by: Jason Cormier [ ]
Introduction The T34 was a force to be reckoned with on the Eastern Front of the Second World War, possessing potent armament and hefty armor that made it the scourge of German panzer units during the early part of Operation Barbarossa. Indeed, the T34 has had an enduring legacy, supposedly influencing the design of the German Panther and remaining in service well beyond 1945. Some would claim that the immense production and success of the T34 design helped win the war, at least for the Soviets, and was a successful counter to the prowess of German panzers.
Review Hobby Boss' release of the T34 in 1/48th scale impressed a lot of modelers - this kit, available in both 76mm and 85mm variants, features a full interior and a staggering amount of detail for the scale - once built, this little tank has enough detail to go toe-to-toe with any good 1/35th variant at a fraction of the cost and with the bonus of a full interior and drivetrain. Much has been said about HB's supposed scaling-down of Trumpeter's 1/16th T34 kit - at first glance it would appear that a lot is indeed very similar to the much bigger Trumpeter kit. In fact, if you look closely at the photos of a finished model provided on the box you will realize that they ARE the 1/16th scale kit! Regardless, this kit does build into an impressive little specimen.
Open the box and you get 13 individually bagged sprues showing impressive detail and a huge number of parts (385 to be exact) for a 1/48th kit. A small baggie contains two clear headlamp lenses (only one is used), a length of twisted copper wire for the tow cable, and the rear engine hatch with the PE grille moulded into it. The upper and lower hull are kept in a cardboard protector, though this didn't prevent them from being warped in my kit (more on that in a bit).
Detail is impressive on nearly all parts. Moulding is crisp and well defined, slide-moulding is used liberally, and there are many delicate pieces that push the limits of injection moulding technology. A nice bonus is the inclusion of a pre-installed PE grille on the rear engine hatch, though no other PE is provided, and on my example there was some flash present in the grille - and I mean IN the grille, it was impossible to trim off and I had to leave it alone lest I destroy the grilles in the process of cleaning them.
This is the main flaw of the kit- despite the quality of the mouldings, there is a lot of flash present, and ejector pin marks are conspicuously placed on some parts. Mould lines range from imperceptible to completely misaligned - in my case, the main gun barrel was slightly shifted, and sanding off the mould line resulted in a flat spot. If I had more time and money I'd definitely get a metal replacement, and I'd recommend you do the same.
Fit of most parts is good and the interior takes up the bulk of the instruction manual, and most of it goes together without issue (save for the copious amount of cleanup required to remove the flash and mould lines). Everything appears to be present, right down to the plumbing and wiring on the walls. Engine and transmission detail is impressive, needing only some wiring and oil lines to make it all look perfect. I recommend test fitting all pieces, as some locating pegs don't quite fit their holes, requiring a quick pass with the ol' no. 11 to drill out the locating holes - irritating, but nothing too serious. The biggest fit problems I encountered were with the upper hull and the turret top - my upper hull was slightly warped and would not fit over the lower hull without substantial pressure and glue (there goes my idea of leaving the top removable to show the interior), and the turret roof is a tiny bit oversize, which means that without trimming it will create a gap between the turret halves.
At first glance the link and length tracks look clever - sag is already present for the top run, the surface detail looks good, and a jig is provided to assemble the tracks off the model. However, every single link has two ejector pin marks on the outside face, where it is nearly impossible to remove (why not on the dead-flat backside of the links?). On top of this, the links have enough flash to hinder assembly, and the links are so delicate that they don't sit together very well - alignment is tricky, and the links pull apart very easily even if the glue has been left to sit. On top of this, the pre-moulded sag is difficult to align and the guide horns don't sit between the road wheels properly - without pressure and glue, they simply pop out. I HIGHLY recommend you buy some aftermarket tracks if you plan on building this kit. In fact I would not recommend buying the kit without a set of new tracks.
The exterior detail is good, but as is usually the case there is no weld detail on the hull and the turret is perfectly smooth. T34s had roughly cast turrets with a prominent casting mark running along the sides, so you'll have to whip out the Mr. Surfacer or some Extra Thin Cement to add the necessary texture and weld seams.
Conclusion I'm not an expert on Soviet armour, so I cannot attest to the accuracy of the kit. Overall everything looks correct and accounted for, so I'll leave it to the rivet counters to find the detail faults with the kit. Overall I found this kit was a pleasure to build (tracks excepted) and more than worth the piddling $21 I paid for it. Some will gripe about the poor fit in some areas, but its all relatively minor stuff that can easily be dealt with by an experienced modeler.