I won’t go heavily into the background of the Russian T-34 tank, suffice to say that it is a VERY strong contender for “the tank that won the war”. Certainly, this was so on the Eastern Front of World War Two. It was well suited for the climatic conditions found on this battlefront, with its harsh winters and “muddy season”. Its diesel engine was easier to start in cold conditions than the gasoline engines preferred by the Germans, and its wide tracks allowed it to better handle the muddy and marshy conditions found in much of Russia. It had well-sloped armor that at least in the early days of Operation Barbarossa proved a very tough nut for German anti-tank gunners to crack. And it’s 76 and later 85mm main gun was quite capable of defeating the armor of most German tanks.
What’s in the Academy Box
- 28 sprues large and small of injection molded green plastic parts
- 1 small fret of photo-etched nickel/steel parts
- Length of string
- 1 sheet of waterslide decals with 5 different marking options
- 1 booklet, with 6 pages of black and white assembly instructions covering 15 assembly steps and incorporating a sprue map. A separate double-sided painting and decal sheet are also included.
Over the years kit manufacturers have been very wise to include at least one, if not many, T-34 kits in their 1/35th scale lineup. Tamiya, Dragon Models, Italeri, AFV Club, ICM, Zvezda to name six firms that readily come to mind all have kits of varying quality in their stables. In the case of Dragon Models, they have more than a DOZEN. Yet until very recently, Academy was missing a T-34 in their catalog. This has now been rectified as they initially produced two boxings of the later model T-34/85 and have now come out with a kit of the earlier T-34/76 which is the subject of this review.
When I first received this review kit, I thought Academy must have included a cast metal hull and metal link by link tracks in the box, as it was HEAVY. There certainly isn’t a shortage of plastic bits, in that Academy gives the modeler a number of optional parts in this kit. There are, for example, THREE full sets of road wheels. There are two options for the external hull fuel tanks. The thickness of the parts is also substantial in such areas as the main hull parts, and turret shell parts. This in no way detracts from the kit parts, but helps explain why they are so “heavy”.
The kit lists itself on the box top as a “No. 183 Factory Production” variant, and appears to be from the time period of mid-1942 to early 1943 based on the parts. Over the course of the T-34/76’s production life vehicles were produced at 7 different factories, and received subcomponents from numerous other factories. As the war progressed, it was also upgraded in various ways. So, this allows the modeler to produce a number of “different” looking T-34/76s. In fact, within Academy’s kit box, there are parts for not only a 183 Factory vehicle but also a 112 Factory tank. This hints to the strong possibility that Academy will release a “Factory 112” kit at a later date, as they did with their T-34/85 range.
Before starting construction, the modeler needs to decide which color and marking scheme they are choosing. This is because they have to decide which of the many alternative parts are required for their particular build. Once this decision has been made, VERY carefully study the Academy instructions to figure out which parts are required, which not, and also which holes need to be drilled, and which not, from the inside of the main hull and turret parts. Mark your instructions with a highlighter pen to avoid getting confused as you move through the Assembly Steps.
Construction starts with the lower hull as most tank models do these days. Assembly Sequences 1 and 2. As mentioned earlier, many of the main parts are “substantial”, which is a good thing. The lower hull parts, in particular, are “robust”, and all fit together very well. (Academy allows for basically no internal detail on this kit, which is a relief for me I must admit. I have recently completed a “full interior” build review of a 1/35th scale T-54B, with 1200 parts. While fun, it took “forever” to complete.) Note that your first alternative part comes into play here, with a decision on the lower rear hull plate, either part F2 or G11. The road wheel “arms” are firmly attached to the hull sides, and there is no wriggle room, which certainly helps for alignment purposes.
