6 years ago
0 parts (490 in grey styrene, 184 single link tracks, 70 etched brass, 12 c
lear styrene, 2 black vinyl, 1 olive drab vinyl, 1 twisted steel wire); ret
ail 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; intricate work on standoff grille armor
Disadvantages: odd details on styrene tires; ejection pin marks on each tra
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Third World armor fans of the 1970s and 1980s
In the spirit of "Socialist Brotherhood" the Soviet Union transferred tank
technology to the Peoples Republic of China in 1956 with the goal of start
ing indigenous production of the then new T-54A medium tank. The Chinese wo
rked diligently on this and the first production model of their version, th
e Type 59 (WZ-120), rolled out of the factory in late 1957. Estimates are t
hat over 6,000 were produced between 1957 and 1983 and also were sold or gi
ven to more than ten foreign goverments. It was followed by the slightly im
proved Type 59-I and Type 59-IIA.
But as the Type 59 got long in the tooth - and the Soviets had moved on to
the T-55 which they would not share with the Chinese - they decided to mod
ernize the Type 59 to very similar standards to the T-55.
In the late 1970s the NORINCO company developed a new design, the Type 69-
I (WZ-121), based on the Type 59 with a number of upgrades including a new
100mm smoothbore gun. But this gun was a failure and they soon moved back t
o their copy of the D-10T 100mm gun in the Type 69-II.
This tank had a locally designed two-axis stabilizer like the T-55 as well
as a laser range finder and other changes. Externally its most prominent i
ndicators were new twin headlight clusters moved to the fenders and a large
r cooling fan necessitating a bulge at the rear of the hull under the stern
plate. This soon became the most widely produced Chinese tank as well as i
ts most heavily exported one. Nearly 4,800 were built of which the Iraqis p
urchased nearly 1,500.
The tank was available with options and these include side skirts, eight s
moke grenade launchers, a combination bustle rack/standoff grille armor arr
ay (called "Boom Shields" in factory handouts) and a "dazzler" to blind ATG
M gunners by sending false light pulses back to disrupt tracking. The tank
came in three variants: WZ-121A or what the Soviets called the "line tank"
version, the base tank; WZ-121B, a battalion/regimental command tank with V
HF and HF radio sets, antennas for use in fixed positions, and stowage for
a small generator set and cabling at the rear of the hull; and the WZ-121C,
a company level command tank similar to the B model but with twin VHF radi
o sets and no fixed bow machine gun.
While these tanks were effective in the Iran-Iraq War, needless to say the
y were rather hapless against the Coalition in the 1991 Gulf War and the fe
w survivors also did not fare well in 2003.
Takom is the first manufacturer to address this widely used tank and has p
roduced a very nice kit of the vehicle. With care, it gives you the option
of building either a WZ-121A or the WZ-121B/C variants.
Like the other new mold kits it offers a number of options but as with som
e of the DML kits it is a "mix and match" kit with 88 new parts as compared
to the T-54B kit. I have a good history of the vehicle as prepared by Russ
ian authors (the Chinese are rather paranoid about their tanks, and one cha
p who did a history of the new ZTZ-96/98/99 got something like six months i
n prison for publishing it) and all of the main features in the kit match t
he WZ-121s there and also in various museums (ex-Iraqi vehicles).
Like the other kits 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 on
e. However they are the "proud" type and not recessed so a few strokes with
a sanding stick solves the problem. Still it is a bit tedious but for my m
oney is still better than having to fit individual guide teeth to each link
Takom provides some of the best instruction booklets going in my opinion.
It is concise and has good, clear exploded drawings of the parts as well as
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. There have also been observations the grease caps may be
a bit oversized.
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! Note that part of the lines are mol
ded onto the right fender and care will be required to line up the tanks an
d the lines. They form a continuous loop through all three tanks and back i
nto the engine bay. The Chinese kept the T-54 design parts so it uses the e
arlier single bevel fuel tanks (L12) even though both they and the later do
uble bevel style is included in the kit.
The next few steps cover detailing. Step 8 covers the difference between t
he A line tank and the B/C command tanks. While all kits use the same hull
pan, Takom provides the correct Type 69 rear panel and then a small combing
that completes the new fan shroud housing.
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 tank designs (and as copied by the Chinese) th
e unditching log (Q6) needs some roughing 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 machine g
un (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 sight or
simply their brackets.
While the kit comes with a full set of T-55A hatches and cupolas the model
must use the proper T-54/55/Type 69 set on sprue X. It does have the prope
r full round hatch found on most of these tanks. There is no pretense of a
gun inside the turret and only a small device to permit its elevation is pr
ovided with the two vinyl keepers as friction snubbers to hold the gun in p
osition. From what the directions show once assembled the gun should remain
flexible. With care the searchlight assembly will snap into place and also
elevate and depress with the gun if so desired.
The kit only uses the full set of options so it comes with indentations fo
r the smoke grenade launchers and the "boom shield" array. This actually co
nsists of 29 parts and covers the entire turret, but actual vehicles photog
raphed or captured show the front sections were often not installed. These
are the ones over the smoke grenade launchers and would include parts U6, U
7, U19, U20, U1, U8, U12, and U18. The kit does not have a "dazzler" but if
you have photographic evidence of one with it and the old Tamiya T-72M1 ki
t that device could be used.
Finishing directions and markings cover six vehicles: an IRGC vehicle capt
ured by the Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq War (sand with Farsi markings on sk
irts, red/white turret flash); Iraqi Army Desert Storm (Note: this is a 3rd
Armored Division vehicle with the yellow bore evacuator and white stripe i
ndicator, sand overall but the markings and turret numbers are incorrect);
Iraqi Army 1991 (sand/green mottle with registration plate 7190); Royal Tha
i Army (sand/brown/green mottle with bort number 7); Iraqi Army 1991 as pre
served at Saumur, France (sand/green mottle with bright sand replacement sk
irts, registration number 7393); Iraqi Army post 2003 (sand with Iraqi flag
and registration number 14). A small sheet of decals is provided. There ar
e sets of decals and finishing directions available from after-market compa
nies and should expand choices as these were widely deployed and used durin
g the 1980-1991 time frame.
Note that in Step 33 the smooth-barreled Type 54 is the proper weapon and
you get a nice DshKM for the parts box. The main gun is a two-piece type bu
t as I have often repeated a few minutes with a Flex-i-File will ensure it
looks the part and means you do not have to purchase a turned aluminum barr
el unless you 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 very nice kit with only a few glitches here and there to
annoy the purist. The tires are probably the most annoying but a few minut
es with a sanding stick will eliminate most of the overwrought rubber seams
molded into the tires. But thanks to the breadth of its usage in 1991 ther
e are a wide variety of finishing options for those who have good resources
Thanks to Takom via Charlie Prichett for the review sample.