ARM: Review - Miniart 1/35 Scale Soviet T-70M Early Production with crew

Kit Review: Miniart 1/35 Scale Kit No. 35025; T-70M Early Production
Soviet Light Tank w/Crew; 360 parts (356 in medium grey styrene, 4
clear styrene); retail price US $29.95
Advantages: best kit of this Soviet light tank to date; nicely done
features and generally correct proportions; crew in winter gear a bonus
Disadvantages: gun barrel seems anemic
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet and light tank fans
The T-70 was another tank to roll out of the famous GAZ factory's
Design Bureau headed by N. A. Astrov. It used many of the design
concepts found in the T-60 light tank and corrected many of that
tank's failings, namely armament and protection. The former was aided
by providing the tank with a 45mm gun and the latter by making the
armor thicker and changing some of the angles. Over 1942-1943 8,226
T-70 and T-70M tanks rolled off the production lines in Sverdlovsk
(Factory No. 37) and Kirov (Factory No. 38). While still a two-man
tank, it served its purpose as a light reconnaissance vehicle in tank
units and as a command vehicle in SU-76 battalions.
The last attempt at this tank was a kit from Techmod several years
back which suffered from a number of major failings, the primary ones
of which were that the kit was about 4mm too narrow through the body of
the hull (and quite noticeable in such a small vehicle - T-70s in
1/35 are about the size of a 1/72 Tiger II) and the turret was woefully
underscale with parallel sides. Many other components were underscale
or out of whack, and as a result I had to change most of the components
when I built the kit in 2000.
Miniart has now released a modern version of this kit, and in this
version it comes with five Soviet tankers in winter uniforms, a nice
addition to the kit (in spite of the fact it's only a two-man tank!)
Miniart calls it a "T-70M Early Production" model, but Russian
sources using archival materials do not make such references as the M
was the final variant before they changed over to the short-lived T-80.
What the model represents is a standard production T-70M tank. For
years it was accepted that new viewers and the cast domed driver's
hatch indicated a T-70M tank as opposed to a T-70. New archival
materials show that the real differences were in the wheels, torsion
bars, and tracks, and not the hatches. (Soviet factories were notorious
for simply making changes as they went and not listing the
modifications except in their equivalent of "MWO"s as "from
serial X to Y use this part.")
The T-70M increased the size of the track links from 260 mm wide
and 97 mm in pitch to 300 mm in width and 111mm in pitch, thus reducing
the number of links needed from 91 to 80. The road wheels were beefed
up in width from 104 mm to 130 mm, and the torsion bars changed from 34
mm to 36 mm diameter. Brake straps (the Soviets preferred ribbon brakes
wrapped around a drum) were widened from 90 mm to 124 mm, and the
result was that the tank carried more weight (from 9.2 metric tons to
10 metric tons) and while its mobility went up, its range went down to
250 km on highways. The other visible changes were made during the
T-70's production run.
Checking the basic parameters of the kit, the hull has the correct
width and the fenders are those for the wider M tracks. Track width is
about 8.5mm or 300mm in scale and pitch is about 3.3mm or 115mm, but
the wheels are 3 mm wide which is 105mm or in other words the basic
T-70 wheel. That's a shame, but on the other hand for most modelers
the difference will not be noticeable. All suspension parts have
positive locking joints, which is good as many of the smaller kits from
Eastern Europe do not and I seem to recall the Techmod kit needed a
base to mount the road wheel arms correctly.
Unlike the earlier Techmod kit, the hull bottom comes in one piece
with details molded in place. All screens are molded parts, but Miniart
has wisely designed the kit so that they may easily be replaced with
etched brass or scratchbuilt parts and they will fit into the model. It
also comes with the correct twin muffler arrangement.
There has been a bit of sniping on the Internet about the turret,
claiming that the shape is wrong. M-Khobbi published a good set of
plans in 1997 on the T-70 and the kit matches them perfectly, as the
sides are tapered correctly and the turret ring has the wedge shaped
projection on the rear side. Much of the criticism comes from one or
two photos, but once the photos are examined with care the turret comes
out as symmetrical. The reason in one photo I found in
"Otechestvennye Bronirovannye Mashiny XX Vek Tom 2 - 1941-1945"
(Exprint, 2005) was taken in slanted lighting conditions, and the
reinforcing strips do not show on one side and are highlighted on the
other, making the left side seem larger than the right. This is not
true, and all other shots show the turret as symmetrical. Records only
refer to it as a "faceted, truncated pyramid shape."
The mantelet and fittings are accurate - both are asymmetric, which
helps cause confusion when looking at the turret and fooling the eye
- and small fittings like lift rings are nicely done. The gun barrel
appears to be underscale (it is the "Model 1934/42" barrel, which is
much lighter and smoother than the old Model 1934 barrels used on the
T-26, T-50 and other tanks) which is a bit odd with all of the other
very accurate work on this kit. It is "slide molded" and has a bore
in the muzzle, and it does match with the M-Khobbi plans however.
The crew figures are interesting, as they are all very nicely done but
wearing the sheepskin knee-length jacket normally associated with
officers and not regular crewmen. But given that this tank only carries
a crew of two, most people will probably only use one figure anyway so
consider it a bonus of four extra commander figures!
Each one has a similar breakdown to early DML figures - torso, legs,
arms, head, helmet, and separate earpieces. All of them come with a
holster for a TT pistol.
Finishing instructions and markings are included for five T-70M tanks:
"Tambovskiy Kolkhoz", 2nd Tank Corps, December 1942; 1st Guards
Mechanized Corps, middle Don River region, December 1942; Sadovskiy's
Brigade, Stalingrad region, January 1943; Unknown, Russia spring 1943;
and Unknown, Voroshilovgrad region, spring 1943. The finishing
instructions are in color as are the instructions for painting the
figures.
Overall, this kit is an absolutely amazing effort to come out Ukraine,
previously noted as the home of SKIF. Miniart are to be congratulated
for a great effort!
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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