IV in 1/35 but you want something a little more modern and with additional detail. Dragon do a very nice early production StuG IV which is available both with and without zimmerit finish. Smart-Kit versions of this kit feature individual link tracks, PE parts in brass and nickel and a part-count of over nine hundred! Academy released a new-tool version of the StuG IV kit in 2018 to replace a previous version from 1986. This is another very nice kit featuring high detail, some slide-moulded parts and detailed vinyl tracks.

The thing is, this Tamiya kit, like many of the other early kits from the Military Miniatures series, is available for considerably less cash than either of those others. Does that matter? Well, the price isn’t a deal-breaker for most of us I guess, but this is available at somewhere between half and one third of the price of the others. I like that and I’m sure that this old kit can be turned into something decent. I’m really looking forward to this build!

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) Build Review

HobbyBoss 1/35 T-37A Light Tank Izhorsky (83821) Build Review

The main issue for me in this build is the tracks. These are individual links (more than eighty on each side) and assembling these will be a challenge and means a slightly different approach to construction. Normally, I would paint the hull and things like roadwheels, suspension units and sprockets separately and before assembly. Here, I need all the running gear assembled and in place on the lower hull before I can begin to build the tracks.

I begin by building all four suspension bogies. These are not complicated, but fit is a little imprecise and it takes some careful alignment to get all the roadwheels lined up. Then I attached all four bogies to the lower hull and here I found the fit to be poor. There is a square lug on each bogie that locates in a hole in the lower hull. However, it took some careful propping while the glue set to get everything to line up.

The sprockets, idlers and return roller all fit well. Here is the complete suspension attached to the lower hull.

Then, it’s time to start building the tracks. The individual links are tiny – here are eleven on a 2p coin. I want to glue the complete track length on each side as two separate pieces that can then be removed for painting.

Each link must be carefully cut off the sprue and then sanded – not easy when they are so small. Engagement between the links is not particularly positive – the leading edges of each links engage with tiny slots on the adjacent link. However, a little too much enthusiasm when sanding can make the leading edges uneven which makes the tracks curve. You need to do this 174 times, so it’s not a quick process. At least there are plenty of spare links if the carpet monster gets a few.

I started with the straight run at the bottom and gradually added links up to the sprocket and idler, being careful to glue the links to each other but not to the sprocket and idler. I used AK quick-drying liquid cement which worked well. I was feeling quite good about this until I spotted that the tracks were upside down! After a few expletives, I found that it wasn’t too difficult to remove the tracks and turn them round.

Next, I started working on the upper run and here I wanted to add sag between the return rollers. To do this I used a little tape to create a curve on a piece of plastic card and assembled each of the three parts of the upper run using this as a template. These were then joined to form a single upper run. I did not join this to the lower run so that the tracks could be removed for painting. Here is the finished track on one side.

Building the tracks took way longer than I expected and it certainly isn’t perfect but, if I’m honest, it turned out better than I expected. It is certainly much more time-consuming than using rubber-band type tracks or even track-and-link sections, but, from the side at least, I think it looks better too.

Then, the tracks were removed and the upper hull was added along with the hatches, vents and other parts and PE parts. Fit here was generally very good and I didn’t need to use any filler. I left off the tools and exhaust which I will paint separately and the buoyancy tanks which I will add after the tracks are painted and assembled. One thing I did notice was that the hinged splash guard on the upper front of the glacis plate isn’t mentioned in the assembly instructions – it’s not there on one step and appears in the next, but fortunately it isn’t difficult to see where it belongs.

Next, the turret was assembled. Fit was good but a little filler was needed at the front edge of the hatch.

Then, everything got a coat of Vallejo spray olive drab, the tyres were painted on the roadwheels, idlers and return wheels and a little light chipping was added.

Then, the white cross was painted on the turret and everything got a coat of clear varnish.

The assembled track lengths were painted with dark gunmetal and lighter highlights on the internal horns and treads.

The tracks were added to the hull with a dark brown acrylic wash to represent mud and rust and Abteilung Oils Dark Mud was used to add highlights and streaks.

