by: Matthew Lenton [ ]
The ISU-122 was based on the chassis of the ISU-152, itself derived from the IS tank chassis. It enabled the A-19S 122mm gun to be utilised to make up for a lack of supply of the 152mm ML-20S. This Zvezda kit represents the first production type of the ISU-122, produced from April 1944, easily recognisable for its lack of muzzle brake. The variant designated ISU-122S, with the muzzle brake, used the D-25 development of the A-19 gun, and was produced from September 1944. Both versions remained in production through 1945, with 1,735 of this first ISU-122 variant being delivered.
This is another in Zvezda’s range of WW2 1/72 AFV kits billed as “Snap Fit – No Glue Required”. This means that there is a certain level of simplification, although detail in these kits has proved to be good, and certainly comparable to other kits of this scale. A successful snap fit kit demands a high standard of design, with parts needing to fit very precisely in order to stay in place, something that is achieved to a great extent with this particular example, although it is not without one or two issues, as we will see.
The side opening carton features a painting of our ISU-122 stalking through the ruins of Berlin with the slogan “вперед на разгром врага!” (“Forward to crush the enemy!”) painted on the gun barrel, with the number 3338; this is not however one of the markings provided in the box. Instead we get two options on the small decal sheet, one for a tank numbered 336 with an unknown unit marking in white, the other numbered 721 with what appears to be the white eagle of a First Polish Army unit.
118 parts across two grey plastic sprues, plus the two tracks in the now familiar hard black plastic, shows that this is not an overly simplified wargames model, but has many small detail parts which will in fact need to be fixed with cement, although much of the main construction can be achieved without. Moulding is clean and details well rendered, including, for example, the open slats on the engine deck main ventilator, weld marks around the roof of the fighting compartment, and the tracks are nicely detailed on all sides. Something odd is the very subtly striped pattern across the top surface of the upper hull, visible in photo 1; note that I deliberately lit and processed this photo to make it show up, and I am 99.9% certain that it will disappear under a coat of paint.
Zvezda have included two separate tow ropes, spare track links, individual tools comprising of shovel, pick axe, towing loop and bar, grab handles, mantlet lifting hooks, as well as the four part 12.7mm DShK anti-aircraft machine gun. They have, then, provided decent separate details of the type that are often missing from kits costing double the price of this one. All of the roof hatches are moulded in place however, and although the driver’s visor is a separate part, it is not designed to be modelled as anything but closed. An omission is that only one length of track is included for mounting on the front plate between the tow hooks, while photos of the real thing show that additional single links were normally carried on the other side of the tow hooks. Although there are textured weld seam details in some places, there is no casting texture present on the big gun mantlet.
Instructions are across four sides of an A4 sheet and are big and very clear, with no obvious errors, although I don’t agree with the sequence shown for fixing the tracks, but see below. The painting scheme is shown in black and white, but that’s no worry as the overall colour for both finishing options is the usual WW2 Soviet dark green.
We start off with the assembly of the gun and mount (photos 2, 3). The barrel is a chunky single piece which will need to have the end drilled out quite deeply; I started with a 1.3mm and finished off with a 1.6mm – if you want to be really accurate, a 1.7mm bit scales up closer to 122mm. The mould seam is easy enough to eliminate as the barrel is not a complex shape.
In photo 4 the gun has been attached to the upper hull, to which a few details have now been added: the roof ventilator, driver’s visor, headlamp and horn. These parts, designed for snap fit, do fit well, but I applied glue on the inside to hold them in place and ensure they don’t disappear permanently… Next to the hull in the photo is the internal plate which is the invisible filling in the upper and lower hull sandwich and serves to join the halves together.
Fitting the internal plate to the upper hull is fairly tricky as there are seven pegs to fit into seven holes, one of which is the bottom of the gun mount (circled in photo 6). Alignment with the hull upper needs to be very precise, as going too far with one peg takes the opposite peg too far out of line. Once these two components are fully joined, the fit is tight, and it is not easy to separate them again without damaging the pegs (yes, I broke one, see the red box in photo 6). Although the gun mount is designed to allow vertical and lateral movement, the fit here is also tight.
The rear plate of the fighting compartment slots in accurately with two pegs locating into the sandwich filling. Seal around the edges by applying liquid cement from the inside (photo 7). Don’t break the handle on the top of the plate. The hull rear plate with the circular engine access hatches clips into place, but a gap opens up unless it is cemented in place, again, easy to do from the inside (photo 8).
In photo 9 we see that the four handles on the engine deck have been added, at this stage with tags of sprue still attached, as I prefer to remove these once the parts are glued and fully set. Also, in the red box, are the gun cleaning rods which have been pushed into place for now, unglued, convenient for separate painting. External fuel tanks come in three pieces each (photo 10), and being round are quite laborious to clean up. The fit of these is reasonably good, and by applying some liquid cement, any visible joins can be eliminated. The brackets, handles and filler caps are moulded in place, but once the tanks are attached to the hull rear, they look OK in my view (photo 11).
