T-54/54A & T-55
Manufacturer: PST (Kits no. 72045 & 72046 respectively)
I have long been a fan of PST's kits, as well as of the T-55 tank, so the announcement of these two kits really had me excited for many months. I have owned the ARMO T-55 kit for several years, but have never gotten around to building it, because I have read about some construction hassles. I also have the ACE T-55 kit, and built that one recently (see Review), so now that I have received these two PST kits, my collection is complete. I would have liked to do a side-by-side comparison of all three kits, but since I already built the ACE kit, we'll just have to settle for individual reviews.
These two new kits from PST are very similar. They share three sprues of parts: the hull, turret and track sprues, but each contains a unique sprue of wheels and other detail parts.
The hull and turret sprues are presented above. As you can see, these kits are very well molded, with little flash, and only a few sinkmarks (though more than I usually like to see). The detail is very crisply molded, abundant, and fairly accurate. The hull underside looks especially impressive, in case you want to build a diorama of an upside-down Iraqi T-55. Because of the redunancy of some of the sprues, you will have several spare parts from each kit, including almost a complete turret. The T-54 turret has a few details different from the T-55, most notably the cupola for the loader's hatch. Again, the detail on these parts is molded very well, but I have noticed a couple of deficiencies: the turret roofs lack the heavy weld-lines that make the distinctive Double-D pattern around the hatches. This should be easy to add on my own, either etching it in, or else using putty. And if I mess it up, at least I'll have a spare turret as backup :)
Also, I have read reviews that mention the small hatches on the turrets. Indeed, looking at these scans, the hatches appear REALLY small, but keep in mind that those are just the hatch openings, and the actual hatches are a bit larger than the openings. The openings should be enlarged some, if you want to model the hatches open. But even so, the hatches are still a little too small, on the order of a millimeter or so each. For the flat loader's hatch on the T-55, it's not too noticable, but it is more so on the cupolas. Both styles of 100mm main gun are included, both the smooth barrel, and with the bore evacuator. This latter barrel is used by both the T-55, as well as later versions of the T-54. The 12.7mm DShKM machinegun is pretty good, though not quite as detailed as the example on the Roden IS-3. Great care will be needed is cutting the handholds from the sprue, or else you can use bent copper wire instead.
The tracks (pictured above and below) are a mixed bag. In some respects, they are better than the ACE tracks, such as in quality of the moldings, and detail on the insides of the track, but they are also not as good as they could be. On the lengths of track in particular, there is detail missing on the raised portions of the outside of the links, but the individual links look much better. Since mostly the individual links will be the only track visible on the completed model, this may not be too much of a problem. But if the upper track run is even partially visible, it may be necessary to carve some additional detail into each link.
Below is the sprue that comes with the T-54 only. It has several smaller details, such as the spare fuel drums and tow hooks, as well as the wheels unique to this version. This kit comes with the "spider" style of perforated wheels, which were introduced on late versions of the T-34-85, as well as the T-44. I don't yet know if there were different styles of the spider wheels, but I will try to find out. It's possible that these wheels could be used for some T-34 kits.
The T-55 sprue (pictured below) is mostly the same as the T-54 sprue, but comes with different wheels: the starfish pattern, which was common on T-62 as well, so these could be used in place of the horrible wheels on the ESCI T-62 kit. The wheels (on both of these PST kits) are very well done. While the starfish wheels are better than the wheels in the early ACE kits (such as the one I built), I have seen scans of the "new" ACE wheels included with later releases of the ACE T-55, and they appear to be about equal. But the chassis on this PST kit looks like it will be much easier to assemble than the ACE kit.
The decals are fairly comprehensive, with six marking options for the T-54 (four Soviet and two Polish), and four options for the T-55 (one Polish, two Soviet, and one Afghan Northern Alliance). Considering the very large number of nations which have used (and are still using) these two tanks in their arsenals, I hope than an aftermarket company will soon provide us with a larger selection of markings.
As always, these decals look very high quality, thin, and clearly printed. I have used PST decals in the past, and am very impressed with them. The scans above have been altered to better display the white markings.
From this initial in-box preview, I would say that these two kits are excellent, and highly recommended. I am now working on building them, so hopefully I will have a construction reveiw soon.
Thank you very much to Alexander at PST for providing the review kits.
References: Bronekollektsiya #3.2000, Soviet Armour, 1945-1995, by M. Baryatinski (in Russian), Tornado Armour Book: T-54/T-55 Part 1 (in Russian), Tornado Armour Book: T-54/T-55 Part 2 (in Russian), The Greenhill Armoured Fighting Vehicles Data Book, by Ian Hogg, The Illustrated Directory of Tanks of the World, by David Miller, and Jane's Tanks and Combat Vehicles Recognition Guide, by Chistopher Foss.
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