by: Jacques Duquette [ ]
Originally published on:
In the 1950’s the PLA Ground Force wanted modern tanks they could use to defend China. While working on the Type-59 design, which was based on the T-54A, it was determined that the Type-59 was not going to be able to access much of South China’s mountainous areas, or cross many of South China’s bridges (which were not strong enough to bear its weight). A request was made for a lighter version of the Type-59 and in 1958 work began on the Type 59-16 at Factory 674. Changes included a significant shrinkage in size of the entire tank, a large reduction in armor thickness to reduce weight (turret frontal armor is only 50mm and other armor thickness' vary from negligible to 35mm), one road wheel per station instead of two, and a rifled 85mm main gun. These changes reduced the weight of the Type-62 to 21 tonnes, 15 tonnes lighter than the Type-59. Produced by Norinco when it was accepted for service in 1963, it was renamed the Type-62. Its industrial designation is WZ131. Approximately 1400 were produced, in all versions. China officially retired all of its Type-62 tanks in 2013, although it is still in use by other countries.
The Type-62 was pressed into service soon after being accepted for service, seeing extensive use in the Vietnam and Sino-Vietnam wars. It has also been used in several African conflicts. Other notable users of the Type-62 include Albania, Thailand, and North Korea, and others. Lessons learned in these conflicts revealed that the armor on the vehicle was too thin (it could be easily penetrated by any RPG), the main gun was underpowered, and the aiming and sighting systems were too simplistic. Several improvements were incorporated over the years, including a dual lens Laser Range Finder, side skirts, improved sights, a more accurate main gun, and a small number even received a new welded turret.
The kit from Trumpeter comes molded in the companies standard grey plastic, 12 sprues, a lower hull tub, length of braided wire, small fret of PE, and decals. There is a two sided color insert with painting and decal instructions.
Let’s just say this right now: the kit is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some great details in this kit, but some disappointments as well. Also, there are not a lot of high detail photos of the real vehicle that I have access to, or good walk arounds, so my assessment is based on the best photos and descriptions I could find. As best I can determine the kit is very close to what it should be for gross dimensions, but I cannot comment on specific details except in general terms. Read on for the kit specifics.
This is an all new tooled kit (not surprising) that does not borrow from any other kit I know of. Looking over the parts options, it appears that you can build two versions, with a few part changes and a little putty. As presented in the box, you can build an upgraded Type-69 (some nomenclature call it the Type-70) with the Laser Range Finder, new antenna base, and reinforced drivers hatch. You could also leave a few key pieces off and change out the drivers hatch and antenna base to make a initial production Type-62. There may also be a combination in between.
The lower hull and suspension build up was generally good. Some parts had some minor flash, which was a surprise in a newly tooled kit. Be careful when gluing and aligning the road wheels to the suspension arms as they have a slightly loose fit and are a little sloppy. Parts D1 and D2, the filler parts above the idler station, needed some putty though it is hard to see when the build is done. (Chalk that one up to my AMS). If you want your idler arms adjustable for when you put on the track runs, the kit ones will need to be modified as they are keyed to not move and are very solid. I did not modify mine and did not have any issue with putting on the track.
The road wheels, sprockets, and idlers are well done and appear to capture the look of the original parts very well. There may be some height variation of the idler, but there is photographic evidence showing it at 3 different heights, and how Trumpeter has engineered it is correct for at least one.
Tracks: First noted (to me) by Gary Owsley on a Facebook forum, the tracks in the kit should be handed, with the extended bolt head facing out. Trumpeter molded only one hand of track, all the track has the extended bolt on the same side, and would have you install the left hand side (drivers side) backwards to get the bolts on the outside. Not only is this glaringly incorrect, but it is a disappointing suggestion by the manufacturer for a prominent feature. The only fix right now is to cut the bolts off one side and glue them to the other side for the left handed run. Suggestion to Trumpeter: Next time this problem comes up and you do not want to mold the handed tracks, mold the track with bolts on BOTH sides and let the modeler make the correction. For my build I cut the bolts off the tracks on the left side but promptly lost over half of them, so I simply am leaving them off for now. If they are noticeable (to me) as missing after I am done priming, I will add them using my aftermarket stash of bolt heads.
