The T-34 tank is not only one of the most recognizable tanks of World War II, it is arguably the most produced tank in WWII, and is rivaled only by the American M4 Sherman series. Design and initial production was at factory 183 in Kharkov (Charkovskiy Traktornyj Zawod No. 183 – ChTZ), which was relocated to Nizhniy Tagil (and renamed Uralskiy Tankovyj Zawod No. 183 – UTZ) in the fall of 1941. According to T-34: Mythical Weapon
35,595 T-34/76 were produced from 1940-1944 at 6 different factories (7 if you include factory 183 at Kharkov as one and factory 183 at Nizhniy Tagil as another), with a total of 15,014 produced at UTZ, and of that, roughly 3,000 with the commanders cupola. The commander’s cupola was an adaptation from work on the T-34/85 turret intended to give tank commander's a better field of view with less exposure to enemy fire.
Kit 6564 from Dragon Models
is packaged in a sturdy box with attractive artwork on the cover and many of the kit features shown on the box sides and bottom. (This comment is a bit tongue-in-cheek for those of you who appreciate a good review of the packaging.) Although all sprues are not individually bagged, there was no breakage in my kit.
If you follow the instructions you can build a T-34 m43 in 10 easy steps...quite a feat - much like the change in production time to build a real T-34 (to build the components for a T-34 hull went from an initial 200hrs to a wartime 36hrs).
Step 1 - Building the roadwheels, idler, and sprocket:
The kit includes half-spider road wheels with lightening holes that are accurate compared to the scale drawings and appear to replicate the real wheel detail very well. The idler and sprocket are also accurate when compared to drawings and photos. Sprocket parts P20/P21 are called for, but parts L3/4 could also be used. Parts D8/9 CANNOT be used and don't exactly match any sprocket I have seen, but hey, they are not needed.
Step 2 - The addition of the suspension to the lower hull:
The inaccurate "double bump" stop for the first roadwheel is still present from previous T-34 kits...but not on the instructions! As is shown in the instruction drawing, there should only be one stop. This area is hard to see after construction, but for accuracy's sake they could be removed and one of the stops relocated. Also, the instructions say to use part C8 for the lower front, which does not have rivets to be removed AND has an inside cut to the plate that does not seem accurate for this tank. As far as I can tell, this should actually be part B10, which DOES need to have the rivets shaved off. Part A6, the axle for the front idler, should be left loose until the tracks are put on to allow for better fitting to avoid the need for the dreaded "half track" piece (a gap that is half the size of one track piece). The lower hull also does not include the "track pin hammer", a protruding plate on the lower hull by the final drive. This was used to "hammer" track pins, that would loosen up towards the lower hull, back into the tracks and were known to be added to factory No. 183 tanks starting in 1942 and were a common occurrence...a miss for a No.183 specific tank.
Step 3 - Adding the back transmission cover and details to the lower hull:
Part G5 is correct, but there are only two hinge points (correct) on the actual part, not the three shown in the instructions. I am not sure if this is all that is in Step 3 as there are a lot of small sub-assemblies that are being built on this page, but I will cover the rest below.
Step 4 - Adding the lower and upper hulls and LOTS of details:
DML packs as much assembly per step as possible. For the cooling fan access hatch, you get either a solid plastic piece with molded on screen (B15) or a piece ready to accept the photo-etch screen/frame included in the kit (P19). P19 is a better “open” hatch than DML has offered in the past, but it still needs trimming on the inside front edges (towards the engine bay) to allow it to sit fairly flush with the deck. This was not a precision engineered piece on the real tank but it looks awkward as molded, so while DML keeps trying to improve this piece, they are still a bit off the mark. The PE screen and squared-off edging is about 2mm too big for the opening in the hatch and the interior edge of the hatch shows under the screen. It appears that the opening is correct in size and the PE is wrong. I do not have any aftermarket PE on hand, but I do have DML's #6359 SU-100 Premium kit and the PE Screen and edging is the correct size in that kit, so DML had something on hand that would work. Another disappointment.
The upper hull correctly adds part L8 for the front glacis, but the instruction drawing shows the piece with the wrong opening for the hull MG cover. Also, at this point you can make the hull MG port for the MG or for the flame thrower variant (parts U16/U17/U15) BUT this necessitates a move of the radio antenna pot. More on that later. DML's instructions do not even mention that the U parts replacing the MG parts are for the OT-34, let alone that the antenna must be moved. The fender mounted box (parts H10-H13) gets replacement hinges, which are very nice but VERY tiny to work with. With careful work the added detail is worth it.
