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T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank

MiniArt 1/35 T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2018 Manufacturer MiniArt
Subject T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Scale 1/35
Kit Number 37018 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Beautiful detailing, full interior Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $60.99

First Look

T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit
T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit
T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit
T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit
T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit
T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit
T-55 m1963 Soviet Medium Tank Kit

The T-54 was in production for a number of years before someone in the Soviet Ministry of Defense decided to see how well the tank would survive a close-proximity nuclear detonation. Testing yields up to 15 kilotons, the T-54 could survive a detonation beyond 300 yards, but crew survivability didn't begin until outside 700 yards. Planners decided to upgrade the tank series with a nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) protection system and accommodate additional incremental improvements as well. Among the other improvements included the V-55 diesel engine with pneumatic starter, additional internal fuel cells, additional main gun ammunition stowage, improved sights, and dual-plane gun stabilization. These upgrades were tested as Object 155 and entered service in the late 1950s as the T-55. The T-55 remained in production into the early 1980s with incremental improvements introduced on the production line as well as retrofitted in the field. The T-54 and T-55 series are the most widely produced tanks in the world with well over 86,000 built in Soviet and Warsaw Pact factories and more than 10,000 built in China as the Type 59.

When I first joined the Armor Modeling and Preservation Society (AMPS) years ago, one book I acquired from their offerings covered the T-54 and T-55. At that time, there were no real options for either tank on the market and the author had spent a great deal of time documenting the changes/modifications to the available kits to accurately render either vehicle. Since that time, Tamiya released the benchmark T-55A which is one of the best kits of the subject on the market, but you had to go to the aftermarket to render one of the many variants of the T-55 not covered in the kit. Since then, a few other T-54 and T-55 kits have been released by other manufacturers, but none that were noteworthy. That is until recently.

MiniArt Models has been releasing a line of kits that trace the development of Soviet armor starting with the first post-war design, the T-44. To make matters more interesting, MiniArt releases two versions of each subject, one that has a full interior and the other with external details only (just like the rest of the Soviet armor kit market). The releases that started in 2017 followed the development of the T-54 from its early variants to the main production versions (T-54A/B). Here's the first installment of the T-55 series which starts with a typical tank as produced in 1963. In this version, the T-55 hasn't yet received the improved track which also changed the drive sprocket from 13 to 14 teeth. The model 1963 also hasn't received the R-123 tactical radio set nor other improved mission systems which start to appear in 1965.

According to the manufacturer, there are 1284 styrene and photo-etched parts to build up this kit. This release is the 'interior' kit that features some stunning details inside and out. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Nicely detailed V-55 12-cylinder diesel engine
  • Detailed engine compartment surrounding the V-55
  • Positionable engine access hatches
  • Torsion bar suspension detail on the hull interior
  • Detailed crew compartment in the hull w/ammo storage
  • Rotating turret floor
  • Detailed driver's station
  • Optional driver's hatch cover
  • Detailed ammo stowage in the hull
  • Detailed ammo stowage in turret
  • Detailed stowage and pioneering tools on hull exterior
  • Detailed external fuel drums and mounts on hull rear
  • Detailed 'pillow' fuel tanks on fenders complete with plumbing
  • Detailed coaxial machine gun, mount, and ammo can
  • Detailed D-10T main gun and turret interior
  • D-10T barrel is one-piece, hollow-tipped with slide molding
  • Detailed gunner's station and sight
  • Positionable crew hatches
  • Clear periscopes provided

The decals/color profiles are included for the following subjects:

  • T-55, Israeli Army, 1968 (captured during six-day war)
  • T-55, Egyptian Army, 1973-74
  • T-55, Syrian Army, Yom Kippur War, 1973
  • T-55, 315, Cuban Army, 1970s
  • T-55, Finnish Army, 1973
  • T-55, Ethiopian Army, 1977
  • T-55, Iraqi Army, First Gulf War, 1991
  • T-55, 317, Soviet Army, Kharkov Parade, 1967
  • T-55, 143, 24 MRD, Soviet Army, Kiev, 1967
  • T-55, Soviet Army, 'Operation Danube', Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1968

Paint instructions provide Ammo by Mig, Humbrol, Mr. Color, Testors, and Vallejo paint equivalents.

This is a nice looking kit and I've seen a variety of techniques used to show off the interior details at various IPMS contests. The results are stunning. Whether you want to build a 'stock' Soviet service example or one of the many updated variants that are still in service today around the globe, this kit is an excellent starting point. Note that MiniArt isn't stopping here. There are several version of the T-55A on the schedule as well as the Israeli-rebuilds (Tiran series).

At last, cold war modelers have some excellent choices for this tank series, and don't be surprised to see MiniArt push into the T-62 series later this year or early next year.

My sincere thanks to MiniArt for this review sample!