T-55 Model 1963 - Interior Kit
MiniArt, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
When Leonid Kartsev was named first as chief designer for the T-54 series of tanks at Nizhniy Tagil in 1953, and later as the chief designer for the factory, he was interesting in carrying out what the Soviets called “rationalization” work on the tank to make it better, easier to produce, more amenable to use by its crew, and adapting the design to changing conditions.
As a result, in 1958 the UVZ factory in NizhniyTagil introduced the more developed T-55 medium tank which incorporated all of the advancements of the T-54B into a better crafted vehicle. This included items such as a new ventilator which was moved from the roof of the turret to the rear of the turret base, a new permanent mount for the two-section OPVT-54B snorkel under the two 200 liter auxiliary fuel tanks at the rear, a new and improved road wheel mount for Station 1 on both sides of the hull, and most conspicuously the removal of the AAMG mount with its 12.7mm DShKM machine gun from the loader’s hatch. At that time the Soviet Red Army had decided that all ground attack aircraft would be jets and too fast to be engaged by a manually operated AAMG on a tank turret. The tank entered production at Nizhniy Tagil and also at Plant No. 174 in Omsk.
Miniart has now continued its magnificent series of T-44/54/55 tank kits with this first version of the T-55. Surprisingly, they are very faithful to the design and as a result 788 older parts from the T-54B kit are carried over with some 484 new parts; many of the older ones are also not used in the new kit. It also has 155 new etched brass parts and 27 new clear styrene ones.
Miniart designates this kit as a “Model 1963" but none of my information shows such a model was designated by the factory. What it does do from what I can tell is replicate the changes made in 1963 for production beginning in 1964. This mainly includes the replacement of the original headlights with new waterproof ones, replacing the searchlight mount which was originally welded to the right side of the mantlet with a new articulated mount located to the right of the gun on the turret and linked to the gun barrel, and the auxiliary headlight added to the side of the mount. Most of the rest of the changes were internal to the tank.
As with its predecessor kits this one has a very complete interior from the bow to the rear of the engine, but once more there is 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 apparently made the decision that few modelers would want this area detailed, but I do have “hi Mom” shots of Soviet tankers in the motor pool working in this area.
Miniart provides very detailed but busy assembly and finishing manuals with their kits and this one is typical of their materials. This kit comes with TWELVE finishing options at either end of the manual. There are only (!) 91 sprues and two etched brass frets (many are duplicates) to sort through on this kit.
As with earlier kits assembly begins with the V-55engine which uses a similar parts breakdown to the early V-2 and V-54 engines.No wiring or cabling is provided or shown and while easily doable will take a manual for the engine to match!
Next is the belly pan and torsion bars. These are new mold parts with separate mounts for the torsion bars and many other small details. The tank has 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). This also offers up the upper and lower glacis mounts for engineer-equipment fittings (bulldozers or mine plows).
The interior starts with the fixed floor sections and 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. Note that the center section is designed to rotate with the turret when attached; with some finagling it could be left out and attached to the turret base later.
The tank has both interior and exterior side panels. The left side begins at Step 18, and there are a lot of details which go on the inside. The right side follows with 100mm rounds racked up on its inside. Next is the firewall assembly which includes more rounds and internal assemblies to include the air compressor and controls.
The engine, firewall and air cleaner assembly are added next. Once the sides are attached to the hull in Step 35, the glacis is assembled and added.
Wheels and tracks start at Step 37 but note that the Station 1 road wheels are different from the Station 2-5 ones. Once the wheels are added to the hull, the hull roof is attached to the lower hull.
Next is the engine deck and rear louver assembly. This kit includes the internal armor deflectors for the louvers as well as etched brass screens. The two rear louver assemblies come with protective grill bars made from etched brass which will be a bit fiddly to install. Note that in assembly Step 51 it shows subassembly C - the protective cover over the fan for use in underwater driving - installed down. It can also be installed up leaning on the right 200 liter fuel tank so it will be your choice.
The right fender with fuel tanks and fuel lines is next. This one has the 20 liter oil tank and pump on the right fender as well. The kit provides for both early and late style pressed steel 95 liter fuel tanks so you also have that option. This is followed by the left fender with the ZIP bins and tools. Prior to installation of the fenders the tracks go on, with 90 links per side. The tow cables are added, but no wire or string seems to be provided and oddly enough only an asterisk indicates the cable. I could not find one in my kit so guess you are on your own, which seems odd considering how complete the rest of the kit is.
The auxiliary fuel tanks attach with etched brass straps and separate tie-down loops. Some may need to be annealed (heat treated) to make them more flexible however. This one also racks up the OPVT-54B two-section snorkel under the fuel tanks with etched brass strapping.
Assembly of the turret begins at Step 64. This tank also uses the “Tsiklon” stabilizer system plus the relocated ventilator and five ready rounds plus an R-113 radio set. It even provides for one round in the breech. Much of the basic gun and mount appear carried over from the T-54B kit, which is correct. The SGMT machine gun and ammo box are nicely done and the complete mount and gun requires 15 parts. The gunner’s seat includes ammo for the SGMT and guards so is quite an impressive subassembly. But there is a new level of detail inside the turret; also for once the gun is fixed in elevation due to the concentration on accuracy over operating features.
Externally you have some options such as the clear sight window or just the frame for the direct fire sight. Both the main and commander’s IR searchlights are also nicely detailed. Two lens options are given for the auxiliary headlight - either smooth (IR) or lined (white light). The mantlet cover comes in four sections to cover the beading detail but the main gun barrel is in one piece. Rain seal fittings are made of etched brass.
Overall this the first of a series of T-55 and T-55A kits to come and even though having a heady number of parts are mostly styrene and well laid out. As noted if you are not an interior fan an exterior only kit is coming later.