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Mike

T-34/85 Zavod 183 Mod.44 (6545) 1:35

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T-34/85 Zavod 183 Mod.44 (6545)

1:35 Italeri

 

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The T-34 gave the German invaders something of a shock when they first encountered it during operation Barbarossa, their attempt at conquering the Soviet Union, and they were instrumental in reversing the tide through both their impressive performance and weight of numbers, due to their simple construction and the overwhelming industrial capability of the Russians.  Even when the Germans were knocking on the gates of Moscow and Stalingrad, production was shifted lock-stock-and-barrel further east with barely a flicker, and in Stalingrad there are stories of fresh tanks rolling off the production lines and almost straight into combat.

 

The simple design used tried and tested technology, together with innovative sloped armour that increased its effective thickness when hit in the horizontal plane.  It was initially fitted with a powerful 76mm gun, but when this proved less able to penetrate the frontal armour of the Tiger, it was upgraded in 1943 with a bigger ZiS 85mm gun, which was equipped with a larger three-man turret that reduced the combat load on the crew, enabling the commander to concentrate more on the task in hand.  It's diesel power plant gave it a good speed over most terrains, and as production ramped up there were over 1,000 produced each month, plenty to replace losses and more besides.  The 1944 mod introduced a simplified new gun, improved crew layout, better sight and the radio moved into the turret to take advantage of increased space.

 

 

The Kit

This is a complete new tooling from Italeri, and shouldn't be confused with older toolings and collaborations, as it's a different animal.  It arrives in a standard box with a fetching painting of the subject matter ploughing past ruined German armour, and inside are four sprues in dark green styrene, one in grey styrene, two lengths of insulated cable, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, two rubbery tracks, decals sheet and the instruction booklet.  The tooling is well-detailed, and as well as the rubber tracks there is also a full set of link-and-length styrene tracks, which should please almost everyone.  What will also please many is the inclusion of a complete interior, even down to the engine compartment, the parts for which are on the grey sprue, so may have been a later addition.

 

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Construction begins with the lower hull, which has slots for the suspension, and circular holes for the drive sprockets, which are glued together from two halves, and fitted to a cone-shaped moulding with a cap inside to allow you to leave the idler movable.  The suspension units are added to the inside of the hull with springs in diagonal housings, comprising two sections on each side, leaving enough room for the engine, which is next.  You don't get a full engine, but the detail is plenty for the installation.  The firewall has the engine top slotted into the back, and the aft of the engine with big fan is attached to the aft end of the top panel.  The exhausts and large fan are glued in place, and the assembly is dropped into the hull, locating on tabs in the floor.  The final drive housing is built up and dropped in behind the engine, and a set of ammo boxes double as a turret floor in the centre of the hull, with the driver's controls fitted at the front with some rather arm-chair style seats for driver and bow gunner.  A scrap diagrams shows the correct position for the tools, controls and air bottles, after which the suspension and wheel set are glued in place, with nice detail on the wheels and their treaded rubber wheels, which are moulded-in.  They fit onto swing-arms with stub axles in pairs that fix into two holes each in the sides of the hull to ensure the correct angle.  The idler wheels are also added at this stage with their axle, two-part sprocket and hub cap holding it in place, and allowing it to rotate too if you're sparing with the glue.  The final drive cover fits from underneath, with a note telling you to install parts 38A after adding the towing cable later, and then you can choose which style of tracks you'll be using.

 

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The rubber-band tracks are the simple option, and are moulded in a gun metal plastic that can be glued using super glue (CA).  You can even forego painting them if you hate that sort of thing.  The more complex option is to use the included link and length tracks, which have more detail, and will leave you with the correct faceted appearance where the tracks wrap around the ends of the runs.  The top sections are each moulded as one piece, the bottom sections in two parts, while the curved sections are individual links, which are each made from two plates.  More care will be needed for this option, but the results will be improved, and even more so with careful painting and weathering.

