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T-54-3 Model 1951 Conversion



S u m m a r y

Stock Number and Description Panzershop 1/35 Scale Warsaw Pact Series Conversion Kit No. PS35218; T-54-3 Model 1951 for Tamiya T-55 Kit No. 35257
Media and Contents: 30 parts in grey resin
Price: price USD$37 from Chesapeake Model Designs  http://www.chesapeakemodels.com
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: Conversion designed to fit Tamiya T-55A kit makes conversion a snap; most parts provided, but serious modelers will need a set of brass for this kit
Disadvantages: Requires a good deal of skill and patience to get a good result; not for the "slap and dash" modeler; wheels are incorrect and not up to rest of kit's standards (see text)
Recommendation: Recommended for all Soviet and Third World Armor fans


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

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F i r s t L o o k


I have always been a big fan of the T-54 and T-55 series tanks, and was pretty unhappy over the short shrift given them by the model industry. Four relatively lousy kits over 30 years is a pretty bad showing, considering that in the same time frame probably 20 different kits of Tiger I were issued by various manufacturers. At last, at the end of 2002 my prayers were answered with the magnificent Tamiya four-way T-55 kit.

The after-market boys have also wasted no time coming up with conversions for that kit to turn it into other things, and PanzerShop of the Czech Republic now offers kits to turn it into the earlier tanks. While so far they do not offer the very early ones, T-54 Model 1946 and T-54 Model 1949, they now offer T-54 Model 1951 and the T-54A and B.

The differences are pretty obvious to most people who follow Soviet armor, but to recap, here are the main salient points:

  • T-54 Model 1946, also called T-54-1: T-34-85 like turret with massive undercut all the way around the turret; wide mantelet; D-10T gun with no bore evacuator; very early ones have two cylindrical fuel tanks on right fender, and two 7.62mm machine guns in armored boxes on the fronts of the fenders; 12-spoke cast wheels and 500mm wide metallic hinge (closed tooth drive opening) tracks.

  • T-54 Model 1949, also called T-54-2; new design turret with smooth hemispherical front half and M48-type bustle at the rear; single 7.62mm machine gun located to left of center in middle of glacis; cylindrical external fuel tanks replaced by flat stamped-steel ones; tracks enlarged from 500mm width to 580mm width.

  • T-54 Model 1951, also called T-54-3; new totally hemispherical turret with no bustle and no overhang; new gunner's sight and other modifications. First mass production variant of the tank (only 1,700 T-54 Model 1946 and Model 1949 tanks were built over five years.)

  • T-54A, also called T-54A Model 1955; new D-10TG gun provided with bore evacuator and "Gorizont" single-axis (vertical) stabilizer ; new gunner's sight (TSh-2A-22) provided; tank now given dual headlights (one IR, one white light) on the glacis. (This is also a PanzerShop kit, PS-35219, available for $37)

  • T-54B, also called T-54B Model 1957; final basic T-54 model with D-10T2S gun and new "Tsiklon" two-axis stabilizer; new gunner's sight (TSh-2B-22) provided as well as a new night sight (TNP-1-22-11); turret basket/floor provided; a third flat fuel tank added to front right fender; IR searchlights added for gunner and commander; OPVT underwater snorkel gear fitted; new ZIP storage bins added to the fenders. (This is also a PanzerShop kit, PS-35220, available for $29.)

Note that none of these tanks carried the twin rear-mounted 55 gallon (200 liter) tanks as built; those that did carry tanks usually carried two smoke pots at the rear in lieu of the later TDA smoke generator in the engine exhaust pipe. Later T-54 tanks carried one 200 liter tank between the smoke pots, but as built the tanks mounted nothing.

The kit from Panzershop analyzed here is for the T-54 Model 1951 and provides the main items which were changed over the course of the tank's life. This includes a new turret with a second MK-14 viewer for the gunner in place of the night sight, the armored ventilator cover on the right side of the turret roof, a new stern plate for the hull, a new rear engine deck with the early T-54 style single wide radiator air intake and no fording covers, a new front engine deck with T-54 style access doors, and a new set of road wheels.

The basic parts of the set are excellent, but the road wheels are a bit of a disappointment. As near as anyone can figure, they appear to be wheels from a T-34-85 (probably DML) that have been modified to look like T-54 road wheels. T-54 road wheels have 12 cast webs in them, each with a large and small lightening hole between the webs. These wheels only have 6 large full webs, and 6 partial webs; there is evidence that the original single holes (as found on T-34s) were covered up and two new small lightening holes drilled in them. While the appearance isn't too bad, it is not correct, and it is a shame that PanzerShop would try and slide by with this sort of job.

The rest of the kit was pretty well done, but there was a nick in the muzzle of the D-10T gun barrel and thus I will have to get a turned metal one to replace it. (I probably would have anyway, but this gave me no option.)

For those interested, Chesapeake Model Designs does make an accurate set of 12-spoke wheels for the T-54/T-55 series tanks. But it's a shame that a kit that charges $8 extra to provide the wheel set can't get them right.

The directions also do not note the correct allocation of the ZIP boxes on the fenders, as well as the placement of the oil tank and other bits around the tank. Apparently they either missed it or used an upgraded one (brought up to T-54A or B standards) for reference. There are also no racks for smoke pots at the rear of the hull. You will also provide your own mesh screening and underlying louvers ("zhaluzi") for the radiator air intake. (Panzershop does indicate which kit parts can be used for these sections, however.)

Considering the high quality of most of the PanzerShop kits, this one is good for the turret and engine deck bits but a bit of a letdown as to the rest of the stowage and the wheels are an unhappy surprise.

Cookie Sewell

Review Copyright 2003 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 28 June, 2003
Last updated 24 August, 2003

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