T-54-3 Mod. 51 - Interior Kit
MiniArt, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
Finally, in 1951 the designers produced the desired turret shape in what appeared to be a half-eggshell shaped turret that fit nearly flush with the turret roof. The turret had a slight bulge to the left to accommodate the gunner and an offset gun to the right but finally fit the required shape per NII-48. The new tank also had two new design 95 liter welded fuel tanks at the rear of the right fender plumbed into the fuel system and new stowage bin arrangements and other details,.
At least 10,126 line tanks and 215 T-54K Model 1951 command tanks were built before production switched to the T-54A with single axis stabilizer in 1955-56. These tanks soon became the iconic Cold War instrument of power projection for the USSR and were seen in action in Hungary and Czechoslovakia as well as sold to third world customers like Egypt and Syria.
This is the “hat trick” version of the original T-54 tank from Miniart and joins both their T-44 kits and T-54 kits as another excellent offering. Again, it has a daunting number of parts with not one wasted cubic centimeter of space inside it! This kit shares more parts with the later T-54B Early Production kit than the T-54-1 and T-54-2 kits.
Once more the kit has a very complete interior from the bow to the rear of the engine, but again no radiator, transmission, fan or oil cooler provided. The original has a flip-up rear deck and a flip-up radiator that permits access to the “guitara” transfer case, the transmission, fan drive, fan and oil cooler as well as other systems at the rear of the engine-transmission compartment.
Miniart provides excellent assembly and finishing manuals with their kits and this one continues that legacy. Five pages of full color finishing options form the end pieces. As is the usual offering a “road map” of the kit’s s as well as A map of the 83 sprues and frets in the kit (many are duplicates) makes finding parts a bit easier.
Next is the belly pan and torsion bars. This has the same layout as the -1 and -2 kits with four lever-type shock absorbers that go on the 1st and 5th road wheel sets. Road wheel arms consist of either four or five parts each (based on whether or not they have a connector for the shock absorbers).
The driver’s compartment starts with the skid control levers and shifter, which has an etched brass gate for all six speeds (5 forward and reverse). Cable runs are molded together for simplicity. Also the turret floor and side panels are installed here.
The tank has both interior and exterior side panels, some of which need holes drilled in them and are called out in the directions. The complete “stellazh” ammo rack for the front of the fighting compartment is included as well as all 20 rounds and safety locks. Additional rounds rack on the sides of the hull.
The right side of the hull with the “stellazh” racks is assembled first and then installed to the belly pan assembly. While the rounds are shown fully painted once in the rack all 20 of them only have their bases exposed so painting is not necessary unless you leave the roof loose for display of the interior when finished.
The engine, firewall and left side come next, followed by the road wheels. The glacis and headlights are also mounted here. This tank uses the original “Tsiklon” air cleaner consisting of some 22 parts including air lines to the injector system. The glacis (upper and lower) may also be fitted with the numerous external fittings for mine clearing equipment but note that it is keyed to the finishing directions.
The rear plate now includes plastic mounts and connectors for the MDK-5 smoke canisters which makes them easier to install.
The rear deck vents are open with PE grilles under them but again there is nothing under them. This kit uses a different set of fittings from the earlier ones or the T-54B kit.
The OMSh links are slightly different from past models but note that the directions indicate that 90 links are needed for each track run resulting in 10 spare links.
Note that this tank uses the original version of the 95 liter tanks which are welded together from four parts (shell, base and two ends) vice the better known two-part pressed steel versions. This is correct for an initial production tank (changed during capital rebuilding).
The turret roof correctly reflects the non-IR version of this turret with only viewers and a day periscope for the commander and MK4 viewer for the gunner and loader.
The DShKM machine gun mount is excellent and consists of some 24 parts including an ammo feed of 12 rounds.
The rear of the turret may be fitted with the stowage tarp but also includes the foul weather hood for the driver (here either folded and stored or opened up for installation on the driver’s hatch). Assembly takes “only” 89 steps over 24 pages.
Overall this completes the main course of early T-54s less an A, a late B, and any command vehicles. While they do have a heady number of parts are mostly styrene and well laid out. An exterior only kit is coming later.
Note: for some reason this is the hardest one of the T-54 kits to find in the US with most suppliers shown “in stock soon” or “on backorder”. I ordered this one from a company called Scale Hobbyist in New Hampshire and it apparently was his last one in stock. The only other company I found offering it was Hannants in the UK and that would have been US$97 with shipping.