Then the buoyancy tanks were added. Finally, the tools and exhaust were added to the hull and the decals and machine-gun added to the turret. And that’s pretty much it finished!

After Action Report

Apart from the tracks, this was a fairly simple build. Fit is reasonable, though not great in places – getting the suspension bogies to line-up wasn’t easy, for example. There are no really tiny parts and the instructions are easy to follow.  

I found building the tracks to be a bit of a pain. No matter how careful I was, I still ended up with some links that just don’t line up properly with those adjacent – this is particularly noticeable looking from the front or rear. Engagement between the links is not great and it is just too easy to sand off a fraction too much when cleaning up the individual links – this, I think, is what leads to some not being straight. Viewed from the side, the sag is satisfactory and the tracks look all-right. I don’t think I would be inclined to tackle another kit of a tank this small using individual links like this though on a kit of a larger tank or where the engagement between links was more positive and didn’t rely on sanding for alignment, it might be OK.

Overall, detail is good and, looking at photographs, this appears to be an accurate representation of the T-37A. The detail is perfectly adequate and the PE parts are a nice touch.

If you have the patience and persistence to deal with the tracks, this can build into a perfectly reasonable kit of a little-known light tank. If you can find it, as I did, at a reduced price, I would highly recommend it.

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Tamiya 1/35 Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. F/G (MM109) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

OK, so this a little different, if only because it’s 1/35 scale and I generally build smaller scales. But hey, this was on sale at my on-line stockist for considerably less than a decent 1/72 tank kit and, even more importantly, it’s one I remember well from my youth.

I can recall seeing the early Tamiya Military Miniatures kits back in the early seventies. At that time, my model-making was pocket-money-funded and these kits were out of reach except, maybe, on Birthdays or Christmas. I do remember looking very closely at them and being impressed with what I saw. For me, kit-building is also a source of nostalgia for my youth and I was amazed to discover that this kit first appeared in 1971 – it’s almost fifty years old!

Tamiya started out as a lumber company but in 1960 it began making plastic model kits. In 1962 the company was re-named Tamiya Plastic Kogyo Co. and began to focus exclusively on plastic moulding. In 1962 they produced their first plastic tank it, a motorised Panther. This wasn’t created to a particular scale – it was built to be just large enough to accommodate batteries and an electric motor inside the hull. In his book ”Master Modeler: Creating the Tamiya Style” Shunsaku Tamiya noted:

“After the success of the Panther, I thought it would be a good idea for us to produce other tanks from different countries in the same scale. I measured the Panther and it turned out to be about 1/35 of the size of the original. This size had been chosen simply because it would accommodate a couple of B-type batteries. Tamiya’s 1/35 series tanks eventually got to be known around the world, but this is the slightly haphazard origin of their rather awkward scale.”

Having inadvertently invented the most popular scale for military modelling, in 1969 the company was re-launched once again as Tamiya Plastic Model Co and in the same year it began work on the Military Miniatures series of 1/35 scale figures and vehicles. In 1971 the first tank in the Military Miniatures series was launched; the Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. F/G.

History

The Panzerkampfwagen II began as a stop-gap solution to a short-term problem, but it remained in service for far longer than anyone could have anticipated. In 1934 the only German tank in service was the tiny Panzer I. The designs of both the Panzer III and IV were well advanced, but production delays meant that it was clear that these tanks would not enter service as quickly as hoped. As a temporary measure, it was decided to accelerate the production of a new light tank which was originally intended as a training tank and which was expected to be phased-out when the Panzer III and IV finally entered service.

The outcome was the Panzer II, a ten-ton tank with a revolving turret housing a Rheinmetall KwK30 L55 20 mm quick-firing main gun, a weapon derived from the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun. This gun was capable of firing both high explosive and armour-piercing rounds and had an astonishing capability of firing up to six hundred rounds per minute. Motive power came from a six-cylinder Maybach petrol engine developing 140hp. Five roadwheels on each side were each controlled by separate leaf-spring suspension units.

A Panzer II in May 1940, during the invasion of France. The tank in the background is a Panzer I but I have no idea why the commander of the Panzer II seems to be lacking a head!

