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DML 1/35 BTR-80 Build Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 1998
Updated May 2019
Manufacturer DML
Subject BTR-80 Scale 1/35
Kit Number 3511 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy Build Cons Very delicate parts around side hatch mechanisms
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

Build Review

The BTR-80 armored personnel carrier (APC) evolved from an interesting post-WW2 lineage. The BTR-152 was a six-wheeled armored car that was developed in the 1950s to transport troops around the battlefield. The BTR-152 was replaced with the BTR-50, which was a fully tracked APC that added amphibious capabilities that would remain with future BTR designs. At this point in history, armored personnel carriers split into two schools of thought. The first school saw the BTR-50 evolve into the BMP series of fully tracked APCs, and on to the MT-LB series of fully tracked APCs. From other school of thought came the BTR-60. It was similar to the BTR-50, except that it replaced the tracks with wheels. The BTR-50 and BTR-60 were open-topped, 8x8 wheeled APCs. To provide additional protection to the troops inside the vehicle, the BTR-60P series enclosed the top of the vehicle and added a machine gun turret. The BTR-70 improved the protection with minor armor additions and changes in the slope of the hull plates. From the BTR-70's operational experience came the BTR-80, introduced around 1980, which featured improved visibility for the on-board troops, a little more headroom, and gun port improvements to allow the troops inside to fire their weapons from within the vehicle.


DML's BTR-80 kit is a nice piece of engineering. Molded in light grey plastic, the kit comes on five parts trees, and also features eight rubber tires. The kit molding is sharp (no flash to speak of) and the engraved detailing is crisp. There are a lot of small parts included in this kit, so ensure that your work area is clean and you carpet well fed before starting.

I made two decisions at the beginning of this project: first, I was going to build this BTR-80 in the Afghan conflict scheme depicted in the instructions; and second, I was going to build this kit straight from the box – no aftermarket details or corrections. The first step was to pre-paint all of the parts with the sandy green color that served as the base color for the Afghan color scheme (according to the paint instructions). I located all of the suspension parts and shot them with Testors Model Master (TMM) Europe One Grey (any dark grey will do). After all of the parts had dried, I began assembly according to the instructions. I did make several exceptions to the instructions:

  • I did not install any of the hand rails/grab irons until Step 7 so that I could handle the various sub-assemblies without fear of breakage.
  • I did not install any parts that weren't going to painted in the Afghan camouflage (gun barrels, pioneer tools, etc.) until assembly and painting were complete.


All assembly was done with Testors Liquid Cement. While assembly may be a little slower using liquid cement versus Tenax or cyano, the resulting assemblies are stronger AND more tolerant of flexing and manhandling.

Step one is straightforward. Assemble the machine gun turret. Leave off the gun barrels.

Step two brought me to another reality. This machine is covered with positionable hatches and doors, but there is no interior to this or any of the DML BTRs. This sounds like a job for someone like AEF Designs! Back to reality, I installed all of the hatches closed.


In step three, I chose to install the driver and vehicle commander's shields (parts C22 & C23) in the closed position. During routine operations, these shields are open driving visibility is through the windshield. When in combat mode, these shields protect the commander and driver and visibility is provided through the multitude of periscopes on the vehicle. A problem arose at this point – the exhaust ‘mufflers' (parts D25 & D26) and the crew entry heat shields (parts (C24 & C25) did not fit onto the vehicle as intended. They had molded-on tabs which properly position them onto the hull, but the hatches (C27 & C28) installed in step two interfered. I removed the locating tabs on the mufflers that are over these hatches (leaving the rear tabs in place). Dry fitting the muffler and corresponding heat shield in place revealed that the heat shield was too thick and would force the muffler our of position. I Dremeled each heat shield until the muffler and shield would sit properly on the hull over the hatch.

Assembly of the rear hull in step four is very straightforward. Note the automobile-styled stoplights and turn signals molded on part D1. I installed the shield for the impeller (part D14) in the closed position. When the BTR "swims" across a river or other body of water, the impeller provides a water jet for propulsion (like a jet-ski).


The assembly of the lower hull and suspension in step five displays some engineering mastery on DML's part. The upper and lower suspension arms merely slide into the hull and lock the axle parts into place. The front two axles have a simple mechanism to allow all four wheels to turn in unison. The only difficulty in this step is installing the fairings (parts D31) for the side entry/exit doors. These are not very robust pieces and they require a bit of trimming and dry fitting on the hull before gluing into place. The hatches and locking mechanisms are even more delicate.

Steps six and seven integrate the upper, lower and rear hull subassemblies. Assemble and install all eight of the wheel hubs as indicated but set the tires aside for now. The instructions recommend gluing the rear hull assembly to the lower hull first. This did not work for me because the resulting combination was not structurally strong. I chose to glue the upper and lower hull assemblies together first. Be sure and dry fit these two assemblies before starting any gluing. There were some minor fit problems around the side doors that required a little trimming/filing to get a solid join. Once the glue dries, install the rear hull assembly. The was some fit problems with the rear hull – the rear hull facets were wider that the rest of the vehicle. I glued the assembly into place as is, and once the glue was dry, I filed the overlapping facets to blend into the rest of the hull. No problem. Take special care when installing the linkages between the hull and the water deflector (D24) on the nose of the BTR-80. It took a bit of patience and three hands to get everything into place. When deployed, the water deflector is nothing more than a plate that holds the nose of the BTR up while moving through water. Now is the time to install all of the handrails, grab irons, lift rings and anything else that was left off in earlier steps that will be camouflaged.


I touched up the base color and set the vehicle aside to dry. The advantage of pre-painting the parts is that areas that will remain visible but unreachable with the airbrush (like the nose and underside of the water deflector) are already the proper color. At this point, I mixed a batch of sandy-brown enamel, diluted 50% with thinner, and covered the eight tires. After this wash had dried, I dry-brushed a flat-black/dark gray mix onto the wheel treads to simulate a vehicle that had been off-road but had recently driven paved roads. The wheels were set aside.

Following the paint guide in the DML instructions, I airbrushed the streaks of dark green followed by the streaks of flat black. I then shot the whole affair with a light coat of a light gray/light brown mix for weathering. Now it was time to install the rubber tires. They didn't want to fit onto the wheel hubs without a struggle, but I found a solution – a solution of soapy water to be exact. I dropped each tire into the soapy water, then they slipped onto the wheel hubs without any problem.


Paint and install the pioneer tools as indicated in the instructions. I painted the handles dark green and the metal surfaces (shovel blade, saw blade, axe blade) silver. The brackets were painted with the matching background color on the vehicle hull. The two gun barrel muzzles were drilled out, and the barrels painted flat black. A light dry brushing of gray brings out the details on the barrels, and then I painted the barrel carrying handle TMM Leather.

Next I hand-brushed Future floor wax onto the two areas that would get decals. The decals were laid over the dried Future and settled into place with Solvaset. The entire vehicle was coated with Gunze Sangyo acrylic clear flat. I finally hand-brushed gloss black onto the lenses of the periscopes and infrared lamps. I applied silver paint onto the tail light lenses, then applied Tamiya Clear Orange and Clear Red over the turn signals and stop lights, respectively.

The finished product looks like a BTR-80 and was fun to do. I urge caution when handling the finished model, as there are a lot of delicate detail parts that DML has beautifully molded to create this vehicle. I only spent 8 hours on this project and I can safely recommend this to all builders.