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MiniArt 1/35 T-70M Early Production Soviet Light Tank w/Crew Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2006 Manufacturer MiniArt
Subject T-70M Early Production Soviet Light Tank w/Crew Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35025 Primary Media 360 parts (356 in medium grey styrene, 4 clear styrene)
Pros Best kit of this Soviet light tank to date; nicely done features and generally correct proportions; crew in winter gear a bonus Cons Gun barrel seems anemic
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $29.95

First Look

The T-70 was another tank to roll out of the famous GAZ factory's Design Bureau headed by N. A. Astrov. It used many of the design concepts found in the T-60 light tank and corrected many of that tank's failings, namely armament and protection. The former was aided by providing the tank with a 45mm gun and the latter by making the armor thicker and changing some of the angles. Over 1942-1943 8,226 T-70 and T-70M tanks rolled off the production lines in Sverdlovsk (Factory No. 37) and Kirov (Factory No. 38). While still a two-man tank, it served its purpose as a light reconnaissance vehicle in tank units and as a command vehicle in SU-76 battalions.

The last attempt at this tank was a kit from Techmod several years back which suffered from a number of major failings, the primary ones of which were that the kit was about 4mm too narrow through the body of the hull (and quite noticeable in such a small vehicle – T-70s in 1/35 are about the size of a 1/72 Tiger II) and the turret was woefully underscale with parallel sides. Many other components were underscale or out of whack, and as a result I had to change most of the components when I built the kit in 2000.

MiniArt has now released a modern version of this kit, and in this version it comes with five Soviet tankers in winter uniforms, a nice addition to the kit (in spite of the fact it's only a two-man tank!)

MiniArt calls it a "T-70M Early Production" model, but Russian sources using archival materials do not make such references as the M was the final variant before they changed over to the short-lived T-80. What the model represents is a standard production T-70M tank. For years it was accepted that new viewers and the cast domed driver's hatch indicated a T-70M tank as opposed to a T-70. New archival materials show that the real differences were in the wheels, torsion bars, and tracks, and not the hatches. (Soviet factories were notorious for simply making changes as they went and not listing the modifications except in their equivalent of "MWO"s as "from serial X to Y use this part.")

The T-70M increased the size of the track links from 260 mm wide and 97 mm in pitch to 300 mm in width and 111mm in pitch, thus reducing the number of links needed from 91 to 80. The road wheels were beefed up in width from 104 mm to 130 mm, and the torsion bars changed from 34 mm to 36 mm diameter. Brake straps (the Soviets preferred ribbon brakes wrapped around a drum) were widened from 90 mm to 124 mm, and the result was that the tank carried more weight (from 9.2 metric tons to 10 metric tons) and while its mobility went up, its range went down to 250 km on highways. The other visible changes were made during the T-70's production run.

Checking the basic parameters of the kit, the hull has the correct width and the fenders are those for the wider M tracks. Track width is about 8.5mm or 300mm in scale and pitch is about 3.3mm or 115mm, but the wheels are 3 mm wide which is 105mm or in other words the basic T-70 wheel. That's a shame, but on the other hand for most modelers the difference will not be noticeable. All suspension parts have positive locking joints, which is good as many of the smaller kits from Eastern Europe do not and I seem to recall the Techmod kit needed a base to mount the road wheel arms correctly.

Unlike the earlier Techmod kit, the hull bottom comes in one piece with details molded in place. All screens are molded parts, but MiniArt has wisely designed the kit so that they may easily be replaced with etched brass or scratchbuilt parts and they will fit into the model. It also comes with the correct twin muffler arrangement.

There has been a bit of sniping on the Internet about the turret, claiming that the shape is wrong. M-Khobbi published a good set of plans in 1997 on the T-70 and the kit matches them perfectly, as the sides are tapered correctly and the turret ring has the wedge shaped projection on the rear side. Much of the criticism comes from one or two photos, but once the photos are examined with care the turret comes out as symmetrical. The reason in one photo I found in "Otechestvennye Bronirovannye Mashiny XX Vek Tom 2 – 1941-1945" (Exprint, 2005) was taken in slanted lighting conditions, and the reinforcing strips do not show on one side and are highlighted on the other, making the left side seem larger than the right. This is not true, and all other shots show the turret as symmetrical. Records only refer to it as a "faceted, truncated pyramid shape."

The mantelet and fittings are accurate – both are asymmetric, which helps cause confusion when looking at the turret and fooling the eye – and small fittings like lift rings are nicely done. The gun barrel appears to be underscale (it is the "Model 1934/42" barrel, which is much lighter and smoother than the old Model 1934 barrels used on the T-26, T-50 and other tanks) which is a bit odd with all of the other very accurate work on this kit. It is "slide molded" and has a bore in the muzzle, and it does match with the M-Khobbi plans however.

The crew figures are interesting, as they are all very nicely done but wearing the sheepskin knee-length jacket normally associated with officers and not regular crewmen. But given that this tank only carries a crew of two, most people will probably only use one figure anyway so consider it a bonus of four extra commander figures!

Each one has a similar breakdown to early DML figures – torso, legs, arms, head, helmet, and separate earpieces. All of them come with a holster for a TT pistol.

Finishing instructions and markings are included for five T-70M tanks: "Tambovskiy Kolkhoz", 2nd Tank Corps, December 1942; 1st Guards Mechanized Corps, middle Don River region, December 1942; Sadovskiy's Brigade, Stalingrad region, January 1943; Unknown, Russia spring 1943; and Unknown, Voroshilovgrad region, spring 1943. The finishing instructions are in color as are the instructions for painting the figures.

Overall, this kit is an absolutely amazing effort to come out Ukraine, previously noted as the home of SKIF. MiniArt are to be congratulated for a great effort!