Image; Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons.

The Panzer II represented a distinct advance on the Panzer I; it allowed for a three-man crew (compared to two for the Panzer I) though the commander was also the gunner and loader. The extra crewman was a radio-operator with a position inside the hull, below the turret. The initial production variant, the Ausf. A, entered service in 1936 and by the time of the invasion of Poland in September 1939, this was the most common tank in German service.

The first major upgrade took place in late 1940 with the Ausf. F, which featured upgraded suspension, larger roadwheels, thicker armour and, for the first time, a commander’s cupola with periscopes. The Ausf. F was the final production version with over five hundred being produced. In 1942 a completely re-designed version, the Panzerspähwagen II Ausf. L Luchs (Lynx) was introduced. This was larger with different suspension and space for a four-man crew.

A column of Panzer II in North Africa, May 1941.

Image; Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons.

Panzer IIs served on all fronts during World War Two and were used generally as scout vehicles – this was formally recognised when the later Luchs version was designated as an armoured scout vehicle rather than a tank. Attempts to up-gun and up-armour the Panzer II were frustrated by the engine which simply was not powerful enough to give adequate speed and range in a heavier tank. Production of the original Panzer II ended in December 1942 though examples continued in service for the remainder of the war. The Panzer II also provided the basis for, amongst many other things, the tank-hunting Marder and the Wespe self-propelled howitzer.

What’s in the Box?

This kit claims to be a Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. F/G, but that is a little problematic. The Ausf. G was a planned new version of the Panzer II with improved suspension and a different configuration of roadwheels. This version did not make it into large scale production, being superceded by the Ausf. L Luchs, and this certainly doesn’t look like an Ausf. G. So, despite what it says on the box, it’s an Ausf. F.

Opening the box reveals four sprues moulded in light brown plastic as well as the upper and lower hull halves. I note that this kit is now manufactured in the Philippines, but I assume it uses the original moulds from 1971? Considering their age, first impressions are very good. There is no flash at all, detail is sharp, especially on the upper hull and turret and I can’t see any visible sink-marks.

One thing that is obvious is that this was originally offered as a motorised kit – the lower hull includes a battery compartment and there are holes for various switches. No motors or other electric parts are included and these holes will have to be filled.

There are just four sprues plus the upper and lower hull halves. However, two of the sprues contain only parts for four of the five figures that come with this kit – the fifth, the commander, is on one of the tank-part sprues. The suggested colour schemes and decals include tanks operating in North Africa and the figures come with appropriate Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) uniforms and equipment.

There are also a set of soft plastic tracks, though these have reasonable detail and they look more to scale than the rubber band type tracks provided with many 1/72 kits. There is also a small bag of black, soft nylon collars. These are used when affixing the roadwheels and sprockets and are another legacy from this kit’s motorised origin.  

The instructions are provided in both English and Japanese versions and include a brief history of DAK operations and some information about the Panzer II. They note that the principal difference between the Ausf. F and G was the fitment of a turret stowage bin, but that is certainly not my understanding.

The decal and colour scheme information is provided in Japanese only and in black and white, and the box-top illustration doesn’t help much either – it shows markings suggested for an Ausf. F but it also shows a stowage bin on the turret.

The decals are certainly appropriate for a Panzer II Ausf. F in North Africa as these were used by the DAK as part of the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions from December 1941. Markings are also provided for 10th Panzer Division, which was involved in combat in Tunisia.

This looks like a simple kit to build – excluding the figures and their accessories, there are just seventy-five parts here.  But then, the Panzer II was a small and simple tank. Despite the age of the moulds, everything looks sharp and the level of detail is more than reasonable. Overall, I’m really looking forward to building this one.

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Revell 1/72 T-34/85 (03302) Build Review

Before I start construction, I drill out the main gun and exhausts. This is tricky on the main gun, even using a 1mm drill; there is barely room to fit a 1mm hole in the end of the gun. Which kind of makes me wonder if the diameter of the gun isn’t perhaps a little underscale?

