ACE has graced the modeling community with several versions of this most ubiquitous main battle tank. I previously wrote a preview of the first kit released, the T-55, which is still mostly valid today. But with more research on my part, and several revisions to the base kit, it warrants a new preview article.
This current kit is the T-55A, which is basically the same as the T-55, but with added NBC (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical) protection added to the tank. This additional protection is visible to the modeler as altered crew hatches, both on the turret, and the driver's position. Also, most T-55As were retrofitted with the 12.7mm AA machinegun common on the earlier T-54.
This kit is primarily the same as the earlier T-55, with some minor additions. First of all, the wheel and track sprues of the original kit have been revised since I built my earlier review kit years ago. Pictured below are the two new sprues, one for the wheels, and one for the tracks. These new wheels and tracks are now included in all of the ACE T-54/55 series of models.
The turret and hull sprues are the same in this kit as the previous T-55 kit. One thing I would like to note, however, which got past me last time, and I have not seen it mentioned in any other review of this kit, is the unique shape of the turret. Most people will agree that this kit has the most accurate turret shape of all T-55 kits in this scale. But one thing that most impresses me about this kit is how ACE correctly "mis-shaped" the turret. If you look closely, you can see that the gun is offset to the right of the apparent turret centerline. The turret appears to bulge out to the left more than the right. In fact, the gun is actually on the centerline of the turret ring (necessary for shooting stability), but the turret is bulged much more prominently on the left side, in order to accomodate both the tank commander and the gunner (with his sighting equipment). This gives the turret sort of a lop-sided shape when viewed from directly above, and it is completely accurate. Both the PST and ARMO T-55 kits missed this particular detail.
The following sprue is unique to this T-55A kit. It includes the new cupolas and crew hatches, the AA machinegun, and other details specific to this version. It is very nicely molded, and appears to have sharper details than the other kit parts.
Markings are included for an amazing seven different vehicles: one Romanian (1989), one Croatian (1991), one Afghanistan Northern Alliance (2001), one Russian Army (2001), one Slovenian (1991) and two Iraqi (Kuwait, 1991). The decals are very thin and very well printed.
Keep in mind the limited-run nature of this kit, and you will be very happy with it. Highly recommended.
Thank you very much to Rafal Niedzielski for providing the review sample.