Tuesday, April 26

In-Boxed: Takom's 35th scale T-55 AMV Russian Medium Tank

Takom’s new bunch of kits has hit our offices and we have all of them being built by some very good modellers – first of all, the Inbox reviews to show you what’s inside. Andy starts us off with his in-box of Takom’s T-55 AMV Russian Medium Tank in 35th scale. Let’s see what he thinks about this kit before he cuts plastic.

In-Boxed: T-55 AMV Russian Medium Tank
Manufacturer - Takom
Kit Number - #2042
Scale - 1/35
Price - £38, ¥6,120, US$55, €48 from Hobbylink Japan
If there are any true icons of the Cold War, then the T-55 must be one of them. Like it's airborne comrade, the Mig-21, It symbolised the armed forces of the Eastern Bock. Strange then that it's never received that much attention from the mainstream model manufacturers. There's a range of T-55 variants from Trumpeter but, being from their early days, they're far from perfect. Tamiya produce a better rendition, but it lacks the finesse of a modern tooling.

Enter Takom, who, as they did previously with the Chieftain, are about to release a whole range of newly tooled T-55 kits on to the market, starting with two of the latter variants, the T-55 AM, and the one we're looking at here, the AMV. We'll have a good look through the box in a moment, but first a bit of history.
The T-55 is probably the most prolific tank in the world, with possibly up to 100,000 built in Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and under licence in China. Developed from the earlier T-54, which had it's origins at the end of WWII, the T-55 entered production in the late '50's, and continues to be enhanced and upgraded to this day.
One of the major upgrades was the AM version of the early 1980's. These featured many enhancements, the most obvious of which was the additional appliqué armour package. There were other upgrades to the fire control system and the gunners sight.
The AMV was the next evolution of armour protection for the T-55, replacing the appliqué armour with individual Kontakt-1 Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks. These blocks are designed to explode when hit by a projectile, directing the energy of the impact away from the tank.
OK, so now you know a little history of the tank, it's time to see what Takom have given us in the box. The main parts are split over 17 sprues in Takom's usual mid-grey styrene, plus an additional sprue in clear. The upper hull and turret are supplied as separate pieces, and track links come already removed from the sprue, bagged up and ready to go. Lastly, there's a PE fret for the engine screens and other small details, a vinyl dust cover for the mantlet and a couple of poly caps.

Sprue A (x2)
These have the main road wheels, the idlers and the drive sprockets, along with some smaller suspension components. At first, I'd thought, going by the way the lower hull had been moulded, that the torsion bars for the suspension would be included, but no. The suspension arms simply attach to the side of the hull, so no working suspension here.

Sprue B (x4)
Here we've got the tyres for the road wheels. A bit of an odd one here, as I'd expected two sets of tyres to be included. The box top clearly states that “all road wheels can be built in damaged condition” and I'd taken this to mean degraded tyres. All the tyres included are as new with prominent ribbing, and there's no mention in the instructions of any damage option so unless I'm missing something, this feature must have been dropped.

Sprue C (x2)
These two are for the rear mounted fuel drums and their mounting brackets, along with some smaller detail parts.

Sprue E
Fenders, rear hull plate and the unditching log. The log has the retaining straps moulded in place, so if you want to leave it off, you'll need to make replacement straps or get an etch set that includes them.

Sprue G
These are the rubber side skirts, and there's some very refined detailing here. The paint would chip easily on the rubber panels, so there are some great weathering possibilities here.

Sprue H
This one's got the turret base, various hatches and other turret details and a two part barrel, albeit not the one required for this build.

Sprue J
This sprue's mainly hull details, including a very nice engine deck. One of the engine access panels has the option of being left open, although there's nothing included to go beneath it. The fender mounted fuel tanks are also here, along with their pipework, which must be a first for a T-55 kit.

Sprue K
More hatches and a cupola, along with a beautifully moulded Dushka AA gun. This is an option in the kit, and there's an alternative cupola if you don't fit the gun.

Sprue M
The glacis plate, front and rear mudguards and spare track links.