As mentioned there are three full sets of road wheels: two different sets of steel wheels with rubber rims, and one set of all-steel wheels. Due to the Japanese invasion of the rubber-producing regions of SE Asia, rubber was in short supply starting in early 1942. As a result, the Russians attempted to go with all steel road wheels on the T-34 in order to save on rubber. However, the resultant road vibrations were murder on the tank’s crews, so rubber rimmed road wheels were reintroduced at least for the first and fifth road wheel positions. As rubber supplies improved, the Russians returned to rubber rimmed wheels for all five road wheel positions on the T-34. Anyway, the detail on the Academy supplied road wheels are excellent, and the modeler receives lots of surplus wheels for the spares box! I chose to model a vehicle utilizing rubber rimmed wheels in the first and fifth position and three all-steel wheels in positions 2 through 4. I utilized a simple wooden jig I have constructed to make sure the road wheels are in good alignment. Assembly Sequence 3.
Assembly Sequence 4: the tracks in the kit are link and length injection plastic, which to me is far superior to so-called “rubber band” tracks, especially for a T-34 which did have track sag. Individual links wrap around the drive and idler wheels, while longer lengths form the upper and lower midsections. Detail is decent, if a bit soft, and there are visible ejection pin marks on the inner track faces that will be visible when the model is finished and therefore should be removed? The tracks represent the 500mm “waffle” pattern variety. The drive sprocket and idler wheels are fixed on the Academy kit, with no opportunity to “adjust” the track tension. Thankfully the tracks fit very well, and I had no issues whatsoever installing them in place.
Once the lower hull is completed, it is on to the upper hull. There is a choice of rear hull plates on offer from Academy, and they look very similar as one might expect. They mate up with the lower hull rear plate, and the hinge layout is different, see Assembly Sequence 5. In Assembly Sequence 6, main upper hull, Part G12, the modeler gets a rear hull with a separate engine access hatch and positionable engine air intake louvers. There is, however, absolutely no engine detail provided, so unless the modeler plans to scratch build such detail, or use some suitable aftermarket parts, it’s best to glue things “closed”. At the front of the hull, Academy provides the option of either a glacis plate machinegun or flamethrower unit (to build a so-called OT-34/76).
On the rear of the T-34/76 hull is a large, hinged unit with a mess air intake screen which is the width of the hull. Academy provides alternative parts for this section of the hull. In Option 1, you are offered a single piece with molded on mesh relief etc. As an alternative, Option 2, you are offered a piece almost identical, but with the screen area missing. Instead, in photo-etched nickel/steel, the modeler is provided the mesh, plus support strips for this air intake area. The fit is fine if you choose the PE option, however, the material that the PE is made from, nickel/steel, is very difficult to bend/form as compared to PE brass parts. It is perfectly usable, but not particularly user-friendly, if that makes sense? It is here that I decided to utilize a very nice, and inexpensive “detail set” by a Korean firm named DEF Model designed specifically for the Academy kit. DE35014 “T-34/76 Model 1943 Basic PE Detail up set” comes with a photo-etched brass set that replaces a number of parts in the Academy kit, including the rear hull screen. It also includes a lovely turned aluminum main gun barrel and a nicely molded clear lens for the vehicle headlight. All for $9.99, so a bargain.
Assembly Sequence 8 and 9 covers the rear hull external fuel tanks. Again, alternative parts. Either the square rear hull set or the multiple cylindrical tanks are seen on later versions which appear on both rear hull and side hull. Also installed at this time are the hull grab handles used by troops riding on the outside of the tank into battle, a common occurrence with Russian forces. Again, there are alternative parts here. The kit grab handles are a bit chunky and not as crisply molded as I would have liked. Again, I turned to the DEF upgrade set, which includes grab handle mounting parts in PE brass, together with brass wire to replace the bars. All much more to scale and with excellent detail. Don’t get me wrong: the kit parts aren’t poor, just a bit on the chunky side.
Assembly Sequence 10 through 13 covers the construction of the turret. The main turret shell part in Academy’s kit (part E15) is for a so-called “hexagonal” shaped variant. These turrets were cast, with a rolled steel roof plate welded atop. The kit comes with alternative layouts for the turret roof: either two small “mickey mouse ear” hatches, or one of these small hatches together with a larger cupola style hatch system. I felt that the “cast metal” effect provided by Academy on part E15 was excessive and too uniform in its appearance. I looked at photos of various turrets in my references and attempted to get a more realistic looking effect? I utilized a sanding stick and sandpaper of various grits to achieve this. As for the turret interior, there is zero interior detail. Not even the most rudimentary gun breach etc. Suits me just fine! The gun barrel is a one-piece unit, which with careful sanding of the mold seam lines is perfectly acceptable. However, for my model, I replaced the plastic barrel with the turned aluminum one in the DEF set. It fit PERFECTLY.
