Soviet SU-100 & SU-85 Tank Destroyers of WW2
by Stephen 'Tank Whisperer'
Brezinski - sbrez(at)suscom-maine(dot)net
Edited by Rob Haelterman
A lot has been changed and updated since I first built my AER/TOGA model’s SU-100 and wrote my review for On The Way back in the year 2000. While these models were the best, actually the only, 1/72 SU-100 and SU-85 in styrene in 2000, they now have competition. New 1/72-scale models have been released by UM and by Dragon and our standards for accuracy and detail in our models, and standards in our kit reviews, have also become more demanding. Please note tha,t though these kits are -or were - sold under different manufacturer’s names; I will refer mostly to AER Model Studio Company as they were the most commonly found.
Compared to ESCI, these kits came in the mid-1990s from the relatively new Belorussian and Russian manufacturers to the US and to Western Europe. Besides these two Soviet WW2 assault gun/tank destroyers a T-34/85 tank and a number of ZIS truck variants were also offered under the Coopertiva, Toga, PST and AER company names. Except for box art, instructions and decals, all these kits under the different company names are the same.
The SU-85 was developed from the T-34/76 as a turretless, well armored self-propelled 85 mm gun, in order to provide a more effective self-propelled antitank gun and for infantry support like the German Sturmgeschütz and Jagdpanzer IV. As the T-34/76 was up-gunned to the T-34/85, the SU-85 was in turn up-gunned to the SU-100 with a 100 mm gun, in order to deal more effectively with the German Panther and Tiger tanks. Entering service in 1944, it continued on post-war with the Soviet Union and its European allies, in Korea, and in the Middle East.
Each kit comes in about 118 injection molded styrene parts of which 52 parts are the hard styrene link & length tracks. I found surface detail to be respectable and the SU-100’s size matches Esci's 1/72 scale T-34 well. [No, I did not measure it out to check exact scale.] Getting the SU-100 first, I anticipated that the SU-85 would be essentially the same kit though with a few new parts, since they were very similar vehicles. In actuality the two model kits are different entirely. While they both have similar construction steps, the same tracks and approximate quality of surface detail, it appears to me that the SU-100 is more 1/72 scale and the SU-85 kit is slightly smaller in some dimensions. The SU-85 has the dish-style T-34 roadwheels as well. The SU-100 kit has a mediocre rendering of an all-steel roadwheel that was common to the T-34 of 1942 and 1943, not the SU-100 of 1944 and 1945.
Another odd error with the SU-100 (and its companion T-34/85 kit) is that AER placed the larger roadwheel gap between the vehicle’s third and fourth roadwheels when this gap actually should be between the second and third roadwheels! I did not catch this until after I built the kit. This error can be fixed during construction by shaving off the third axle from the front, and then repositioning it slightly back. This wheel spacing detail on the SU-85 kit is correct. As this is not a full construction article I refer to the many excellent references on the web and in our bookstores for better clarification.
I noted quite a problem with fit with on my SU-100, particularly with the superstructure and lower hull. It required much filling and sanding to close off the gaps. Like other AER kits, the styrene seemed much softer than what I've encountered with Revell and Hasegawa kits. Extra care then must be taken so as not to sand off too much plastic or break parts. A plus is that the tracks come in molded "link & length" styrene sections like PST and the later Esci kits; except that the Russian kits have well-formed track teeth which are missing from many ESCI styrene tracks. The tracks went together well and were among the best in this scale I've seen at the time I assembled my model about 10 years ago. The engine and driver’s hatches I modeled open and a simple engine, driver’s seat and gun breach built. There is no detail on the inside of the SU-100’s driver’s hatch, though there is detail on the inside of the SU-85’s driver’s hatch. Tow cables were made from twisted copper strands. Etched brass frets for the SU-100 are made by both Eduard (#22 019) and by PART (#P72021). I have not noted any frets made for the SU-85 though many brass parts for the SU-100 would be in common with both AFV’s. PART also makes 1/72 etched brass T-34 tracks suitable for these kits.
Toga's kit instructions are adequate and clear, though not as good as AER's. Painting guides are on the box art and instruction sheet. When assembled back in 2000 I used a medium Humbrol forest green enamel paint, though I usually prefer Poly-Scale acrylics. No decals were offered in my kit, which is odd, since markings and slogans were common on Soviet armor late in the war. I borrowed some decals from AER’s Zis-5 truck kit.
Though the kit has some problems (and what kit doesn't ?) an intermediate level builder should be able to build this into a fine looking model. I recommend this kit for a beginner to intermediate builder, especially for a wargamer where historical accuracy is not as critical. I would refer a display modeler to an UM or Dragon SU-100 or SU-85 models.