Kit Review: Shanghai Dragon 1/35 Scale Korean War Series No. 6810; Chinese Volunteer T-34/85; 403 parts (401 in grey styrene, 1 nylon string, 1 clear styrene lens); price about $18-24
Advantages: One of the better DML kits, a sure steal at these prices; provides the later "spoked" wheels suitable for use on a T-54 conversion
Disadvantages: engine radiator exhaust grille remains a solid piece
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: For all Korean War or T-34 fans
The Soviets ceased production of the T-34-85 tank for their own needs in early1946, as they were then producing the T-44 and gearing up to evaluate what would become the T-54 series of tanks. Nearly 28,000 had been produced, and as such were therefore suitable for military assistance to "needy" socialist nations. These included the Peoples' Republic of China, who had pushed the Nationalists off the mainland in 1949, as well as the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea. The Koreans received enough T-34-85 tanks to equip three brigades before the war broke out, but most of them had been lost before Inchon in September 1950.
The Peoples' Liberation Army ? under the guise of the "Chinese Peoples' Volunteer Army" providing assistance to its smaller brother ? joined the war in October 1950, but at that time The CPV did not have organic tanks in its divisions, and as such was at a massive disadvantage against the UN forces. They were quickly supplied with both IS-2 heavy tanks and T-34-85 medium tanks, but only the T-34s were ever encountered in action by UN forces.
At the end of the war each Chinese CPV infantry division had a combined tank/SP gun regiment with 24 T-34-85 tanks and 16 SU-76M guns assigned to it. In early 1953, the CPV forces had some 278 T-34 tanks, 38 IS-2 tanks, 27 SU-122 guns and 48 SU-76 guns in their inventory. The KPAF had 255 T-34 tanks and 127 SU-76M guns.
DML first offered one one of these tanks as a separate kit in 1997, and this appears to be a re-release via its Shanghai Dragon affiliate. It is similar to their other T-34-85 Model 1944 (late) and T-34-85 Model 1960 kits. This kit shares a large number of its parts with those two kits, as it uses the "select a sprue" system of kit formation. This particular one includes the following: standard sprues A, B, E, F, H, L and M, turret sprue G and wheel sets D for kit option "A", and hull top sprue C for either a type "A" or "B" kit. It would appear that "A" is the Model 1944 series of T-34-85 tanks and that "B" is the upgraded Model 1960, based on having all four T-34-85 kits.
As is now the standard for DML, this kit, like its brothers, has the most accurate overall dimensions and angles for a T-34 kit and also very sharp, crisp molding. Parts are sectioned in logical joint lines and areas, and the kit is a nearly snap to build.
The wheels for this tank are the late-war/postwar "spoked" steel wheels with lightening holes, and are of the "twelve large/twelve small/twelve rib" configuration similar to those found on early model T-54 tanks as well. The other kits have either the "solid disk" or "postwar starfish" type wheels, so if you want to do up a "spoked wheel" T-34-85 this is your base kit.
The "L" sprues are the late-model T-34 tracks (suitable for all T-34-85 series tanks) and as such are single link. But unlike many others, these require a minimal cleanup and go right together with a thicker plastic cement in short order. (I use Vollmer Superzement S-30 from Germany as it has the ease of use of a liquid cement and the holding power of old-fashioned tube cements.)
One major problem on BT and T-34 series tanks, as with some of the German monstesr, is that they have two part track sections, consisting of an "a" link and a "b" link, and which have to be installed in pairs. As I have found out the hard way, the best way to install them is front to rear; leave the front idler arm loose so that you can adjust the track span to accept a set of tracks. Therefore, when you get to the end, you will be able to adjust the track "span" to get a pair of links in to fit the model. Another of the interminable "Murphy's Law" corollaries is that if you do not you wind up with only one link distance between two pairs, and will have to make a "cheater" link sans hinges and details to fit.
Like its brethren as well it also has the solid rear deck cover over the radiator air exhaust louvers (part B15) which most modelers will have to cut open and use either an after-market brass set or another part in resin to correct. This is the one failing of DML kits; admittedly there are far more egregious ones from other manufacturers, but it is a shame that this is one production shorcut they took. Were it left open like the Maquette kits and a section of brass or aluminum screening supplied to fill it, it would make this a near perfect model as is, right out of the box.
Markings are included for three different KPAF tanks as well as one CPV one; the Korean tanks have only a pair of numbers on the sides of the turret, whereas the Chinese one has two standard Chinese national marking starts. While there is good evidence of the Korean markings, I must say I have not seen any shots of T-34s from Korea with the Chinese stars on them, as being nice and bright they would have made good aiming marks. They are more likely parade or training markings, but do brighten up a solid green tank!
Note that there was no difference whatsoever between Soviet service model tanks and these tanks as supplied to the KPAF and CPV, so that by changing markings you can build it as any other country's T-34-85 with the same features.
Overall, this is another great kit from DML, and at Shanghai Dragon's lower prices a real steal!
NOTE: This particular kit showed up minus its wheel sprues (D) and with a quick e-mail to Dragon I received replacement parts in about 10 days. Some people have stated they have had problems, but this seems to have been a case of everything in the system working well.