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Kit bashing a 1/72 scale T-80UD

Alex Clark


The T-80UD is the main diesel engined variant of the T-80U tank series, and was developed at the V. A. Malyshev plant in Kharkov, Ukraine during the mid 1980s. Early prototype versions were fitted with the brick-like Kontakt reactive armour and a substantially different engine deck compared to that of the gas-turbine engined T-80 variants. The more common production version is characterized by Kontakt-5 ERA and further changes to the style of engine deck.

T-80UD tanks appeared on the streets of Moscow in the 1991 coup and again in 1993. Since the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the T-80UD has been further developed by Ukraine into both improved T-80UD variants and the T-84 and T-84U series.

The Kits

Galaxy Toy of China produce a T-80UD ( kit YH185 ) mislabeled as a T-80U on the box. The kit is oversimplified in many places, particularly the wheels and track which are extremely crude representations of the real thing. The ERA around the turret is also very basic and dimensionally inaccurate. Many of the fitting and smaller details are a little ‘fuzzy’ looking and the kit is also slightly overscale in certain areas. Some parts of the kit however are certainly useable with a little modification – particularly the engine deck, glacis ERA and side skirts.

Revell have released two versions of the T-80, the B and BV ( kits 03194 and 03106 ). The BV kit includes all the parts of the B kit along with new side skirts and the reactive armour bricks that are characteristic of this variant. It also contains the turret fittings that ‘mysteriously’ weren’t included in the B kit. It has many of the inaccuracies associated with the 1/35th kit by DML such as oversized road wheels (with an incorrect number of bolt heads), badly shaped turret and incorrect hull details. It is also underscale in certain dimensions. Matchbox also market a T-80B but this is the same kit as Revell’s.

I decided the best way to build an accurate model was to combine the best parts of both the above kits and resort to a fair bit of scratchbuilding! A list of all materials used can be found at the end of the article.

 Lower Hull

The basic parts of the Revell kit were used for the lower hull. The wheel spacing is not quite correct however and was fixed by slicing the lower hull sides ( parts 16 and 25 ) in 2 places and correcting the spacing with plastic strip as shown in Figure 1 ( red lines indicate the addition of plastic strip spacers). The idler wheel axles were also repositioned with the axle housing being sliced away from each respective side piece and repositioned 1.5mm diagonally down towards the hull rear as shown. The rear of each lower hull side was also removed, just after the rearmost suspension arm in preparation for the fitting of the diesel engined hull rear from the Galaxy kit.


Figure 1

There are two flaps that hang vertically from the point the glacis meets the bow ( Revell parts 59; omitted in the Galaxy kit ). These were replaced with thinner plastic sheet versions with the appropriate detailing and attached to the lower hull by 8 small brackets, again made from plastic strip. These flaps are illustrated in red in Figure 2. Above these are 2 smaller flaps ( Revell part 58; Galaxy A26 ) that were also replaced ( blue in Figure 2).


Figure 2

Hull Rear

The presence of a diesel engine gives the hull rear a considerably different appearance to that of other T-80 variants. The rear of the Galaxy kit lower hull ‘tub’ was removed and fitted onto the modified Revell assembly. Further details were added including a small round edged rectangular access plate and a grab handle.


The Revell idler and sprocket parts are not totally accurate but are largely hidden when the side skirts are fitted and are better than the corresponding Galaxy parts. The Galaxy roadwheels are extremely poor and look as though they were made for a totally different kit! The Revell wheels are better but suffer from an incorrect number of bolt heads ( 9 as opposed to the correct number of 8 ) and are slightly overscale in diameter. They are also too shallow and should have a much more concave appearance. After looking through the spares box I found an old Esci M-48 wheel. This was of the correct diameter and was more concave than the Revell wheel. It also had the correct number of bolt heads. Unfortunately the Esci wheel represents the inner and outer wheels as a single drum-like piece. It was sliced in half and a new central hub fitting was added. A thin ring was sliced from some plastic tubing and was fitted into the wheel to slightly increase the thickness of the rim. The resulting wheels was used as a master for 12 resin copies. The inner wheels were made in a similar fashion but with the hub replaced with the part of a Revell inner wheel to allow easy attachment. Figure 3 shows the master inner wheel, one of the molds and a cast outer wheel, along with a Revell wheel as comparison. 


Figure 3


The Galaxy track is a simple one piece rubber item for each side and, as with the wheels, seems to be made for a different vehicle. In fact the same track is used in the T-72 kit where it is much more appropriate! The Revell track is dimensionally accurate but lacks outer surface detailing. The guide horns are also too small and should be hollow – although I wouldn’t really expect hollow guide horns at this scale. I decided to use the track straight from the box, but to add a liberal coating of mud at a later stage. The track was assembled around the wheels which were temporarily attached (without glue) to the lower hull, Figure 4. This allowed the track / wheel assembly to be removed as a single piece to aid the painting stage.


