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KV-1 Soviet Heavy Tank mod.1940 w/L-11 Gun

Zvezda 1/35 KV-1 Soviet Heavy Tank mod.1940 w/L-11 Gun Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review October 2008 Manufacturer Zvezda
Subject KV-1 Soviet Heavy Tank mod.1940 w/L-11 Gun Scale 1/35
Kit Number 3624 Primary Media 391 parts (368 in olive drab plastic, 22 in silver vinyl, 1 clear styrene)
Pros First styrene kit of a KV-1 Model 1940; offers some interior details; choice of vinyl or 'link and length' tracks Cons About 3mm too short, some errors in specific features
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $30

First Look

Having written extensively on the history of the KV heavy tanks (see Military Modeling issues Volume 34, Nos. 9-12) I will not recap the life history of this big clunker other than to say it is an interesting tank to model due to the size and bulk of the beast. This particular version was in production from April to December 1940 and changed out when the F-32 gun was adopted in late 1940 and entered production in January 1941. The underslung L-11 gun used in the first year's production of KV heavy tanks cannot be mistaken for anything else, and as such I for one have always had a soft spot for this most ungainly of KV 'small turret' tanks.

Roughly 131 KV heavy tanks were built with this gun. The tank was armed with a coaxial 7.62mm DT machine gun and a second DT firing through a mount at the rear of the turret. There were also pistol ports on the sides of the turret and in the bow next to the driver-mechanic. In October 1940 a rotating ring was fitted to the commander's hatch which could be rigged with a P-40 or later mounting for a DT machine gun to be used as an antiaircraft machine gun as well. Also, a bow DT machine gun was added at the time, but tanks were issued with only three machine guns so the crew had to decide which ones would be fitted to any of the four mounts.

Zvezda is not the most adept company at producing kits, but they have continually improved and are getting better and better as they progress. This kit is one of their nicer ones and has some really good touches, such as a partial interior and a choice between vinyl and 'link and length' styrene tracks. The vinyl tracks in Zvezda kits, however, tend to be tauter than bowstrings so this latter feature is most welcome.

The kit is based on their early Model 1941 kit so it is virtually the same with the exception of the L-11 gun and its truly bizarre mantlet (it's cut flat on the bottom – Zvezda got this feature dead right.) The kit also provides a new breech as while the F-32 and F-34 guns used nearly identical breech sections this gun was quite different. 10 short 76mm rounds and 8 DT ammunition drums are also provided. The kit does provide the ball-mounted hull and turret machine guns, as well as the AA mount and a DT gun for that mount as well.

The interior of the hull provides an engine block top and air cleaner, but the radiator grilles (C9) are solid and installed from the inside of the hull. The good news is that Zvezda did provide the curved frame on the outside, so if you have a set of etched grilles the openings are cleaned out and ready to install. Note that you will have to come up with the armored radiator guard covers if you use etched grilles, however. The same goes with the radiator air exhaust grille at the rear of the hull (A14) which is a separate part so it too can be replaced.

Assembly is typical of an eastern European kit – flat hull sides which attach to a belly plate, bow and stern plates, and the upper hull. It does come with separate road wheel arms, and all wheels use vinyl 'keepers' so they are easily removed for painting.

The kit also provides three early-style 'ZIP' bins for tools and equipment as well as one of the curious 40 liter auxiliary fuel tanks.

The model, however, is not without quirks and one major issue – according to checks with dimensions and plans published by some of the better Russian authors (Kolomiyets being the best 'single source')_the model is about 3mm too short. Width, height and all major components scale out right, but then there are some 'please don't look too close' items.

The model is clearly a Model 1940 – built between October 1940 and December 1940 by the features provided which match, or about one of about 85 tanks with the AA and bow guns. But it comes with the reinforced cast internally buffered road wheels, which were only used after mid 1941. (There is a small 'web' inside the rim of the wheel which extends from the second 'ring' inside to the inside lip of the outer rim; Model 1940s had a smooth face to their cast wheels.) This is nearly impossible to get a clean 'fix' due to the number of ribs and their petite size and location, so it is unfortunate that Zvezda did not do a second set of wheels. Even the finishing directions show the vehicles with the correct wheels.

Finishing is simple – 4BO green overall – and two decal options are provided: 1st Red Banner Tank Division, Luga area August 1941, with the 'BEY FASHISTOV!' (Fight the Fascists!) logo on the turret, and turret number 209 which is listed as 'Eastern Front Fall 1941".

Overall, if you can live with the slightly short hull and the not-quite-correct wheels, this is a nice kit and the result will certainly look the part. If not, you may wish to 'cross kit' with an early model KV-1 or the KV Big Turret kits from Trumpeter.

Sprue Layout:

  • A 21 KV upper hull, left side
  • A 26 KV lower hull plate and details, right side
  • B 56 KV early model turret
  • C 53x2 KV road wheel arms, drivers, idlers
  • D 40 KV fender details, engine block
  • E 54x2 KV-1 reinforced internally buffered road wheels, tracks
  • F 11x2 KV tracks and keepers (vinyl)
  • G 1 Clear headlight lens
  • H 11 L-11 gun and mantlet