The kit comes with decals covering five different marking options:
- Version 1: T-34/76, turret number White “27”, Unknown Unit, Prokhorovka, July 1943
- Version 2: T-34/76, turret number Red “37”, 264th Armored Brigade, Ukraine, December 1943
- Version 3: T-34/76, turret number “103”, Unknown Unit, Kursk, July 1943
- Version 4: OT-34/76 (flame thrower), Unidentified Unit, Pskov. Recovered from a swamp in 2006 (!!)
- Version 5: OT-34/76, turret number “C-6”, Unknown Unit, Unknown Area
For this review, I once again used Mission Models acrylic paints, over a Tamiya rattle can light gray lacquer primer. The lacquer primer gives the model a uniform undercoat and sticks very well to the different elements utilized in the construction of this kit: plastic, photo-etched brass and aluminum. The primer was given 72 hours to cure fully, and then I used Mission Models MMP-031 Russian Dark Green 4BO for the base coat. I then mixed the base color 50/50 with MMP-019 Dunkelgelb for a panel highlight color. The acrylic paint was allowed to dry for 24 hours before the model was given some light coats of Tamiya X-22 Gloss Clear. All my paints are airbrushed utilizing an Iwata HP-C and the paint is sprayed at between 12 and 15PSI depending on the consistency of the paint (if thin for post shading, then 12PSI, but otherwise 15PSI for most applications).
I then set to work decaling the model, which was pretty simple since the scheme I went with, Version 2, simply had 2 x “37” on the sides of the turret together with one red star either side of the turret. I utilized the Gunze Sangyo decal setting solution combo (Green top, Blue top) and everything worked smoothly.
Once the decals had dried for 24 hours I airbrushed some thin layers of Tamiya X-22 Gloss Clear to seal them and began to weather the model. I took a small piece of sponge, and some dark gray Vallejo acrylic paint thinned with a small amount of water, dipping the sponge in the paint. Most of this was wicked off before I then went over the model with the sponge/paint, using the well-known “chipping” process. Following this, I used a brush to paint the rubber parts of the road wheels a dark gray color, and the tracks a rusty brown, utilizing appropriate Vallejo acrylic colors: Tire Black and Track Color. Then a “wash” of Burnt Sienna oil paint was made up, using my favorite brand of odorless mineral spirits, Mona Lisa. With a fine tipped brush, I applied this to the various raised detail on the model. I came back 24 hours after the initial application and removed any excess with Q-tips dipped in mineral thinner. Making up another oil paint and thinner “wash”, this time with two different “rust” colors, I applied these to the tank tracks and areas around about the model where rust might form. I do this to make the model more visually appealing. The tow cables, various sheet metal parts etc., all received a layer of rust. The model was then left alone for 72 hours to allow the oil paint wash to set up before a few light coats of acrylic matt clear were applied. My favorite is AK Interactive’s “Ultra Matt Varnish AK 183”, the “matt-est” matt on the market. I airbrush this without thinning it, straight from the bottle.
Like the real tank itself, Academy has provided the modeler with a solidly designed product. There are plenty of alternative parts in this T-34/76 kit, yet the overall parts count is not excessively high for any given decal option choice. The quality of the parts is very good overall, there being no flash on the parts, nor sink marks. There are ejection pin marks that will need removing on the tracks though. Price wise, the Academy kit offers good value for money compared to the T-34/76 kits offered by other manufacturers, especially considering the large number of “options” contained within the Academy boxing. The model was fun to build, not causing me any grief along the way. The key is to study the instructions well. I can unreservedly give this kit a “Highly Recommended” rating, and think it is suitable for any modeler with a few kit builds already under their belt. My sincere thanks to Academy’s US importer, MRC, for providing IPMS USA with the opportunity to review this kit.