Review - Zvezda 1/35 scale BA-3 Armored Car Model 1934

Kit Review: Zvezda 1/35 scale Kit No. 3546; Armored Car BA-3 Model
1934; 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
Rating: Recommended
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 in
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 over
4BO 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.
Cookie Sewell
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