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Skif 1/35 T-55 MBT Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2010 Manufacturer Skif
Subject T-55 MBT Scale 1/35
Kit Number 0233 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build, nice details Cons Soft details, road wheels need to be replaced
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $25.00

First Look


The T-54 main battle tank was designed as a follow-on to the very effective T-34 series based upon combat experience against the best German armor. Armed with a 100mm main gun, the T-54 had better firepower than anything that the Germans had available (the Tiger II was still armed with the 88mm KwK). The T-54 also superior armor protection, but the weight of the thicker armor was offset by the reduction in height of the vehicle, so less armor was required, resulting in a tank that weighed a little more than half of the Tiger II. While development of the T-54 started during World War II, it would enter service in 1946, too late for cat hunting on the western front.

With the dawn of the atomic age, the Soviets found that the T-54 could survive close proximity to a nuclear detonation, but its crew wasn't so fortunate. The tank was updated with an automatic Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) protection system and the resulting design was designated T-55.

Skif has released their next installment of the T-54 and T-55 series with this kit representing the initial production version of the T-55, essentially the T-54 with the NBC system and several block production improvements.

The kit is molded in green and olive green styrene and presented on seven parts trees plus one fret of photo-etched details, one resin-cast mantlet, and four sections of vinyl track.

The kit has some nice detailing throughout though some of the details are a little soft. At least one of the sprue trees exhibits some flash forming on the parts indicating one or more of the molds are in need of some maintenance.

Construction is very straightforward with the hull going together first. The road wheels don't quite look right to me and your project may benefit from some aftermarket road wheels. While the vinyl track is molded well, experienced armor modelers know that it can be a challenge to model the droop of the Soviet track without using some thread techniques or simply replacing these with aftermarket track links.

The kit provides some photo-etched parts to enhance the details in a number of areas where they are visible. Kudos to Skif for this enhancement. These details include fender brackets, exhaust duct frame, engine deck frames, engine deck screens, light guards, tie-down rings, and various brackets. As a result of the addition of these photo-etched parts, the hull detailing is quite nice.

The turret is also a recipient of some photo-etch as well as a resin-cast gun mantlet which helps to capture the subtle turret design missed by other T-54/T-55 makers. When viewed from above, the opening in the front of the turret is offset to the right to make room for the commander's sights and the gunner's scope. To put the gun back on the tank's centerline, the mantlet shifts the 100mm gun as far left as practical.

Decals are provided for four examples:

  • T-55 MBT, 634, Soviet Army, 1973
  • T-55 MBT, 4130, Polish Army, 1968
  • T-55 MBT, 029, Czech Army, 1978
  • T-55 MBT, Finnish Army, 1981

Some might wonder why this kit versus the Tamiya T-55A. You can backdate the Tamiya kit, but with a retail price over twice the price of this Skif kit, plus the hard core armor modelers are going to add photo-etch to the Tamiya kit as well as the aftermarket track, the total project cost either out of the box or with a similar aftermarket trek will be around $25+ USD cheaper with the Skif kit.

My sincere thanks to HobbyTerra for this review sample!