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PT-76 Kit

Trumpeter 1/35 Russian PT-76 Amphibious Tank Mod. 1951 Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Images by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2012 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Russian PT-76 Amphibious Tank Mod. 1951 Scale 1/35
Kit Number 0379 Primary Media 193 parts (184 in grey styrene, 5 etched brass, 2 black vinyl tracks, 1 nylon string, 1 copper wire)
Pros Best kit of the PT-76 series tanks going; nicely done details Cons Vinyl tracks so-so
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $39.95

First Look

PT-76 Kit
PT-76 Kit
PT-76 Kit
PT-76 Kit
PT-76 Kit
PT-76 Kit

Occasionally a major industry creates something seemingly off the cuff, and that item comes in “under the radar” but goes on to have a much longer life than many of that industry’s other products. Such is the case with the PT-76 amphibious tank, which was created in the late 1940s and yet remains in service today.

The PT-76 was developed out of a postwar requirement for a light amphibious reconnaissance tank (in the mold of the prewar T-37 and T-38 light tanks) with no more than 15mm armor protection and mounting a 76mm gun to protect itself. The PT-76 was created by the Chelyabinsk Kirov Factory under the auspices of Zhosif Kotin, who was the chief of all tank designs from both Chelyabinsk and Leningrad after the war. A task force of designers was created from Chelyabinsk, Leningrad and the VNII-100 research institute under designated project head designer Nikolay Shashmurin; he was responsible for the design of the popular and successful IS-2 heavy tank. However, at that time Kotin was caught up in designing the IS-8 (later the T-10 heavy tank) and therefore gave the “light work” to Shashmurin.

Based on work done at the Factory No. 112 (“Krasnoye Sormovo”) just after the end of the war, Shashmurin’s team created two vehicles on one chassis: Article 740, which was the amphibious light tank; and Article 750, an open-topped amphibious armored personnel carrier (which became the BTR-50). They worked on the project from 1949 to 1951, after which Article 740 was accepted for service as the PT-76 (P for “Plavayushchiy” or amphibious, T for tank, and 76 for the 76.2mm D-56T gun). A number of enterprises thus shared in the award of the “Stalin Prize” for the creation of the PT-76 and BTR-50 in 1953. Most of the vehicles were built by the Stalingrad Tractor Factory even though it was designed “up north.”

The vehicle underwent several upgrade programs in service: these included work on a “Zarya” gun stabilizer, an upgrade to an 85mm gun, and various minor improvements. In 1955 the original D-56T gun with its multi-baffle muzzle brake was replaced by the D-56TM with a two-chamber type as well as finally provided with a HEAT round which gave it better ability to deal with tank type threats. In 1957 a TDA smoke generator system was installed, as well as a new R-113 VHF radio to replace its 10RT type HF set from WWII.

In 1958, a new and heavily modified version entered production, the PT-76B. This tank used the D-56TS gun with the “Zarya” stabilizer, a radiation and chemical protective filter system (FVU and PAZ systems), the hull was increased in height by 60mm at the turret centerline area to increase buoyancy reserves and sea-keeping qualities, the turret handrails were moved up 150mm on the sides, twin 90 liter auxiliary fuel tanks were fitted, a third (IR) headlight added, and a number of minor changes were also made.

In 1962 the vehicle hull was redesigned, with the sides increased another 70mm and the lower front plate angles changed from 45 degrees to only 35 degrees.

Between 1951 and 1969 a total of 4,172 PT-76 tanks of all types were produced, of which 941 were exported to a variety of countries to include China, Vietnam, Egypt, and India. Widely popular with Russian forces, especially the Naval Infantry, the PT-76 was still in service in 1990 and declared in CFE – but as a “light armored vehicle carrying heavy armament” so it would not count against tank strengths.

Oh, and the T-10? Went into service in 1953, built until 1966; 8,000 built, all pulled out of service by 1980 and only a few left that escaped the scrappers’ torch.

In 1958 Ideal Toy Company offered a 1/32 scale motorized kit of a PT-76B that was neat, but basically only as it was one of only a handful of Soviet armor kits on the market. For the next 35 years that kit – and the Ringo re-release – were worth a small fortune if you could find one.

Then in 2002 Eastern Express from Russia came out with a totally new kit of the PT-76B (Model 1958), consisting of some 349 parts and providing a simple but nice kit of this vehicle in 1/35 scale. It came with single link track and for a change of pace from Eastern bloc manufacturers, a one-piece lower hull and one-piece upper hull. The US price was about $22 and this was a good deal for the time.

Now Trumpeter from China has released a state-of-the-art series of three kits – the Model 1951, the interim (Model 1958), and the PT-76B. Each has some unique elements to it but while there is good there is also some room for comment.

The Model 1951 kit comes with the early model D-56T gun with the multi-baffle muzzle brake. However, on reviewing the later PT-76B Model 1962 kit (No. 00381) I found that this kit was not incorrect as I first thought, but has a correct low hull as it should. Based on good plans by Aleksandr Koshchavtsev this model should have a hull side height of 12.3mm at the break under the turret; the Model 1958 with 60mm raised sides is 14 mm, and the Model 1960 PT-76B should be 14 mm. It also has a nearly "flat" hull top profile.

That being said, whereas the EE kit was a good kit the Trumpeter one is a very good kit. It comes with useful etched brass for the engine deck grilles (air intake and exhaust/ejection cooling) and also the headlight guards; formers are thoughtfully provided for their complex shapes. For some reason Trumpeter includes the entire water jet trunking even though I doubt many will put the model on a mirror to see it! There are some major pin joints inside the trunking as well as the barrel, but a few minutes with a Dremel Minimite should solve that problem.

The gun barrel is as nice as anyone could wish in plastic, even though due to the screwy multi-baffle design it had to be done using conventional molding methods and thus the assembly pins in the bore to rout out. A gun breech is provided for the kit as well but as no basket comes with it for the turret you may wish to just “button it up” for simplicity’s sake.

With the exception of the tracks, all bits on the Trumpeter kit are just that much better. Engine deck hatches are separate parts so detailers may install an engine and driveline, and the crew hatches also are optional position items. The tracks indicate they are cementable vinyl (e.g. like the DS plastic used by DML or the type used by Tamiya) but are thin and somewhat flimsy. Given that an EE kit probably goes for $10-12 at flea markets, you may wish to pick one up for the single link tracks that will fit on this kit.

Two sets of markings is included for a PT-76 Model 1951 during Operation “Dunay” or the Czech Invasion of August 1968. One vehicle has the white invasion stripe scheme and the other the convoy tactical markings seen during “Dunay.” Both are finished in Soviet postwar green (about the same as the 4BO color.)

Overall I have to apologize for the error in my original review. But the point remains that Trumpeter missed the hull differences with the PT-76B and used the Model 1958 one instead for that kit with only the indented mount for the exhaust/radiator air intake assembly.

Sprue breakout:

  • A 57x2 Suspension, water jets, hull details
  • B 58 Turret and hull details
  • C 10 Turret and hull rear details
  • 1 Upper hull
  • 1 Lower hull
  • 2 black vinyl tracks
  • PE-A 3 etched brass
  • PE-B 2 etched brass
  • 1 Nylon string
  • 1 copper wire