Turret construction is straightforward and all parts fit together very well. I sand a small groove either side of the join between top and bottom halves and cement in place a small piece of soft plastic rod to simulate the weld between these parts. I also attempt to add some texture to the turret sides, but this isn’t particularly successful.

Then I join the upper and lower hull parts. I was a little disconcerted to see that there was a pronounced gap at the front, but this is covered by a small piece that forms the nose of the front hull so it doesn’t matter. Other than that, all the hull parts went together very nicely and no filler at all was required here or on the turret.

I then fixed the fuel tanks and other bits and pieces on to the hull. Some of these (the grab handles, for example) are really tiny and I spent even more time than usual on my hands and knees on the floor when parts pinged out of the tweezers and off into the middle distance.

One thing that I really appreciate on this kit is that the sprockets, idlers and roadwheels fit onto separate parts that are then joined to the hull sides. After checking fit, I left these off so that I can assemble the tracks more easily before fitting everything to the hull sides. Adding the roadwheels takes a little care – these are not a tight fit on the spindles and you do have to be careful to get everything aligned and straight.  

Everything then gets a couple of coats of Tamiya Olive Drab including some highlights and an attempt at some basic colour modulation. Painting also clearly shows that the turret weld is visible.

Then, I add the decals to the turret using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. This is quite challenging – the white cross on the turret top is made up of several separate decals and these do not fit precisely. Be prepared for some fiddling and touching up. I then give everything a coat of matt clear varnish.

Then, it’s on to the tracks. I paint these first, including the separate track links and I’ll touch-up them later. The inner surface gets a coat of fairly dark gunmetal and the outer surfaces and internal track horns are given a coat of lighter gunmetal. Then everything gets a brown acrylic wash.

The roadwheel tyres are painted with a fairly light grey. At least this is easy on this kit because there is good definition and distinction between wheels and tyres. I add an oil wash using Abteilung Shadow Green to pick out details on the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers and finally a brown wash to represent dust and dirt.

Then I assemble the tracks. The individual links are very small and there are fourteen each of two different types; with and without internal horns. These must be added alternately and the process of assembly takes some care. However, this is made much easier both because you can do this before joining the tracks and roadwheels to the hull sides and because the individual track links are accurately moulded and fit together positively. I have read some other reviews that note that, when assembled, there is a small gap left – all I can say is that I didn’t find that though I did use every individual link.

One small issue is the fit of the track links on the sprocket. On the T-34, the sprocket is at the rear and it doesn’t have teeth that engage with the track. Instead, the internal horns on the track engage into rollers inside the centre of the sprocket. All this is accurately modelled here, but I glued the sprockets into place before I started assembling the track links. This meant that on one side, the sprockets did not align with the track horns on the individual links. I got round this by cutting the track horns off on several of the links, but I now realise that it would have been better to leave the sprocket free to revolve until I had finished assembling the tracks.  

Then I give the turret and hull an oil wash using the same Abteilung paint used on the wheels and sprockets. I try to use this to give definition to the various grilles and intakes on the rear hull – it’s moderately successful but on reflection, I think that a darker wash here would have worked better.

When I’m done with that, I give everything a final coat of clear matte varnish with a tiny spot of brown paint added to make everything look a bit dusty. Then, all I have to do is add the spare track links, towing eyes, saw, tow cable and the small brown pieces on the right side of the hull (I don’t actually know what these are, so I follow the colour scheme and paint them rusty brown).

And here is the finished result.  

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no real problems. There are some very tiny parts and assembling these takes care. Getting the white cross on the turret to look half-way decent takes time – I almost gave up on this and used the other set of decals, but I like the way this turned out in the end.

I am happy with the way that the turret weld looks but less so with my attempt at adding texture to the cast side-walls. This looked all-right during construction but you really can’t see it on the finished, painted model. I would also have liked the option to model the driver’s hatch open, but this certainly wasn’t a show-stopper.

The process of building the track and link sections is tricky, but it is made much easier on this kit by having the sprockets, idlers, roadwheels and tracks in separate “pods” that are assembled separately and added to the model when complete. I do like the way that the finished tracks look and, to me, their appearance is notably better and more to scale than most rubber-band style tracks.

