by: Gino P. Quintiliani [ ]
During the Russian participation in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the most numerous Soviet tank models were the T-26 light tank, and the BT series of fast tanks. The T-26 was a slow-moving infantry tank, designed to keep pace with soldiers on the ground. The BT tanks were cavalry tanks, very fast-moving light tanks, designed to fight other tanks but not infantry. Both were thinly armored, proof against small arms but not anti-tank rifles and anti-tank guns, and their gasoline-fueled engines were prone to catch fire easily. From the lessons learned in Spain, it was determined that a new tank design was needed.
In 1940, an A-32 prototype, named after its 32 millimeters (1.3 in) of frontal armor was modified to a heavier version with 45 millimeters (1.8 in) of front armor and wider tracks and was approved for production as the T-34. It had the proven Christie suspension, well-sloped thick armor, a rear-drive system, a 76.2mm (3 in) gun, and the new model V-2 diesel engine. With its speed, survivability, and relatively large gun, it could easily defeat the German Panzer III and IV tanks it would face.
In 1942 a new hexagonal turret design known as a Model 1942 or “Gayka” (Hexnut) turret, was produced at Factory 183 in Stalingrad. The new design improved the cramped turret conditions. Limited rubber supplies also led to the adoption of steel-rimmed road wheels, and a new clutch was added to the improved five-speed transmission and V-2 engine.
AFV Club has released the third kit in their T-34 series – a T-34/76 Model 42 from Factory No. 183. This kit is a special issue limited to 5000 which includes a clear upper hull and turret to show off the nicely rendered, pretty complete interior. This kit shares most of its parts from the previous two kits (the T-34 Model 1941 Factory No. 112, kit #35143; and T-34/85 Factory No. 183, kit #35145). It does include a few new sprues with parts for the older road wheel set-up which has three steel wheels in the middle and rubber-tired road wheels at the front and rear. Also included are new sprues for the updated turret and two sprues with black plastic for the rubber part of the road wheels, not vinyl as in some of their other kits.
The sturdy cardboard box contains:
• 11 main sprues in light gray plastic
• a decal sheet of markings for 5 vehicles
• 1 small PE fret
• 1 bag w/a sprue of clear parts for vision ports and a headlight
• the clear upper hull
• a lower hull shell
• one-piece vinyl tracks
• and a metal barrel.
All the above items are individually bagged to keep them from being damaged during shipping. The kit also includes eight steel springs for the Christie suspension; which looks convincing, and if installed properly, will function just like the real thing. The multi-fold, 29 step instructions manual rounds out the box.
The instructions are clearly written and have good illustrations for parts placement location. The assembly steps follow a logical sequence of the suspension and lower hull; engine, transmission, road wheels, then on to the turret and exterior details. There are paint colors called out throughout the assembly sequence. The decals look to be in perfect register with very thin film.
The kit comes with marking options for five vehicles; two tanks in green and three in winter whitewash:
• Winter of 1942 (a two tone white upper hull and green lower hull with red Cyrillic on the turret)
• Winter of 1943 (whitewashed with a green area around the turret numbers)
• Kursk, February 1943 (green hull with white Cyrillic lettering)
• Winter 1943 (whitewashed)
• Panzergrenadier Division, Brandenburg, East Prussia, January1945 (whitewashed with turret numbers and black Balkenkreuz), a captured tank used by Germany.
a closer look
The individual parts on the sprues look to be sharply molded and free of any flash. The three larger sprues consist of parts mainly for the interior. There are also five smaller sprues which hold the suspension parts, road wheels, and black plastic for the rubber on the road wheels. There is also a clear sprue that has the turret and rear plate cover. The PE fret is small, but very nice. It includes a screen for the air intake.
The lower hull and running gear detail looks very good. The lower hull tub has detail on both inner and outer surfaces. The outer surface includes access plates and the opening for the separate driver’s escape hatch. On the inside, control linkage cables and locator pins for the engine and transmission are molded in place.
The clear upper hull and turret pieces are also molded well. The turret race is complete with bolt head detail on the interior and exterior, as is the opening for the engine access plates on the upper hull rear.
The fully-detailed interior in this kit is a big plus. It includes pretty much everything you could want, and see, inside the hull. The driver and bow gunner’s area are nicely outfitted with separate control rods for the foot pedals, nicely detailed driver’s hatch, seats, air tanks, and ample side wall details. Ammo boxes are provided for the floor of the fighting compartment as well as nice sidewall details for the spring covers and fuel tanks. There are parts for the circular ammo drums and well-detailed MG’s for the hull and turret. There is also 76mm ammo for the sidewalls and the shell-shaped ammo racks. The ammo for these racks is only molded as half-shells, but this isn’t an issue and it makes painting them easier as opposed to them being molded with the rack on the shell.
The turret is nicely cast in an upper and lower shell, both in clear plastic. The level of detail continues here with interior fittings molded into the turret parts and extra details such as sight mechanism and vision ports added on. There is also a very nice 76mm gun breech and gunners station, including a well cast coax MG and more stacks of circular ammo drums for the MG. With all the little bits added to the interior and the clear styrene, there could be issues with using the clear plastic here. Care must be taken to keep glue to a minimum and there are some ejector pin marks that will need to be removed if you desire to use the clear parts.
The next area with lots of detail is the engine compartment. The V-2 engine is nicely molded and full of details. It looks very good in the equally well detailed engine compartment. There is an issue with the instructions for the engine though. AFV Club carried over the same parts for the older version V-2 intake set-up here. The large circular air cleaner (parts A31 & A32) as shown in the instructions is not correct for a Model 1942 T-34. It is an easy fix to correct this though, and all the correct parts are in the kit. The correct air cleaners are the turbine (or turbo-charger) looking ones on the transmission firewall (parts A2, A4, A19, & A58). These should be used and the circular air cleaner and plenum (A14) should be left off. The intake manifolds, parts A54, are the incorrect type for the later engine as well. The correct ones, without the connection points for part A14, are on the sprues as parts A52. Put them in place of parts A54. There should be pipes that come from the air cleaners to the intake manifolds (A54) as well that can be added if desired.
The transmission area is also nicely molded with the well detailed drum brakes molded onto the final drives that also look very good. All transmission linkages are nicely molded as well. There are also lots of smaller parts to add such as the generator, filler caps, exhaust pipes, etc., that fill this area nicely. Also included is a very nicely molded circular fan that is a real gem. The radiators and batteries round out the engine/transmission compartments and fill the areas well.
The upper plate that covers the engine/transmission area is molded in grey styrene, so if you wish to view this area well, you will have to leave it off or settle for the meager view through the cooling louvers, which can be positioned at any angle you desire. The only PE part in the kit is used on the cover over the cooling louvers here as well.
On a final note, I personally don’t like the idea of the clear hull and turret. As I mentioned above, if you desire to leave them clear, much care must be taken when gluing and detail painting. Also, to me, the clear hull and turret just seem like a gimmick. I would much more prefer these as solid parts and to build the tank opened up as if it is in a maintenance scenario or with hull sections blown apart to show off the interior. Another option would be a cut-away as seen in training films and museums. It is a neat feature if that is what you are looking for though.
Overall the kit looks very nice and I highly recommend it. The interior and exterior parts look to be very nicely detailed, finely molded, and free of flash. Assembly looks straight-forward and with no noted problem areas. The complete interior is a big plus in this kit, and the clear parts, while somewhat of a gimmick, do allow all the details to be seen. I see no major flaws in the kit, its dimensions, or details. With a bit of work and creative painting, it looks like it will build into an accurate and eye appealing replica of a T34-76 Model 42. Another winner for AFV Club!