T-54B & T-55 Mod. 1958
T-54B: #07281, T-55: #07282 Review by: Simon Barnes - su27flanker(at)btinternet(dot)com
T54B Kit No 07281
T55A Kit No 07282

Both kits are essentially the same with just the turret sprue differing between them.

Although these kits have already been released by both, ACE and PST, these are the first release by a main line manufacturer of these both historically and numerically important tanks.

The T54 and the later T 55 have in one guise or another, been involved in many conflicts around the globe and there are many examples in museums around the world, the fact that so far all the producers of the kits are from countries who in one guise or another have either manufactured or used the T 54/55, you would have thought that maybe one of them could have got it right!

So let’s start by looking at the kits, both come set out on 4 sprues with the turret sprue differing between the kits, the hull bottom and top come as separate pieces, the hull tub comes with the suspension arms moulded in place and is very well done apart from the ejector pins hole on the underside of the suspension arms, these are really a minor problem as unless the vehicle is going to be displayed upside down, they are not going to be seen. The underside details differ slightly from the ACE kit but match the Tamiya kit, having never been underneath a T54/55 I can not say which is correct, but the details are in the correct position, only the recessed escape hatch should be flush with the bottom of the hull and not as it is depicted. The front has the correct cut away angles on the lower glacis, which also has no engineering attachment points for either the T-54 or the T-55, this is not incorrect, as I have seen plenty of pictures of both tanks like this, but I would say that it is more common to have them fitted than not, and although these are easy to replicate, given that they are a common feature, it would have been easier to include them on the kit or to do as Tamiya have done and supply the part separate, something that maybe they meant to but forgot? Moving to the rear plate, there are locating holes for the fuel drums, these are 4 largish square holes and are present on both kits, however only the T 55 kit provides the fuel drums, these are not present on the T 54 kit, meaning that the holes have to be filled, as the hull tub is marked inside as a T 54 model 1952 it seems odd that the drums are missing or that the holes weren’t flashed over, either way it is plausible for a T 54B to be fitted with the fuel drums.

Moving to the upper hull, on both kits the inside is marked as a T 54 model 1952 and here lies the problem, more specifically in the engine deck, the kit features two rectangular access hatches immediately behind the turret, while this is correct for a T 54, it is incorrect for a T 55, where the right hand access hatch is a completely different shape, moving back the radiator openings lack the mesh screens seen on the real vehicles, the detail on the model is correct for what is underneath these screens, the radiator hatch itself has an odd kink on the rear edge, whereas it should be straight. Moving further back to the fan, we have a further oddity in that the protective grill is only shown on the left side and not on the right! Even if we presume that the cover has been lost for some reason, the armoured cover shown in place should have a small bulge in it to clear the fan itself. Moving to the front the glacis does have the correct bevelled edges, the drivers hatch is moulded shut and there is a noticeable absence of any electrical wiring for the lights. Also missing from the T 54 is the hull mounted MG, although in reality this was only a small hole to the right of the driver and difficult to replicate. The other oddity of this kit is the weld on the front of the glacis, with it being marked as a T 54 you would have thought that the weld line would have followed the T 54 but no the weld line follows that of a T 55 and runs straight across the lower edge whereas the T 54 should have a definite cut out for the interlocking plates of the lower and upper glacis plates. Apart from the glaring mistakes and omissions the hull is very nicely moulded with some nice details but missing any weld structure whatsoever.

T 54 T 55

(Note, the T54 deck shown is the early layout for the radiator grills, later models switched to the T 55 style, however the engine access doors stayed the same)

Next we move to the wheels, these come on two sprues both exactly the same, each contain 5 sets of road wheels, the idle and drive sprocket, plus tow hooks and lifting hooks for the turret as well as the hand rails and hull extensions for the turret. The sprocket and idler wheels are very nicely done, the road wheels would be the best if not for the fact that trumpeter had decided to show the mould lines for the rubber tyres, this would be heavy even in 1/35 scale but in 1/72 it is absolutely ridiculous and ruins a perfectly good wheel, of course it can all be removed, but it is a tedious job plus the fact that it needs to be done 20 times make the opportunity for making an error that much greater, given the fact that you want to preserve the delicate rims of the wheels. The plastic handholds for the turret are slightly oversized and could do with replacing.

