The T-80 MBT was one of the last of the Soviet Union's "Cold Warriors". The first mass produced T-80 was the -B model and it was upgraded to the -U and -UD versions just in time for the Iron Curtain to fall. DML produced a kit of first the -B model and then the misnamed -UD model in the late 1980's and early 1990's and the kits, while good for their day, now show their age with so much more information available now to the model builder. SKIF produced a much more accurate, but also much more toy-like T-80UD kit in the late 1990's and while it is a good base to accurize from, tracks are definitely one of the least detailed and accurate pieces. And we will not even discuss the Lindberg or Firefox T-80 kits.
While SP Designs has offered replacement tracks for many years, they are lacking in detail. Now, not one but TWO set of accurate replacement tracks are available, of which I will be looking at the Master Club offering.
The tracks are packaged in two plastic baggies with an exterior label. Cast in black resin as individual links, they are crisply molded with excellent detail. They are also "Click" assembly links, which means that you just pressure fit them together and a small indention on the side of the track pad catches on a dimple molded on the end connector. Simple and effective. I was able to handle the linked tracks with reasonable force (hey, they are 1/35 resin pieces) and had no problem with links coming apart or breaking.
They are very detailed, with all the bolt detail found on the real tracks, and the pads showing up very crisply. The pads seem a bit thin to me, compared to photos, and look more like the metallic pads seen on the T-90 series, but I am not sure without access to real T-80 track pads. The guide horn is SPOT ON to my references, with all the proper angles and changes in shape...and they are hollow. It really is a neat feat to see this all done on a one-piece resin track. And the end connectors are crisp and accurate...they look like separate pieces, not a single cast piece.
The only real inaccuracy of the track is the simple nature of making these tracks in resin: The end connectors are fixed. What does that mean? Well, the real T-80 tracks are double dry pinned tracks, meaning that the end connector will pivot on BOTH pins. Well, the resin tracks are cast with the end connectors flat on one pin and unmovable, so when you go to run them around the sprocket or idler, it will not be absolutely correct. But to be honest, I know about this "issue" and I still find it hard to get upset about. But I have noted it here so you can make an informed choice.
Using my digital calipers, I measured the tracks out at:
- 6.94mm Wide x 16.86mm Deep x 5.47mm Tall at the guide horn.
- The end connectors are 3.71mm wide.
- The track pads are 4.70mm front-to-back.
Now you can compare your measurements of the real track to the Masterclub offering.
Marveling in the glow of such wonderful tracks I decided to fit them to some of my T-80 kits...and then the fun started.
I wanted to see how well the tracks would fit the SP Designs sprocket I had. Uh oh, it would not go in far enough to allow the end connectors to go into the sprocket teeth. So I checked the SKIF kit sprocket...WORSE! The teeth of the sprocket are too "fat" and too closely spaced. Uh oh indeed.
Breaking out my DML T-80U SMT m1989 (Yeah, the mislabeled T-80UD) I dug out a sprocket and test fit on that and...it fit pretty darn well. Then I got out the references and noted that the DML sprocket is pretty darn accurate, ESPECIALLY for a 25 year old kit. So there is a kit these track will work with 'Out of the Bag'. But what to do about fitting them to a SKIF kit?
Well, the problem is that the guide teeth on the tracks are too 'tall'; they bump into the center of the sprocket. DML's sprocket center is much thinner. So the idea is to either shorten the guide teeth or to thin the sprocket center.
Thinning the sprocket on the SKIF kit is really not an option due to the way the final drive is molded on the lower hull. Also, the inner sprocket piece is fairly thin and would probably require too much material to be removed. Retrofitting a DML sprocket would also be an option, but it would involve a fair bit of work as the SKIF final drive does not fit into the inner piece of the DML sprocket. And the SP Designs sprocket is the marriage of the outer DML piece with the Inner SKIF piece with DML sprocket teeth. SIgh.
Another answer is to shorten the guide teeth around the SKIF/SP Designs sprocket. See photo as to how much needs to come off. However, all road wheels worked fine with the guide horns/tracks, so the only problem is the sprocket.
All in all, they are excellent tracks but they only work easily on the most inaccurate kit on the market. I wish they had included a replacement sprocket as well to help with this issue.