KV-1 Comparative Review by Dave Showell
18 January 2004 email: showell1(at)rogers.com

The KV-1 heavy tank was one of the two big surprises that the Wehrmacht ran into during their invasion of the Soviet Union. While the T-34 was technologically more advanced and mechanically more reliable, the KV-1 (named after Marshall Klimenti Voroshilov, one of Stalin’s cronies from the days of the Russian civil war) was big, heavily armoured and in mass production when the German’s attacked. It provided the Soviet army with a "break through" tank which was virtually invulnerable to German antitank weapons in the first half of the war.

Up until recently there were two KV-1 kits available in small scale. The first was the 1/76th offering from Fujimi (who also offered the KV-2 "large turret" version). For it’s time, this was an acceptable kit of the early welded turret with pressed steel wheels. Unfortunately it has not aged gracefully and is not up to today’s standards. The KV-1 kit produced by ESCI in the late 1970s, on the other hand, is still quite a nice model. It was produced at what was probably the peak of ESCI’s career.

Recently, the Belarus company PST has stepped in to produce a wide range of KV-1 vehicles – everything from the earliest KV-1 1939 model to the last version, the KV-85. I have built a number of these kits and, while at times the moulding is a bit rough (small parts in particular) they generally build into nice kits.

At AMPS last year I was offered a good deal on PST’s KV-1C. Even though I had a couple of copies of ESCI’s KV-1C I felt I couldn’t pass up a bargain so I bought it. On looking it over on the long car ride back from Havre de Grace, I resolved to do a comparison of the ESCI and PST kits to see how they stacked up against each other.

On pulling the two kits out, I was astonished at how similar they were in both parts breakdown and dimensions. In fact, at first I suspected that there might even be some copying going on. In reality, however, the PST kit is a slightly different version of the KV than the ESCI. There are a couple of visible differences between the two kits. First, the PST kit has a weld line on the turret going from the pistol port on one side all the way around the back to the opposite pistol port. The ESCI kit does not have this beaded weld-line. Secondly, the ESCI kit has a rounded cover on the rear air intake (at the very rear of the hull above the towing shackle attachments). The PST kit has a squared off cover over the air intakes. The ESCI kit’s turret may portray one that has been up-armoured – the machine gun installation at the rear of the turret is flush with the armour while in the PST kit the machine gun position is slightly bulged out from the surrounding armour. Finally, the PST kit has two curved pieces of additional armour at the rear of the turret. In terms of differences, that’s about it.

In the model production there are a couple of differences. The ESCI kit was issued with soft plastic tracks, the PST with hard plastic length and link tracks. The ESCI tracks are reasonably well moulded but I know from experience have a bad habit of splitting once they’re on the model. The only inside detail on these tracks is the guide horns. The PST tracks have a simplified face pattern but are nicely detailed on the inside. The PST kit is moulded in odd "swirly" light gray plastic with a fair amount of flash, particularly around the smaller parts. The ESCI kit which I used had an unusual amount of flash as well, and may have been a kit that was produced later in the life of the mould. Detail was nice and sharp on both kits. A problem that appeared in earlier PST kits, the out-of-register moulding of the bogey wheels is less of a problem here. They are still out by a bit but I find that if you build the model such that the thinnest edge of the wheel is glued to the tracks the problem is not noticeable.

Early on in this project I had to decide what I was going to do with two almost identical KV-1Cs. My collection tends to be representative so having two models of the same tank didn’t really attract me. I considered doing one in a different camouflage pattern or as a captured vehicle but in the end decided to do a small diorama. I decided, therefore, to build them and paint them as tanks in the same unit.

The build of both kits was quite straight forward. On the whole I found that the hull of the ESCI kit was slightly better than the hull of the PST and the turret of the PST kit was better than the ESCI. The ESCI hull is more finely moulded while the turret in that kit has definite fit problems. The PST turret not only fits better but is, in my view, better moulded.

I happened to have a spare set of PST length and link track so I used it with the ESI kit in place of the soft plastic stuff. It fit quite nicely on the ESCI running gear (although I cut off the teeth of the rear drive wheel on both kits). I used the cylindrical gas tanks from the PST kit for both kits, although I cut off the existing straps from these and replaced them with plastic strips. I also used the PST storage containers on the back of the mud guards.

I finished both kits in Humbrol Russian Green (#114) with Humbrol Bronze Green in any recessed places. I then dry brushed the whole with a light "buff" colour to bring out the high lights. The decals (#s 61 and 62) are from another PST KV-1 kit. The figures in the turret are Milicast. I did one in the older black tanker uniform and the other in a wartime brown with olive green helmet.

Since I had decided to put these two vehicles in a diorama I then had to decide what was going on. The difference between a normal display and a diorama is that, when someone looks at, the diorama has to tell a story. The "story" I decided on I tentatively decided to entitle "The Better Part of Valour". Set around the time of the Battle of Kharkov in early 1942, a regiment of heavy tanks has assaulted the lines of an under strength German infantry division. Facing a horde of huge-looking heavy tanks, the German antitank gunners have abandoned their useless 37 mm gun and headed rapidly to the rear. Having reached their first objective, one of the Soviet commanders is firing a flare to notify the observers in the rear of progress.

The "story" may be a bit subtle. I think that the base I chose was too small – I had trouble fitting two tanks and a gun position on it. As a result it’s a bit "busy" looking. The gun pit was built up using plasticine which I then covered with model railroad flocking. The 37 mm Pak is the ESCI kit (with the gun shield significantly thinned down and etched brass handles added to the trails) and scattered equipment around the abandoned position is from Preiser and other sources. I considered adding the body of a defender who didn’t make it out, but, believe it or not, dead bodies are extremely hard to model successfully. Dead bodies tend to look more like bundles of rags than human beings.

Back to Articles Page Back to Home Page