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T-34/85 Plant 112, Spring 1944 (35379) 1:35


Mike

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T-34/85 Plant 112, Spring 1944 (35379)

1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd

 

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The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in huge numbers by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front, sometimes before the paint was dry. The designers combined several important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the ground load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial cramped welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with an enlarged three-man turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought.

 

The T-34/85 with the composite turret was manufactured during the summer of 1944 at Krasnoye Sormova plant #112 on the Volga River, with a simplified gun in the turret in the shape of the ZiS-S-53, as well as some other changes.  The Composite turret was fitted with a flat roof that had a pair of hatches and linked mushroom vents to the rear.  There were some messy welds between the various castings, which gives them a rough look that belies their capability.

 

 

The Kit

This is another boxing of MiniArt’s new T-34 line, and is an exterior only kit, but the box is still loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes.  In total there are sixty-three sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a small decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers.  Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, notably the Czech production and others that we reviewed here, which is the reason for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular.  It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from much more promising for us, which with the rate we’re receiving them for review seems to be the case.  As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of PE brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for.

 

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Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull.  The floor is decked out with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear.  The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside face, drilling a pair of holes near the final drive housing to mount a pair of pads later.  The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, with a fixed stock for the gunner’s comfort.  The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly.  The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured outer protection, and has a tubular external armoured cover to protect most of the barrel length from incoming rounds.  The upper hull deck and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have several holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way, then the glacis plate it fitted to the front, some armoured plates are fitted near the turret ring, and it is then glued to the lower hull.  At the rear the engine bay is still exposed, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching the large rear panel that has a circular inspection panel fixed in the centre, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers to the sides and short exhaust stubs filling the centres, inserted from inside.  The engine deck is covered with vents and louvres that are added with a central inspection hatch, then it is fixed over the engine bay.  Additional armoured covers with louvred grilles are fitted over the large flush louvres, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, and the mudguards with PE detail parts are glued into place at the front, with more simplified flaps to the rear.  Small parts, various pioneer tools, rails and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, with racks of winter track grousers attached to the flat portions of the side and external fuel tank cradles behind them.  At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. Under the rear of the tank another set of loops, hooks and eyes are fitted into marked positions between the two final drive housings.

 

A trio of smooth-surfaced cylindrical fuel tanks are installed on the sides and rear by using the curved brackets fitted earlier, and mixed PE and styrene straps holding them in place, with a large stowage box placed on the rear bulkhead between the exhausts, and two long boxes placed on the left fender, fixing a self-built tarpaulin on PE straps in the space where the fourth external tank would have been.  Ten pairs of wheels with smooth tyres and separate hub caps are built with one of two styles of drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the running gear.  At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply two lengths of 93mm and 91mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin.`

 

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Now for the tracks.  The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share.  There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces.  They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing.  I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue.  Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm, it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured.  The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted.

 

The turret starts as an almost complete shell with three sides moulded into it, which has inserts for the interior skin.  The roof is separate and has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and binoculars built into the bi-fold hatch, plus a simpler hatch for the gunner, both of which are shown fitted closed.  The roof is moulded-in and has two more periscopes under armoured shrouds, and two vents on the rear, which are covered by a linked armoured mushroom cover.  Despite this not being an interior kit, the basic gun breech is present, with another 7.62mm DT machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set to one side while the turret floor is completed.  The floor part first has a lip inserted within the ring, then the inner mantlet support is prepared with the main gun’s mount, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind and is joined by the coax DT with its mount.  The gun tube, which is a single part is inserted into the socket on the inner mantlet and has the outer mantlet slide over it, and it has a hollow muzzle for extra detail.  An aerial, a set of long grab handles and tie-down lugs are added around the rear and sides of the turret, then the turret is dropped into place in the hull to complete the build.

 

 

Markings

There are seven decal options in the box and they’re not all green, despite what you’d expect from a wartime example made in the early half of '45, with winter distemper and a dunkelgelb with mottled camouflage in brown and green for a captured or Beautpanzer.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

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Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt/gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.

 

 

Conclusion

The T-34 played a huge part in the Soviet response to Operation Barbarossa, albeit after a substantial delay caused by Stalin’s apparent indecision.  It was a stalwart of their defence then offence, sweeping the Germans aside thanks to its sloped armour and sheer weight of numbers.  This kit omits most of the interior, and yet keeps all the external goodies, so if interiors aren’t your thing it's a tempting option.

 

 

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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