ARM: Review - Takom 1/35 scale T-54B Russian Medium Tank

Kit Review: Takom 1/35 scale Kit No. 2055; T-54B Russian Medium Tank; 675 p arts (414 in grey styrene, 184 individual track links, 61 etched brass, 12 clear styrene, 2 black vinyl, 1 olive drab vinyl, 1 twisted steel wire); re tail price US$50.00

Advantages: first styrene kit of this tank in this scale; choice of options with the kit; simple breakdown of parts makes assembly a bit easier than s ome recent kits

Disadvantages: odd details on styrene tires; ejection pin marks on each tra ck link

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: for all Soviet and Third World armor fans of the 1950s and


It took six years and four different variants to get the new Soviet postwa r tank, the T-54, into full production starting in early 1952. Nearly 11,00

0 of them were produced by Soviet factories and then they went into product ion in satellite nation factories as well. But all the time the goal of the designers was to upgrade and improve the tank with a stabilized main gun.

The Soviets were surprised when they received Lend-Lease Shermans as they came with a rudimentary gun stabilizer which was far in excess of Soviet ac hievements of the day. While it only worked in the vertical plane it improv ed probably of hit from a moving tank quite a bit. So after the war the Sov iet designers went to work on introducing their own stabilized guns.

The first one to see production was the T-54A which entered production in

1955. Known as the Article 137G it had a single axis (vertical) stabilizer which was reliable and easy to use. More than 4.600 of these tanks were bui lt. But they still wanted two-axis stabilization (vertical and horizontal) so work continued.

In 1956 they came up with Article 137G2 with the "Tsiklon" STP-2 two-axis stabilizer. It was also upgraded to take both an IR searchlight and night s ight plus another one for the commander to use with an IR sight as well. Th e final models were further fitted with the OPVT-54 fording system for unde rwater driving. But while highly successful, only 1,628 were built before L eonid Kartsev rolled all of the improvements together to create a new tank with even more improvements - the T-55 Model 1958.

The tanks were popular with crews as all they had to do was hold the sight crosshairs on a target and when the gun sensed the bore was in line with t he sight it would fire. It did give an improvement and the new effective ra nge (by Soviet standards where 50% of the shots would hit the target) was n ow 1,550 meters.

Tanks were "rippled" down to customers as Soviet units got the better T-55 tanks so it was widely sold to the Third World. A T-54B (bort number 843) is held as the tank that ended the Vietnam war when it crashed the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon in April 1975.

Even with the fact that there were more than 25,000 T-54 tanks made by the Soviets and used all over the world, oddly enough nobody has ever attempte d to make a kit of this seminal tank in 1/35 scale in styrene. This is the first effort from anyone and from the sprue breakdown in the kit the first of many others.

Takom has quickly become a popular and skilled model company with some exc ellent kits that have filled in niches ignored by other companies. Their in troduction of a line of T-54/55 based tanks will go far and should be quite popular.

This kit is towards the top of the heap as it is a gorgeous kit that offer s a number of options for modelers not seen in other kits. It provides two engine decks so the proper T-54 deck can be used with the kit as well as a choice of two kinds of wheels - the early "spider" finned cast wheels or th e later "starfish" five-spoke cast wheels. While some T-54Bs had the "spide r" wheels, sad to inform the naysayers that the original factory blueprints for Article 137G2 show it with "starfish" wheels. Realize that Soviet fact ories would use up what they had on hand before switching unless ordered to do otherwise so either one will be correct (I suggest you use photos for a specific vehicle).

I got out the factory history and blueprints as noted and compared them. T he only major difference between this kit and the plans is that the plans s how it with twin MDK-5 smoke canisters at the rear vice the 200 liter fuel tanks.

It comes with pre-clipped single link OMSh track links which are very nice on the face but have two ejection pin marks on each one. However they are the "proud" type and not recessed so a few strokes with a sanding stick sol ves the problem. Still it is a bit tedious but for my money is still better than having to fit individual guide teeth to each link!

Takom comes with one of the best instruction booklets going in my opinion. It is concise and has good, clear exploded drawings of the parts as well a s clear indications of what goes where.

Assembly starts with the lower suspension parts, and to their credit the r ocking shock absorbers come with action arms to fit to the road wheel arms, a nice touch. It has three-piece track tensioners and nicely done idler wh eels at the front of the hull.

