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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