Hull: Again, all parts generally fit really well. Engine deck screens in PE are a nice, and necessary, touch HOWEVER they do have a top and underside level of detail, so pay attention.
The braided wire for the tow ropes is adequate, but I will be replacing it with my preferred picture hanging wire.
Part C10 needs to stick straight out from the front glacis, it helps keep the tow rope on the hull.
Of note, I really liked what Trumpeter did concerning the fuel tanks on the fenders. They have separate detail pieces for the screw mounts that hold the tanks on (parts B4) AND they included the tubing for the fuel system. I really appreciate this. Another nice touch is parts C37 and C38, the tubing for the wiring that goes to the rear mounted convoy lights (A8, A9). Add some small piece of wire from the tubing to the light and it is done.
The front headlight and guard assembly is very well detailed, and close to accuracy thickness, but is FIDDLY. Be patient and work slowly. The result is worth it.
Step 7 is missing the label for part B8, which goes between part C21 (long narrow storage box) and the hull top. This is used to hold down the tow cable, so you may want to leave this off until you want to put on the tow cable.
Concerning the drivers hatch, part D20 SEEMS to be the early type hatch and part C68 SEEMS to be the reinforced later hatch. I am NOT sure, as I have seen photos of Type-62’s with later details and early hatches.
The rear fuel tanks are manufactured very nicely in a one piece tube that is much nicer to deal with than the usual split tube. Part C54 represents the fuel lines to the tank, another novel addition, but be careful adding part C2, it is crazy small and easily prone to tweezer launch.
Parts C22 and C23, the engine intake covers, seem overly thick, do not fit their mounting points well, and are not always present on the Type-62. I will either leave them off my build, or replace them with much thinned scratchbuilt parts.
I left off parts A14, the headlights and guard, and the tow ropes until after painting.
Turret: The detail appears to be accurate to photos and the kit parts fit well. There is no interior, hull or turret, so both are best buttoned up. Be warned now, the turret has a fair number of small parts that will seem to levitate out your hands and fly screaming into the nearest carpet, or black hole.
The main gun needs some putty near the fume extractor, as it has a malformation (top of the fume extractor and tube tip) and an intentional hole (I do not know what for but it seems to be shown in the instructions) for something not in the kit (bottom of the fume extractor).
The barrel for the coaxial PKT MG is ok in shape, but it is solid and will need to be drilled out. Some people may want to replace it with an aftermarket barrel.
The included Laser Range Finder for the gun mantlet does not fit well, and it is poorly detailed (molded as only the shroud and base, no LRF parts in the shroud). I will be adding detail to at least simulate the lenses of the LRF.
Antenna parts C15 and C67 seem to be EARLY and part C72 seems to be LATE. Not certain though.
The sight housing to the left of the main gun, over the drivers hatch, should have a metal shroud in a inverted U shape over it. There is even a mark for it, presumably for a PE piece. There is nothing included in the kit. All photos I have of the Type-62 show this shroud in place, so it will have to be added.
The Type-54 AAMG is a little fiddly, but it is a very nice replica when done.
Be careful putting the turret onto the upper hull once you have the hull glued together as the turret SNAPS into the upper hull. Once on, it is not coming off unless you can access the turret ring from under the upper hull (meaning the upper hull better not be glued to the lower hull). You are warned.
Initial Type-62: (assuming I have all the details figured out correctly) use drivers hatch D20 - antenna parts C15/C67, and leave off parts (and fill mounting holes) turret top tube part C45 – Laser Range Finder parts C58/C59.
“Modified” Type-62: use drivers hatch C68 and antenna mount C72. All other details noted in the build seem correct.
Markings are for a overall dark green vehicle and for a vehicle in tri-color dark green/light green/tan. Markings are generic white numbers and Chinese national stars. That is it. Research on the internet will show you a lot of other interesting markings and paint schemes.
So what do I think? It feels like this is a kit Trumpeter started a while ago, shelved, and then did a rush to get it out on the shelves. The track issue and the smaller detail issues (sigh shroud, main gun issues) left me disappointed. The “more than I expected” details (piping for the fuel cells, piping for the fuel cells) made me like this kit a lot. Overall, I like the look of the kit fully built. It has a lot of nice little details that pop out and has a sleek look to it. Sometimes some challenge is needed in a build, and this kit has just the right amount of challenge for any but the most basic builder.