by: Darren Baker [ ]
Originally published on:
ICM has decided to release their T-34-85 with their Soviet Tank Riders in 1/35th scale. The T-34 tank is a phenomenal beast that caught the German Army out in a big way. The sloped armour and 76mm gun was capable of tackling any tank in the world of the period; the German anti-tank guns of the period could only make the ears ring of the Soviet crews. The only weapon the Germans had to tackle the T-34 effectively was the feared 88mm anti aircraft gun in direct fire mode. The Germans tackled the T-34 with the introduction of the Tiger 1 and Panther tanks. The Tiger 1 defeated the T-34 with heavy armour, the Panther could really be considered a T-34 built to a higher standard and thus an improvement on the base model in some respects.
While the Tiger 1 and Panther were superior tanks there were never enough of them to take on the T-34 in a decisive way, the Soviets always had more T-34’s; there weakness was a lack of trained crews to operate them, poor vision looking out of the tank and poor construction standards. With all that said the T-34 has a good chance of being the greatest tank of World War 2 and it introduced the concept of sloped armour as a way to increase armour thickness while keeping the weight down, this had been done before but this was more effective, this aspect coupled with wide tracks, a capable gun and a diesel engine made the T-34 a very able machine. With the advent of the Tiger 1 and Panther tanks of the German Army the Soviets mounted an 85mm gun that brought it up to speed as regards being a worthy opponent for them and is the subject of this review.
This release from ICM is of course packed in one of their excellent flip top cardboard trays and an additional card lid with the artwork on it. I have criticised ICM on several occasions for packing everything in one re-sealable bag that sometimes results in distortions or damaged parts due breaking free of the sprue. In this offering it would seem that ICM has again paid attention to comments as while still packed in a single bag extra protection has been provided in the form of foam sheeting were it was felt necessary. Even with this added protection I still had one part loose from the sprue and another nearly free as well, a look at the parts does not look to have caused damage on this occasion.
An examination of the sprues reveals little of concern to my mind. There are no ejection pin marks to concern most modellers that I have seen, but there is some very minor ones that will need to be addressed on the inner faces of the hatches if you have them open. On the underside of the lower hull there is a connection point created during its moulding that will need to be cleaned up. The only other potential issue are the flow lines seen on some of the mouldings; none of the mouldings in this example exhibiting the flow lines need work to correct.
The T-34-76 released by ICM in two previous releases has been used as the basis for this model and so a good number of the parts in this model are from these earlier models, but there are also quite a few parts that are marked as unused as a result.
The suspension arms and wheels on this offering are from the previous kit offering and as a result I am happy with what is offered; I did look at the Bovington Tank Museum of the T-34-85 and noted that the drive and idler wheel were a match, but the road wheels are not. The road wheels would appear to be the ‘full spider’ type but are missing the detail in the centre of the boss. I would have liked the suspension swing arms to have been designed with the possibility of being multi-positional but that is not the case. If you don’t mind a little work it would be possible to alter the position, but it would still have been nice if supplied as an option of the box. The tracks supplied in the model are vinyl offerings and are supplied as two lengths for each of the track runs and are joined via the pin and hole method. The moulded detail is very nice and so these tracks could be used, but I myself have become a fan of individual track links or link and length at a push and so I will use alternate tracks. Something that is impressive about these track links is that there are no marks from the moulding process present.
The hull of the model sees ICM provide an interesting touch in the form of seats for the driver and machine gunner, this detail with figures should enable the modeller to get away with having the large drivers’ hatch open. ICM has also provided a nice full MG for the hull which will not be easily seen, but any of it seen will look good. The lower portion of the hull does have the moulding mark I mentioned earlier, but on the plus side there is nice degree of moulded detail present here. I was also please to see that the hull is fully closed and so not open above the wheels.
Looking at the upper portion of the hull reveals some nice touches. The machine gun can be moved vertically and so secured in a place that the modeller likes. I like the fact that ICM has gone to the trouble of providing nice weld beads in most places, but the real thing tends to have what I would call ‘Rough’ welds, the sort of think from a Friday afternoon where the saying is ’that will do’ sort of finish; as such some additional weld detail added by the modeller will improve the look and make your build different to others of the same model.
