by: Darren Baker [ ]
ICM does a fantastic job of the figures and trucks they release, but how do they do with tracked armour. In this review Darren Baker looks at the Battle of Berlin set just released by ICM to see how they have done with two iconic tanks from World War Two that is available from a large number of manufacturers.
The packaging is what has become the standard for ICM; A substantial cardboard tray and integrated lid plus an extra card lid with the artwork on it; this is I feel up to the rigours of the postal system and so something that ICM deserve praise for. Having had a good look at the sprues that are supplied with this product I have not noted any major issues at this moment. There are no short shots or flash that I can see present and with these both being recent mouldings I would not expect to find these issues. I have noticed flow lines present on a number of the larger parts, but none of these look or feel to have created an issue that will need to be remedied. I particularly like that the parts have been placed with ease of access considered, I have not noted any part that will require the use of anything other than side cutters to remove them as none of the parts appear to be cramped, this may not be important to everyone but I get frustrated when removal of parts becomes more difficult that it needs to be.
Starting with the turret shape and form, generally speaking this aspect of the model looks fine to me. Construction looks to be straight forward and a good level of detail has been provided by ICM. There are two aspects of the turret that I really do not like:
1. There are no clear parts provided where required on the model, this is frustrating when I can see that effort has been made to have separate parts for the optical parts that could have been moulded clear.
2. The second issue for me is the main gun being supplied in two halves; I know that is how it was done for years, but it is a style that no longer needs to be the case. I would normally not be overly concerned and just reach for a turned aftermarket barrel, but the design of this offering will I believe require a company to retool a product for this model.
On a more positive note I like that ICM has provided a reasonable breech for the main gun and so created some detail inside the turret. I am also pleased to see individual track links provided for mounting on the sides of the turret. The detail on the inside faces of hatch doors are good with a mix of moulded details and separately moulded detail parts. I do have a final gripe about the turret and that is, ICM has provided a nice MG mount on the commander’s hatch, where is the MG to mount on it? Finishing on a plus the weld seams look to be well replicated and this is an aspect often overlooked or poorly done.
With this model having been released previously with a full interior the lower hull has separate sides and floor, interestingly the rear of the hull has been moulded as part of the floor and so there are no concerns about correctly positioning the sides. The torsion bars are all present as is the two support frames that the torsion bars go through and the floor of the tank sits on. In addition to the areas mentioned ICM has supplied the engine bulkhead or fire wall, the hull floor where the turret floor would sit into and the upper hull frame behind the driver’s position. The floor pans that run both sides of the floor sections have also been provided and this all adds up to some nice detail, not forgetting that it also provides the modeller with a robust structure to the model. The axle mounts for the model are separately moulded, but even though the torsion bars are provided the suspension is not functional. I do not see this as a bad thing as the swing arms can be set in the position the modeller desires if you remember to remove the small locking lug that is moulded on the arm; these lugs will lock the swing arms in a dead flat surface position. The track adjuster arm, idler wheel mount if you prefer, should not be glued at the point stated as if left free the modeller can decide the track tension they require for their model.
The top of the hull is added to the model fairly quickly during the construction stages. The detail present is quite good due to well represented weld detail not to mention the well replicated bolt detail. The engine cover on the rear deck is supplied as a separate piece and so the addition of an engine is a possibility for a modeller. On the downside there are no photo etched screens provided with the model by ICM, a shame as I know they have them due to including them with the full interior offering of the model. With that all said photo etched sets are easy to come by at a reasonable price and ICM has supplied the frames for the secondary set of covers.
Moving towards the front of the model and the panel above the driver and radio operator is supplied as a separate part by ICM as are the hatches. Sometimes it is the smallest of details that make a model and I am pleased to see the lifting hooks present where required. There is a downside here; it is the same issue that the turret suffers in that the periscopes are not moulded in clear plastic. I would also like to have seen the side skirt elements supplied as separate parts, but that is a wish rather than an expectation. The tools are supplied as separate parts with moulded on clamp detail and so meet my needs, but they are also easily upgraded if required by the modeller.
The tracks are the vinyl rubber type and these are quite good as vinyl rubber tracks go, the only issue I was able to find looking at them for what they are is some ejector marks between the guide horns. Again ICM could have supplied individual track links as they did with the full interior offering. Many of us prefer individual track links and ICM has done a great job on the track link offerings for the turret hangers and it is a pity they did not supply a set as choice. Moving onto the wheels which are well replicated from what I can see. The bolt and hub detail on the road wheels is pleasing and should meet the needs of most modellers easily; the only possible negative here is a lack of detail on the reverse face. The drive wheel is the 9 toothed offering which I believe to be correct. The idler wheel is where things go astray due to there being no detail on the inner face of the wheel nearest the hull, this lack of detail will be visible depending on the set location of the idler.
ICM has provided the modeller with four finishing options for this model:
sPz Abt Feldherrnhalle Hungary March 1945
sPz Abt 503 Danzig March 1945
sPz Abt 501 Ardennes December 1944
Stab sPz Abt 501 Ardennes December 1944
I do have some concerns about the finishing options provided the 4th option is an issue for me as I seem to recall that the use of red was Verboten. The 1st and 2nd option I have no information either way. The decals themselves are reasonably thin, but I can feel them on the transfer paper. Definition and colour is good in my opinion.
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 offering 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 stepped 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.
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.
This offering from ICM is a mixed bag when it comes to what the modeller expects. The Kingtiger is a nice model that could have been superb with the addition of the individual track links and photo etched engine deck grills. There are a couple of wishes as regards this model in the form of an MG for the turret mount and a one piece barrel would have been nice. The T-34-85 is quite a nice model in many respects and could easily be lifted higher with a metal barrel and some work on the fuel tanks. This being a two kit release in one box with a price tag in the mid £45 range is a bargain that could easily be lifted.
Click here for additional images for this review.