Sunday, 6 April 2014

Four T-34 'quick build' models compared - Part 9


If there is one major component on every quick build tank that consistently draws almost universal criticism it is the tracks. The running gear of a 1/72 tank can be the most complicated part of the model to make, what with road wheels, suspension systems and the much maligned vinyl tracks – so it’s no wonder quick build manufacturers try to take the pain out of the process by simplifying the design of these parts.

However, there is a price to be paid for this ‘no fuss’ approach…


Let’s start with the most simplified of the tracks systems in this review. Armourfast really have taken the name on the tin to an absurd extreme. I mean, what can be simpler than one big block of plastic?

OK, what's the positive aspects of the AF one-piece tracks.

Well, obviously, they are one-piece! This must be really handy if you are a war gamer and have to make a small armada of tanks – slap these little puppies on the side of your tank, no muss, no fuss. I get it. But what about accuracy?

The road wheels are kinda nice really. Armourfast have gone for the solid ‘dish’ type wheels (metal wheels and rubber tires). This is clever stuff as the dish type wheel was the only T-34 wheel you could expect to see on all of the variants of T-34 – from early to late models – and variations, like the SU-85.

In this way Armourfast only needed to create one-track system that they could use on all their variants of the T-34. Good thinking (though technically they are the late dish wheels with unperforated tires, but that might perhaps be too pernickety).

And then there is the tracks themselves…

Oh dear. For every silver lining there is a dirty black cloud.

The AF tracks are a greatly simplified attempt at the distinctive T-34 wide waffle tracks. They are too thick for a start (probably due to the one-piece molding) but it’s the track pattern – or lack of it – that really niggles. Instead of the signature waffle tread Armourfast has created a wide slatted step pattern.

I won’t harp on about this fudge, but it’s a real shame that a feature that is so synonymous with this legendary tank design has been completely left out.


The next level up from the Armourfast one-piece track component is Pegasus’s multi-piece track system. It is a one-piece track, but all the road wheels are separate individual components.

The road wheels are what were called ‘full-spider’ wheels which entered production in late 1943 so were exclusively associated with the late T-34/85 model. These wheels are nice looking and compliment the Pegasus T-34/85 turret design which I identified as the late war Model 1945 turret.

So, Pegasus have done their homework with the wheels, but what about the track?

Well, like the Armourfast track the one-piece molding has meant that accuracy has had to be sacrificed for simplicity. Again, the waffle pattern tread is missing although Pegasus track profile is a little better than Armourfast’s stepped design.

One nice touch is that Pegasus have chosen to model the tracks in a relaxed ‘sagging’ mode, so there is a little more realism there.


After PSC’s disappointing turret and hull components it’s a bit of a surprise to find that they have pulled a rabbit out the hat with their tracks.

The tracks are multi-part affair that you could say sit between the Armourfast and Pegasus tracks as far as complexity is concerned. The road wheels are a one-piece component with all the wheels molded onto a solid frame at the rear, while each track consists of two halves.

The tracks are a breath of fresh air after the two previous models and actually have a passing resemblance to the T-34’s waffle pattern tread!

Unfortunately, after such a good start PSC sort of spoil the effect by not doing their homework and give you a set of very simplified spoked wheels that I think are supposed to be the full-spider variety. Not only are the spokes too chunky but all the perforations in the wheels are filled in.

But, worse than these over-simplifications is the fact that the choice of full-sider wheels means that they are totally unsuitable for the T-34 Model 1943 option that is part of the attraction of the PSC kit. The tyred spider wheels were NOT used on this earlier T-34 variant – only on the late war T-34/85 tank.*

* They were, however, used in combination with solid steel spider wheels (see Zvezda track overview)


Well, of course, there is a major jump in accuracy and quality of tracks in this model. I think it’s fair to say we have already established that the Zvezda model is actually more of a simplified display quality model rather than a complex quick build kit. It’s a fine distinction and you could argue the point, but I think the tracks in particular give the game away as the complexity takes the ‘quick’ out of this build!

In all there are a total of 18 parts that go into each of the Zvezda’s tracks. To put this into context remember that the whole PSC T-34 model only has a 18 parts in total. So it takes a wee while to put all these parts together.

This aside, the parts are beautiful!

Zvezda have authentically reproduced the Model 1943 with the mixed wheel combination. Because of rubber shortages at the time the Soviets produced this tank with a mixture of two tyred full-spider wheels and three non-tyred spider wheels between them on each track set.

The tracks are – as you would expect – lovely recreations of the wide waffle pattern treads, but best of all they are wonderfully THIN. The track and wheel combination all snap together very cleverly, but does require fitting onto the lower hull’s suspension.

The finished look is very realistic and – in my opinion – beats mucking about with some floppy length of vinyl. Superb!

Well, let’s put the Zvezda aside as it is obviously in a league of it’s own, outside the quick build criteria. This leaves the Armourfast, Pegasus and Plastic Soldier Company tracks.

The star of the show, as far as track treads are concerned, is – amazingly – the PSC tracks. They are the only one of the three that make a brave attempt at realistically reproducing the iconic T-34 waffle pattern treads. However, I don’t think it’s co-incidental that they are the only one of the three to have multipart tracks, separate to their over-simplified road wheels.

Pegasus have gone in the other direction. They have over-simplified tracks but nicely molded multi-part road wheels!

And, finally we have Armourfast bringing up the rear with grossly over-simplified tracks together with simplified (but still good) road wheels.

The message is clear. The more parts the more detailed each of those parts can be.

So which of these options would I pick as being the better option for a T-34 build? Well, it would depend which T-34 you are building. If you are building a late war/post-war T-34/85 the Pegasus wheels are nice, but if you are building a T-34 Model 1940 only the Armourfast wheels fit the bill. The PSC wheels are pretty crumby, and like the rest of the model far too chunky. The Armourfast tracks are diabolical and the Pegasus tracks not too far behind!

So there is no clear winner – UNLESS you somehow mated the Armourfast wheels to the PSC tracks (hint Armourfast!)…

But if I had to choose just one make of quick build tracks I would plump for – ironically – the Armourfast tracks. This is just because the wheels are suitable for a variety of T-34 models and variants and because I have come up with a fairly simple way of improving the look of their tracks.

But in the end, none of them are great.

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