T-34/85 with D5-T gun

Kit # 327 Construction Review by Rob Haelterman

Picture from Henk of Holland website, used with permisison.

A preview of the kit (with scans of the sprues and manual) can be found here.


I bought this kit second hand and it came in a very battered box. Perhaps that is the reason why my eye fell on it when I was looking for a kit that would provide a destroyed Russian tank for a diorama. The fact that the roadwheels come with separate rubber tyres, which are easy to leave off if you want to represent a burnt-out tank (and reputedly eat into the plastic if you do install them) might have been a contributing factor as well.


1. Accuracy

I didn't check the kit for accuracy, apart from a check with the Mk.I eyeball against plans in [2] and [3], but it looks rather ok.
As I have another box with the same kit on the shelf, I fool myself into believing that I will do a complete analysis of the accuracy when I come round to building that one.

(Possible) Inaccuracies that I happened to notice (too late) are that

  • the road wheels have 12 bolts instead of 6.
  • the manual asks you to add strips to the top of the hull sides to reinforce the turret ring. According to [1], this only happened on the ZiS-S-53 equipped tanks; the plans in [2] and a picture in [3] of a D5-T tank show them in place. I would conclude that all except the first D5-T equipped tanks had them and that UM is thus right.
  • the turret cupola should be 40cm further forward on this tank than on the S-53 tanks. UM does provide for a different position than in their later model T-34/85s, but the cupola is still too far aft. It should be centred on the line connecting the widest points of the turret and thus be in line with the loader's hatch [2,3]. [4] claims that very late D5-T tanks might have had the cupola moved further to the back, as for the S-53 tanks.
  • UM asks to fit the sharp hull nose. [1,2,3] would have me believe that this specific variant of the T-34 had the rounded nose, while [4] refers to a picture of a late D5-T tank with a sharp nose. There is no need to wallow in despair however, as the rounded nose is included as well and that's the one I chose.
  • the vent domes on the rear of the turret should perhaps be a bit more towards the centreline [2,3].
  • the turret lacks the prominent lifting rings. I caught this too late.
  • the turret is extremely smooth and lacks cast lines, which is very, very a-typical.
  • no track links are given for the glacis, although I am not sure they were ever installed on this version of the T-34.
  • the single external fuel tank on the left hull is in the rearmost position. Drawings and pictures in [3] (e.g. of "Dimitrii Donskoi", which is one of the marking options) show them in the forward position. I should have paid more attention to this as it is an easy fix.


Note that the position of the radio antenna on the hull is correct, except for very late D5-T tanks [3].
With only about 300 T-34 built with this gun (all in the first months of 1944) pictures to confirm this are rare, though.

A good article on T-34/85 turrets can be found here.


2. Kit features

  • The kit comes with separate fenders, which I find nice, especially as I wanted to leave a part off.
  • The driver's and loader's hatch are molded open but the commander’s hatch is moulded closed.
  • The driver's hatch has separate periscope covers that can be installed open or closed. (Not all manufacturers of T-34 kits offer this option.)
  • The tyres are separate and in rubber/vinyl. Nice for those who hate painting them, or for those that would like to leave them off; not so nice for those that have suffered from a chemical reaction between the vinyl and the plastic. I've been told that coating the plastic in acrylic varnish can help to eliminate this problem.
  • The tow cables are vinyl too and difficult to put into a realistic shape. Better ones are on order.
  • The engine deck comes as a solid plastic deck to which you need to add a rather thickish PE part for the mesh. The problems here are
    • it's difficult to make the PE part conform to the deck;
    • the PE part will sit on top of the deck, not flush with it;
    • you can't see through the holes in the PE due to the plastic underneath.
    • you need superglue, which might clog the openings of the mesh.
  • The tracks are L&L and nicely done in my opinion.
  • The suspension arms are separate, making it easy to change their position.
  • The exhaust pipes are molded separate from their armored covers.


3. Construction

The kit was built mostly out of the box, except for the "necessary" modifications to turn it into a smouldering hulk and some minor alterations.

  • The gun barrel and exhausts were hollowed out.
  • The surface of the turret (which is very smooth in the kit) was roughened up by coating it in glue and then dabbing it with an old stiff brush. This also helps to hide the seam at the back.
  • Bits and pieces are broken off or otherwise damaged.
  • The arms of the roadwheels were repositioned to create extra sag, typical of a burned out tank.
  • The tank was "short-tracked" and a drive sprocket was removed and the axle hollowed out.
  • I left the fuel tanks off, which required some carving to leave the mounts in place. As mentioned earlier, I should perhaps have mounted the left assembly further forward.

I noticed

  • that it is all too easy to insert the gun rotor upside down. The absence of any type of locating pegs for the turret doesn't make assembly any easier.
  • that the plastic is quite soft; those who like to use MEK in liberal quantities risk ruining some of the smaller details.
  • that somewhere along the way I lost the part for the metal sheet that goes on top of the rotor. Scratchbuilding it from plasticard also allowed me to deform it, simulating battle damage.
  • that there are minor sink marks on the boxes on the fenders, which could double as battle damage.
  • that the PE fret is common to most (all ?) UM T-34 based kits.

One other thing to mention is that the kit has butt joints all over. For the big parts, that doesn't matter too much, but for parts like head lights, hand rails, exhausts, etc, it is a problem as the joint will be weak. Worst of all, there are no locating pegs, holes or whatsoever to help you install these parts. Keeping the symmetry thus becomes a real challenge.

Due to casting limitations, UM could not provide the detail on front of the MG mount which comes as an integral part of the upper hull. The fix UM provides is a PE part. I would have preferred that they would just have given the complete MG mount as a separate plastic part; this would have allowed for even better detail and far easier installation.

Further notes are that the handrails are very delicate (even though they are still too thick) and are prone to breaking when you remove them from the sprue.

I have been told that the cupola of the T-34/85 could rotate. That is why mine isn't perfectly aligned, right ?


4. Painting and markings

The tank was painted using the hairspray technique. When I wanted to apply the decals, they splintered upon the first (gentle) touch. This would be a small disaster under normal conditions but actually suited my purpose quite nicely as it would (more or less) correspond to what would happen to a burnt-out tank.



[1] The T-34/85 in the Great Patriotic War, Part One, Brett Green.

[2] T-34 Bloody Peace-Maker Vol III, Ajaks.

[3] T-34 Mythical Weapon, R. Michulec, M. Zientarzewski, Armagedon & Airconnection

[4] The T-34-85 in WWII: A Closer Look, R. Peterson

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Article Last Updated: 06 September 2013

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