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Croatian T-55A (37088) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd.


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Croatian T-55A (37088)

1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd.

 

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The T-54's gestation and transformation into the T-55 was long-winded and complicated by constant changes to an as yet unsatisfactory performing vehicle, and began at early as the end of WWII.  Production of the T-54-1 was halted due to production and quality issues, and recommenced as the re-designed T-54-2, with the turret design changed to closer resemble the eventual domed shape of the T-55.  The -2 didn't last all that long before the -3 replaced it, and the requirement for survival of tactical nuclear blasts led to the eventual introduction of the similar looking, but significantly different T-55 that we know so well. 

 

As the heavy tank fell out of favour, the T-55 became part of the burgeoning Main Battle Tank movement, with thousands of them being produced over the years in various guises.  In the early 60s the T-55A was developed, providing more adequate NBC protection that required a lengthening of the hull and coincidentally added anti-spall protection for the crew.  It also sounded the death-knell of the bow-mounted machine gun, which was removed to improve ammo storage, and hasn't been seen on MBTs for decades now.  The Czechs built their own versions of the T-54 and T-55, with quite an export market developing due to their being of better build quality than the Russian built alternative.  Of the many sub variants produced by the then Czechoslovakia, many were exported to Soviet Bloc aligned purchasers. Poland also produced over 7000 tanks between 1964 and 1983. Polish tanks had different stowage and slightly different rear decks. Many found their way to other countries and the were used by all sides in the Yugoslavian civil wars. 

 

The Kit

Part of the ever-expanding range of early Cold War armour from MiniArt, who seem to be kitting every conceivable variant from the earliest T-54 to the later T-55, which will hopefully include some of the more unusual marks as well.  The initial toolings were all brand new, and were designed in a modular format to ease the way toward new variants, which makes for a high sprue count.  Some of the kits have been released in augmented Interior Kit boxings, with all the extra details to open up your model as much as you please.  The kit arrives in their current orange themed box, with a painting of the tank in question on the front.  Lifting the lid gives the feeling of how much is inside, as it is packed full and I'm dreading putting it all back in.

 

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There are 77 sprues in mid grey styrene, many of them quite small, and some of the larger ones linked together in pairs, two clear sprues, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet, and the instruction booklet.  Detail is everywhere, and is crisp, with judicious use of slide-moulding to improve details further, and make hollows where needed.  The inclusion of PE helps further, allowing parts to be given a more scale-effect.

 

Construction begins with the lower hull, which has cut-outs for the suspension mounts, hatches and access panels, all of which are supplied as separate parts.  The suspension is torsion-link, so the bars are inserted with the axles at their ends, or shorter stubby versions if you want to freeze the suspension in the level position.  The hull insides are separate and are well detailed parts, which are added to the lower along with engine bay firewall and rear bulkhead.  Externally, the T-55 could be fitted with a mine-roller, and although one isn't included with this boxing, the fitments and bracketry is included for the upper and lower glacis alongside the standard light clusters, lifting hooks and pioneer tools. 

 

With the glacis and the turret ring "bat wings" added to the hull sides, the upper hull is assembled from the top with turret ring aperture, a multi-part engine deck with individual slats added before installation, and some PE mesh panels added later with optional raised covers supplied as additional parts.  The main lights have clear lenses, and fit inside a multi-part cage to protect them from damage, which will take some care to glue together neatly.  The fenders have additional fuel tankage fitted with hosing between them, and lots of PE fixtures, handles and such, with even more PE bracing inside the sprung mudguard parts, tools, toolboxes and the exhaust on the port side.  The kit includes plastic towing eyes, but you are going to have to provide your own cables as none are include in the kit, but given the sheer volume of parts it's excusable.  At the rear an unditching log is lashed to the bulkhead with PE straps, and the extra fuel drums so often seen are also lashed to curved brackets that overhang the rear of the hull.  Between them the deep wading funnel is attached by a couple of pins to the bottom of the brackets, and it has its own group of PE brackets for the bracing wires that are seen when it is in use.

