Once in a great while, a kit comes along which is truly monumental, a release that answers the prayers of AFV hobbyists everywhere. With the new T-34/76 in 1/35th scale from AFV Club
, those prayers are now answered! I've always been a fan of Trumpeter's 1/16th scale T-34 kits, and have built them all. My only complaint was that they just take up so much display real estate. I have always found it surprising that no manufacturer offered such an important subject in standard 1/35th scale styrene with an interior. Why were we T-34 fans forced to wait so patiently? Well, it seems that many technical challenges had to first be overcome in producing such a kit -not the least of which was producing a clear hull and turret. Few manufacturers were willing to invest the time and money necessary in developing a suitable, and bubble-free, material for a clear exterior. Is the end result worth the wait? Buy one and you'll be convinced that it was -but buy your T-34/76 soon, as the limited-edition kit with clear parts won't be on hobby shop shelves for long!
A welcome departure from its usual olive green styrene, the eight parts sprues are moulded in gray. Road wheel tires are superbly-detailed in plastic, not vinyl, while vision blocks, periscopes, and headlamp lenses are clear. This kit has everything one could wish for: a fully-detailed interior and engine compartment, working suspension, brass photo-etched engine grill mesh, accurate detail, a dedicated crew figure set from Hobby Fan, and a clear exterior. A nice touch was to avoid the inevitable moulding seam inherent in plastic gun barrels and instead provide us with a turned-brass barrel, complete with rifling detail in the muzzle. It's good to see a company still willing to spend the extra money and give the consumer that all-important value for money factor, especially these days.
About the only thing missing would be some brass ammunition for the 76mm gun. The only rivals to this kit are the expensive interior conversion set by Verlinden, the giant 1/16th scale kits from Trumpeter, or the smaller 1/48th scale offerings from Hobby Boss with their troublesome tracks.
The T-34/76 was simplicity itself, and construction of the kit, even with full interior detail, is straight-forward. AFV Club tank kits are famous for their working suspensions, and the new T-34/76 is no exception.
Working suspensions have improved dramatically since AFV Club first used metal coil springs in the 1/35th scale Centurion series. A challenge in producing this new kit was to develop a spring which is robust, yet supple. Much research has been invested to produce a coil spring which is to scale, yet is not so strong as to break tracks or axles. This innovation makes for a trouble-free build, allowing the suspension components to articulate.
The working suspension is first to be built, by inserting the coil spring assemblies into their housings in the inner hull walls. One end is connected to a pin on each torsion arm, which pivots by having its shaft trapped with a cap on the inside of the hull. The whole assembly is clever and simple.
The next six steps of the instructions are devoted to building the interior of the hull, complete with machine gun and 76mm ammunition, pedal linkages, and a separate floor escape hatch. About the only omission is the centrally-located turret wiring link (see photo of actual T-34 hull interior, BELOW), which would not be difficult to scratch-build.
Initial fears that this kit wouldn't include a fully-detailed engine are unfounded. The outstanding feature of this kit is its fully-detailed V2 diesel engine/transmission assembly. Covering two pages of the instructions, building the engine/transmission compartment is a mini-kit in itself! I was very impressed with the flywheel/cooling fan assembly. When compared to photos of the real thing, AFV Club has recreated this detail down to the last rivet. You'll almost want to torque-down the cylinder head bolts and tighten leaky hose clamps when the engine’s complete. Super-detailers may want to add the twelve fuel injection lines from fine wire, and hollow-out the exhaust pipes with a drill-bit. The engine compartment is nicely finished with a separate access hatch and cooling slats (which are angled within their slots when opened).
The road wheels with their separate tires are the next to go on, held to their axles with hubcaps. Although I love the challenge of individual track links, the kit-supplied vinyl tracks are among the best I’ve seen recently. They are extremely supple –so much so, that one must take care not to melt them with over-use of cement. That’s right, they are joined and held-down to the road wheel tops with regular cement, not CA instant , or “super”, glue. Nice touches to the exterior hull include tiny separately-moulded tie-down loops and a multi-part tool box.
Construction of the 2-man turret, another mini-kit in itself, covers the final page and a half of the instructions. Every detail is present –down to the separate breech block of the 76mm gun. All this work will be displayed through the clear turret walls and roof. I recommend painting all these small interior details before fitting to the turret interior, as it will be impossible later, without getting paint on the clear parts.
Decals to depict 4 vehicles –one of the Polish 1st Army (1945), are provided. They are thin and crisp.
The real T-34 was no product of craftsmanship. They were roughly-hewn machines, and the AFV Club kit depicts this quality with accurate weld bead detail. As a former professional welder, I can safely say that AFV Club has done their usual job of depicting convincing weld beads throughout this kit. These are subjective things, as real weld beads are human-applied, no two being identical, even if applied by the same welder, to the same vehicle, on the same day. The waffle-pattern tracks are particularly finely-detailed, as are all bolt heads and fasteners. Once built, one is tempted to get in and turn a 1/35th scale key!
Once positioned, the resin Russian crew members separately-available from Hobby Fan give a good perspective of scale to this kit. Those guys -and girls in some cases, were really cramped in there! One can certainly appreciate that this factor alone really put T-34 crews at a huge disadvantage.
As the only injection T-34 with a full interior kit on the market in 1/35th scale, news of its arrival is sure to result in a frenzy at your local hobby shop. The only bad news is that the clear hull and turret will only be available as a limited production run. Dig under those sofa cushions, return all your empty bottles, just don't delay in getting this limited-edition kit before they're all gone! I for one am anxiously awaiting the next T-34 variant to be released by AFV Club: the T-34/76 with "Mickey Mouse" hatches.
According to the definitive guide to the T-34, “Mythical Weapon” (Airconnection Publishing), by Robert Michulec, this kit measures-up very accurately to scale drawings provided in the book. This excellent book was in fact, a primary source of reference for the developers at AFV Club. Some general painting guides are called-out in the instructions for most of the interior components, but because color photos are of restored vehicles, something is to be left up to the imagination. As a rule, the V2 engine/transmission assembly was left as bare steel and bare aluminum, the radiators were black. Fuel components were sometimes painted yellow, while cooling pipes and other components were sometimes painted red. There are even some unsubstantiated accounts of T-34s leaving the factory with unpainted exteriors. If you call yourself a fan of the T-34, I highly recommend the “Mythical Weapon” book as the most comprehensive reference source available today.
Another reason to order yours today: A limited number of kits also will include a limited-edition print by the box artist.
Editor's Note: The photo (RIGHT) shows the incorrect intake manifolds mounted in the engine bay. Fear not, all will be put right during my build blog. Stay tuned!
Follow the step-by-step build of my T-34/76 in my Build Log