The air intake and ventilation vents are all made using injection moulded plastic as no photo etch is included with the model, some may frown at this but ICM has done some very nice mouldings here that have a lot of finesse. Under the vents are flaps that can be secured in any position the modeller wants. The exhausts have a short hollow area on them but are still on the thick side, but the holes provide the modeller with a guide to further thin the plastic for better representation. The grab handles and hatch handles are ok, but again could be improved by using metal wire if desired.
The turret is where many readers will want to know what is happening after ICM took flak over the cast detail on their T34-76 offerings, good news the detail has been notably step back and I feel that most if not all will be happy with what ICM is now offering. Looking at the finish of this area the only addition I would consider is extra weld beading. The periscope blocks have been supplied on a clear sprue and I like to see this. The barrel is a single piece with a separate muzzle and so saves the modeller a lot of work; if you wish to replace the barrel RP Model offer one for under £3.
The metal cables for the model have been supplied in vinyl by ICM; this is an interesting approach but metal cables would still improve the look I feel. The fuel tanks stowed along the sides of the hull look reasonable and could be improved by adding some dinks and dents to them. The Dsh tanks supplied for mounting on the rear of the tank are not my favourite aspect of the model as the will be difficult to clean up. Looking at all of the details present on this model I believe it is intended to represent a factory 183 produced vehicle, but I am sure someone will prove me wrong.
Three late war guards units are covered in the decals. Running a finger over the decals does not reveal any issues with thickness, but there is quite a lot of carrier film on some of them. All of the finished vehicles are painted green, but a search of reference in books or online will reveal some more appealing finishes you could go for.
The Soviet Tank Riders Review
An examination of the sprue reveals very little to comment on. There is a little flash on some of the mould seams, but nothing of a level to make clean up difficult. Removal of the parts from the sprue is easy for the most part, but I did find a couple of parts that could have had their connection to the sprue better placed. I will also say that I like the effort ICM has gone to in shaping the equipment to fit the figures.
The winter quilted 2 piece uniform is very nicely replicated, it Russian term is Telogreika and is a quilted jacket and trousers which helps to keep the wearer warm while not being so bulky that it restricts movement. The hats provided for all of the figures are Ushanka which is the fur cap worn by Russian forces, this is again suitable winter wear. All of the figures are wearing mittens that have a separate trigger finger portion; I could not find a specific name for this item. The figures are wearing Sapogi boots worn by Russian forces. The sole of the boot is made of rubber with the foot portion made of leather with the leg portion of the boot being made of water proofed canvas. I will admit that I would have preferred to see at least one of the figures in felt boots or Valenki. The detail on the uniform is very good in my opinion, but some of the crease detail will need to softened I feel.
Moving onto the equipment that is supplied with the figures. Three of these figures are supplied with a Myeshok which is a canvas bag worn on the back and is used to carry any equipment the soldier wants to carry. Each of the figures is supplied with a water bottles, each in its canvas bag, the water bottle was made from aluminium if you want to show one in use. Three of the figures are equipped with PPSh41 machine guns with separately supplied drum magazines; ICM has also supplied a suitable ammunition pouch for those figures. The remaining figure is equipped with a PPS43 Sub-machine gun with folded stock and again a suitable ammunition pouch holder. Lastly each of the figures is supplied a shoulder strap bag, the straps for this could do with some work when attached to the figures. The weapons are good but could be bettered in areas such as the cooling slots and muzzles which are not hollowed.
The faces of the figures are excellent for 1/35th scale injection moulded plastic. The faces all have expressions which are cleanly defined and there is absolutely no reason to replace them with resin offerings. Even the ears are very well replicated which is an area often poorly replicated in figures of this type. The hands have limited finger detail due to the mittens, but detail is still clearly visible in these areas.
A look at this offering from ICM leaves me pleased with the in box contents. There are some aspects that can easily be improved such as the weld bead detail and grab handles, I would also go for after market tracks, but ICM has provided a reasonable offering in the box. The figures now being packaged with this offering make the purchase a no brainer as they are a great combination from ICM. All told I am very happy with what is offered considering the price and detail.