Trumpeter 1/35 MT-LB Kit First Look
by Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||March 2016||Manufacturer||Trumpeter|
|Kit Number||5578||Primary Media||Styrene, PE|
|Pros||Highly detailed kit||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$94.95|
During the late 1960s, Soviet Army planners looked for a new generation of artillery tow vehicles to replace the aging AT-P series tractors. An inexpensive solution was developed using the PT-76 chassis to create the MT-L series tractors. A further development enclosed the MT-L with an armored shell to create the MT-LB which not only could tow artillery, but also serve as an armored personnel carrier.
I had a chance to crawl through an MT-LB years ago. Imagine an M113 that goes to a custom car shop and gets chopped. The low-profile hull meant that the vehicle could hide behind cover easier, but it also meant that unless you're an Ewok, it is a bit cramped heightwise inside (and don't forget your shin pads). Nevertheless, the bench seats in the rear compartment are well-padded and there is a crawlway along the right side to get up to the front compartment (or go outside and use the overhead hatches). The driver sits on the left side and the radio operator/gunner sits on the right. The turret is not powered, rather it sits on a ball bearing race which makes traversing the turret and getting the machine gun on target very easy.
Trumpeter has released their first installment in the MT-LB series with this highly detailed kit. As usual, the kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 10 parts trees plus eight parts trees molded in brown (rust), a bag full of brown track links, one tree molded in clear, and three frets of photo-etched parts. According to the specifications, there are over 1100 parts in this kit.
Among the features and options:
- Very detailed engine and engine compartment
- Detailed transmission
- Individual track links (three-pieces each)
- Positionable windshield armored covers
- Detailed driver's station
- Detailed radio operator/gunner station
- Detailed troop/cargo compartment
- Positionable overhead hatches
- Positionable rear doors
This is one of those kits where you'll want to display every hatch and door open because there are some nice details inside. While one of my definitions of over-engineering is creating details where you can't see them (not a problem here), the other is that the assemblies are made up of many, many tiny parts. This is the main problem with this kit as there are over 1100 parts in this not-so-big model. If you look at the sprues, they've replicated nearly handle and clasp as a separate and tiny part. The individual track links must be assembled (add two guide teeth to each link) before you can assembles the links (222 total links). There are also lots of tiny parts on those three photo-etched frets including some complex assemblies that make up the rear fenders/mud deflectors.
The decals provide a variety of markings options but Trumpeter is doing what other hobby companies have done - letting Ammo by Mig Jimenez do their color profiles. There are eight subjects in the color profiles and while they do provide paint recommendations for Gunze, Testors, Tamiya, and Humbrol in addition to Ammo, they neglect to identify any of the subjects by nationality or unit. In fact, there is no information whatsoever about these subjects other than their color callouts and some of those look questionable.
Despite the 'wealth' of tiny parts, this kit has a great deal of potential and is an interesting contrast to the only other option for the MT-LB in 1/35 - the Skif kit. Assembling 222 track links out of 666 parts will help you lose your will to live, but hopefully there will be a better aftermarket solution on the market since Trumpeter insists on over-engineering its tracks (and other aspects of their kits).
Trumpeter has already announced a few variants of the MT-LB which have different turrets mounted to the vehicle, but I'm hoping they'll get to another MT-LB variant I'm wanting for my collection - the SA-13 Gopher.
My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!