 

The upper hull needs 11 small holes drilling out before you begin its assembly, mainly for the later mounting of fuel tanks, so get those out of the way before things get busy, or you might regret it.  The louvers for the engine deck are inserted from the inside, and the hull is then turned over and detailed from the topside, with a central engine hatch and a big radiator box on top of the aft louvers, which has a two layer PE grille glued over its aperture after gently bending it to fit the curve of the box.  Another two boxes with louvered parts are added to the sides of the engine deck, and a little tool box gets added to the starboard fender at the rear, then spare track links are assembled and lashed down with PE straps, with an additional length pinned across the glacis plate.  The glacis plate also has the ball machine gun mounted and the large driver's hatch, which can be fitted open or closed and must have been a bullet-magnet when open.  This is then fitted to the hull over the inner front panel, the turret insert is added, and three fuel drums are fixed to the hull sides along with some pioneer tools, more stowage, lights and shackles glued in place, with an overhead diagram showing their correct location.  The two hull halves are married up, the front fenders added, and yet more barrels, this time smoke dischargers are added to the rear bulkhead skin, which is a separate part.  The armoured exhausts are assembled and fitted to the apertures on the skin, and a central access hatch can be modelled open or closed.  The whole rear bulkhead can be posed open on its hinge-points, and a PE lip is included on the brass sheet to give this a more realistic look.  The exhaust pipe tips sleeve onto the main exhaust during the closing process, although the break-point looks slightly different from the pictures I have seen, so if you want to add a little more realism, drill out the ends of the pieces and add a collar near the end of the fixed part of the exhaust that comes out of the mufflers.  The tip that is visible outside the tank already has a hollow end, which is nice.

 

As yet the tank is turret-free, so the next steps rectify this with a full breech, ready rack holding 12 rounds, sighting equipment with gunner's stool attached, and the relocated radio gear, as well as a couple of periscopes in the roof.  The commander's hatch has a periscope built into the front half, and can be posed open by gluing them into the ring in an appropriate position, then mating them with the cupola ring.  This and the gunner's hatch are fitted to the top of the turret along with a couple of mushroom vents, various tie-downs and rails, while the mantlet with cover, two part styrene gun barrel and cheek armour are added during the mating of the top and bottom sections.  These cast turrets weren't put together with extreme care, and the joints are sometimes horribly rough, so check your references and decide what they look like in the flesh.  The turret has a nice sand-cast texture moulded-in, as does the mantlet, rear bulkhead and final drive panel.  The barrel is split horizontally, so there's a seam to fix there, and once that's in place, the turret fits to the hull, locking with a bayonet fitting.  The last job is to create the towing cables from the two insulated wires that are included in the box.  You cut them to length, twist the strands as you slide off the insulation, then glue the styrene towing eyes to each end, draping them over the fenders and attaching them on the shackles as indicated.

 

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Markings

There are four decal options from the box, all of which are painted Russian/Soviet Green, and one is over-painted with white winter distemper camouflage.  Each tank has unit markings, as well as some additional markings and emblems.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • 9th Guards Tank Corp, 2nd Guards Tank Army – Berlin, Apr 1945
  • 64th Guards Tank Brigade, 1st Guards Tank Army – Pomerania, Feb 1945
  • 44th Guards Tank Brigade – Yugoslavia, Spring 1945
  • 2nd Motorcycle Tank Battalion, 1st Tank Corp, 2nd Polish Army – Jul 1945

 

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The decals are printed by Zanchetti in Italy for Italeri, and have good sharpness and colour density.  They are all either black or white, so there's no issues with registration either, as there isn't any!  Colours are called out in Italeri acrylic paint codes, as well as FS numbers, which should be a help if you use another brand.

 

Conclusion

It's nice to see Italeri moving with the times, including PE and metal towing cables with their kits, and options to please modellers with different needs, such as the two track options here, and with this being a popular subject it should sell well, particularly with their wide distribution network.

 

Highly recommended.

Review sample courtesy of

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