USSR T-34/76 "Factory 183 Production"
Any true tank nerd knows the story of the real T-34 so I won't bore you here. There have been a lot of T-34 kits issued over the years - some great ones and some not-so-great ones. Like Shermans, T-34s were built over a long period of time at many factories (seven major factories plus various subcontractors) so the variation in features makes for lots of interesting models. Not every variant is available as a kit, even now with a dozen or so on the market.
Academy's new "T-34/76 Factory 183 Production" is a really interesting addition to T-34 land. The parts in the box can be used to build either a Factory 183 or factory 112 tank. The hardedged hex turret is new and welcome. The kit features length-and-link tracks, positionable road wheels, a one-piece plastic gun tube, and a small PE fret for the engine deck screen. The model can be built with 'box' or cylindrical fuel cells or no fuel cells at all. It includes the earlier 'mickey mouse' turret roof with two round hatches, as well as the later cupola-equipped roof. It has the standard bow MG fitting, or, the OT-34 flamethrower instead. So, at first glance, it looks like a very cool kit.
For reference, I compared the components to the scale plans found in "T-34 Mythical Weapon'. I am not an engineer, and I assume neither model kits nor scale plans are perfect. But compared to those plans, in general, most of this kit looks good dimensionally. Tracks, wheels, and major components look right to me compared to those plans. Where there are exceptions, I will point them out below.
What's in the Box?
Starting from the ground up, let's take a look at the tracks. T-34s had very wide-pitch tracks, making individual link or length-and-link tracks a must in this scale.
Academy provides the 500mm 'waffle' track in length-and-link style, below. Note the top run has some slight sag, which is characteristic of many T-34s. Some had less, some had more, but this is not an atypical amount. Note also the individual links for wrapping around the idler and drive sprocket. There are quite a few knockout pin marks on the inner face that will need to be addressed.
This closer look reveals the tracks are a little on the mushy side with regard to detail. It's not terrible but it lacks sharpness. Scale dirt may be our friend on this aspect of the model.
Academy has been generous with the wheels in this kit. There are 30 wheels, which is almost enough for a British tank ;) Each T-34, when built, had a characteristic mix of wheels that help identify where and when it was built. Of course repairs in the field could affect this. And although it isn't advertized on the box top, this kit can be built as a Factory 183 or Factory 112 tank. So, the bottom line is, Academy has provided three full sets of wheels. Below, left to right, we have the cast 'dish' wheels common to Factories 112 and 174; the spoked wheels common to Factory 183; and the cast all-steel wheels also common to Factory 183.
The wheels feature very sharp detail and scale out dead-on compared to the plans.
The dish wheels generally characteristic of Factories 112 and 174. If not used on your model, these make awfully good additions to the spares bin.
The spoked wheels. These were used in different ways at different times. During the rubber shortage of 1942, only the first road wheel would b rubber, with the other four being all-steel. Then as rubber supplies improved, the more common mix of rubber on the 1st and 5th stations with 3 steel wheels in the middle became the norm. A few tanks even had rubber rims on wheels 1,3 and 5 with steel at stations 2 and 4. Eventually, all five wheels were made with rubber rims. Note the fine detail on the rubber rim edges.
The all-steel wheels. Fitting steel wheels at all five stations is not common but it has been documented. Normally though, there would be a mix of steel and rubber as described above.
The hardedged hex turret shell. One piece plastic gun tube. Everything looks good, with the exception of the hatches and ventilator being very slightly undersized.
The turret roofs. Optional parts are included to build the earlier twin-round-hatch version, which appeared in the spring of 1942, or the cupola-equipped version that began to appear late in 1943. The turret roofs are very slightly undersized by roughly 1mm all around (i.e., a total of 2mm side-to-side). Recall that these turrets were cast, with a rolled plate roof welded on. So, the dimensional variation may conform to casting tolerances - I don't know enough to say for sure.
The hull rear components shown below are for a Factory 112 tank, which is shown as an option in the instructions even though it isn't advertised on the box top.
Closeup of the turret shell. Soviet wartime castings could be pretty rough. In fact they could be exceptionally rough! Still, my opinion is this texture is not particularly realistic and I will be re-doing it. This is a very easy fix. Size and shape look pretty good.
Hull details such as the suspension towers (correctly shown at several angles) swing arms, fuel cells, idler and sprocket wheels, and tow cable ends.
The lower hull is constructed from several flat plates rather than coming as a one-piece tub. Also on this sprue are some of the small details such as engine vent grilles, pioneer tools, hatches, fenders, spare track, and tool boxes.
The driver's hatch is correctly shown with cast texture, although the texture is a bit heavy and should be toned down. Other manufacturers have missed this. Both the hatch and the two periscope covers were manufactured by casting.
Nice options here for the engine deck ventilator grille. Solid on the left for those who prefer the all-plastic solution. On the right, an open cover ready for the included PE mesh.
The multi-piece PE fret containing the parts for the engine deck screen.
Upper hull with factory 183 rear end pieces, plus square fuel cells.
The hull front. Placement of the driver's hatch and MG mount looks good. The curved 'corner' where the sponson meets the main hull is a nice touch in case you want to leave off the fenders. Most kits depict this (wrongly) as a sharp, squared off joint.
The decal sheet has some nice markings - no slogans, which is fine, but these markings look good compared to my references. The red '37' should be on a whitewashed tank, although the box art shows it on a green tank.
Pros: Generally good dimensions and shape; good level of detail; alternative parts for factories 183 or 112; a good 'hardedged' turret has not previously been available in plastic; total of 30 road wheels provides alternatives for this kit plus spares box fodder; nice selection of markings.
Cons: Detail on the tracks is a little mushy. Turret roof and ventilator slightly undersized. Casting texture on cast components is overdone.
Generally this is a pretty darned good T-34, with some features such as the turret not available before, The texture and track issues look easy enough to deal with. I am really looking forward to the build.
A trivial aside - this is the rare model kit that is really well-organized in the box.
Highly Recommended pending full build, for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Model Rectifier Corp for this review kit.
Reviewed by Danny Egan
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