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Russian T-38 Light Tank. 1:35


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Russian T-38 Light Tank
HobbyBoss 1:35


The T-38 was derived from the T-37 amphibious tank, itself based on the Vickers amphibious tank purchased from Great Britain in 1930. Perhaps it was also influenced by the French AMR-33. The Vickers was quickly modified into the mass-production T-37A. By 1935 the model had already shown many shortcomings which needed a solution in an improved model. Zavod n°37 in Moscow studied a replacement and eventually a prototype was constructed that year. The range of modifications was rather limited. The turret and driver positions were shifted (from the left side to the right), friction couplings were added to transmit power to the tracks and a new, vibration free, running gear suspension was added and perfected for better driving and crew comfort. Moreover, the T-38 was sightly simplified, lower, lighter, slightly larger and buoyancy characteristics were also better.

The Zavod 37 R team choose to not deviate greatly from the original model and only applied a set of modifications to improve, most of all, the handling, driving and mobility characteristics on all terrains. It was thought the firepower could be improved greatly by fitting a 20 mm (0.79 in) SchWAK gun in the drivers compartment, in a fixed position, but the solution proved far too cumbersome and was only briefly tested. The T-38 hull was substantially lowered, with the upper superstructure almost blended with the lower hull and widened at the same time. So were the hollow mudguards to improve buoyancy as well as the handling in water. The double-drive system was unchanged as well as the Ford-derived GAZ engine, transmission, gearbox, drive sprocket and idler configuration, but friction couplings were added. A small three-bladed propeller screw did the job when submerged and, in shallow water, the widened tracks provided more underwater grip and friction surface. On land attention was focused on the sprung bogie suspension, which was substantially reworked to reduce the vibration level at high speed. The larger tracks also lowered the ground pressure. The shifted driver/commander positions improved driving visibility and handling (optimized for right-hand drivers). The hull was made of light rolled steel plates bolted on a frame, specially sealed. Protection was unchanged, as well as the armament, the usual belt-fed DT machine-gun. No provision was made for a radio.

Production started at Zavod 37 in 1936 and was discontinued in 1939 when it became apparent that the lack of a radio and the firepower were two major issues, later corrected with the T-40. Numbers built differ greatly from source to source, ranging from 1200 to 1500 units delivered and put into service before the war started. In 1936 a handful of these vehicles were displayed during the May Red Square parade, under the belly of TB-3 bombers. Numerous exercises were performed for deep battle operations and each paratrooper unit was allocated 50 vehicles, and infantry battalions 38 vehicles each. The T-38 entered service in 1937 and showed that, in operations, the lack of radio was a major flaw. Once the radio-equipped vehicle of a platoon was destroyed, the unit had no means to communicate the enemy position, except to physically dispatch a vehicle to the HQ. Plus, the lack of protection and armament meant that in most encounters with an enemy their military value was scarce. Their first mass-engagement came in Finland, especially in the summer because of the swampy and marshy terrain. But they proved that even machine-gun bullets could pierce the armour and these were gradually phased out when the all-out improved T-40 was introduced in 1941. By the time of the German invasion, many seem to have been transformed into dug-out pillboxes in fixed positions on various lines of defence. Large numbers were destroyed, but an equally large numbers were captured, either by the Finns, for their own use, or the Germans which turned them to the Luftwaffe for guarding their advanced airfields.

The Model
The kit is packaged in the standard Trumpeter style top opening box with an artistic representation of the tank emerging from a river, much like the T-37A kit reviewed HERE. The difference is that this box has to be the absolute minimum size that Hobbyboss could get away with, being about 2/3rds the size of the T-37A box. Inside, there are eight sprues, a separate lower hull and a separate turret, all in a pale beige styrene. There are also seven sprues of brown styrene, one small sheet of etched brass, a length of brass wire and a small decal sheet. As with the previously reviewed kits from Hobbyboss, the mouldings are very well produced, with no sign of flash or other imperfections and only a few moulding pips. The details are pretty much as per the T-37 kit, in that they are well rendered with some very nice rivet detail. It also shares the same track system as the T-37, with the individual track links, which, whilst well moulded are joined to the sprue are three points, so not only will they take quite a bit of careful cleaning up, they will need a lot of patience putting a full run of eighty six links per side together.




As with the T-37A kit, construction begins with the assembly of the road wheels and their suspension parts. Each pair of wheels is made up form eight parts and there are two pairs fitted per side. The difference is that with each of the bogies there is a length of brass wire, bent to shape with a mould provided, fitted between each upright. These assemblies are then fitted to the lower hull section, along with two return rollers per side and the idler wheel axle bearings. The sprocket wheel gearbox covers are attached followed by the sprocket wheels themselves. At the rear of the hull the propeller shaft housing and propeller are fitted, as is the propeller guard on the underside of the hull and a towing hook assembly with the rudder fitted between them.. The idler wheels are then attached and the assembled tracks can be fitted. The towing shackles on each side of the rear panel are made by the modeller bending the brass wire to shape, using a suitably shaped mould provided on the sprues.



The upper hull is then glued to the lower hull and the separate engine cover, with added PE mesh grille and crew access hatch fitted. The two fenders are attached to the hull, whilst the horn and various brackets are fitted to the upper hull. The tow cable is fitted to the right hand fender and other fittings fitted to the left hand fender. The two, two part headlights are then attached to the front of each fender. With the pioneer tools fitted the two part exhaust is attached to the rear engine deck and a two piece storage box fitted to the right hand fender. The simple machine gun turret, with separate base, is fitted with the single piece machine gun, turret hatch and two PE plates. The external section of the machine guns ball socket is glued into position, meaning that the machine gun cannot be posed in anything other than straight without modification. The completed turret is then slotted into position on the hull, completing the build.




The small decal sheet only provides two sets of markings for the two vehicles provided on the colour chart. Both of which are in overall Russian Green, which is a shame, as there are quite a few colour schemes that could have been chosen, including those for the captured Finnish and German vehicles. although the Finnish swastikas are included in a split form. There is quite a lot of information on these schemes on the internet, so it shouldnt take long to find a different scheme for your model.


Yes, its yet another small Russian tank from Hobbyboss. They must be reaching the limit of production types by now. At least they are different enough to have a small squadron of them in your collection, and they do look rather cute, especially if posed next to a monster T-35. Now theres an idea for a diorama. Highly Recommended

Review sample courtesy of

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