Sprue N
This one has the barrel for the AMV. Again it's a two-part construction, meaning a seam to clean. You'll need to be careful not to damage the moulded detail in the process.

Sprue Q
Here we've got the individual ERA blocks, mainly for the turret, along with their mounting brackets.

Sprue R
More ERA blocks, this time in the modular form. These ones are for the hull and side skirts. Having them as a single, large block will make construction faster, but it'll be harder to represent missing or damaged blocks.

Sprue S
The clear sprue. Here you get the periscopes and headlight lenses

Lower Hull
This is a nice solid moulding with no warping or distortion. There's some lovely underside detail, with some very fine weld beads. Shame you won't really see any of it on the final build.

The T-55's turret is deceptively simple, but there's some subtle contouring to it that can be hard to get right. Takom seem to have done a great job in capturing it. It's hard to be definite, but it certainly looks like a T-55 turret.

Track Links
One bag of tracks. 184 in total. These are non-working and will need to be glued together, then wrapped around the wheels. Of course, with the side skirts fitted, you can always cheat and leave the top run off.

Photo-Etch and Extras
The PE sheet supplies the engine screens, the fender brackets and a few other details. Like most Takom PE, this sheet is very thin and has a tendency to curl up. This can make it harder to get the screens to sit flat while attaching them. Also here you can see the vinyl dust cover for the mantlet and the wire tow cable. This needs to be cut into two lengths, although the instructions don't give any measurements, so probably best to cut it straight in half.
That covers all the sprues, so let’s have a closer look at some of the parts, starting with the turret. As mentioned previously, the shape seems accurate and features a very subtle cast surface texture, and some very realistic looking weld beads. By contrast, the bolt detail is very sharp and clean, just as you'd want it.
The tracks are nicely detailed with just a single, small moulding pip that will need sanding down. However, they do have a couple of ejector pin marks on the underside that will need filling unless you disguise these with a liberal application of mud.
The fender mounted fuel tanks have some sharp detailing, but they also have a prominent mould line across one end. There's quite a bit of flash around that area too, but it should clean up with a bit of care. There's been a lot of talk on forums about the inclusion of fuel lines for the tanks with this kit, and it's certainly nice to see them. Inevitably, there's a bit of a mould line, but it should scrape off easily enough.
That exquisitely moulded machine gun
As I said before, the tyres have very prominent ribbing, and you may wish to sand this down to give a more worn appearance. The wheels feature some astonishingly fine detail including the bearings in the hub. These are subsequently covered by a cap, but maybe this is what Takom mean by a damaged option; you could choose to leave the cap off. Who knows? Presumably Takom, but they make no mention of it.
The drive sprockets are also nicely detailed, but Takom has gone slightly mad with the sprue attachment points. 10 on one sprocket and 11 on the other. I guess this must have been necessary to get a clean moulding, but it'll make detaching the part quite tricky.
The rubber sections of the side skirts have been sculpted with a realistic rippled edge, and there're some nicely moulded retention pins between the separate sections.
And a few close-ups of some of the other details in the kit
The instructions come in Takom's regular landscape format booklet, featuring clear, 3D style build steps. Nothing looks too complicated, although attaching and aligning all the ERA brackets on the turret will need some concentration as each bracket is different. There's also two small correction sheets, one for the suspension assembly, and one for details on the turret.
The small decal sheet is well printed, with good registry
In terms of markings, you get a total of 12 options, half of which are examples from the war in Syria. I'll be honest and say I wouldn't be totally comfortable with building subjects from an ongoing civil war, but the other marking options will make great choices if the Syrian tanks don't appeal.
This is a very welcome release from Takom and looks to be up to the high standard of their previous releases. It's also a subject with almost limitless potential for alternative variants, and indeed, Takom has already announced several other T-54/T-55 models as future releases. From the box, everything looks very enticing, and I can't wait to get started. We'll see how well it builds up in part 2. Stay tuned.

Andy Moore

Thanks to Takom for sending this kit to Andy - Look forward to him building it in the near future here on TMN…