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SDV 1/87 T-54A Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2005 Manufacturer SDV
Subject T-54A Scale 1/87
Kit Number 87020 Primary Media 54 parts in olive green styrene
Pros Most accurate kit of this vehicle in this scale so far; options permit some modifications as needed; model has separate road wheels Cons Molds are rough and the fender assembly is a mess
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $13.50

First Look

I was at the Great Scale Train Show in Timonium (Maryland) when I chanced upon a vendor selling this kit. As I am a latent HO train buff, I picked up the kit to see what it was like.

Apparently SDV is a Czech company who, like many smaller Eastern European companies, has a marketing arrangement in the West with other companies such as Modellbau Tom of Germany, who appears to offer some of their other kits in the West. (Their Tatra 813 and 815 series trucks are probably the best known.) This kit was directly imported from what I understand, as it is not marketed by Modellbau Tom nor carried in the US by Walthers.

The kit shows that the company offers a number of versions, first and foremost being either a standard T-54A medium tank and the second one being a T-55 Model 1958 (no AA MG cupola.) The differences in the direction indicate that there are two parts that change – the turret (part 9) and the engine deck (parts 26 or 27). The former comes with the AA MG cupola for the 54 and without for the 55; the engine decks are either rectangular (54) or trapezoidal (55) air cleaner access hatches.

This kit, however, seems to have been mis-packed as it has a T-54A engine deck and T-55A turret. Barring that, the kit actually is not a bad representation of the T-54/55 series tanks, and has some nice things to say about it. The lower hull has no toy-like wheel holes or big name stamping (a la early ROCO) and the tracks come with separate outer wheels so that a realistic groove is created between the inner and outer wheel sets. The engine deck, radiator grilles, and turret base are all separate parts, so if you really feel in the mood it is easy to create an interior in the engine bay. All fender kit is separate, to include fuel tanks, oil tank, and ZIP bins. The exhaust has a separate flange fitting (part 18) that replicates the "flapper" mount for underwater river crossing preparation.

Other than getting the wrong turret in this kit, however, it is totally let down by the poor state of the molding for the upper hull/fenders (part 1). This shows that while nicely designed the mold is poor and has "chunked" – parts of the facing have disintegrated, leaving large lumps of plastic on the molding when pulled clear and making cleanup a royal pain in the neck. I suggest if you pick up this kit be prepared for some work. Also it is probably a good idea to clean up the bottom side, cement the lower hull in place (which is lovely, coming with torsion bar wells and hatch detailing) and then cut the upper hull free from its sprue before cutting and filing away the lumps.

Overall, this is a nice kit of sorts and is far better than its competitors – ROCO, Roskopf and Piro ones from 30 years ago or more – and half the price of the resin CMK or white metal Trident ones.

Thanks to Jan Podubecky for the review sample.