Overall, this is a very, very nice kit of the T-34/85. It’s accurate, nicely moulded and everything fits together well with no need for filler at all, though assembly is a little tricky due to some very small parts. The finished model looks like a T-34/85 and at this scale, that’s probably all you can ask. The fact that this is a late version also provides lots of scope for alternative post-war markings and colour schemes. 

If you want to model a T-34/85 in 1/72, I really don’t think you will find a kit that is substantially better than this one.

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Dragon 1/72 Sd.Kfz.231 (8-Rad) (7483) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

Dragon 1/72 AFV kits have a great reputation and I have always found the German Armoured Cars of World War Two fascinating. So, when my local stockist had a sale that included this 1/72 kit from the Dragon Armor-Pro series, it seemed too good a chance to miss.

Chinese manufacturer Dragon Models Limited (DML) began producing 1/72 AFV kits in 2003 and these quickly gained a great reputation for the quality of their mouldings. This is partly because DML use slide moulding, injection moulds that have moving parts (slides) which are extracted so that the finished parts can be removed from the mould. This allows the moulding of much more complex shapes than traditional, static injection moulds. This kit was released in its present form in 2012.

Does all that technology add up to a decent kit? Let’s take a look.

History

Design of the Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (Heavy Armoured Scout Vehicle) began in 1929 following a German military requirement for an armoured car for reconnaissance operations. The requirement specified good endurance and range and the ability to operate off-road. The result, produced from 1932 – 1935, was the Sd.Kfz. 231, a six-wheeled armoured car based on an existing Büssing-Nag truck chassis. It had a manually revolved turret mounting a 20mm autocannon and an MG13 machine gun.

Herbstmanöver des IX. Armeekorps bei Fritzlar 1936, Parade

A line of Sd. Kfz. 231 (6-rad) at a military display in September 1936. The vehicle second from the left is an Sd. Kfz. 232 (Fu.) fitted with a one-hundred-watt long-range radio and a “bed-frame” aerial.

Image; Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

However, use soon showed that this vehicle did not have the required off-road capability and in 1935 bus and truck manufacturers Büssing-Nag were invited to submit a redesign. Although the new vehicle looked superficially similar to the previous version, it was completely different. A tough ladder-framed chassis mounted eight wheels, all steerable, all driven through differentials from the rear-mounted engine and independently suspended. The new design also featured a larger hull with sloped armour to accommodate the four-man crew, front and rear driving positions and a hexagonal, manually rotated turret mounting a rapid-firing KwK 30 20 mm cannon (the same gun as used for the main armament on the early models of the Panzer II) and (from 1938) an MG34 machine gun. These vehicles entered service in late 1938 as the Sd. Kfz. 231 (8-Rad).

German paratroopers ride on Sd. Kfz. 231s in Italy, 1943.

Image; Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

The new design provided amazing off-road capability, good speed (up to 85kmh) and reasonable range (up to 300km). The eight wheels were arranged as two steerable four-wheel bogies.  In normal use, only the front four wheels steered and the rear wheels were locked but, it was also to steer from the rear position in which case the four wheels on the rear bogie were steered and the front bogie was locked. All this required a very complex drive and steering system and the Sd. Kfz. 231 was one of the most technically advanced early war German AFVs though, despite this, it also proved to be reliable in operational use.

An Sd. Kfz. 231 with Zerschellerplatte in the Balkans, 1941.

Image; Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

The Sd. Kfz. 231 remained in production until late 1942 and in service with German units on all fronts throughout the war with only minor changes. The most obvious external change was the addition of “Zerschellerplatte” from around mid-1940, an additional plate of 8mm thick armour mounted around 50cm in front of the vehicle’s nose to provide protection from heavy machine-gun fire which it was found could penetrate the front armour. The area between the armour and the front of the hull was often used as a stowage area, but not all models received this armour upgrade. Later models also featured a more powerful KwK L/55 autocannon and a spare wheel and tyre, usually carried on the rear – early versions were fitted with self-sealing, bulletproof tyres and no spare was originally carried. Shortages of rubber and other material led to later versions having regular tyres and a spare.

