T-34/76 Mod. 1943, No. 112 Factory
The T-34 tank series proved to be quite a nasty surprise for the Germans after their invasion of Russia in June of 1941, and eventually influenced the design of future German armored vehicles. So impressed were they with its capabilities, the Germans actually considered building their own version of the T-34. The Russians built the T-34 in several factories during the war, many of which needed to be relocated to avoid capture by the advancing German armies. Maintaining commonality in the vehicle became a challenge. As with most military vehicles, actual combat revealed the need for changes and improvements in the base design. The T-34 was no exception. Initially, the factories focused their efforts on supplying the needs of the military without attempting to include too many improvements in the T-34. Nonetheless, improvements were made.
The T-34/76 Model 1943 was essentially identical to the previous vehicle except for the hexagonal turret. The new turret offered improved room for the crew, which in turn improved their combat performance. The cupola was added to offer improved all-around vision. This model entered production in the fall of 1942 and saw action in the battle of Stalingrad. The T-34/76 Model 1943 remained in production until 1944. See Squadron/Signal Publications number 20, T-34 in Action, and Wikipedia for additional information.
The box is crammed full of parts. I counted at least 29 sprues, plus the hull bottom, a short length of wire, a fret of photo etched parts, two bags of individual link tracks, and a small decal sheet.
The turret is the soft-edged hexagonal design, with a very realistic rough-cast finish so typical of Russian armor of that era. Pistol ports are included on the turret sides. The turret commander’s cupola may be finished open or closed. If left open, there is little detail to be seen inside, so the installation of an appropriate figure might be in order. The asymmetrical mantlet has realistic bolt detail, plus a separate rain cover. The glacis plate has realistic interlocking joints details, and the rear hull plate has much fine detail. The individual suspension arms are quite realistic in appearance, and the idlers have been retooled from earlier models. The main road wheels are true gems in detail and appearance. There are two options for the engine grills: plastic or photo etch.
The instructions are once again typical Dragon, with 14 major exploded-view constructions steps. Markings are provided for two winter scheme vehicles. The spares box will squeal with joy at the abundance of unused parts contained within this kit. 16 of the 29 sprues have parts that will not be used in this build.
Once the build was underway, I discovered the clear parts sprue was missing from the kit. This is a very small sprue that includes the headlight lens and the driver’s two periscopes. In step 13, casting numbers from sprue “L” are to be added to the turret right front. I could not find this sprue in the box.
The construction of the lower hull and running gear posed no significant issues other than the exact placement of parts M4 and U9. At this point, I would recommended the road wheels, drive sprocket, and idler be temporarily be installed, and the individual link tracks be assembled and formed to the running gear. Each track link has two ejector pins marks that should be eliminated.
The builder has a choice of using the rear engine deck part P19 plus a few PE parts, or part P18 that has the engine screen molded integrally. I chose the option with the PE parts. The engine screen and frame are separate and must be roll-formed to match the contours of the rear deck. Gator Glue was used to fix the PE to the plastic. This sub-assembly is then fixed to the upper hull, but only after some additional PE is glued in place below the screen. Not much of the PE parts will be seen through the fine mesh of the engine screen, but the PE should be painted flat black to eliminate the brassy sheen. I found the circular engine hatch (Part P20) would not fit in the round opening of the engine rear panel. After trimming the plastic from between the circular hatch hinge knuckles, the part eventually did fit in place, but the fit was quite snug.
The installation of the front fenders (parts P9 and P10) is shown in step 6, but I deferred this work until the upper and lower hull were fitted together. As shown on the instructions, the installation and alignment of those two parts was a bit vague. There are two storage boxes to be assembled and mounted on opposite fenders; each tool box needs a strip of styrene glued to its underside before being glued to the fenders. The boxes actually bridge the top surface of the fenders and do not offer much surface to bond together.
The turret went together with no fit problems of consequence. Some of the rough-cast detail was lost when eliminating the joint between the upper section (L24) and the bottom (L34). I restored this detail with Mr. Surfacer 500 dabbed repeatedly with an old brush as the liquid putty dried. I used straightened pieces of copper wires and the PE mounting brackets to create the turret handrails, as I find cleaning up the kit rails to be quite beyond my skills.
The “White Russian“?? There are two color schemes shown, and both are a worn winter whitewash with the original green paint showing through on some surfaces. Decal marking are minimal for either version. Once the final coat of white paint was applied and cured, I rubbed the painted surface of the turret sides with a small piece of an old cotton T-shirt. This created a slight sheen where the decals would be placed. It worked like a charm, and there was no silvering of the decals.
This kit is recommended for the experienced modeler. The sometimes complicated instructions, along with the many parts (some quite small), require experience and patience to complete the build. It will be important to study the instructions thoroughly before starting the assembly, no matter the experience level of the builder. Good references may be necessary to help locate some of the parts that are not clearly located in the instructions. On occasion, parts will mysteriously appear in place without direction on the instructions. Even with references, the placement of some parts may remain a mystery. I was quite impressed with the level of surface detail on this model.
I wish to thank Dragon Models USA for supplying this kit and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this product. I enjoyed this project and this will be a great addition to any collection of Russian armor.