I've been looking forward to unboxing this model, as I was so impressed with Zvezda's earlier T-34/76 m43 tank kit. Until I bought that earlier T-34 I had no experience of what modellers might call premium 'display quality' kits, having just made wargame and 'easy build' kits up to that point.
So, the Zvezda kit was something of a revelation for me and marks what is perhaps a transitional stage in my model-making, being a nice half-way house between entry level kits and full-blown premium kits. My kit building career moves on!
Bring out the big guns
The T-34/85 has, of course, a lot in common with its earlier sister. Basically, what the Soviets did was to stick a bigger, (relatively) roomier turret with a more punchy 85mm gun onto their innovative T-34 design.
|A T-34 Model 1943 (left), next to the T-43 (the precursor to the T-34/85). You can|
see how the turret has been widened considerably. Source: Wikipedia
|The production T-34/85. All the advantages of the T-34's innovative sloped armour|
with a new 85mm gun. Ominously, for the Germans, the 85mm gun could penetrate
the turret front of a Tiger I at 500 meters! Source: Wikipedia.
KISS - Keep it simple stupid!
The T-34/85 was, like it's earlier incarnation, a 'simple' tank, and Zvezda's kit is suitably simple as well. It's something of a hybrid kit, half-way between a 'wargame quality' (easy-build) and a full-on premium 'display' model. But therein is both it's strength and weakness.
|And this is all there is to Zvezda's T-34/85! One and a bit sprues, 64 parts in all.|
But is it enough for your modelling needs? (By comparison, the Revel kit has
135 parts and a Dragon kit has 98.)
While I give Zvezda full marks for trying to carve out a niche for themselves in a very competitive market many experienced modellers have been left wondering if they have created an area of the market that there wasn't really a demand for? What didn't help was that they originally priced their T-34 kit at roughly the same as a premium Dragon T-34 (£14) and because of this there seemed little advantage in actually buying the Zvezda offering!
|Clean and crisp. Very tidy moulding from Zvezda and with hardly any flash. A|
good start, especially with the subtle surface detailing. But some may find this
moulding a little too clinical, with bearly noticeable welding marks and seams.
The good, the bad and the ugly
OK, so Zvezda is neither one thing or the other, so what is it good for? Well, it does actually out-do some of the old-guard kits in some respects and pushes the envelope for both ease of construction and accuracy. No, it won't worry the likes of Dragon - they are far too far out in front with their superb range of 1/72 scale T-34/85 kits, but Zvezda does compare well, in certain aspects of it's design, with the likes of UM and Revell T-34/85s.
|Compensation for the rather bland surface detail comes in the form of some very|
nicely crafted 'furniture' items. Although, Zvezda has given you what might be said
to be the bare minimum of accessories.
The Zvezda kit is a very nicely crisp moulding, very precise, and - as you might expect from a Russian manufacturer - is quite authentic and accurate...Although, there are some gaffs!
|A good reference shot of the top of a T-34/85 - knocked out during The Third|
Balkan War (1991-2001) - showing the antenna position. It's a testament to the
utility of the T-34 design that it remained (and remains) in active service for so long.
Here's how I would rate the kit, in terms of what's good (accurate), what's bad (mistakes) and what's 'ugly' (the compromises they made to make it an 'easy build'):
• Dimensionally accurate
• A reasonable amount of delicately moulded surface detail
• Superb late war 'Full Spider' road wheels
• Good amount of hull 'furniture' (including spare track, tow hooks, boxes and tow cables)
• Nicely done, and accurate, gun mantlet
• Very nicely done plastic tracks (nice and thin with good pattern)
|Another commendable aspect of Zvezda's kit are the very nice tracks. Made of|
plastic (not vinyl) they are sturdy but still thin enough and also have some
very nice track pattern detail.
• All hatches are moulded 'closed' (as are driver's vision ports!)
• Turret periscope and antennae are in the wrong position
• Hardly any weld markings and casting marks (though, this may be an 'ugly')
• Were I picky, I would say the spartan look of this kit means it rather lacks character (but this is a subjective observation)
|The fly in the ointment. Detail on the hull is fairly sparce, but what's more is|
that the drivers hatch is closed as is the driver's vision ports! If you want to
model the T-34/85 with hatches open then this may not be the kit for you!
• Complete absence of grab rails
• 85mm gun is not 'drilled out'
• Engine vent mesh is moulded on
• Engine transmition access door is not separate (so can't be modelled open)
|Somewhat contentious, there will be some disagreement among modellers|
about the moulded on engine deck details. My opinion is that the vent mesh
is probably as good as that on the Revell and Trumpeter versions of this model.
To further put things into some sort of perspective, I'd say that Zvezda's superb Full Spider roads wheels actually out-do Dragon's!
|Just to show that there is some detail on the underside of the hull. But it's only|
just there. Hardly a big issue though.
Likewise, the moulding of the hatches in the closed position, while in keeping with a quick build approach, will undoubtedly annoy many people and will make the difference as to whether they buy this kit or somethings else (though to be fair, the Revell kit also has the main driver's hatches moulded closed too).
|When complete, the lack of a properly bored-out barrel is patently|
obvious and a bit of a spoiler. Luckily, even for a relative beginner
this is easy to rectify.
Note on instructions and decals: I really like the Zvezda instructions (text in Russian and English), the illustrations are very nicely done and precise. Colour guidence for painting is in the form of the box art, but - sadly - there is only one decal option supplied. Annoyingly, there is no information as to which Soviet unit, which period of the war or which front this tank's decals represent.
Boy, this model is one long see-saw battle of the 'buts'! As in, 'this is good but this is bad...But then again this is good...BUT this is bad'!
In balance, Zvezda's 1/72 T-34/85 is a brave attempt, and it come so frustratingly close to being as good or, in certain cases, better than the established makes of this model that it leaves you, ultimately, a little frustrated as you contemplate what might have been.
That said, it's nice and crisp and goes together well and quickly too. And wasn't that what Zvezda was after?
I would recommend this kit - highly - to a young modeller, or even to someone like myself who wants a quick build for whatever reason. But I couldn't recommend it to either a wargamer (buy a Pegasus T-34/85 instead) or an expert display modeller (you know you are going to buy a Dragon)!
I, myself, had very particular needs as my T-34/85 is only a component part of a conversion project that I am doing, and I won't even be using the turret. So, for me, the choice - and price - was right.
The bottom line: Would I, otherwise, buy this or the Revell T-34/85? Surprisingly, I would probably go for the Zvezda, as the road wheels and tracks are lovely and I am pretty certain I could scratch-upgrade other areas to be as good as the Revell model. But, between the two, if you want the closest thing to an authentic T-34/85 out the box, you'd have to go with the Revell (with the caveat that you know you would eventually want to build the Dragon version)!
Comparative costs (I'm adding this just for fun):
• Zvezda T-34/85 - £7.66
• Revell T-34/85 - £10.79
• Dragon T-34/85 - £14.99 (If you can find it in the UK)
Next: I begin to turn this T-34/85 into an Egyptian 122mm SPG.