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I am always somewhat frustrated when I do an honest job of writing a useful review for not only my fellow modelers, but also for the company producing the kit in the hopes that they take stock of useful recommendations and fix the problems in their kits. Twenty-five years of doing this for Tamiya has shown remarkably deaf ears, which does seem to at least show me where I really stand in the context of the universe! But on occasion others do listen, and this new kit from DML is a great example of that having taken place.
I fully realize that I am not the only one making suggestions or noting problems with kits; but it is nice when the comments I make are the ones that seem to have been acted upon and the corrections made.
One of my favorite kits in recent years was last year's introduction of a brand-new T-34 Model 1940 kit from Dragon Models Limited in Hong Kong. Sharp, precise, accurate and of a version not previously marketed as a ground-up kit (Maquette offered a "Semi-Conversion" using the majority of their T-34-85 "Rudy" kit) it was a tremendous effort and nearly spot-on accurate. But it did suffer from the problem of having a solid radiator exhaust grille at the rear of the hull, which somewhat spoiled a near-perfect kit.
DML has now followed it with a kit of an early model T-34 Model 1941 (the /76 business was never used by the Russians, but a Western convention after the T-34-85 was introduced). Note that this, as it is based on the Model 1940, comes with the "welded" turret. This kit does offer the modeler several choices to fix that problem and some others, which is a very good thing to see in this day and age, and DML must be complimented for adjusting their molds to fit.
For a basic description of the kit – having covered the actual vehicle in some detail in a three-part article for "Military Modelling" (UK) in 2003 (issues Vol. 33 #2, 3 and 4) – it retains a number of common parts from the DML T-34 series kits. The lower hull and sprues A, E, I, M and N from the T-34-85 kits are retained, as are sprues B, C, D, F, J and L from the Model 40 kit. Sprue G has been changed to offer a choice between either a solid rear radiator exhaust grille or an open one. Sprues H and K are unique to this kit, as is a 41-part set of etched brass. This permits the modeler to either use the kit's plastic one-piece fuel tanks mounts (F14) or make new ones from four sections of etched bras (eight are required, so you are in for some fiddly bending if you use them.)
The new radiator exhaust grille (parts G25 and insert MA1) is of the early open type and lacks the stiffener bars that were quickly added. DML provides them as separate parts (MA7). Also included is a cardboard photo of the engine bay directly below the grille area. Missing are the two full-width louvers for the opening (reproduced on the photo) but as the mesh is fine and the photo is close enough (the original parts WERE black and white when new) it should be fine as is.
There are a few minor things to watch for. On the lower hull, a purist would want to remove the rectangular guards in front of the suspension arm mounting holes and also the forward of the two jounce stops (the L-shape "thingy" at the front of the sides of the hull that keeps the arms from going too far up and snapping off).
The rest is pretty straightforward, and if you have built any of the other DML T-34s then you should have no problems with this one. A good suggestion (which Steve Zaloga reminded me of while discussing the Model 1940 kit) is to leave the front idler adjustment arm (parts A6) loose (mount the wheels to the arm though) in order to get the tracks to fit correctly. T-34 track links are paired, and if you cement them in place you may not get the links to fit. The alternative is taking a "B" (without a guide tooth) link and cutting it down as a "cheater" to hide the fact that the links did not come out even.
The trick to this is use a flexible cement with long drying time when building up the tracks. Do the bottom runs first (about 20-21 links), then a small section to reach the drive wheels (about 5, but one end has to mesh with the lower run!). Cement the lower run to the drive wheels, then the rear section and a "wrap" for the drivers (only attach the drivers when you do this, leaving them loose so you can turn them to fit the tracks.) Next is the upper run (about 32 links) but do not attach it yet; follow with the lower front set (about 5 more). Cement the upper run to the "wrap" around the driver and to the three middle road wheels. Attach the links to "wrap" the idler around the front until the upper run and "wrap" meet with the correct link (e.g. an "A" to a "B"). Turn the idler to get them to fit if this does not work out on the first try; when done, cement them together with a high-speed cement like Tenax 7R or Microweld. Note that the tracks have to be unpainted where you are going to attach them, and that includes the road wheels.
(I always paint the hull behind the wheels and the rear face of the rear road wheels, then attach them to the hull. Next I paint the inside of the drivers and idlers, assemble them, and then fit the tracks to the drivers, idlers, and inside row of road wheels. The rest are painted and installed with ACC cement AFTER the model is painted.)
The model comes with two finishing options: a T-34 Model 1941 from the 1st Guards Tank Brigade of General Katukov, Moscow area1942, in the famous "road ruts" white over green scheme, and one from the 130th Tank Brigade, 21st Tank Corps, Southern Front in April 1942. Decals are included for the "Road Rut" scheme (close-hatched white lines on green were to simulate ruts in the road to aerial reconnaissance). Also included are markings for another 11 T-34 tanks, but most of them were either not Model 1941s or were from other periods of the war. At least one of them was a "cast" turret Model 1941, so using them with the "welded" turret model would be incorrect. (Tamiya's "Model 1942" is a late-production cast turret Model 1941 to show what I mean.)
Overall this is an even better kit than the first one, and DML should be praised for the very kind (for modelers!) change to the molds to allow modelers the option to either build it easy or with more skill, depending on their choice.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.