Kit Review: Tamiya 1/35 scale Military Miniatures Series Kit No.
35309; Russian Tank BT-7 Model 1935; 264 parts (213 in green styrene,
17 in grey styrene, 10 large vinyl keepers, 8 small vinyl keepers, 8
clear styrene, 7 etched nickel, 1 length of steel chain); retail price
Advantages: nice, clean, easy-to-assemble kit of this vehicle; use of
slide molding extensive and parts breakdown well engineered; figures a
Disadvantages: choice of early production model perhaps not what
modelers were hoping for
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet armor fans
When eccentric American inventor J. Walter Christie sold his =93Model
1940" wheel-and-track drive tank to a Soviet purchasing committee in
1930, it is doubtful that he would eventually see close to 100,000
vehicles built using that basic design and suspension over the next 16
years. While the British also bought the design and used it for a
series of tanks ending with the Covenanter, Crusader and Cromwell, the
Soviets put theirs into production first as the BT (for Bystryy Tank
or Fast Tank) series of tanks and then the legendary T-34 series.
The first tank, the BT-2, was basically little more than the Christie
design fitted with a Soviet-designed turret mounting a 37mm gun and a
7.62mm DT machine gun in separate mounts. Between 1932 and mid 1933
the Soviets built 620 of these tanks. Starting in mid 1933, they
changed over to a new tank, the BT-5, which corrected a number of the
problems with the BT-2 and also used a new turret similar to the
single turret on the T-26 tanks. This was fitted with a 45mm antitank
gun and DT machine gun in a coaxial mount, and also was fitted to
mount an optional rear machine gun (rarely used with this tank and
eventually dropped for a pistol port).
From 1933 to December 1934 the Soviets built 1,884 BT-5 series tanks
(of which 243 were fitted with radios and the curious =93handrail=94
antenna). But there were still problems with the tank, and as a result
it received a major redesign that culminated with the BT-7 design that
entered production in January 1935.
The BT-7 was wider, had a new bow section and a completely redesigned
stern that used internal mufflers and also provided additional fuel
stowage at the rear of the hull. It soon switched over to a common
design =93elliptical=94 turret which it shared with the T-26 tanks of the
period. Over the five years of production the Soviets produced more
than 5,5500 BT-7 series tanks of all types, with the final model being
the BT-7M. This tank, virtually identical to the late BT-7 series
tanks, was fitted with the naturally aspirated BD-2 diesel engine of
400 HP. This was later modified to become the famous V-2 diesel of 500
HP which was used throughout WWII and forms the basis for many Russian
tank engines to the present day.
But like all Soviet tanks of the period, the tanks underwent =93tweaks=94
and modifications as they progressed down the line. The most obvious
change took place in mid 1937 when the T-26 type turret was replaced
by a conical one with tapered sides offering slightly improved armor
protection. In 1938 a new lighter short-pitch track was introduced
along with a six-roller drive wheel for them when used (the earlier
BT-5 type track used a four-roller drive wheel). This track was later
retrofitted to BT-5 tanks as well, but when the war broke out not all
tanks were overhauled and so equipped. The track was also accompanied
by new drive wheels with wider tires (from 52mm wide tires with the
BT-5 style track to 75mm) as well as new idler wheels (tires went from
38mm to 52mm); the road wheels were enlarged from 815 mm bto 830mm
diameter with 102mm wide tires.
Note that all basic T-26 fittings - combat spotlights above the gun
and the P-40 antiaircraft machine gun mount =96 were also fitted to
select BT-7 tanks.
During production some changes were made which did not show (such as
a new transmission casing) but others did, such as new guards for the
tracked final drive units that were better armored and better
protected from dust and mud. The BT-7M replaced the large air cleaner
for the gasoline engine with a small one for the diesel (basically its
one major external feature).
Production apparently went as follows: 1934, 2 prototypes; 1935 -
500; 1936 - 1,049; 1937 - approximately 314 with cylindrical turrets
and 314 with conical turrets; 1938 - 1,102 tanks with new tracks and
conical turrets; 1939 - 1,347 tanks; 1940 (BT-7M) - 779. They also
produced 155 of the BT-7A model =93artillery tanks=94 with T-26-4 model
turrets mounting a 76.2mm howitzer and DT gun in separate mounts as
well as a handful of prototypes culminating with the A-20 (=93BT-20").
