Review: Italeri 1/35 T-34/85

    History

    Soviet firing tests against a captured Tiger I heavy tank in April 1943 showed that the T-34’s 76 mm gun could not penetrate the front of the Tiger I at all, and the side only at the very close range. A Soviet 85 mm anti-aircraft gun, the 52-K, was found capable of doing the job, and so derivatives of it were developed for tanks. The resulting tank gun could penetrate the side armour of the Tiger I from a distance of 800 meters and the turret side from a distance of 600 meters. It was still not enough to match the Tiger, as a Tiger could destroy the T-34 from a distance of 1,500 to 2,000 meters, but it was a noticeable improvement.

    The Soviet command made the decision to retool the factories to produce an improved version of the T-34. Its turret ring was enlarged from 1,425 mm (56 in) to 1,600 mm (63 in), allowing a larger turret to be fitted and thus the larger 85 mm gun. This was a larger three-man turret, with radio) and observation cupola in the roof. Now the tank commander needed only to command, leaving the operation of the gun to the gunner and the loader. This made the turret, overall, a bigger target (due to the three-man crew and bigger gun), but more resistant to enemy fire. The ammunition load shrank from around 90-100 to 55-60 shells, but the projectiles were 50% heavier (9 kg) and were much better in the anti-armour role.

    Production of the T-34-85 began in February 1944. The improved T-34-85 became the standard Soviet medium tank, with an uninterrupted production run until the end of the war.

    The T-34-85 gave the Red Army a tank with better armour and mobility than the German Panzer IV tank and StuG III assault gun. While it could not match the armour or weapons of the heavier Panther and Tiger tanks, its improved firepower made it much more effective than earlier models, and overall it was more cost-effective than the heaviest German tanks.

    The Laotian Army retired its T-34s in early 2019 and sold them all to Russia, where they will be used for public displays and museum exhibits.

    History in Plastic

    There have been a lot of kits of the T-34/85 – almost 50 boxings in fact. However, the kits done by Dragon (1997), Zvezda (1993), Maquette (1996), Academy (2015) and AFV Club (2009) account for almost all. Italeri’s previous T-34/85 kits were re-boxings of the Zvezda kit. This is Italeri’s first set of T-34/85 moulds.

    The Kit

    In the instructions and online the kit is described as “T-34/85 Zavod 183 Mod. 1944” The bit after the T34/85 is the factory the tank was built in. This kit is made from 100% New Moulds, has 2 types of tracks and has a full interior.

    The box is a standard top opening box and it’s pretty full so nothing can move around. Inside the box we have:

    • 6 Sprues containing 389 parts
    • 1 PE fret with 27 parts
    • 1 decal sheet
    • 2 wires
    • 1 instruction booklet (20 pages)

    Everything is packaged well but the decal sheet wasn’t in a bag in my box, which I thought a little odd. The decal sheet is in perfect condition though so it seems to work. The box is pretty full so I think it’s held in place.

    Instructions & Build

    The build instructions cover 15 pages and 25 steps. The diagrams are nice and big and clearly labeled and laid out. Very nice! The 4 decal options are shown on 2 pages with left, front and back views of each tank. Three are overall Russian green and the 4th has a base of Russian green with winter whitewash applied but worn off in many places.

    The detail on the kit parts is very nice. The turret has a cast texture to it and the attachment points are sensibly sized. There’s no flash, as you would expect from a 100% new kit. The detail on the engine and gearbox are very nice and it would be a shame to hide them. It looks like you don’t get the complete engine, just the top, and ends. You can’t see the sides or the main body of it anyway so you”re not actually missing out. They have designed it so you can leave various hatches open so you can sow the engine and transmission.

    You get 2 options for the tracks, rubber band tracks, and link and length tracks. Choose whichever one works for you! 

    The interior of the turret and the hull are fully detailed but I’m not sure how much of it you will see with the turret in place, even with the hatches open. You can always remove the turret from time to time to see it though. If you leave the driver’s hatch open you can see into the fully detailed front of the hull, although I’m not sure how much you would see. It’s definitely a kit to build with all the hatches open, that’s for sure.

    The photoetch is used for the big grill above the engine and a few small parts. The largest part is only needed if you build the kit with the rear engine compartment cover in the open position. This once again confirms that this kit was designed to be built with all the hatches open to view the full interior.

    Painting & Decals

    The painting instructions are nice and clear although for T-34s it’s usually a simple overall Russian green and these 4 options are no exception. However, one does have a winter whitewash applied that is worn off in several places. The paints are identified by name, FS number and using the Italeri Acrylic range. You get one small decal sheet with decals for each option plus some stencils.

    • T-34/85, 10, 9th Guards Tank Corps/2nd Guards Tank Army, Berlin, April 1945
    • T-34/85, 64th Guards Tank Brigade/1st Guards Tank Army, Pomerania, Feb 1945
    • T-34/85, 44th Guards Tank Brigade, Yugoslavia, Spring 1945
    • T-34/85, 242, Polish Army, July 1945

    Conclusion

    Overall it’s a nicely detailed kit with good surface texture on the cast parts. Giving you the choice of tracks is a good move – not everyone wants to deal with link and length tracks. The parts count is not crazy high for a kit with a full interior so it will appeal to people who want a full interior but don’t want to deal with 800 parts. Italeri have designed a very nice kit here that should appeal to a lot of people.

    The kit is available for about $50 from online retailers.

    Paul Tosney – Editor
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    Paul Tosney

    Paul has been with Model Builder International since almost the beginning. He started building models as a boy, and took a hiatus, but started building again a few years ago. He builds pretty much anything, but mostly WW2, with a smattering of modern and the occasional SciFi model.

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