Step 2/3 covers the wheels; as noted you have a choice of which wheel cent ers to use. But they have the overexaggerated rubber molding lines on the t ires which are a bit excessive. Modelers may wish to sand them down before use, especially on the running surface of the tire. A few modelers who have started work on the kits indicate that some of the tires do not fit proper ly so you will need to play around with them before cementing them up to se e what works best.

Step 4 is the hull roof; this combines the glacis necessary, the turret ra ce, and the correct engine deck together as well as the louver details for the engine deck. Etched brass grilles are installed at this point.

Most of the hull assembly is pretty much perfunctory assembly but in Step

8 and Step 16 there is a call for some holes to be drilled in the fenders.

Unlike other T-54/55/62 kits up to this point Takom actually provides the fuel lines for the external fuel tanks! They form a continuous loop through all three tanks and back into the engine bay. This vehicle uses the earlie r single bevel fuel tanks (L12) even though both they and the later double bevel style is included in the kit.

The next few steps cover detailing. Note that if you want to a pre-1957 ta nk without the OPVT you should be able to leave off the sealing mounts (TP1 /2/3/4). The light cluster consists of six parts but goes in quite neatly.

The tank also comes with a cleaning rod case (Q2/Q3) for mounting on the l eft fender behind the narrow ZIP box which attaches over the track refittin g cable (J19). This was not part of the original ZIP fit on the T-54B accor ding to the blueprints.

One of the slickest features of the kit is the solution to the eternal pro blem of clean assembly of the 200 liter auxiliary fuel drums. The Takom tak e on this has them with two center sections that end at the attachment stra p fittings and caps for the ends molded in one piece. Note that no MDK-5 ca nisters are included as an option; it is just the 200 liter drums.

As with most Soviet/Russian tanks, the unditching log (Q6) needs some roug hing up with a razor saw as it is too smooth to pass as wood.

The turret has some nice touches such as a neat way to mount the SGMT mach ine gun (H25) and a flexible vinyl mantlet cover for the main gun. It comes with a choice of either rubber fording covers for the machine gun and sigh t or simply their brackets. (Note: to this day I have no idea what part H34 is even though it was found on nearly all T-54/55/62 tanks. Someone said i t was for 12.7mm ammunition belt assembly but I have no clue!)

While the kit comes with a full set of T-55A hatches and cupolas the model must use the proper T-54/55 set on sprue X. It does have the proper full r ound hatch found on most of these tanks. There is no pretense of a gun insi de the turret and only a small device to permit its elevation is provided w ith the two vinyl keepers as friction snubbers to hold the gun in position. From what the directions show once assembled the gun should remain flexibl e. With care the searchlight assembly will snap into place and also elevate and depress with the gun if so desired.

Note that in Step 33 the finned DShKM is the proper weapon as the smooth b arreled one is the Type 54. The main gun is a two-piece type but as I have often repeated a few minutes with a Flex-i-File will ensure it looks the pa rt and means you do not have to purchase a turned aluminum barrel unless yo u want one.

As this was a popular tank Takom has allowed for that with no less than NI NE finishing options! These include: PAVN, Saigon 1975 (overall dark green, PAVN stars and bort number 843); Red Army winter service (white over prote ctive green, bort 412); Red Army GSFG Operation Dunai August 1968 (protecti ve green with white cross, tactical march order markings and bort number 01

9); Pakistan (green over sand mottle, white turret band, bort number 81/18) ; Syria October 1973 (three color grey/green/sand mottle, bort number 017/7 10); Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (protective green, bort number A184 0); Egypt 1967 (sand overall with blue/red) rectangle on the turret); and E gypt October 1973 (sand/black/brown mottle, bort number 77); Iran (sand/bro wn mottle, Farsi characters in red). Decals are provided on a nice sheet bu t it should be noted that the Arabic numbers read the same on both sides so a bit of care is needed in matching them. The Syrian one is probably 710 a s they copied the Soviet pattern in their divisions at the time (e.g. 1xx/3 xx/5xx/7xx for regimental numbers).

Overall this is a great kit with only a few glitches here and there to ann oy the purist. The tires are probably the most annoying but a few minutes w ith a sanding stick will eliminate most of the overwrought rubber seams mol ded into the tires.

Thanks to Takom via Charlie Prichett for the review sample.

Cookie Sewell

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