by: Jacques Duquette [ ]
Initially starting out as Ob’yekt 573 in 1953, four pre-production vehicles and two major design changes (new engine and armored roof) later, production of the initial SU-85 (as it was originally labeled) began in 1961. Unfortunately, its design and armament were already outdated by the time the SU-85 started coming off the production line and was quickly relegated only to VDV service as an Airborne Self-Propelled Gun…and received a name change to ASU-85. Armed with a (by 1960 standards) anemic D-70 (2A15) 85mm gun, it offered fair fire support for airborne infantry but limited anti-tank support. It replaced the ASU-57 (57mm armed open topped assault gun) and was replaced in turn by the BMD-1. It only served with the Soviet VDV and the Polish 6th “Pomeranian” Airborne Division.
Trumpeter has given us a very nice kit with a few quirks that need some work. Major dimensions are within 1mm in length and width to the best of my ability and knowledge available to ascertain.
Building the running gear and fenders. Representation of the sprockets, roadwheels, and idlers is nicely done. The builder needs to immediately understand that the option offered to open holes in the fenders is for the Polish version, as are parts C24. I would recommend waiting to add the PE mud guards until just before painting to keep from damaging them.
Adding the fenders on the lower hull, adding the rear hull plate and lower hull details. PE-A12 is a cable guide for the tow cables. This may present a challenge to fold over properly. Parts C19 and C22 should be switched.
Suspension on the lower hull. While the road wheel arms are keyed, I recommend placing the hull on a spacer to help make sure all of them are properly aligned and checking them with a straight edge as they dry, just to keep things square and level. I had no issues. The PE and plastic exhaust is very nicely done and add a lot to the appearance of the kit. I would prepaint the interior of the exhaust as it will be very hard to get to once completely built.
Tracks. These are individual links, take ~ 95 links per side, and are incorrect. The ASU-85 track is unique and there are no aftermarket replacements. While it is a variant of the PT-76 track it has one crucial difference…the guide horns are hollowed out. This is a very noticeable difference. You either need to get busy with a drill and knife, live with the kit tracks, or wait for something from the aftermarket community.
Adding the wheels and tracks and a few other lower hull details.
Upper hull assembly. Not noted in the instructions, part B8 (a vision port) goes on the right side, frontal triangle just below/back/right of the drivers station’s front facing view port. There is a divot for it. Looking over references you will where this very obvious detail goes. Another option is to open holes on part D16 to attach a spare track link. Not all photos show this on the ASU-85, so it is truly an option.
Upper hull details. The hardest part in this step is dealing with parts B21. While they are supposed to be the tie down chains for the unditching beam, they are poorly represented (thick and clunky) and do not fit well over the log, with noticeable space between them and the log if not corrected. The easiest fix for this is to cut small shavings off the top and bottom hull mounts until the chain fits snug. Another option is opening the hole in part D26 for a spot light mount. While it was not always mounted on the ASU-85, it was nearly always present, so my recommendation is to drill this hole and add this spotlight. D26 also gets clear “windows” at this point (side note - the numbers around the instructional square for cutting are in mm), so attach part B26 (the spotlight mount) first, then add the windows, and then glue to the hull carefully to keep from fogging the sights. The unditching beam is a two part piece and would be best served with replacement. More of PE-A12, the tow cable guides, are added here.
More detail for the upper hull. Part D28, not mentioned in the instructions, needs to be added just below and to the right of the driver’s position. There is a hole for it. Part C8, the splash guard, is too thick and could be replaced. It is ok OOB, but not great. Be careful bending and adding PE part PE-A17 (base for the horn)…it is small and VERY prone to tweezer launch. While the horn guard, PE-A15, is very delicate, it looks very nice when done and is worth the effort.
Gun, mantlet, and more upper hull detail. Another issue is the gun mantlet…it has no canvas cover in the kit. I have come across a few photos showing the ASU-85 m1956 in service without the cover, but they are very few. It can be built this way OOB, but it would represent a VERY rare configuration. This can be fixed by adding your own canvas cover with putty or glue soaked tissue, or waiting for the inevitable after market replacement piece. Part D18 has the option, again, of drilling holes to add a spare track link. Parts A8 are tie down straps and are poorly done. They are best replaced. My favorite detail here is parts C5 and PE-A6…this is a very nice representation of the ventilator with which previous resin kits had a lot of trouble. The main gun is moulded in the common split middle 2 piece configuration. It goes together well and cleans up nice enough that an aftermarket barrel would be unnecessary.
More upper hull detail and connecting the hulls. I preferred to connect the upper/lower hulls as one of the first steps rather than add them together with all the detail parts added. I could find no reason not to do this as access to the interior of the hull is not needed. The front “beak” where the hulls meet is a little weak, especially dealing with the prominent weld seams on the front, and should be reworked for a better appearance. PE-A11(main searchlight base) is a delicate piece in its attachment point and care will need to be taken when painting and movement of the model to keep it from breaking off. However, it has scale thickness, so it is correct. I am particularly happy with the headlight guards, another weak point of previous resin kits. More of the PE-A12 cable guides here.
Tow cables. The brass provided is adequate but may be better replaced.
Decals. Nicely done, thin, respond well to setting solution. The Soviet version represents more of a Public Relation photo vehicle, or Parade vehicle, and the red star and VDV symbols would not be present on combat vehicles. As far as I can tell, the Polish markings are consistent for a vehicle in service.
Nicely done kit by Trumpeter with a few small quirks that will need to be dealt with to make it a fully accurate representation.