In 1943, with the Germans having introduced both the Tiger and the Panther, it became obvious to the Soviet Union, that some counter had to be developed against them. With the tecnical success of the T34 series, this was the logical platform to 'upgun'. With the thicker armor present on the Tiger and Panther, the 76.2mm gun of the T34 and KVs, was no longer adequate for the job. With Soviet industry geared to the mass-production of the T34 it was not viable to design a new vehicle, rather the existing hull and running gear had to be adapted to mount a new turret with the D-5T (and adaptation of the 85mm AA gun) although shortcomings were soon discovered. Finally, in 1944, the S-53 was adopted with less weight, more reliability and higher rate of fire. The T34/85 had finally reached its evolutionary point of being one of the best (and most prolific) AFVs in history - still being seen on battlefields into the 1990s...
DML's Premium Edition KitDRA6319 - T34/85 Model 1944
is a 1/35th scale kit produced in the now usual light-grey plastic. The kit comes on 18 spues, (the hull-tub being seperate) there are two bags of seperate track-links. Apart from the plastic, a comprehensive set of PE (Photo-etch) is included, a turned alumium gun-barrel, two (brass) 85mm shells, a length of metal cable, a length of thin metal wire and a decal sheet for no less than 6 vehicles.
About the review
As usual, to avoid great 'lumps' of text, I'll be looking at each of the model's areas seperately. The areas covered will be:
In Depth1) Suspension/RunningGear
This is perhaps the most radical update to the original kit. Everything is new - new roadwheels, drive wheels and sprockets. The roadwheels are the open spoked type (with rubber tire) which were more commonly seen on later models rather than the 'dish-type' which were seen on earlier models. The moulding of these NEW parts is sublime. Having compared them to photos (both my own and in reference material) and scale plans, the only conclusion I can come to is they are faultless.These are a fairly complex shape to reproduce correctly with the strengthening ribs and the holes and credit must be given to both the designers and the pattern-makers for a job brilliantly done..
2) The Hull. One of the many attractive features for modellers, is undoubtedly the 'clean' and 'uncluttered' aspect of the T34 series. This is well-captured in this model. Two options are given for the modeller in the large engine-grille. The first, and simplest, is to use the plastic part or, to go a littlle further, and use the beatifully done PE components. The latter although NOT a complex operation, will add considerably to the 'look' of the finished model. The air intakes are also nicely done - using slide moulding to excellent effect. The distinctive large hatch on the fron glacis plate has also been updated. With the use of PE, all the correct interior hatch detail can be added. Moving onto the co-axial MG, again a convincing effect will be acheived - both the shape and the components are very well executed. Moving onto one of the most distinctive features of the rear-hull of the T34, the large auxiliary fuel tanks, some comments are necessary. These are very accurately done with some nice touches - particularly with the 'bashes' moulded into them. However, one of the areas which can let-down even the best executed fuel-tanks are the mounting brackets. These are done in PE and are, in a word, STUNNING. All the clips are present and are totally to scale. The handles at the rear of each tank are provided in PE also. Also provided, in the PE sheet, are the brackets for the smoke drums which were mounted perpendicularly to the fuel tanks. However, the drums themselves, are notable - for their absence... There are replacements available from amongst other AM companies, Mig Productions
, although it would have been nice to see them included... Another improvement over the previous edition of the kit, comes in the new exhausts which again, using slide-moulding to best advantage have recreated proper tubes, not just slid lumps of plastic Finally, in relation to the hull, is the use of PE to reproduce (accurately) the mounting brackets for the spare track-links - fiddly, but ultimately satisfying!
3) The Turret. Although I have praised many areas of the kit, this is the area I am (personally) less satisfied by. The first, is the shape. There should be a little more width to the turret potrayed (early-type). I estimate the turret should be around 2-3mm wider at the base with a more pronounced angle. The other area which has left me scratching my head, is the welded cover for the extractor fans at the rear of the turret. There were two types in use - one with a more 'pointed' profile, the other with a flatter cross-section (portrayed in this kit). The shape is slightly too flat and the purist may want to build this up to get rid of the flat section on the top. It's not a major point, but moderately irritating. Another minor point are the casting numbers which should be on the rear of the turret once again, easy enough to add. The turret is an area that DML
SHOULD have improved. Some of the details although adequate and correct, do show the age of the kit. Seperate persiscopes should have been added along with PE for the access hatch over the mantlet. The mantlet itself is VERY good with the correct cross-section. The turret hatches are excellent with (again) PE being provided for the interior detail. The (new) aluminium gun barrel is excellent and again, for those who choose not to use it, the plastic barrel is present.
4) Decals. The decal sheet includes markings for six vehicles - 4 Green and two whitewashed subjects. Register is excellent and the subjects are more interesting than normal although some further checking may be necessary to check the correctness of one of the vehicles as it may be incorrectly labelled...
5) The Photo-Etch. As can be seen from the images, the PE sheet is considerable and comes close to something one of the AM companies would be charging $25 for. Obviously, the modeller will decide how much (or how little) they will actually use - the important thing is that it's there a nice acknowledgement of the importance placed on it and good use of etched brass in the areas which truly need it.
6) Tracks. The 'Magic- Track' comes in the form of seperate links. This (unlike my defence of rubber-band tracks for the M4) to my mind is the only logical approach. Most photos of T34s show a certain amount of 'sag' - something which is difficult with rubber-bands and the 'Trumpeter' approach (sections of pre-assembled track) does, at the end of the day, make for a certain 'sameness' . Therefore the only approch seems to be seperate links. These are very well moulded although there is a certain amount of cleaning up necessary to remove the ejection marks. Dry-fitting them, they do assemble easily and they are, without a doubt some of the best T34 tracks produced by any manufacturer.
Sadly, many (particularly younger or newer) modellers, have been a touch 'intimidated' by the complexity of recent releases fromDragon
. This kit however is something which will serve as a challenge to both the experienced and the less-experienced alike. The PE, although complete, will serve as a superb intoduction to using this material. Although I have been critical of specific areas (particularly the turret), I do understand that with any company who has to be financially viable, there has to be a limit as to how far they can go in reworking a model without bringing out a totally new moulding. This kit however, does give us some indications as to what we can expect to see in the future now some of the basic components are in place, some of the more attractive turret-types may well be forthcoming. All in all, it's a superb kit with particular thought being given as to what modellers expect nowadays - in that respect, it's one that all T34 enthusiasts should get on their workbench as soon as possible....
Acknowledgements and sources
Firstly, thanks to Dragon Models
for the (advance) review sample. Secondly, to the invaluable pointers given to me by Nick Cortese (one of the designers). Regarding reference material, I used a number of sources. The principal, was Volume III: T34, Bloody Peacemaker
published by Ajaks Military Books
. For detail the small (but beautifully produced) Rossagraph
book: # 23, T34-85
, a review of the book can be seen HERE..