Unimodel (UM) T-34/76 (1940) with L-11Gun in 1/72nd Scale

By Michael Kendix

Background

The T-34 carries an almost mythical reputation: its legendry status was established initially during the defence of the Soviet Union following the German invasion in1941, then reinforced following the Battle of Kursk-Orel, and the push westward through Eastern Europe and Berlin during the second part of World War Two. According to Zaloga and Sarson, the T-34 established a benchmark breakthrough in design when it was introduced to combat in the summer of 1941. It retained its technological edge over its German counterparts until 1943 when the victory at Kursk resulted more from numerical advantage than technical superiority. It was the most widely produced Allied tank of the war. The model presented here is an early variant - the T-34/76 1940 version with an L-11 76.2mm gun was the first T-34 type used in the war. The gun was eventually replaced by a Grabin F-32 76.1mm gun, which is also produced by Unimodel.

In the Box

The kit was packaged in an end-opening box but the artwork on the box is decent. The front carries an attractive colour depiction of the tank in action and the reverse shows a colour scheme for one of the options available from the kit's decals: namely, the 4th Brigade, Bryansk Front, October 1941. The other markings are for the 11th Mechanized Corps., Western Front, July 1941. Inside the box are four plastic sprues, a pair of rubber sprues containing the tyre parts, a set of clear instructions, a small photoetch sheet and a decal sheet. Two of the plastic sprue sheets are identical: they each contain a set of tracks and wheels for each side. Upon inspection, the parts were nicely molded on the sprue, there was almost no flash on the parts and the parts' attachment points to the sprues were small and thin. My main reservation was the rubber tyres for the wheels. While it is true that these tanks did have rubber tyres, the kit's tyres are not accurate, in particular, the tiny holes surrounding the wheel hubs are not present and the treads resemble those on automobiles or trucks rather than tank tyres. Further, each tyre, and there are twenty of them, had a seam around it along the center of the tread: evidently my future held a significant amount of tyre sanding.

Construction

I still have not quite worked out the best sequence in which to build model tanks. How far do you go with the hull before you add the tracks? I am beginning to recognize that the answer depends upon the type of tank and the kit's construction. In any event, I decided to add the tracks before gluing the primary subassemblies together. The subassemblies comprised the lower hull (sides and underneath), the upper hull (mantle) and the turret.

Lower Hull and Wheels

I began by assembling the lower hull sides and underside. All the components fit well and I set that to one side. Next, I investigated a few options to improve the "Rubber tyre situation". Not only is the tyre material non-reactive to Testors tube glue and ProWeld but as mentioned above, they lack realism. My first attempt was to replace them with the wheels from the Eastern Express T-34/76 (1943) kit. The wheels on that kit looked fairly good though they did not have separate tyres. The means of attaching the wheels on the Eastern Express kit was different to the UM kit. The UM kit provides wheels with holes while the Eastern Express kit has dimples for attachment points. After attempting to drill holes in the Eastern Express wheels, I decided the positioning of the wheels might not be reliable so I discarded that solution. I also considered drilling tiny holes around the UM kit's tyre walls but ditched that option in a hopeless attempt to retain my sanity. I decided to live with the UM kit's tyres though I think that if one perseveres, using the Eastern Express kit wheels is possible. I tried various plastic glues on the tyres (Testors tube glue and ProWeld) but nothing worked. Fortunately, the tyres fitted really tightly on each of the wheels so after painting the wheel hubs with Model Master Russian Armor Green lightened with white and pale grey, I pulled the tyres onto each one and left them without any glue. I painted the tyres Scale Black. Once the tyres were pulled over each of the wheels, I sanded off the seam around each of them, which improved their appearance considerably and then I re-painted the rim of each wheel where I had sanded off the seam. I ignored the problem of the missing tyre wall holes.

Upper Hull and Turret

This subassembly went together with no difficulty. The rear grille photoetch piece fit beautifully: I used my "Etch Mate" tool to gently bend the piece into shape. Note that I glued the front gun by pushing from the inside. There was no interior so I left all the hatches closed. I also glued on the front mudguards. The turret also went together easily although the turret's body is split vertically and I had to fill and sand the seam, which meant replacing the little bolt thing at the back with a small piece of plastic. I drilled out the turret gun and the exhausts by twisting the point of my number 11 Xacto blade into the hole and supplementing that with a little drilling using my pin vice.

The Tracks

Once I had painted all the subassemblies in the lightened Russian Armor Green, I painted the tracks on the sprue with Polly Scale's U.S. Brown Special (I had run out of "Rust") and weathered them with burnt umber and black wash, and a lead pencil. Next, came the tracks. The track pieces are link-and-length of varying sizes, with every other link containing a tooth. In a couple of cases I had to cut off the tooth in order to fit around the drive wheel or the idler. I introduced some sagging effect along the top and although there are sufficient spare tracks for this, the total track links meant that I had a four prong and a four prong trying to meet each other at the end. Further, there was a gap that was too small for an additional track length but too large to pull the ends together. Shep Paine's excellent book shows how to solve the latter problem: I simply cut off the idler wheel and repositioned it a couple of millimeters closer to its neighbouring wheel. To join the tracks, I cut off the prongs off both tracks and butt-joined the ends. I used super glue to adhere the tracks to the rubber tyres and ProWeld where the tracks met the plastic idler and drive wheels.

Combining the Subassemblies

The turret is designed to simply sit in the upper hull's hole. After I had painted it, I could not get it to fit so I cut off the tab and it went in easily enough. Attaching the upper hull to the lower hull was straightforward but there was a gap at the rear and at the point where the front mudguards attached to the lower hull, both of which had to filled and sanded. This meant it had to be sprayed again. I masked off the tracks with Parafilm: a relatively painless experience and re-sprayed the parts that had been sanded.

Weathering and Final Details

I tried using the decals but they were somewhat fragile and silvered despite my preparing the surface with Future. They were also somewhat oversized so I decided to leave them off: in any event, the pictures I have of the 1940 model show no markings.

I used a burnt umber wash (Turpenoid and oil paint) followed by highlighting the edges and bolts with a silver PrismaColor pencil and then some pastel chalk. I painted the exhausts rust and weathered them extensively: I imagine the area around them was fairly dirty too. I drilled out the headlights and glued in MV lenses.

Conclusion

This is a good kit. It builds into a decent-looking model and is fairly straightforward to assemble. The link and length tracks are nice and the fit of the parts is also good. The only drawback is the rubber tyres, which detract from the realism. Conditionally recommended.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Squadron Mail Order for providing this review kit and to Matt Bittner and Kent Kirkpatrick for their helpful tips. Also, thanks to members of the World War One Modeling list (I swear they did not realize they were giving me advice on an off-topic subject) for their helpful recommendations on how to cope with the rubber kit parts.

References

Sheperd Paine. "Modeling Tanks and Military Vehicles." Kalmbach Publishing Co., Waukesha, Wisconsin.1982.

Steve Zaloga and Peter Sarson. "T-34/76 Medium Tank 1941-1945" New Vanguard Series. Osprey Publishing Ltd., Oxford, United Kingdom, 1994 (reprinted 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999).

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