by: Andras [ ]
I have built the T-54-1 (model 1947 as it was called in the Soviet Union) previously, and I would like to refer you to that article as a lot of the parts are actually common with this kit, it being the modified version of the tank (model 1949). The main change is the shape of the turret: the new turret eliminated most of the shot-traps of the original T-54-1 turret’s in the front. The gun mantlet was redesigned as well, making it narrower (pig snout mantlet), and the frontal part of the turret received increased armor protection. The DShKM MG was mounted on a redesigned cupola ring on the loader’s hatch.
The tank has received a wider set of OMSh tracks in order to be able to cope with the weight better. The external fuel tanks were changed to the stamped version used in most Cold War tanks, with fuel lines to make the fuel easier to access. Only about a 1000 tanks were built of this version before the final T-54 version, the T-54-3 or T-54 model 1951 entered production in 1951. Unfortunately I have not yet had a chance to see the full interior version of this model, but based on the T-54-1 models it should be organized the same way: with the omission of a few sprues this model transforms into a version with simplified interior.
Just to have a quick demonstration: common sprues in both T-54-1 and this T-54-2 kit: A, Ba, Ca, C, G, Gb, J, Hj, Hd, Hk, Ke, Kb, Kc, Kd. The model has 714 parts total (625 plastic), which is a considerable reduction from the over 1000 parts the full version has. Still, even the “simplified” version is more complex than your average 1/35 scale tank, so it’s not going to be a weekend build. There are some prominent changes from the T-54-1 version, which are nicely represented in this model.
The main changes are the following: the tracks are the wider types now; the turret has changed, as did the gun mantlet, the mud guard mounted machine guns are gone, and in their place we have the square, stamped fuel tanks (with fuel pipes provided, so you don’t have to find online references to replicate them). The un-ditching log migrated to the back of the tank.
We do get a rudimentary turret and hull interior, so the tank does not look completely empty if you open the hatches. It is very much simplified; we get the same basic parts as with the full interior model, only the details are missing. (You get the tie downs for the fire extinguishers in the hull, but not the cylinders themselves, for example.) Major differences are from the full interior version: simplified gun breech, fewer interior details in the turret, no ammunition, fewer detail in the hull interior, no engine. The exterior of the tank is literally the same as the “full” versions.
The instructions are, as usual, excellent. They come in the form of an A4 format booklet with clearly laid out drawings of assembly. In some cases it would be nice to see the parts together, but in general they are easy to follow. The painting guide uses Mig Ammo colors, and gives an option of a total of three vehicles, all painted green.
The first set of steps in the instructions detail the assembly of the functional torsion bar suspension. Since I am in the process of building the Tamiya T-55, I can say the assembly is more detailed (but also more complex). The working suspension will come in handy when positioning the wheels, but it is a static model; the tracks are not workable. (Finally this claim has been dropped from the box…) The first and fifth suspension units are connected to the shock absorbers- even this assembly is movable if you glue the parts carefully. There are several tiny parts making up the torsion bar housings and the swing arms, but the seams are placed in areas where they would be covered by other parts fortunately.
As I said, there is some interior included. The hull is assembled using multiple parts; we don’t get a one-piece “tub”. There will be some surgery needed at step 16 where parts of the side walls will need to be shaved off carefully. The engine deck consists of several sub-assemblies that form a somewhat complex set of hatches. The cooling flaps in the air intakes can be positioned open or closed, and they are protected by a very set of nice PE grilles. Some delicate plastic parts (C1, C2, C27, C28) are quite difficult to handle without breaking them; it’s much more simpler to just make a replacement using wire. Smoke canisters are installed similarly to how the real thing was: the PE straps hold the tiny plastic rods that are fixing them to the back of the hull, along with the mechanism that allows to them to be released. Altogether it’s a pretty impressive construction.
The un-ditching log looks very convincing; the wooden texture was recreated very nicely. The towing lines were provided as plastic parts; MiniArt is being very optimistic about the chances of being able to bend and fit them into their places. Better get some picture hanging wire, and use the plastic eyes of the cables only. Make sure you cut a wire half a centimetre longer than the plastic part; it’s too short otherwise.
The assembly pretty much follows the T-54-1 in the lower hull; the first real difference is the drive wheels and the idlers -to accommodate the wider tracks (step 32). The track links themselves are really nice; you can see the casting numbers on them. The road wheels are made out of two pieces and a cap; they can be made turnable if you are careful, but the plastic parts holding them to the swing arms of the suspension are small and delicate, and I would not suggest actually turning them; simply glue them in place.
Step 34 onward show the assembly of the mudguards; these are obviously different from the original version. The tool boxes and fuel tanks are different, and instead of cleats we get extra mounted track links. The basic assembly, however, is the same. (Not surprisingly.) The Cold War era stamped fuel tanks have all the plumbing included, which is a very welcome move from MiniArt; previously when I was building other Russian tanks I had to use online drawings and photos to try to replicate these fuel lines.
The turret, as I mentioned, is different. The basic interior layout did not change much - as we don’t really get much to populate it, so the detail is not there. I can compare it to the DML Panzer IVs which have “some” turret interior details, so you can leave the hatches open, but they are not complete by far. The basic gun breach, the coaxial MG, the gunner’s and commander’s seats are included, with some other minor details basically.
The exterior of the turret is the same as the full kits obviously. The DShKM AA machine gun is a complex multimedia assembly of plastic and PE parts; normally I buy aftermarket barrels (or even resin guns) to replace this part, but in this case it’s perfectly suitable; the gun might need to be bored out with a fine drill. There are a lot of very tiny and fragile PE parts which are difficult to manipulate, and of course, we have the usual extremely thin plastic parts with several gates to make cleaning up even more difficult.
Regardless of these issues the model is very well done; these are only minor complaints. The main question is: how much do you save by getting the “downgraded” model of this kit? It does not have considerably fewer parts 714 vs 1045 in the full interior version), so you don’t actually save as much time and effort; it will be a long project. The price might justify it, but then again: with some extra money you can get the “deluxe” version of the very same tank. I know I’m biased in the matter since I prefer full interior models. I do know people did ask for models without interior, so obviously there is a need for these models; and since they are modular designs, it’s quite easy to produce a “simplified” version.