Kit Review: Zvezda 1/35 scale Kit No. 3546; Armored Car BA-3 Model1934; 174 parts (163 in olive drab styrene, 11 black vinyl tires); retail price about US$18.90
Advantages: early version of the Soviet standard heavy armored car; basis for creating a great model
Disadvantages: somewhat coarse on details, odd choice of optional features
Recommendation: for Soviet and wheeled armor fans
The Russians, and later the Soviets, were one of the first major users of armored cars as part of their combat forces. Using their medium armored cars for both reconnaissance and combat support to infantry, they did well until they ran up against the Wehrmacht in1941.
The BA-3 was the second production version of their new BA(broneavtomobil=92) medium cars based on the chassis of the Ford AAA 4 x 6 truck, which the Soviets were producing under license as the GAZ- AAA. This vehicle was an improvement over the previous BA-I design in that it used the turret design from the T-26 light tank in place of the proprietary turret of the former. (This soon became the standard light turret for the BT and T-26 series tanks as well as the armored cars.) Between 1934 and 1935 160 BA-3 armored cars were built, when the improved BA-6 entered production.
The vehicle had a crew of four (driver, bow gunner, turret loader, and commander/gunner) and was armed with a 45mm 20K M-1932 cannon and two 7.62mm DT machine guns. The hull had three doors - one on each side of the =93control=94 compartment for the driver and bow gunner and one in the right rear of the hull for the turret crew. While the design was superior to the previous BA-I vehicle, it weighed some 2200 pounds more and with only a 40 HP GAZ-AA four-cylinder gasoline engine for power was underpowered. The vehicle was built at the Izhorsk Armor Factory and used modified GAZ-AAA chassis.
The main external difference between the BA-3 and later BA-6 was that the latter did not have the rear hull door. Functionally the latter was 2200 pounds lighter and regained much of the mobility lost when the BA-I evolved into the BA-3.
This kit is not really a new kit but has followed some circuitous paths in getting to market. The original kit combined new hull moldings from Eastern Express with a nicely done chassis from a company called Toko (which produced full kits of the GAZ-AA and GAZ- AAA) to create first the BA-6 (with the Zvezda BT-5/T-26 Model 1933 turret) and then the BA-3 and BA-10. Following an all too common fate in Russian, first Toko and then Eastern Express went bankrupt and as a result Zvezda bought out their molds. The kit has now reappeared from Zvezda in their now common olive drab plastic.
As with other Zvezda efforts, this kit is not a bad effort and is fairly accurate in scale, but suffers from some simplified molding techniques and rough details. The BT/T-26 turret is not bad overall but needs TLC, most critically for the mantlet mount. It needs to be either sanded down and tapered on its edges to a rounded shape to represent the cast T-26 mantlet mount, or have thin strip edges added to the outside parts of the frame to represent the welded T-26 mantlet mount. As it comes, it has sharp but smooth sides which depict no actual T-26 turret variant.
The turret comes with a =93rail=94type antenna but from what I have seen so far there are no photos readily available that show radio fitted BA-3s so this is best set aside.
The rest of the vehicle is yeoman-like in its layout but will benefit from some TLC as well. The kit comes with the complete GAZ-AA engine and transmission, but only the side louvers for the engine compartment are separate parts. Photos show the vehicles generally running with both side and frontal louvers (covers actually) open for increased engine cooling of the overtaxed little four, so anyone wishing to use the open option will have to cut out the covers on the bow plate (part K4) make new ones from sheet styrene, and then mount them with rods about 3" in scale up from their lower edges to hold them open parallel to the direction of travel.
The hull doors are also all separate parts, but no seats or interior are provided. Ditto for the turret even thought it comes with separate hatches; this was before minimal interior components became near industry standard (e.g. gun breeches, seats, radios, ammo racks, etc.) The kit does not come with the flexible tracks used for increased traction over the rear duals nor the later tie-down brackets added to the hull for them.
The suspension is simple but relatively complete, and considering all of this stemmed from nothing more than a beefed-up design based on the Ford Model A car it is not that far off the beam. Some detailing such as brake lines and fine detailing could help here. Note that the stance of the BA-3 and related series armored cars is =93nose down=94 so take care when assembling the suspension as the vehicle should angle forward slightly.
The vinyl tires are now a =93hard=94 vinyl and much improved over earlier efforts. They are connected to the sprues at either three or four points which have to be cleaned up as well as a fine center seam, but based on their composition should be much easier than the softer tires from the Toko kits. (I suspect it is the same material used for Italeri kit tracks for anyone so interested, as there is a strong interactive relationship between Italeri and Zvezda.)
The kit comes with one finishing option: an unidentified unit with white Square 3 and the word =93Vpered!=94 (Forward!) on the turret over4BO Soviet green. (They call this out as Testors Model Master 1710 Dark Green as a matter of note.)
Overall this is a kit with a lot of promise and one which can be turned into a real gem, but it will take some work or acceptance of its quirks and conventions.