ARM: Review - Zvezda 1/35 Scale T-26 Model 1932

Kit Review: Zvezda 1/35 Scale Kit No. 3542; Soviet Light Tank T-26
Model of 1932; 182 parts (178 in olive drab styrene, 4 in silver
vinyl); retail price around US $17-20
Advantages: best kit of this particular tank on the market; provides
armament options
Disadvantages: mishmash of different versions on one chassis, short
tracks, narrow hull
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Recommendation: For all Soviet armor fans
In 1929 the Soviet Workers and Peasants Red Army (RKKA) took stock of
where it stood on the world stage, and found itself wanting for modern
tanks. The only tank the Soviets had been able to build, the MS-1 or
T-18, was basically a warmed over Renault FT and offered little over
that tank than a newer suspension and cannon and turret armament in one
turret. So, having nothing to lose, they went "shopping" on the
world stage.
They wound up buying two tanks that would become the basis of all
subsequent Soviet tanks: the Christie Model 1931 in the United States,
and the Vickers Six Ton Light Tank Mark E from the United Kingdom. The
former would prove to be the grandfather of the famous T-34 series
tanks, but the other would provide the basis for the mostly widely
built tank of the prewar era, the T-26. The latter came in three
versions: A, with two machine guns in individual turrets; B, with a
single turret and a 3-pdr and machine gun, and C, a tank destroyer
version with two machine guns and two cannon.
The Soviets bought 15 Mark E Type A machine gun tanks and a license to
manufacture the tank in the USSR in March 1930, and began receiving
them in September 1930. Testing showed them to be reliable and useful,
but the Soviets had a number of problems with them, starting with them
being made in English measurements and the Soviets having to convert
all parts and blueprints to metrics. They also did not like the
armament of twin Vickers .303 water-cooled machine guns, and quickly
changed over to two Degtyarev 7.62mm DT air-cooled machine guns.
Later, once production got started, they felt they needed cannon
tanks, so swapped out the right hand turret machine gun for either a
37mm PS-1 (Soviet copy of the WW I French Hotchkiss trench gun) or a
new B-3 gun based on a joint German/Soviet project which yielded the
3.7 cm PaK 36.
When the dust settled, the Soviets built between 1,627 and 2,038 T-26
tanks with twin turrets (sources vary.) Of that number, around 400 had
the 37mm guns installed (about 380 had the PS-1 and the rest the
long-barreled B-3.)
Zvezda of Russia released this kit a few years back, but in the
meantime good references have come out from the more prolific Russian
authors and historians and a much more precise review of this kit can
be made today than it could at that point. In 1998 I reviewed the first
T-26 kit from Zvezda and in a "First Look" (e.g. in the box) review
felt it to be a good kit. Since then, I have found out that is only
true from a relative standpoint.
The kit does provide the basics for making either a "standard"
Model 1932 T-26 tank with the twin DT machine gun turrets, or one DT
turret and the 37mm PS-1 Hotchkiss cannon. This is due to duplicate
sprues with both machine gun and cannon components on them. Note that
the protective shield (part D10) was used on all of the PS-1 equipped
tanks, but none of the B-3 fitted ones.
But the model is based on their earlier T-26 "Model 1933" tank kit,
and as such has a lot of errors. That kit was based on a preserved tank
of some sort, with most features matching those found in the 1936-1937
production models: tool stowage, rubber rimmed steel road wheels,
reinforced idlers, extended driver's compartment, and transmission
access port on the glacis (part C52). It also had a simulation of the
post-Spain upgrade grille over the air exhaust vent (part C55) and the
"butterfly" armored cover over the air intake grille that was
installed late in the Finnish War (1939-1940.) Lastly, it has stowage
bins, the armored headlight (parts C41/42 and C56) the mid production
muffler with the exhaust angled to the rear and the late-production
chain carrier hooks at the rear of the hull.
This kit does correct one of the straightaway errors, most notably
the incorrect position of the track tension adjusters (parts B9/B10)
which these directions show correctly with the blade shaped structure
pointing to the rear and not down. (These are hollow rectangular tubes
that are used with a "tanker bar" for adjusting track tension.)
However, as with the other kits, the fenders are a shade too wide and
the hull is about 2mm too narrow, unfortunately being right down the
centerline so it is impossible to correct by adding 1mm strips to the
sides of the lateral parts.
The other major flaw are the kit's tracks, which are a tad too short
and with the "working" suspension are nearly impossible to get to
fit correctly. I suggest strongly an aftermarket set, either Model
Kasten or RPM, as they fix this problem so the vehicle will "sit"
correctly on a flat surface and not take up a "rocking horse"
shape.
With some work and a good reference a good model can be made from this
kit, but it takes a lot of scratchbuilding and one of the
Maquette/RPM/Mirage "T-26" kits that were cloned from the Spojna 7TP
kit of more than 30 years ago. You need the solid rubber tired road
wheels, idlers, and some of the details from those kits combined with a
modified driver's compartment and a new engine deck to fix the
late-model features.
As noted you can get a good model from the elements in this kit, but
it will take a spares box and a lot of work.
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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