Developments of this vehicle led to the Sd. Kfz. 232 (Fu), with additional radio equipment and a frame aerial, the Sd. Kfz. 233 “Stummel,” with a short-barrelled 75mm L/24 howitzer in an open-topped fighting compartment and the Sd. Kfz. 263 command vehicle. The Sd. Kfz. 231 was superseded, but never entirely replaced in Wehrmacht service, by the improved Sd. Kfz. 234 which looked similar but was actually a completely new design.

What’s in the box?

The small box contains three sprues and separate upper and lower hull sections, all moulded in light grey plastic, a set of decals by Cartograf and a four-page instruction booklet. No information about the history of the Sd. Kfz. 231 is provided on the box or in the instruction booklet. Each of the sprues, the upper and lower hull parts and the decals are all packaged separately in sealed plastic bags. No PE parts are included.

The quality of these mouldings is indeed very good. In fact, good barely covers it, these are really outstanding. My gob is smacked, my flabber, gasted.

The fact that the bore of the tiny 20mm autocannon is moulded open is impressive but things like the detail and complexity on the lower hull is nothing short of astounding and clearly would not be possible without using slide-moulding technology. The hatch in the turret is separate part that includes some internal detail, so this can be assembled open. The tools on the front hull are moulded separately, which always makes painting easier.

There seems to be lots of nice detail for the steering, suspension and differential units and even things like the tiny driver’s vision slots are cleanly and sharply moulded. Overall, all the detail is very sharp, I can’t find anything missing or wrongly located and overall, and in terms of the quality and accuracy of parts, this seems to be a very, very impressive little kit.

The four-page instruction booklet is simple and includes five colour schemes and decals for vehicles operated by several different units in Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, in Mozdok on the Eastern Front in 1942 and in Kursk and Sicily in 1943.

The kit can be completed with or without Zerschellerplatte and with or without a spare wheel and tyre on the rear. The Zerschellerplatte has a towing cable moulded in on its front face and two jerrycans are provided for the stowage area between this plate and the front of the hull. The kit also includes four width indicating antenna on the corners of the mudguards, but wartime photographs indicate that these were often not fitted or removed.  

Are there issues? Well, some of the parts are really tiny and will take some careful removal from the sprue and assembly, but that hardly counts as a fault. I would have quite liked decals for a DAK version – the Sd. Kfz. 231 was used in the Western Desert where Rommel was particularly appreciative of its speed and range. Dragon also produce an Sd. Kfz, 232 (Fu) and the turret on this kit is common with that version, which means that it includes two small inverted triangular areas on the upper centre of the turret sides. These are used to mount the frame aerial on that kit and should be removed here. 

Tread detail on the side of the tyres is good but not so clearly defined on the edge. Some of the decals are so tiny that they are actually kind of silly.

The number-plates, for example, are separate decals and you must then add to these the requisite separate letters and numbers which are around 1mm tall. There are a couple of ready-made numbers but there are also separate digits to create your own – I really don’t relish trying to get those tiny characters straight. Two of the decals are for SS units and, presumably to comply with European prohibitions on replicating Nazi symbology, each SS rune decal comprises two separate pieces that must be assembled on the number plate.  

Other than those very minor niggles, this looks like a very impressive kit indeed and I very much look forward to building it.

Alternatives

Kiev-based Roden produce several versions of the Sd. Kfz. 231 (8-rad) in 1/72 scale including the Sd. Kfz. 231, 232 (Fu), 233 Stummel and 263. These are nice kits, but they don’t have as quite as much detail as the Dragon version.

Roden Website page for this kit

British manufacturer The Plastic Soldier Company (TPSC) produce a rather nice version of this vehicle in a kit that contains three models, each of which can be built as the Sd. Kfz. 231, 232 (Fu) and 233 Stummel. TPSC was founded in 2008 by Will Townshend to produce hard plastic figures and vehicles for wargamers and collectors and this kit also includes nicely detailed figures.