Figure 4

 Upper Hull



Although the T-80UD has a different engine deck and rear hull when compared to the other turbine engined variants, much of the rest of the upper hull is identical. The Galaxy upper hull has the glacis ERA molded on but the glacis plate is set at too shallow an angle and is too long. The rest of the hull is reasonably done although some parts are inaccurate and it is also slightly overscale. The Revell glacis is better dimensionally but the rest of the upper hull molding ( part 33 ) is quite inaccurate with most of the detailing being wrong. It is also noticeably too short giving it a slightly squat appearance. The hull, forward of the area where the glacis meets the horizontal top plate, was removed from the Revell upper hull piece and all the molded on detail such as the zip stowage box lids and glacis detailing stripped off. The main central part of the hull, including the side fuel cells were scratchbuilt using various thicknesses of plastic sheet, plastic rod and parts of the Eduard photo etched set. A scribing tool was also used to add the embossed / stamped detail along the horizontal surfaces of the fuel cells. Figure 5 shows the basic construction of the upper hull.



Figure 5

Engine Deck

The engine deck was part A2 from the Galaxy kit, along with the exhaust grill A39. A few modifications were made to the deck - mainly small detail additions and the repositioning of the fuel drum mounting brackets. These changes are shown in Figure 6.


Figure 6

The deck was attached to the lower hull such that the upper hull piece interlocked snugly with the lower hull piece. The two assemblies were left separate until after the painting stage. The fuel drums from the Revell kit are too long so were shortened by 2 mm – they should be approximately 1.1cm in length. Parts from the Eduard set ( 11 and 12 ) were used for the ends of the drums which were devoid of detail as supplied.


The main feature here is the Kontakt-5 ERA. The molded on ERA was cut away from the Galaxy kit and the underside sanded down until the thickness of the glacis itself had been removed. A small strip was removed from the lower portion to produce a more accurate height, Figure 7.


Figure 7

The resulting piece fitted well to the Revell glacis plate and all that remained was to add a few small details such as a small horizontal strip (from brass sheet, bent to an L shaped cross section) across the ERA and a few small missing bolts. These are also shown in Figure 7.

Side Skirts

The forward portion of the side skirts were taken from the Galaxy kit ( parts A29 and A30 ). The lower strip on the skirt was removed and replaced with thin plastic strip with footholds added from stretched sprue, although wire of the appropriate diameter would have been easier to bend to shape, Figure 8.

 Figure 8

The rear portions of the side skirts were made using brass sheet. . Detailing was added using the photoetched parts from the Eduard set ( bolts - part 30 and brackets - part 19 ). The skirt sections were attached to a piece of plastic strip which in turn was attached directly to the main hull assembly. There are small hinges also present along the top of this strip – 2 per skirt section. 


 The Revell T-80B turret is of an earlier type than that fitted to the T-80U series and so is not suitable for this particular version. The Galaxy Toy turret is inaccurately shaped in both plan and profile but with some modifications I decided it was useable. All the molded on fittings were removed from the turret top in preparation for reshaping the overall piece. An approximate guide to the reshaping required is shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9

A hole for the gunners hatch was made and a thin slice of 9mm diameter plastic tubing was glued into the hole and blended into the surrounding area using Milliput. The hatch itself was made from 3 circular layers of plastic card sandwiched together. The inner layer had 9 small holes drilled out around the edge and a hole in the centre. The outer layer had a slice removed from the edge at the area where the hinges attach it to the turret. The commander’s cupola ( which had been previously removed from the turret ) was reshaped and detailed, along with the hatch itself. The other basic turret fittings such as the sights and turret rear wind sensor were scratchbuilt. The Galaxy snorkel tube ( part A42 ) was badly molded so the end part was removed and the main tubing replaced with suitably sized plastic tube. The tube mounting brackets were also scratchbuilt. The Revell stowage boxes were used along with the photoetched lids from the Eduard set ( part 62 ). The commanders AA machine gun was taken from the Galaxy T-72 kit. It has a remote controlled machine gun mount that is more complex than that found on other T-80 versions and this was made using plastic strip, rod and some parts from the Eduard set. The machine gun ammunition boxes were made from the fenders from an Esci 1/72 scale Hetzer!. These fenders have small ribs along them that are of just the right distance apart. The fenders were cut into strips and used to make 3 ammunition boxes.

The lower turret piece (Galaxy part A3 ) was discarded and a 1.5mm plastic card version replicated. This was attached at a later stage as I decided to add a turret interior.

Turret Interior

There are some excellent photos in a Military Modelling article from a few years back which were invaluable for building this part of the model ( see references at the end of the article ). The Concord T-80U book also has some good photos of the related T-80UK which has many similarities, although this book came out after I’d finished the model. One of the dominating features of the turret interior is the massive 125mm gun breech and autoloader. The breech was built up using various thicknesses of plastic sheet and square plastic tube with appropriate detailing. The commander’s and gunner’s sighting equipment is also quite prominent with the hatches open and was also built up using various bit of plastic strip, rod and disks made with a punch and die set. Most of the other interior fittings were also made using these materials, including the seats, autoloader and ammunition racks.

