ARM: Review - Trumpeter 1/35 scale PT-76 Model 1951

Kit Review: Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 00379; Russian PT-76 Amphibious Tank Mod. 1951; 193 parts (184 in grey styrene, 5 etched brass, 2 black vinyl tracks,
1 nylon string, 1 copper wire); price US$39.99
Advantages: best kit of the PT-76 series tanks going; nicely done details
Disadvantages: wrong hull for this model of the PT-76; some dimensional differences with recent plans; vinyl tracks so-so
Rating: Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet and third world light tank fans
    Occasionally a major industry creates something seemingly off the cuff, and that item comes in "under the radar" but goes on to have a much longer life than many of that industry's other products. Such is the case with the PT-76 amphibious tank, which was created in the late 1940s and yet remains in service today.
    The PT-76 was developed out of a postwar requirement for a light amphibious reconnaissance tank (in the mold of the prewar T-37 and T-38 light tanks) with no more than 15mm armor protection and mounting a 76mm gun to protect itself. The PT-76 was created by the Chelyabinsk Kirov Factory under the auspices of Zhosif Kotin, who was the chief of all tank designs from both Chelyabinsk and Leningrad after the war. A task force of designers was created from Chelyabinsk, Leningrad and the VNII-100 research institute under designated project head designer Nikolay Shashmurin; he was responsible for the design of the popular and successful IS-2 heavy tank. However, at that time Kotin was caught up in designing the IS-8 (later the T-10 heavy tank) and therefore gave the "light work" to Shashmurin.
    Based on work done at the Factory No. 112 ("Krasnoye Sormovo") just after the end of the war, Shashmurin's team created two vehicles on one chassis: Article 740, which was the amphibious light tank; and Article 750, an open-topped amphibious armored personnel carrier (which became the BTR-50). They worked on the project from 1949 to 1951, after which Article 740 was accepted for service as the PT-76 (P for "Plavayushchiy" or amphibious, T for tank, and 76 for the 76.2mm D-56T gun). A number of enterprises thus shared in the award of the "Stalin Prize" for the creation of the PT-76 and BTR-50 in 1953. Most of the vehicles were built by the Stalingrad Tractor Factory even though it was designed "up north."
    The vehicle underwent several upgrade programs in service: these included work on a "Zarya" gun stabilizer, an upgrade to an 85mm gun, and various minor improvements. In 1955 the original D-56T gun with its multibaffle muzzle brake was replaced by the D-56TM with a two- chamber type as well as finally provided with a HEAT round which gave it better ability to deal with tank type threats. In 1957 a TDA smoke generator system was installed, as well as a new R-113 VHF radio to replace its 10RT type HF set from WWII.
    In 1958, a new and heavily modified version entered production, the PT-76B. This tank used the D-56TS gun with the "Zarya" stabilizer, a radiation and chemical protective filter system (FVU and PAZ systems), the hull was increased in height by 60mm at the turret centerline area to increase buoyancy reserves and seakeeping qualities, the turret handrails were moved up 150mm on the sides, twin 90 liter auxiliary fuel tanks were fitted, a third (IR) headlight added, and a number of minor changes were also made.
    In 1962 the vehicle hull was redesigned, with the sides increased another 70mm and the lower front plate angles changed from 45 degrees to only 35 degrees.
    Between 1951 and 1969 a total of 4,172 PT-76 tanks of all types were produced, of which 941 were exported to a variety of countries to include China, Vietnam, Egypt, and India. Widely popular with Russian forces, especially the Naval Infantry, the PT-76 was still in service in 1990 and declared in CFE - but as a "light armored vehicle carrying heavy armament" so it would not count against tank strengths.
    Oh, and the T-10? Went into service in 1953, built until 1966; 8,000 built, all pulled out of service by 1980 and only a few left that escaped the scrappers' torch.
    In 1958 Ideal Toy Company offered a 1/32 scale motorized kit of a PT-76B that was neat, but basically only as it was one of only a handful of Soviet armor kits on the market. For the next 35 years that kit - and the Ringo re-release - were worth a small fortune if you could find one.
    Then in 2002 Eastern Express from Russia came out with a totally new kit of the PT-76B, consisting of some 349 parts and providing a simple but nice kit of this vehicle in 1/35 scale. It came with single link track and for a change of pace from Eastern bloc manufacturers, a one- piece lower hull and one-piece upper hull. The US price was about $22 and this was a good deal for the time.
    Now Trumpeter from China has released a state-of-the-art series of three kits - the Model 1951, the interim (Model 1958), and the PT-76B. Each has some unique elements to it but while there is good there is also some room for comment.
    The Model 1951 kit comes with the early model D-56T gun with the multibaffle muzzle brake, but quick measurement of the vehicle shows it also comes with the Model 1958 hull with 60mm raised sides. This is a royal pain to correct, but at it is only a difference of 1.7mm I doubt anyone will do it. Also from comparison with current plans (2002 from Aleksandr Koshchavtsev, one of the best of the Russian draftsmen) the suspension units are slightly strung out, with the lead one being about 70mm in scale (2mm) too far forward and the rest graduated down the line until the rear units match. Again, I doubt many modelers will correct this error. (Note that the EE kit is of the 1958-1961 version of the PT-76 with the 60mm raised hull and dual baffle muzzle brake.)
    That being said, whereas the EE kit was a good kit the Trumpeter one is a very good kit. It comes with useful etched brass for the engine deck grilles (air intake and exhaust/ejection cooling) and also the headlight guards; formers are thoughfully provided for their complex shapes. For some reason Trumpeter includes the entire water jet trunking even though I doubt many will put the model on a mirror to see it! There are some major pin joints inside the trunking as well as the barrel, but a few minutes with a Dremel Minimite should solve that problem.
    The gun barrel is as nice as anyone could wish in plastic, even though due to the screwy multibaffle design it had to be done using conventional molding methods and thus the assembly pins in the bore to rout out. A gun breech is provided for the kit as well but as no basket comes with it for the turret you may wish to just "button it up" for simplicity's sake.
    With the exception of the tracks, all bits on the Trumpter kit are just that much better. Engine deck hatches are separate parts so detailers may install an engine and driveline, and the crew hatches also are optional position items. The tracks indicate they are cementable vinyl (e.g. like the DS plastic used by DML or the type used by Tamiya) but are thin and somewhat flimsy. Given that an EE kit probably goes for $10-12 at flea markets, you may wish to pick one up for the single link tracks that will fit on this kit.
    Two sets of markings is included for a PT-76 Model 1951 during Operation "Dunay" or the Czech Invasion of August 1968. One vehicle has the white invasion stripe scheme and the other the convoy tactical markings seen during "Dunay." Both are finished in Soviet postwar green (about the same as the 4BO color.)
    Overall it is a bit disappointing that Trumpeter missed the fact that all three PT-76 tanks use different height hulls and the lower hull changes on the "B" itself.
Cookie Sewell
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Still, the tank is a obvious candidate to show up in a lot of Vietnam dioramas. It came as quite a shock when we found out our LAWs couldn't always pierce its armor.
Pat
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Roger that -- I am sure that it came to an even bigger shock at Lang Vei and Ben Het when the North Vietnamese found out the hard way it may LOOK like a tank but it can't FIGHT like a tank!
Cookie Sewell
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