TPSC Website page for this kit

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Dragon 1/72 Sd.Kfz.231 (8-Rad) (7483) Build Review

Revell 1/72 T-34/85 (03302) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

It’s time for a review of another Revell kit and this time it’s the 1/72 T-34/85. This kit was originally released in 2002 and this boxing in 2016. It’s a similar kit to the 1/72 Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf.H Tiger from the same company that I built recently and, like the Tiger, this one includes tracks made of sections and individual links.

I was mightily impressed by the Tiger and keen to try another similar Revell kit so, here it is. Is it as good?

History

Many Russian tank units in the 1930s were equipped with light tanks or Bystrokhodny Tanks (BTs), relatively small, lightly armoured but fast tanks, many of which were capable of operating on both wheels or tracks. However, experience during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) and in an undeclared border war with Japan during the same period had shown a need for a heavier tank with a more powerful main gun.

In response, design on a new ‘Universal Tank’ began in 1937 at the Kharkov Komintern Locomotive Plant in Ukraine under the leadership of designer Mikhail Koshkin. The new tank, initially designated A-32, was a combination of tried and tested technology combined with innovation.

It used coil-spring Christie suspension similar to that used on the BT series of tanks, but employed a wholly new, wider track design which gave it a phenomenally low ground pressure. This made the new tank less liable to being bogged down in mud and soft ground.

This 1941 photograph shows, from the left, the Russian BT-7M, A-20, T-34 Model 1940 with the L-11 main gun and T-34 Model 1941 with the more powerful F-34 main gun. All these Russian tanks have two-man turrets and all lack a commander’s cupola.

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

The engine was a powerful V12 diesel and main gun was an L-11 76mm with a muzzle velocity of around 2,000 ft/s (600 m/s). The new tank had frontal armour that was 45mm thick, but this was also sloped at an angle of 60°. The notion of sloping front armour to make it harder to penetrate was relatively new in the late 1930s and the new tank was one of the first medium tanks to use this.

Koshkin elected to call the new design the “Tank 34” because that was the year in which he first started thinking about this design. Production of the T-34 began in September 1940. There would be four distinct version of the T-34 with the 76mm main gun; the Model 1940 was the first production version. This was replaced by the Model 1941 equipped with the more powerful F-34 76mm gun and thicker frontal armour. The Model 1942 incorporated several minor modifications to simplify manufacture. The final version was the Model 1943 and this incorporated for the first time a new turret with a commander’s cupola. Retrospectively, these four first versions have become known as the T-34/76, as all were equipped with 76mm main guns, but these designations were never used in Russian service.

A T-34 Model 1943 at the Panzermuseum in Munster

Image; baku13 via Wikimedia Commons

In March 1944, a new T-34 equipped with an 85mm gun began production. The main gun was derived from the M1939 (52-K) anti-aircraft gun and was a direct response to the appearance of the German Tiger tank equipped with an 88mm main gun, also derived from an anti-aircraft weapon. However, this version of the T-34 also had a larger turret that, for the first time, allowed the use of a three-man turret crew. Three models of T-34/85 were produced during the war; the Model 1943 was produced from February to March 1944 and featured the 85 mm D-5T gun. The Model 1944 was produced from Match 1944 to the end of that year and featured the 85 mm ZiS-S-53 gun. The Model 1945 was introduced in late 1944 and produced until the end of the war. It also featured the 85 mm ZiS-S-53 gun, an enlarged commander’s cupola and an electric traverse system for the turret.

T-34/85 tank captured during the Korean War in Waegwan, Korea, 1950.

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

The T-34/76 had some serious flaws. The two-man turret placed an unacceptably high workload on the commander. Even the improved F-34 main gun was not capable of penetrating the frontal armour on some German tanks. Reliability on early versions was truly appalling, mainly due to flaws in the manufacturing process. Documents from the Armored Directorate of the Red Army show that the average factory-fresh T-34/76 lasted less than 200 kilometers (124 miles) before requiring a major overhaul. Russian tank units reported operational losses of anything from 30% – 50% of their T-34/76s due to breakdowns.

With the development of the T-34/85, with its three-man turret, lethally effective main gun and improved reliability, the T-34 finally became one of the best tanks of World War Two. More than fifty-five thousand of all models of T-34 were produced during the war and in T-34/85 it remained in service around the world long after that conflict ended.

