OKB Grigorov



Self-Propelled Gun

Kit #: 72019
Preview by Will Alcott - will_alcott(at)yahoo(dot)com
Edited by Marc Mercier
The M53/M55 series of self-propelled weapons was developed using components of the M46/M47 Patton family. Both vehicles shared an identical hull and cab (turret), with the only external differences being the gun and its travel lock. The M53 was equipped with a 155 mm gun, while the M55 was equipped with an 8 inch howitzer. The weapons shared a common mount and could be swapped. Eventually the US Army converted all its M53s to M55s. The USMC kept both in service, and Marine M53s and M55s served in Vietnam until they were replaced by the M107 and M110 around 1967.

Like the real subjects, OKB Grigorov's M53 and M55 kits are identical, aside from the gun barrel and travel lock. The two kits share a common instruction sheet, a double-sided A4 page with CAD renderings of the finished model, showing the components in place. These are generally OK, but for the very complex photo-etched spade assembly, some step-by-step instructions would be helpful. No finishing instructions or decals are included. The kit comes packed securely in a heavy cardboard box, with a small colour photo of a preserved M53 on the boxtop.

The kit contains 92 resin parts, 189 photo-etched parts (in two thicknesses) and 4 injection moulded sprues of link and length T97 rubber chevron track links. My kit also contained a turned aluminium 155 mm gun barrel. This is not mentioned the instructions, and a duplicate resin barrel is included. This is handy, since the resin barrel in my kit was slightly warped. To my eye the contours of the metal barrel aren't perfect either - it looks a little too fat in the middle, and the subtle flare at the tip of the barrel doesn't look quite right either. Sorry for the poor photo - I couldn't get my camera to focus on the shiny metal barrel!

The resin parts are apparently created from 3D printed masters, and feature excellent detail. The surfaces of all the parts are smooth and free of any artifacts of the 3D printing process. Interestingly, the detail on the cab (turret) is sharper than on the hull.

The bow of the hull suffers from a few casting bubbles, and some excess resin that will need to be removed. The only other bubbles I found were hidden on the underside of the cab.
The interface between the cab and hull is cleverly designed to limit the rotation of the cab - the real M53/M55 cab could rotate 30 degrees to each side.

All the suspension components are moulded separately from the hull - so take care to keep track of the three different types of suspension arms. Each drive sprocket is made up of 4 photo etched and 2 resin parts. My kit was missing a couple of shock absorber parts, but it should be easy enough to scratchbuilt replacements.

For the tracks, OKB Grigorov provide 4 sprues of their T97 track links. This is a bit of an issue. The M53 and M55 were based on the automotive components of the M46/M47 tanks. They were equipped with the T84E1 rubber chevron tracks. The T84E1 tracks were the ultimate evolution of the Sherman HVSS tracks, and kept the same dimensions as the HVSS track - 23 inches wide and a 6 inch track pitch.

The T97 tracks were introduced with the M48, and were substantially wider at 28 inches and also increased in pitch to 6.94 inches. In scale, that means that a T97 track link is 1.8 mm wider than a T84E1 track link. The OKB tracks are also slightly over scale, so the error is closer to 2.2 mm. Aside from the width difference, the inside face of the T84 tracks is essentially plain, while the T97 tracks have a partial width rubber pad, and exposed metal on the outer sections. The OKB tracks faithfully reproduce this detail on the T97 tracks.

As noted in this review on OTW, the injection moulded tracks suffer from sink marks on every link.

The only other significant error I could find was that the vision block cupola on the right side of the cab roof has no vision blocks! This should be a standard, late Sherman-style cupola, but is moulded as a smooth ring with no detail aside from the hatch. In service, a 50-caliber MG mount was often added to the cupola, which is also missing from the kit. Also a baggy dust cover was usually fitted to the mantlet, and this is not provided in the kit.

All hatches and doors are moulded shut. In operation, the entire rear of the cab would be opened, as well as the Dutch doors on each side - in case any interior detail freaks feel like scratchbuilding a new cab!

The rear spade is almost entirely made of flat photo etched parts. Aside from the challenge of bending the blade to the right curve, there are something like 35 parts to be assembled. I anticipate this being the most difficult part of the build.

Some other minor points:

- the kit provides a pioneer tool rack, and tool mounting points on cab side, but no tools are included;
- the instructions only show the headlight group being fitted to the left side. Two identical sets of headlights are provided, but I believe the right group should be a mirror image of the left;
- lifting eyes are shown in instructions for the cab, but not included. These can easily be made with wire. Similarly rod for cab rear door hinge is shown in the instructions, but not provided.


Overall, I'm very impressed with this kit. The incorrect tracks and missing vision blocks are minor annoyances and the important thing is now those of us without the scratchbuilding skills of Paul Gaertner can have an M53 or M55 for our collections! The finished model will certainly make an impressive display.

Review sample purchased by the author.

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Review updated: 07 July 2014