The only kits of the BT-7 in styrene in 1/35 scale up until this
point were the Eastern Express kits from Russia, which =96 while they
did a good job of replicating the BT-7 series tanks =96 were beastly
builds with very nasty front wheels and other quirks. Tamiya recently
surprised the modeling community with this kit of an early Model 1935
based on the vehicle at the Central Army Museum in Moscow.
Tamiya=92s kit is shown by comparison with all references I have (which
are plentiful for these vehicles now) to be a straight up Model 1935.
It matches up with one of the first 1,860 tanks built in features and
accuracy, and also can be built as either a =93line=94 tank (BT-7) or
=93radio=94 tank (BT-7 radio, occasionally seen as BT-7RT). The kit is one
of the most beautifully engineered kits I have seen in some time and
also comes with Tamiya=92s exemplary directions. (Some of its
competitors should take note and not scrimp on their instructions.) In
point of fact, the kit comes with assembly instructions, history,
finishing directions, and a set of color photos of the Moscow vehicle
as a package.
Tamiya appears to already have plans for other versions of the BT
family as they have designed the kit in such a way that selected
sprues can be replaced and used for both the more desirable BT-7 Model
1937 with the conical turret or also any of the BT-5 series tanks.
There are a goodly number of =93in your face=94 engineering tricks used
on this kit, which pleases me no end! (As a big Russian armor fan and
having seen their mediocre T-72M1 and pedestrian IS-3 kits I did not
hold out high hopes they would get this one right.) For example, the
entire rail antenna with brackets is molded as a single piece,
including the =93pot=94 attachment to the turret roof. The rear radiator
air exhaust louvers are molded in place with the slots for the exhaust
pipes (hollowed out using slide molding) right in them.
For fitting the mandatory etched nickel grille over the air exhaust
louvers, Tamiya provides a two-part =93press=94 that automatically bends
the grille to the right shape for installation.
Suspension is conventional with the familar vinyl =93keepers=94 on the
wheels but it does come with the more common recent Tamiya use of
=93link and length=94 BT-5 style tracks (as the BT-5 style drivers come on
this sprue it is likely that the BT-7 drivers and short-pitched tracks
will come later on a different sprue). While the tracks will thus be
fixed the use of the keepers means you can remove the wheels and paint
them separately (or rotate them on the model to accomplish that) which
is always handy.
Unlike the hapless EE BT-7 front suspension this kit comes with a
very solid and easy to assemble one that solidly supports the leading
Accessories are few but it does come with the 40-liter flat fuel
tanks that mount on top of the fenders in tracked mode and under them
in highway mode. However, while the tracks may be positioned on top of
the fenders there are no brackets or straps to attach them in that
The turret is nicely done and includes great details such as the
proper rim on the outside of the mantlet carrier (part C8). The barrel
is in two parts but has a slide molded muzzle and from all appearances
will not need an aluminum barrel unless you really want one. There is
a basic gun breech as well as two basic seats in the turret but that
is it for interior. There is a driver=92s seat and interior to his front
hatch as well. (Note that Zvezda makes a set of figures which are
proper for this tank with pre-war rank insignia and will fit nicely
with this kit).
Clear styrene parts are provided for the headlight lenses and
driver=92s viewer. The etched nickel covers the grilles over the
radiator air intakes on each side of the engine deck as well as the
air exhaust at the rear of the hull.
Speaking of figures, Tamiya includes two figures with the kit, a tank
commander in enlisted coveralls (officers got leather) and an officer
in standard dress. Both are kneeling over a map and appear to be of
better quality than many other Tamiya figures (still their one great
weakness with kits).
Five different finishing options are offered, all in Soviet 4BO green
camouflage (which Tamiya notes may be replicated with their paints by
a 50/50 XF4/XF58 mixture). These are: Unknown Unit, Lithuania, Summer
1941 (white recognition cross on turret); Unknown Unit, Moscow
Military District, 1936 (white leader=92s stripe around turret top
edge); Unknown Unit, Ukraine 1941 (small white lines on turret top
edge); 6th Tank Brigade, Khalkin Gol, Mongolia 1939 (command stripes
on turret and white ID stripes); 4th German Police Division, Pskov
Oblast, Russia 1942 (crosses on turret sides). The decal sheet also
includes prewar rank insignia for the figures as well, a nice touch.
Overall this is one of the best Tamiya kits I=92ve seen in years and
while very pricey for a small vehicle it is a fairly complete package.
I don=92t hold it against them that they didn=92t do the Model 1937. Yet.
11 years ago