The next sprue contains the fuel tanks, exhaust, the various tool bins, oil tank, main gun, lights and lower turret. The fuel cells are nicely moulded and at least have a depiction of the locking mechanism for holding them in place, the tool bin has some nice detail to the top but is missing any of the characteristic side ribbing. The exhaust has the ribbed heat shield as part of the exhaust instead of being stood away from the exhaust, the main problem comes from the main gun and pig snout mantlet, whilst the main gun itself is nicely moulded and so is the mantlet, the whole assembly is missing the dust cover seen on every operational T 54/55, the only vehicles I have seen without it have either been burned out or in a museum, and I can’t see many people wanting to depict it that way, the dust cover will have to be made or source from somewhere else.

The final sprue contains the turret, in the case ot the T 54 it contains also the correct ZIP pannier small tool box and one of the best DshK MGs I have seen, the commanders hatch is moulded shut as is the loaders hatch. The turret itself is a bit of an oddity, in that despite being labelled as a T 54B the turret is and early version missing the main gun sight in front of the commanders cupola this would have been most common for a T 54A, the fact that the sprue is labelled (as is the rest of the tank ) as a model 1952 almost definitely makes this a T-54A as the B version didn’t start production until 1957, taking into account that the B version also introduced the Luna IR system sadly missing from this kit, back to the turret, having established that this is a very late A (given the IR driving lights and fume extractor for the main gun, around 1955) the details on the turret are correct and although the roof plates are depicted no weld detail around them is shown, the closed commander hatch and the poor definition of where the hatch stops and cupola starts distorts this area slightly, it is correct and would benefit from an open hatch or better detail of where the hatch meets the cupola. The turret itself whilst essentially correct in shape, suffers only from the fact that it is slightly too small, something that might not be noticed, by all but the very die hard fans.

The T 55 turret sprue contains a T 55A turret, along with the fuel drums and correct zip panniers, which are also sadly lacking any side detail or ribbing noticeable from any picture, again like the T 54 turret it is correct in detail and shape, with a slight reservation on the size as noted on the T 54 turret, again missing any weld detail the T 55 turret also suffers from the poor definition around the turret hatches. Unlike the T 54 the bolt detail around the commanders cupola is slightly overdone and the gunners sight in front of the cupola whilst having nice detail to the top has been left open at the front, normally there would be a round cover. The fuel drums come in two parts, while there is some nice detail on the barrels the mount are slightly simplified.

The tracks are of the rubber band variety! An although trumpeter claim that these can be glued with normal plastic cement I have yet to have any success, which is a crying shame as they are the best T-54/55 tracks available.

As usual Trumpeter have not gone overboard on the markings with just two options for each vehicle, the T 54 has markings for two soviet tanks, one from the Czech uprising and one generic Guards emblem. The T 55 has a set of numbers for a Russian vehicle and one set of Czech markings. The decals are well printed and in register but lack any information about what they are supposed to be depicting.

T 54B T 55

I would like to say that these are nice models, they will build out of the box into something that represents a T 54/55. Trumpeter like so many of their kits have made a nice kit that fits together well but is full of glaring mistakes and these mistake are not from a lack of mold producing technology but rather lack of research, the box says “scale models for adult collectors, not a toy” and yet that is what it is a toy, something that without a lot of work will not build into an accurate representation of what it is supposed to be. The PART PE set will improve this model and will fit for the most part. But the basic kit is missing so many details, the unditching log prevalent on all soviet vehicles, the T 55 is missing the small tool bin on the rear left fender, the snorkel. The thin strip around the engine bay for attaching the snorkelling equipment, tie downs to the turret, any form of positioning lights around the hull, the small light on the rear of the turret, any form of tow rope, spare track links and the dust cover for the main gun, all of these will have to be source or made from scratch. The only thing I would say is that the kit is for some the better starting point than either the ACE or PST, and whilst the ACE kit is still the most accurate of the 3 it is not every ones cup of tea.


Soviet/Russian Armour and Artillery Design Practices:1945 to Present by A.Hull, D. Markov and S.Zaloga, Darlington Productions

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Article Last Updated: 1 January 2009