Adding the mantlet is straightforward, although the big inner mantlet needs a little downward push to get it to snap in (photo 12). The outer mantlet slides into place, locating on two pegs on the gun barrel, before the top plate clips on like a hinge (photo 13).
The slots on the left side plate into which the metal bar fits are a bit too big, so that with the bar in place, some of the slot is visible (photo 14). The slots were filled from under the track guard with small plugs of plastic square rod and the bar tool was mounted at the top of the slots, which is where photos suggest it should be. The shovel fits in above it without problem. The two tow cables are well detailed and come with mounting points that locate into holes on the top of the rear hull plate; again, the holes are a little big, so some filling may be necessary (photo 15). The bottom ends of the cables are just left free at this stage.
Moving to the lower hull the suspension arms all fit in place accurately, including the idler axle, and the sprocket (photos 16, 17). The sprocket is something of a challenge to remove from the sprue however, with the attachment points being between teeth, so cutting and cleaning up requires great care. Note that the two halves of the sprocket are best glued together, but do not glue them to the hull at this point.
In photo 18, we’ve got inner wheels in place, and in photo 19 all the parts are shown ready for mounting the track, including the return roller inners (the horseshoe shapes) and outers (the tack shapes). To be honest, this is quite tricky, and having practised on one side, here is what I hope are helpful tips for the other side:
1. Get the tracks the right way round: look at some photos, there are many nice clear head on shots available on the web.
2. Carefully shape the track into a curve at the right point and wrap the curve around the sprocket, engaging the teeth. This is the best way to avoid breaking teeth (photo 20).
3. Insert the sprocket into the hole on the hull and align the first track eyelet with the first return roller mount, then add the inner half of the return roller (circled, photo 21). The eyelet on the track end should be aligning with the central roller mount. If it doesn’t, you may have the track on the wrong way?
4. Pin the track and the roller back in place by inserting the return roller outer wheel (circled, photo 22). These are quite a tight fit, and I found it helped to very slightly sharpen or round off the end of the pin shaft with a file so it is not so blunt and square.
5. Now holding all that in place – or you could perhaps secure the return roller inner with cement and leave it to set in step 4 – wrap the track all the way around the idler and back on itself, then add the inner return roller half on the other end (photos 23, 24).
6. With the outer half of that roller in place, the track should be held quite securely, and the two eyelets at the ends should meet up and overlap on the centre return roller mounting (photo 25).
7. Photo 26 shows the track joined and return rollers all in place.
8. Photo 27 shows the outer halves of the road wheels in place.
9. I applied some cement under the road wheels and then pushed down on to a flat surface to ensure the wheels all touch the tracks and the track touches ground. Weight was added to hold this in place overnight.
10. The outer half of the idler and the outer hub of the sprocket were then added.
Something to avoid is forcing the central return roller too far on to its shaft; I did this to try to get the inner and outer of the roller to align closely, but a side effect was to pull the upper run of track inwards so that it is a little curved. It is actually quite hard to get the roller halves to align perfectly, and the above suggestion at point 5 about gluing the inners in place first may help.
The machine gun is part of stage 5, but I left it until near the end. It’s reasonably well detailed for plastic in this scale, with the right handle being added as a separate part, then the mount, then the ammunition drum (photo 28).
The upper and lower hulls are ready to be joined (photo 29) and, for now, no glue is necessary. The join is so definite that I suspect the upper and lower could be painted separately, then joined together with some cement on the internal locating pegs so that the joins at the front and rear close up enough not to require any touch up. Photos 30, 31 show the final additional details of the mantlet lifting hooks and the side grab handles all in place, these having to be fixed with cement. The remainder of the photos also show the finished vehicle with the machine gun in place, and in photo 34 the lower ends of the tow cables can be seen connected, unglued, to the tow hooks on the lower hull. Unusually it seems for a kit these days, by the time I go to this stage the sprues were completely empty and so were dumped in the recycle bin.
This is another simple yet well detailed and executed small scale tank kit from Zvezda. A quick and mostly easy build, the only difficulty is fixing the tracks, but hopefully the guidance above may help someone. Detailing is very good and it’s nice to see the tools all presented as separate components. The lack of opening hatches means that crew figures cannot easily be added, which may limit its use in diorama settings, and there are one or two oversized location holes which require a little work for the best finish. Overall though this is a satisfying model to build, and one with some additional scope for extra detailing, such as adding battered fenders and rough cast textures. Given that it is available for only Ł8.99 in the UK, it represents very good value.