By Tony Edwards
click on thumbnails for full image
The Soviet T-34 was arguably the best medium tank of the Second World War. Experience showed however that it's weaponry was under-powered compared to the heavier armour that the Germans started to field mid-war. The T-34 was up-gunned in due course to an 85mm rifled gun and this variant was amongst the most widely produced tank in history.
The T-34-85 was exported around the world to most of the countries that were friendly to the Soviets (the Middle East, the Far East and African nations amongst them). For instance, T-34-85s served in many first and second world front line units as recently as the early 1990s, and in many third world countries they are still in service. Not bad for a tank born during 'The Great Patriotic War'.
Through the course of the years, the T-34-85 had many modernization refits, including adding new and better IR gear, targeting equipment and stabilization. New detail changes included new road wheels and revised stowage patterns.
Egypt has used T-34-85s since the 50s and has constantly improved the vehicle as new equipment came to hand. As a consequence, the T-34-85 remained in service with the Egyptian army well into the 80s.
With the arrival of their T-54s and T-55s, Egypt relegated their T-34-85 fleet to second line duties, and the T-34-85s were pushed further down the line with each new AFV introduced. The main weak point of the Egyptian army's arsenal, was self-propelled artillery. They got around this problem by modifying some few dozen T-34-85s to carry either the D-30 122mm howitzer or the BS-3 model 1944 100mm field gun.
The modification to mechanized artillery consisted of cutting away the roof and rear portions of the turret, and building a new, larger turret out of sheet armour. The armour sheet is thinner than the original turret's armour, however as the vehicle is not designed to participate in front line combat, this is of little detriment. In this way, Egypt gained the SP artillery it needed, without the massive expenditure that would normally follow, and also ensure that their aging fleet of T-34-85s will see service for at least a little while longer.
Two medium sized, grey sprues; one large black sprue; four small black sprues carrying the track; a small bag of white metal components; a bag of resin detail parts; a large, solid molded turret; no decals. The plastic parts are the same parts that many of you will be familiar with from their (Maquette's) T-34-85. The white metal parts include the turret lifting hooks, 122mm D-30 barrel and muzzle brake. The resin parts include storage boxes, hinge halves, step/foot-plate and replacement detail for the underside of the muzzle brake.
The white metal parts are flash free and well molded. The muzzle break requires drilling out (3mm), and is quite well detailed. Unfortunately, one of the turret's lifting hooks was missing from my kit, but I just cast another to get away with not having to wait for one to arrive by mail from the company.
The resin components are quite well molded, the detail is crisp, flash free and almost completely free of air bubbles. There are very few bubbles that need filling, and that part of the work would proceed quite quickly.
The main letdown of the kit is its instruction sheet. One A4 sheet, double sided containing the hull construction steps, straight out of the T-34-85 kit, with only 2 slight changes (showing placement of 2 of the new stowage boxes). The reverse side is little better, half of the sheet is the vehicle history, and the other half a fairly poor drawing of the turret and the gun travel lock. As far as these pictures go, they are adequate, however, you will need references to complete the kit with any degree of confidence.
Construction, of course, starts with the lower hull - Not for me it didn't. The turret is so large and 'clunky' looking, that I couldn't help myself. It took me about an hour to an hour and a half to clean up, fill and assemble the turret itself with the barrel and range finding gear in place. The muzzle break took considerably longer. As I'm one of those modelers who doesn't possess a hand power tool of some description, I had to try and resort to the old faithful pin-vise. Unfortunately (for me), the pin-vise's maximum chuck size is around 0.5mm - 1mm too small for the required bit. So after fighting with a bare drill bit for a while, and getting nowhere, I packed it and myself in the car, and tore around to my father's house, to avail myself of his new drill press. It's worth noting with the laser designator, that it is NOT the same as that depicted on the drawing in the instructions. This one depicts the later gear, with almost half of it's length under the canvas gun shroud.
With the muzzle drilled out, I cleaned the venting out with an X-Acto and file, and glued it in place. It might be worth noting that for the turret, I used Araldite, as this gives a really strong bond, while still allowing enough time to make sure everything is ėjust soî. Next I glued in place the large rolled tarp that sits at the bug of the turret. I added texture to this (and incidentally, the canvas gun shroud) by painting tissue onto it and then I added greaseproof paper retaining straps holding it to the turret.
Now I got onto the lower hull. The problems with their T-34-85s are still present in this 'limited run' variant, so don't be surprised. Most of these problems are easily remedied, so don't be too worried either. The running gear went on without too many problems, just requiring a little filler here and there. It is worth pointing out that unless you plan to use the separately available engine set, you don't need to worry about the internal bulkhead, I did add mine, so as to lend a little extra strength to the upper hull, when, the really quite impressive, weight of the turret was placed on it. As is my normal habit, I left the wheels off to ease the painting 'experience'. One thing I should also mention about the wheels, is that many of the inside wheels of each pair don't have their holes molded all the way through, and you will need to drill them out. This is another small niggle, but I wouldn't leave them like that, as despite how it looks, they are quite visible when complete.
The upper hull is quite well done really, although it could stand a little work getting some texture onto the plates. I used plastic cement and an old bristle brush, finished with steel wool, to impart this, but I think maybe I should have been a little heavier handed with it, as once the primer coat went on, it was completely invisible. Ah well, never mind !