Step 5 – More hull detailing:
Part B22 is correct for the rear upper hull back plate, but be careful not to trim out the hinge detail INSIDE the hinge. It may be hard to make sure what is sprue and what is detail, so dry fit the piece to G5 to get an idea of what to remove. Instead of using PE parts MA11, I would use parts E2 for the tie downs...they are more accurate, representing welded on rods. While PE part MA10 is incorrect as flat metal, it is better than the molded on detail it replaces. Care should be taken adding the tiny PE piece for part C11 (stowage box) and C11 will not fit well on the fender as is...some of the fender detail (the bolted plate) will have to be partially removed for it to fit correctly. While you are at it, remove the rod tie down just behind this area on the fender and replace with part E2. The radio antenna and mount (A8-A10) need to be relocated, and the mount modified, to the back of the turret if making the OT-34 version as the flame thrower system took up that space in the hull. DML missed this.
Step 6 - The Commanders cupola and main gun/mantlet assembly:
Everything with the cupola is correct dimensionally, and the separate periscopes are a nice touch. The only problem at this step seems to be at the end of the main barrel, the “tip” or "collar" - which is too elongated. While the barrel is nicely pre-hollowed out of slide-molded plastic, it is not the correctly done metal barrel that DML has included in other kits in the past. They could have easily copied their own metal barrel. Part K12, the Coaxial MG, is NOT hollow molded.
Step 7 - The turret roof:
All details are correct for a No.183 m43 tank, including the roof molded "soup can" optics cover in front of the gunner's hatch.
Step 8 - Putting the turret together:
The turret shape and dimensions match the drawings in T-34: Mythical Weapon
Step 9 - External fuel tanks:
Here lies my biggest problem. In the instructions, and indeed on the box bottom, there is discussion of "new" fuel tanks as parts F18-F21...but the parts are not included in the kit and are not shown on the parts breakdown. So you have to use the old tank halves, parts M7-M10. This will involve sanding off the molded on straps...a big disappointment. But the highlight of the kit is the new ACCURATE tank mounts...made from 8 pieces of PE and 1 plastic kit piece. This is a MUCH more accurate representation of the mounts than in previous kits I have seen.
PLEASE NOTE, the instructions incorrectly label part MA19 as MA23 in the general build drawing...they are correctly labeled in the magnified drawing of the mount setup. However, DML only tells you to build 2 fuel tanks but a vehicle built at No.183 typically came with 3...two on the right side and one on the left. DML have given you enough PE pieces for 3 fuel tanks, but you will need to make a third piece of C17 since the third kit piece is used in step 8 on the turret rear (this should be simple, it would only be a rod). You may also need to add one more set of handles to one of the fuel barrels as there are only 4 PE handles in the kit (I say maybe as sometimes the barrels were so close together you could not see the handles).
Step 10 - Final assembly:
The tracks are DML's Magic Tracks and represent the "standard" 550mm track type of one with a guide horn and the next without. These tracks have holes in BOTH tracks and are labeled on page 474 of T-34: Mythical Weapon
as the winter type. The DML tracks have proud knock out marks that need to be sanded off each link. While DML got the number of hand rails correct for a late '43 production tank, the rails are too long and thus become incorrectly placed compared to the T-34: Mythical Weapon
drawings from pgs 473/474. Finally, railing part P15 on the cooling fan cover appears to be incorrect for factory No. 183.
If you have gotten yourself safely to this point, you now have a Factory No. 183 T-34/76 with commander's cupola. Congratulations!
The markings options are for 4 different vehicles, 3 Russian and 1 Czechoslovakian. All are for 1943-1945. They are well printed and look thin, but I cannot comment further until I use them.
Overall, I am cautiously pleased with this kit. It does have a number of small, annoying issues, 1 moderate one (the fuel tanks) and one big one (the PE engine screen). The instructions are VERY busy, incorrect in places, and omit important information. The parts included are very nicely detailed, but it can be very confusing to find all the correct parts, especially when there are multiple sprues with the same ID letter, 2 different sprues both labeled as C for instance. But since this kitting has so many partially used sprues, you get a lot of parts for the spares box.
In some ways this is a well thought out kit, (the fuel tank mounts, the rework of the fan housing cover, the OT-34 parts) and in other ways it seems like a rushed project (the PE deck screens, the incorrect main gun barrel, and the fuel barrels). The instructions are sloppy to the point where correct parts are included in the kit, but not mentioned. A little more effort, maybe as little as a couple of days to do extra proofreading or parts fit, would have helped immensely, since DML already has fixes for these problems in other kits in their range. But this kit CAN be built as a T-34/76 m43 Factory 183 or OT-34 OOB, just not the best way.
Recommended with slight reservations.
T-34: Mythical Weapon
– Airconnection Publishing - by Robert Michulec and Miroslaw Zientarzewski
Soviet Tanks in Combat 1941-45 (T-28, T-34, T-34/85, and T-44 medium tanks)
– Concord Publishing No. 7011 - by Steve Zaloga
Russian Armor: T-34 Medium Tank 1939-43
– Ian Allen Publishing - by Mikhail Baryatinskiy
A Build Log
has been started on the Forums to evaluate the kit construction.