Monday, September 16

Let’s make tracks! - and review the 35th scale Object 279 from Panda Hobby…

Not content with the Giant Panzer 38t and the Tunguska Panda hobby keep clattering down the road with a new kit – the secret Soviet cold war super tank – the "Object 279" in 1/35th scale….

Panda Hobby

Object 279 (Объект 279) super heavy tank
Kit No: 35005
Green & Brown Styrene 
1 PE sheet + Brass twisted wire
We have had a proliferation of heavy post WWII soviet tanks and AFV’s recently from companies trying to fill any untouched niche they can before their competitors get in. Like the last those of untouched German armour it seems the last frontier is experimental and prototype vehicles of the former Red Army. The soviets produced several pretty weird shapes and size vehicles and tanks in their push for global supremacy – most notable the mythic four tracked beast – the super heavy tank the Object 279
Object 279 (Объект 279) was a Soviet experimental heavy tank developed at the end of 1959 – it was extraordinary development in armoured warfare – It’s armour at the thickest point was 269 mm, and it’s boat like hull was covered by a thin, elliptical shield protecting it against APDS and shaped charge ammunition, and preventing it from overturning by the shockwave in case of a nuclear explosion! The shape of the hull was a revolutionary type and the four sets of tracks under the hull were to help with mobility of such a large and heavy vehicle (60 tonnes) on the harsh Russian terrain. Along with a changing tank doctorate to reduce tank weight and size and the fact that it was a complicated design that did not work as well as theorised was the main reason that it did not succeed as a design. There is one example that is now at the Kubinka tank museum in the former Soviet Union. Here it is before it's repaint recently.
The kit itself is a simple affair of only five sprues of green plastic for the tank and three large sprues of brown plastic tracks. There is a sheet of photo etch metal to represent some of the thinner parts and a braided copper wire for the tow cable. There are two hull halves joined horizontally which really look like two flat boats – more on all these later in detail. There are no clear parts for the light lenses or the periscopes of the tank. 
There is an A4 black and white instruction booklet included with t eleven simple stages to follow (– sounds too easy doesn’t it?) and the cover is coloured along with a separate sheet of coloured paper with the box art for some inspiration and a colour guide for painting the tank on the other side.
Colour choices- none and Buckleys…
Thought there is a full colour painting instruction provided there are no decals included with this kit – I suppose because of the prototype nature of the subject. The only instructions given on the full colour instruction sheet is for the whole tank to be in Russian Green.  This to me is as liberating as it is frustrating. You could make up your own scheme and you aren’t tied to being historically accurate (which is a major concern now—days it seems)  Some Russian style numbers would have been nice but I suppose you can source your own you really want. (Does anyone ever use the kit decals? we all seem to search for something different don’t we?)
The plastic:
Let’s look at the plastic – The dark green styrene is well moulded but with some flash and extra material for you to remove. There is a seam on the back of the turret and some ejector marks on the bottom of each track which you will need to conceal or cut off but otherwise there isn’t that much work to be done in the preparation of making the kit.

 Little parts like this are sometimes confusing with what is flash and what isnt. They also look a lot like a frog!
The Sprues:
The hull reminds me of a boat (or maybe a little of thunderbird 2) as it is flat and wide and almost elliptical. On the real tank there is some anti-slip on the front of the tank and a rough surface is replicated here on the rounded glacis and the rear engine deck. The bottom of the hull looks very boat like with the slots for the narrow sponsons which the running gear is mounted on. These channels start narrow at the front and widen out to the rear. Later on I will look at how to best put these together.
Sprue A (X2)
...contains all of the road wheels, rear drive and return rollers as well as the suspension units for each of the wheels.. These aren’t as arduous to put together as you may think – and although there is a bit of flash to clear along with the connections to the sprues around the suspension units once this is done that’s one of the hardest parts to the kit.

Sprue B

..Is concerned mostly with the turret and the main 130mm gun. On the original this is an all-cast turret, with a maximum armour thickness of 319 mm and it is rounded and flat just like the hull. The turret here in this kit is nicely cast in one piece thought there are some flash lines on the rear of the turret almost indiscernible but in need of a quick knifing off.
There are several parts which make up the handles, lifting hooks IR and searchlights (unfortunately with no clear part) and the co-axial machine gun which is mounted on the gun mantlet. The two turret hatches can be posed open or closed.

The replica 130mm gun is moulded vertically split down the middle with a detailed muzzle break that needs a little care to glue together without looking plastic.

Sprue C
…Contains the long thin sponsons for the running gear along with the rear long range external fuel tanks, headlights and OVM tools to strap to the hull.  A toothless saw caught my eye straight away (comedy as well as the two eyes for the brass towing cables.)
The tow cable is a thick braided copper wire and the photo etch sheet contains the engine cooling grills, air vents and the spotlight bracket and two box brackets for the turret.

The tracks (3x sprues)
Three brown sprues make up all the tracks you will need for this tank – I think there are some spare or at least it felt that way when I was making it! The problem with each of these tracks is the ejection marks on the bottom of each track. Inside the centre – though this is usually covered with dust/dirt anyway this is no biggie in the wash up.
Well that is it for the kit – it has potential but the tracks are double the usual work – so making it will hinge on them in some way – why not put it together for you to see what we really thought ?

