Book Review
Modelling the T-55 Main Battle Tank

by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]


One of the common factors in Soviet (post-war) MBT design was their longevity of service, a design criteria which allowed significant updates on the basic model. The T-55 is a vehicle which has served for 50 years in dozens of Armed forces and can still be seen today in the news images from the world's 'flash-points' . With the dozens of 'local' variants and modifications which have marked its evolution, it should come as no surprise that it is a rich vein for modellers....

The book - overview.

In this section, I will simply be looking at the 'raw data' of the book, the next section will contain my impressions.

Modelling the T-55 Main Battle Tank (Osprey Modelling # 20) is written by a 'team' consisting of Nicola Cortese, Samuel Dwyer & Graeme Davidson and is edited by Robert Oehler. The book consists of 80 pages and is a soft-cover paperback.

The format is the well-established one for all the Osprey Modelling Series. An introduction, a section on Tools and Materials and (in this case) four build projects, three in 1/35th and the fourth in 1/72nd scale.

Chapter Headings:


Tools and materials

(Project) Czechoslovakian T-55AM2B (Kladivo)

(Project) Knocked-out Iraqi Type 69 - II (1/72nd scale)

(Project) T55A, Northern Alliance Forces, Afghanistan

(Project) Bosnian T-55/M-18 Hellcat hybrid

T-55 model gallery

Further reading and research

Kits and accessories


Colour reference chart

The book also contains many dozens of (high-quality) color photos showing both 'in-progress' and finished models.


The immediate impression one receives from this book is one of order. The Consultant Editor - Robert Oehler , has done an impressive job in tying together four highly-complex build-articles and keeping them within the restraints imposed by the format of this series. The subject itself is an extremely complex one. The four 'subjects' of the book are graded according to complexity, only one is categorized as 'intermediate' level, the other three are one at 'Advanced' and two at 'Master' level....

Going (chronologically) through the book, the introductory chapter - 'Tools and Materials' is brief but concise. The essence here is a commonsense approach to the essentials for weathring painting and construction.

The Builds:.

The first - a Czechoslovakian T-55AM2B is a major update using the Tamiya T-55 as the basis for the most striking of the four models, although the conversion is classed as 'Intermediate' it does at first seem quite a daunting project with some interesting and informative detail on some useful techniques which are very much in the 'other applications' category....

The second, a Knocked-out Iraqi Type 69 - II, is a fascinating exercise in something that all of us want to try and few of us acheive convincingly. This for me has to be one of the strongest chapters in dealing with a KO'ed vehicle in a subtle and believable manner - knocked out, with obvious signs of damage (but not the effect of a TacNuke - as is so often the case in some models). More than anything else, this is an informative exercise in both weathering and building and is one of the real highlights of the book...

The third project - T55A, Northern Alliance Forces, Afghanistan, is the only 1/72nd vehicle in the book. The size of the model belies the complexity and work which has been realized on it. This is a major rebuild with an extraordinary amount of add-ons. Few who would read this chapter would doubt that taken to its logical level, 1/72nd can be every bit as detailed as 1/35th - in the right hands....

The final project: Bosnian T-55/M-18 Hellcat hybrid, is undoubtedly my personal favorite. Why anyone (in the real world) would attach an M-18 turret onto a T-55 hull, beggars belief. As the subject of a 1/35th scale model, it comes very much into the 'I'm damn glad they did it' category. This is one of those models that I would love to build and the author has done full justice to this weirdest of subjects. Again, there is a large level of modification necessary - virtually the entire interior is built along with additional detailing on the interior of the turret. This not being sufficient, the engine is also presented with the hatches open - a showstopper in every sense of the word...

All the projects are complex, all of the authors present different solutions to overcome particular problems in the subject. Herein lies the real value of THIS book. Three different authors, three different techniques in construction, painting and weathering. None of the projects in the book would be suitable for the beginner, in fact, in the foreword, the editor states that projects at 'entry-level' were deliberately left out. There are a number of possible explanations. Not wishing to speak for the authors, I would see the subject, the T-55, as a vehicle which is extremely complex and benefits a 'treatment' which reflects that complexity. Several vehicles come into that category in my opinion - the majority of them Russian due to the production of 'export models' and the modifications which have been dictated at 'local-user' level.

This book is clearly aimed at the modeller with some experience in update / conversion sets, certainly, some of the techniques presented are complex.. That said, there can be few modellers who wouldn't learn something from the book, whether it be aspects of scratchbuilding or weathering or simply 'inspiration' for a future project.

It's an excellent book, but as is said in the introduction: "Those seeking a simple, 'out of the box build' should simply follow the kit's instructions...". A book for those who wish to master new techniques, not a book for those obsessed with technique....

Highly Recommended

Acknowledgements and the supplement....

Armorama would like to express its gratitude to Osprey Publishing Ltd for supplying this and many other review samples...

As an added 'bonus' , an extra chapter has been added 'on-line' The subject of this additional project is Modelling the T-55 (Somali Army Variant) and it can be obtained (on PDF format), Here!!! - definitely a nice detail from Osprey
To produce a book on modelling one of the most complex AFV subjects would be a daunting process for any author. The authors of this book have produced, in my opinion, one of the most complete books in Osprey's highly useful modelling series....
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: 1841769002
  Suggested Retail: $18.95
  PUBLISHED: Feb 01, 2006

About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. All rights reserved.


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