With the recent fighting in Syria, there has been a resurgence in modeling products catering to Middle Eastern conflicts. One of the newer companies offering such products is FC Modeltips
of Spain. They have released a “Syrian T-34/85 AA mount cupola” set as item 35402. It is designed to go with their decal sheet and is made of resin with photo-etched brass parts.
- 7 resin parts on three slabs
- 4 photo-etched parts comprising of the hinge mount gussets on 1 small fret
- 1 instruction sheet
Within a clear plastic case, we find three resin slabs with parts, one photo-etched fret, and the instructions which double as the product label. Opening the case, the parts seem well cast but then we notice small air bubbles on various parts. One is just below the surface of the mount arm (see photo), so care needs to be taken when removing the part from the slab.
I have found it strange that one of the parts was missing. It may have been during production or from the time the review sample was received until it was provided to me. Although I decided to replace the part with one of my own, I did contact FCM
as I was curious about the engineering.
On the resin slab with the elevation hardware and mount ring, one finds cupola parts. Namely, it is the cover and hatch over the opening. The method of casting guarantees removal of the parts not only to be difficult but without any inner detail for the hatch. No resin parts are provided to detail the hatch.
Federico Collada (FC) explained that the cupola parts were there to guarantee a fit of the mount ring to the various cupolas out there in kits. He did offer to replace the missing handle at no charge but I declined. Customer service seems to be very good as he did not require proof of purchase (he is unaware of this review) nor did he ask for shipping to be covered.
Removal of the parts was accomplished with a razor saw with particular care taken around the air bubbles found under the surface when placing the slabs under bright light. The resin is easy to work with and sanded well. The cupola parts caused the razor saw to bend so I switched to a thin hobby saw. I was not looking forward to sanding the bottoms of the cupola parts to make them usable.
Taking a clue from my conversation with FC, I pulled out as many commander’s cupolas that I could find in my stash to see if the parts were different since no kit recommendation appears in the instructions.
First off was a resin cupola by Anubis Productions. This is a detailed item based on Dragon’s parts. I found the cupola to be too big for the AA mount. What this means is that the commander’s hatch should be able to fit between the AA mount arms to open and close. It could not. To use the mount ring and arm on this kit, the resin cupola parts must be used to replace the kit parts. I did my best to avoid using the resin cupola parts from this set.
Second was the Academy part. Again, the cupola hatch would be too big. The AA mount arms are attached to the mount ring by photo-etched gussets. To use the mount ring and arm on this kit, the resin cupola parts must be used to replace the kit parts.
Chesapeake Model Designs’ Czech Production Turret was next and the mount was a very good fit. This pleased me as I did not find any photographic evidence of this mount in use on anything other than Czech produced T-34-85 in Syrian use.
As with the Anubis Production’s cupola, that of the CyberHobby/Dragon kit was not a good fit. To use the mount ring and arm on this kit, the resin cupola parts must be used to replace the kit parts.
Last was a Maquette kit (also boxed by RPM and others). The cupola hatch did not fit between the mount arms. To use the mount ring and arm on this kit, the resin cupola parts must be used to replace the kit parts.
While I did have two AFV Club T-34-85 kits, neither came with the larger (one piece hatch) cupola. I did not have a Tamiya kit to try it on.
To build an accurate Syrian T-34-85 with the AA mount, one needs to convert the base kit to the variant produced by the Martin plant in Czechoslovakia. The hulls in this factory resembled the Zavod 174 (Omsk) version with the two large hinge plates and the upper rear hull plate inset of the lower rear. For a base kit, I would start with AFV Club’s T-34/85 1944 Factory 174 with Interior (AF35145). Make corrections to the hull as you see fit.
For the turret, exhausts, and infantry call button, I am using Chesapeake Model Designs Czechoslovakian Production Turret (CMD-05) as this set includes all the modifications needed. Since it is out of production, MR Modellbau offers an alternative (MR35-071) which only seems to miss the infantry call button.
I replaced the machine gun mount ring, part 5, with one I made using my Olfa circle cutter. This allowed me to place the mount ring under the cupola top parts as per the original. The inner diameter of the ring was made to match the inner diameter of the cupola. The machine gun should be the DShK so I found a Dragon example with RB Barrels brass replacement barrel. Now, to get it all together!
As for markings, there is the recent sheet by FCM
as 35205 “Syria tanks in the sixties” but I have Verlinden’s dry transfer sheet 288, Russian Tank Slogans WWII Special T34/85.
I also found another Syrian AA Mount in my stash which appears (from the poor reproduction) to be from AEF Designs. The mount is inaccurate and poorly shaped but it does include the DShK needed. Other parts in the set were the BSh oil tanks and mounts and, for an Egyptian tank, large L shaped fuel tanks, oil tank, and stowage box.
It is a great subject and an accurately done machine gun mount arm. Unfortunately, more information on the vehicle using such mount as well as the missing weapon make it a lesser value but it does save some time on scratch-building.