The build: 16 hours of kicking back makin' tracks (it wasnt that bad at all...
There are only eleven steps to this build how – easy! Well before you go booking a day off from the workbench there are FOUR sets of tracks and two at least of those are buried well underneath the kit. Before we even get to those we have to make the rear drive stems. These will need some slight filler in the gaps that are left as well as that you need to remove the top locating pins as they aren’t 100% in the right location. All a quick job. The drive wheels fit on really tightly without glue.
The steps of constucting the sponsons...
Next there are four sponsons that look like pylons on aircraft. Attached to them are twelve suspension arms and the wheels for each one. There is a bit to remove on the waste side of the suspension arms and this is time consuming but not a chore. You can see here the side travel skirt is down in this picture.
I next went off the reservation a little and joined my two fuselage halves horizontally. After checking thru the instructions this does not affect any later part of the build and I would recommend getting the fuselage together as early as possible. This eliminates any “handling errors” and destroying detail later when you have more attached to the hull. They fit tightly and with glue and pressure even tighter.
 Thunderbird 2?
 Object 279??
The PE grilles for the protruding exhaust on the rear deck are next – easily fitting in between the top and bottom plastic these grills need not even be superglued they are sandwiched in so tightly. The other rear deck grills just took some super glue around the edges and looked great on. I would damage these up a bit before the painting stage if you wanted to weather the tank properly!
The tank has an option not often considered – transport mode! There are two long sections that fit either side of the tank that fold down or up (one choice only) that combined with the gun turned around and in the supplied travel lock this shows the tank in a narrower track I would think for rail transport. This does add something to a diorama if you wanted to do it. No wonder the sides of this tank look so banged up – it was not armoured like the rest of the hull!
Travel mode ( above) regular below
The barrel lock in action as well

We go on to the turret now. The one part turret and two part gun slide in together with surprisingly only a single toggle to swivel on inside the turret -  this must have been a leap to far for the engineer who get most everything else right on this kit.
The top of the turret has two hatches which can be posed open or closed. I would leave mine closed as there is no internal turret detail and even the IR and sighing equipment is just green plastic and not clear. The IR searchlight and hollow co-axial machine gun add a lot to the front of the tank. The good thing about the IR light is that you can get away with painting it. The rest of the turret dresses up nicely with hanging hooks, brackets in PE and thin handles. Even the equipment straps are included here in plastic.
The barrel of the gun itself does elevate and depress in it’s full range and it sure looks impressive when attached.
Before I made the tracks I attached the headlights and OVM tools to the hull – along with all the little parts for the rear deck including lights handles etc. If you want to do this now I found that if you just attach some household pegs to the turret ring you can work on the kit upside down with no fear of destroying all of those little bits!
I thought I would try out two different methods of attaching the tracks to the road wheels. One with the sponsons already on and one ¾ assembled off the vehicle and then adding the rear links later. So I put on one of the sponsons which fit perfectly. My reasoning for only one at a time was that I can get at both sides for installing the tracks if I wanted to.
This is the make or break moment for this kit. The tracks themselves I can say do not break that much like other companies do which is sooo frustrating – they are glued to each other and do not move and this aids their strength. The instructions are helpful here as they tell you exactly how many tracks you need to make in series and I strongly suggest you make up yours in that way before you attach them to the vehicle – it saves time and 4 x counting every time.

Method 1: Attaching them with the sponson on the hull (Below left hand side) – as the instructions would say is a sound method – I glued them onto the road and return wheels as well to keep them in place. I used a thin coffee/tea stirrer to keep pressure on the tracks whilst
Method 2: Attaching them with the sponsons off the hull (above) – This I found worked a whole lot better and is my (and should be your) choice of doing this. You make the links in their allocated bunches – glue them to the road wheels on the sponsons off the vehicle and when you want to get them on the kit just secure up the rear links. A much better way to do it.

Sharp eyed amongst you will see I put one run on backwards - oops!
Indeed you need not attach the underside running gear at all until the hull is complete using the “peg method” patented here that saves any top hull damage. Here on the left hand side you see the few links i had to make actually ON the hull using the easier second method.
Well that is it! This isn’t as much as a teeth puller as I thought it would be with all of the tracks and hard access to them. I would just make vinyl tracks myself and save all the hassle. Though a lot of modellers hate them they must be easier to just secure one link. Though they often do not sag I suppose and a lot of modellers hate them. That said they are fast and convenient. A lot of people will be waiting for metal tracks – though they are not need here in my eyes. I bet companies like Fruil with be rubbing their hands together – this kit will be their favourite I bet!
Here she is ready for undercoat...Impressive!
I had a good time building this great kit and at two relaxed days (tops) and a few cups of tea later this is ready to paint.

What colours though???? Russian Green will do - maybe with a little snow...

Here is the 279 with the later model T-80 from Xactscale i made and undercoated recently to show you it's impressive size

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Panda Hobby for this kit to make and review.