The main points to watch here are the locations for the new stowage boxes, and the screening for the rear vents. I replaced the kit mesh with some finer mesh I had left over from a Tamiya Porsche Tiger II. There isn't much wrong with the kit supplied mesh, I just prefer the finer stuff! (I won't swear to it, but I think that the kit supplied mesh looks just a tad over-scale).
Now, to placement of the stowage. The saw, lights and shackles are all placed in the locations called out in the instructions. The small resin box goes on the left fender, slightly forward of the IR driving light, with the larger flat box marked with something that looks like '>o<' goes on the left, just forward of the external fuel tank, with the smaller plastic one just forward of it, between the resin one and the saw. Whew! Now, the gun's travel lock goes on the rear hull, between the two smoke ejector barrels. The hinges for it are the four small D shaped resin pieces on the small carrier sheet. Make a fillet from sheet stock, and glue them together and place the legs of the travel lock between them, and then to the rear hull plate. The two remaining pieces on the carrier sheet are to replace the lug under the muzzle brake, however my muzzle brake was formed well enough to my eye, so I left them off. To this day, I still am not sure where the long, narrow resin box should have gone (I'm assuming it carries the gun cleaning rods), so I left this one off, as it was not on my reference photos.
The track depicts the standard 'waffle plate' pattern, used on all later models of the T-34, and come as individual links. Call me strange if you like, but I happen to love these horrible little things. Nothing else comes so close in depicting the weight of steel tracks, and let's face it tank tracks are heavy. Clean up is a breeze, the only niggle being that there are two punch out marks on the horn side of each link, right at each end where they're highly visible. Never mind, as the surface is far from complicated, just get out your putty and fill, fill, fill. File the putty flat once dry and away you go. My technique for dealing with indi-link track is, I'm told, unusual in that I construct each side as one long run. I use a simple method of keeping the run straight, which is to use a simple jig that is easy to construct, cheap and above all, effective. The simplest jig for this type of track is one with a solid, 5-10mm tall rear edge, with the base built up so that the guide horns on each track can be inserted through it, and still clear your work table. I construct my jigs with 0.50 ABS plastic sheet, as this won't be affected if a small amount of cement was to leak through the joint. Once the run is complete, I put it aside for 5 -10 minutes, to make sure all the joints are firm, then transfer it to the model and wrap it around the running gear, and mate the ends at the idler. Once there, leave them for around 24 hours, to set up, then remove gently and paint.
Put the lot together and there you have it. One T-122, in all its ugly beauty.
Painting is quite straightforward, just two colours were used (apart from the washes and highlighting), Humbrol numbers 93 and 118. The base sand colour (Hum. 93) was airbrushed on first, with large patches of the medium field drab (Hum. 118 sprayed over it.
As it was my aim to depict a desert vehicle, I kept the washes to a minimum, just applied to the panel join lines, detail and vents with a small (00) brush. I say wash, but in reality, I used more of a glaze for this. Drybrushing was with mixed acrylics, chosen because of the chalky appearance that they give. One note, I tend to use AeroMaster Tyre Black for the outside surfaces of tyres only, as examination of tyres that are exposed to bright light and dust will reveal, only the running surface of a tyre is worn down to black.
The tracks were finished with slightly more steel colour than I usually apply, as the abrasive action of the desert sand would quite quickly wear the surface rust away from most track surfaces quite quickly.
I think it is also worth noting that in dusty environments, the dust itself will pick out the detail, as the high volume of dust will rapidly settle into every nook and cranny, while the surface dust is wiped away by both the crew and the wind. So remember, for desert finishes, less in the way of washes, and more dust, and you can't really go wrong.
As far as decals are concerned, there are none supplied in the kit, as these vehicles rarely had any markings replaced after they had undergone their modification. Some vehicles do display slogans, etc. painted onto the side of the turret, and to represent this, I used the Arabic writing decal from Tamiya's T-72M1 kit.
A light coating of dust was applied, using Tamiya Flat Earth, followed by a heavier one of Floquil Dust. The muzzle and exhausts were treated to light black and grey pastel dustings, while the majority of the remaining pastel weathering was a light yellowish colour, applied over all surfaces, though heavier on the lower hull and running gear.
Again, I used my normal base building technique. A small rectangle of 10mm MDF board (this time, I remembered to coat this with a clear varnish, only ever make a mistake once - twice is almost unforgivable). The groundwork is papier-mache, with sand and rocks imbedded in it. After I again had baked this base dry and left it overnight, just to make sure, I sprayed it first with Tamiya Desert Yellow, then a lighter, misted coat of Humb. 93, and lastly followed up with a VERY light, misted coat of Tamiya Light Sand, applied straight from the rattle-can.
Drybrushing was with Tamiya Buff, with the tracks laid in with Tamiya Dark Yellow drybrushed with a mix of Testors Model Master 'Afrika Grunbraun' mixed with buff. Some individual patches were also drybrushed with this mix, to provide some visual interest and contrast.
The diorama was finished off with a Milliput snake and a final dusting of the same light yellow pastel dust as applied to the actual AFV, just to tie everything in nicely.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable project. I don't normally do modern (well, not really much after WW II at any rate), although the looks of this particular vehicle appealed to me straight off. Highly recommended to any modeler with more than a nodding acquaintance with the hobby (not a good one for your first attempt though).
Thanks go to Earl Martell at NKR Models for getting me this review kit.
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