What’s in the Box?

This kit models the T-34/85 Model 1945 and the box contains three sprues in light grey plastic, full-colour instructions and decals.

The mouldings are very crisp and nicely detailed. There does not appear to be any flash at all and the detail is very good indeed. The roadwheels in particular are a real joy – very nicely mounded and accurately reproduced including the characteristic smooth rubber tyres, lightening holes and twelve spokes of the “Full Spider” T-34/85 roadwheels.

The upper hull also has good and sharp detail. However, I’m not so sure about the mesh screens on the rear hull – we’ll see how these will look when they’re painted, and the driver’s hatch and the flaps over the driver’s vision slots are moulded closed.

The turret is very impressive. The turret on the T-34/85 Model 1945 had a couple of small but notable features. A larger cupola extended close to the edge of the turret top and this necessitated a small lip beneath the cupola on the left side. On the same side, the turret has an odd rectangular bulge about half-way along – this was to provide space for a new electric turret traverse system. Finally, the turret has a distinct casting seam running along its lower edge with an extra section welded in just above this by the mantlet. You can see all that on the photo below.

Now look at this picture of the Revell turret.

The lip under the cupola is there as is the bulge for the turret traverse mechanism. The join between the upper and lower parts in the kit follows the line of the welding seam on the original and the additional, welded-in front section is a separate part. To me at least, that sort of care and attention is impressive and precisely what I like to see. I cannot honestly see how you could produce a better representation of the T-34/85 Model 1945 turret at this scale.

There are some very small parts, the grab-handles for the turret and hull, for example. Getting these off the sprue without damaging them may be a challenge, but it’s good so see that they are included.

The instructions are the usual full-colour, three dimensional Revell offerings and they look perfectly clear though the process of building the track-and links sections is a little vague. Nothing in the instructions or on the box gives any information about the T-34/85 or notes that this is a Model 1945, though I believe that’s what it is due to the turret detail.

The decals and colour schemes are for a tank of an unknown unit in the autumn of 1945 or a tank of the 7th Tank Corps, 55th Tank Brigade in Berlin in April 1945.

You know what? I’m really looking forward to building this kit. It exudes quality and care and I believe it will build into a very nice T-34/85 Model 1945. Which is not to say that I am capable of building it into a reasonable model, but there is certainly nothing in the kit to make this impossible.   

Would You Want One?

Short answer; yes. The only very small criticisms I can see are that the driver’s hatch is moulded closed and that the small flaps over the vision slots on the hatch are also closed, so the driver of this tank isn’t going to be able to see where he’s going! The turret and mantlet mouldings also don’t have any casting texture and the join between the upper and lower turret mouldings is too smooth to show the weld in this area. The exhausts and main gun will also have to be drilled out, but that’s typical of most small-scale tank kits other than those using slide-moulding technology.

Despite these very minor flaws, this looks like another cracking Revell 1/72 tank kit with no serious issues and lots of positive features. It may be almost twenty years old now, but I am not sure that there is really much out there that is significantly better than this in terms of a small-scale late T-34 kit. Being an accurate Model 1945 also means that this was the same type of tank used, for example, in the Korean War and during wars in the Middle-East, which gives plenty of scope for alternative colour schemes and decals.

Alternatives

Dragon 1/72 T-34/85 Mod. 1944. Released in 2005, this features the usual Dragon crisp mouldings, a separate driver’s hatch with interior hatch detail, PE parts, DS rubber-band style tracks and twisted wire tow-cables. The slide moulded exhausts and gun don’t need to be drilled but, don’t put that drill away yet because the double roadwheels are moulded with the lightening holes closed and these will need to be drilled out.

Zvezda T-34/85. Released in 2011 this is one of Zvesda’s “snap-fit” range. It has fewer parts than the Dragon or Revell kits and it is missing small details like grab-handles, but it is actually not bad in terms of detail and it has plastic, not rubber-band, tracks.

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Revell 1/72 T-34/85 (03302) Build Review

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