 

the wheels are handled next, with five pairs per side with separate hubs, plus the idler wheel at the front, and drive sprocket at the rear.  Tracks are left until a little later and are of the individual link type, requiring 90 links per side, each of which have four sprue gates, but no ejection pin or sink marks to worry about.  What is there however is stunning detail, which includes the casting numbers inlaid into the hollows of each track link, and close-fitting lugs that should make the building an easier task.

 

The turret itself is a busy assembly, having the basics of the breech mechanism and coax machine gun made up and mated with the lower turret on two mounts at the front.  The upper turret has some holes drilled out from inside and is attached to the lower, after which the two-part turret roof is fitted with hatches, vents and vision blocks.  Externally the grab rails, forward mounted searchlight, commander's cupola and a choice of cast mantlet or moulded blast-bag over the mantlet are added, and the single piece barrel with hollow muzzle slips through the centre and keys into the breech.  The blast-bag is finished off around the edges with PE strips, and a large folded tarp is attached to the back of the turret by more PE straps near the included stowage boxes.  An armature links the gun barrel and the searchlight together so they move in unison, and an ancillary searchlight is fitted to the commander's cupola, with a choice of the driver's poor weather hood built up in either the collapsed or deployed format, with the former stowed on the turret bustle, while the latter fits over the open driver's hatch. Additional ammunition for the DshK is added to the turret.  

 

The 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine gun is the last assembly, and is made up along with its mount, ammo box with a short length of shells leading into the breech, which is fitted into the mount in front of the loader’s hatch.  This is only used on 4 of the decal options, on the other options a browning 50 Cal is provided. The turret is dropped into the hull and your choice of location made for the driver’s poor weather hood made earlier. 

 

 

Markings

There are six decal options, and plenty of colour (and operator) variation, which is nice to see.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • 1st Guard Brigade "Tigrovi" Republic of Croatia Armed Forces, 1990s, tank marked "Marnia"
  • 1st Guard Brigade "Tigrovi" Republic of Croatia Armed Forces, 1990s, tank marked "Croatia"
  • 2nd Guard Brigade "Gromovi" Republic of Croatia Armed Forces, 1990s, tank marked "19775"
  • 1st Guard Brigade  of the Croatian Defence Council "Ante Bruno Busi"  Republic of Croatia Armed Forces, 1990s, tank marked "Dnimid Torcid / Martn"
  • 1st Guard Brigade "Tigrovi" Republic of Croatia Armed Forces, 1990s, tank marked "939"
  • 4th Guards Brigade "Pauci" Republic of Croatia Armed Forces 1990s, Marked "4025"

 

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The decals are printed by DecoGraph on bright blue paper, and have good register, sharpness and colour density, with a closely cropped thin, matt carrier film.

 

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Conclusion

These are amongst the most comprehensive kits I have seen in a long while, with even the tiniest details catered for, down to the tiny nuts holding the snorkel to the rear of the tank.  It is a fabulous kit and will keep you modelling for hours and hours.

 

Very highly recommended.

 

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I must admit a wry smile when Miniart announced this one. I wonder how many people pre-ordered the initial T-55A Polish Production kit with the intention of doing "Marina", had to cancel it and then pre-order this kit?

 

Now then, Miniart, what about a Czechoslovak T-55A boxing?

 

Mike.:hmmm:

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1 hour ago, MikeR said:

I must admit a wry smile when Miniart announced this one. I wonder how many people pre-ordered the initial T-55A Polish Production kit with the intention of doing "Marina", had to cancel it and then pre-order this kit?

 

Now then, Miniart, what about a Czechoslovak T-55A boxing?

 

Mike.:hmmm:

TBH the only difference between the Polish boxing and this one apart from the decals is the two sprues of browning machine guns.

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