Turret ERA

The ERA plates on the turret top were made from small rectangles of plastic strip. The Galaxy turret has these plates molded as solid but they are in fact more sandwich like – being composed of 3 layers. There are 2 bolts attached to each plate to hold them to the turret.

The ERA plates around the turret sides proved quite tricky to make. This was mainly due to the fact that it was much easier to make the arrangement look wrong than right! Several test ‘plates’ were made from paper to get the right size and shape. A final set of test plates was cut from thin plastic strip and temporarily attached to the turret with blu-tac (a mildly adhesive putty-like material). When I was happy with the results, the actual pieces were made and glued as pairs into chevron shapes using a small plastic template for alignment, Figure 10. Each chevron pair has a thin rubberized sheet attached just above the chevron point that hangs diagonally downwards. These were also made from thin plastic strip and were curved slightly downwards, to give the impression of weight as per the real thing.



Figure 10

There are 4 ‘tucha’ smoke grenade launchers fitted to each side of the turret on the ERA plates. The Revell parts were used with Eduard parts ( 52 ) used for the cap detail. A small hole was drilled into the base of each launcher tube and a small piece of wire glued in place. Corresponding holes were also drilled into the ERA to enable attachment of the launchers. As with the ERA, it was quite tricky to align the launchers at just the right angle – it required quite a bit of time referring to plans and photographs.

Gun Barrel

The Revell gun barrel ( part 5 ) is reasonable dimensionally but the detailing, such as the thermal sleeve straps and the 4 ribs running down the barrel, are overscale. The diameter of the bore evacuator is also overscale in diameter. All the detailing was removed and the bore evacuator sanded down to the correct thickness. The ribs were replaced with thin plastic strip. I considered several ways of representing the thermal sleeve straps including using thin brass strip, foil or just scribing the edges. The straps are extremely thin and after some trial runs using the above methods I decided not to represent them. Finally, the end of the barrel was drilled out.




There isn’t much choice when it comes to colour schemes. This particular variant is usually seen sporting the 3-tone camouflage pattern of pale sand, green and black that has become standard on Russian vehicles since the mid 1980s. All painting was done using Humbrol enamels. A primer coat of light grey was applied to produce a uniform base for the main colours. A pale sand colour was mixed white 34 and 103 in a 3:1 ratio and sprayed on as a couple of thin coats. This was followed by a carefully sprayed pattern of Olive Drab 155. The black ‘crows feet’ patterns were applied by hand using a fine paintbrush and a thinned mixture of Black 33 with a little Light Earth 119 added.

 To reduce the contrast between the colours and add a slightly faded effect, a very fine, dilute overspray of the base pale sand mixture was applied – this helping produce a more ‘to-scale’ appearance. At this stage I added the markings which simply consisted of 3 white Letraset numbers on the stowage bin on the left hand side of the turret. The particular 3-digit number was that of one of the tanks that took part in the Moscow coup.

The whole model was given a thin hand brushed coat of Johnson’s Klear floor polish ( an acrylic floor polish ) in preparation for the weathering stage. This provides a surface that is resistant to enamel thinners. The weathering was started by covering small parts of the model with a dilute wash of 72 and lightly wiping over the surface with a lint free cloth. This left some of the colour in the recesses and also left very subtle streaks. By carefully varying the pressure it’s possible to build up the ‘dirt’ more in the appropriate places. The coat of Klear also prevents the wash overly staining the colours underneath. A small brush was also used to apply the wash locally in certain areas that were likely to retain more dirt and dust, such as deeply recessed areas. The result was a slightly dirty looking vehicle with subtly highlighted details. A very dilute black wash was also applied locally to areas of greatest shadow. Smaller details were then painted such as the commander’s machine gun, lights and exhaust stain on the unditching log. 

 Finally, Dark Earth was sprayed around the lower hull, tracks and the rims of the wheels. A dilute wash of black was applied over this in a random fashion using a fine brush to break up the evenness of the mud finish. The upper and lower hull assemblies were attached, the unditching log was glued to the hull rear and the model was complete ( not forgetting the removal of the cotton wool from inside the turret hatches ).


The model required a lot of research and scratchbuilding to produce something I was happy with. I’m now in the process of building a T-80UK – but maybe more on that later. 

Materials used


Many references were used throughout the time this model was built, with some of them being obtained part way through.

'T-64 and T-80' S. Zaloga  Concord 1992

'T-80 Main Battle Tank' N. Bachurin, V. Zenkin, S. Roshchin, Polygon Moscow 1993

Military Modelling magazine 'A closer look - T-80' B. Fleming May 1996

Nowa Technika Wojskowa 'Czlog T-80' M. Damczuk 1994

TankoMaster 3-97

Concord Mini Color Series  - Russia’s T-80U Main Battle Tank  S. Zaloga, D Markov 2000

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