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Monday, May 20, 2013

Product Review: Plastic Soldier Company Russian T70 Tank

I was fortunate enough to be asked to review the Plastic Soldier Company's version of the T70.  This is a 15mm plastic model that fits in nicely with Battlefront's Flames of War World War II historical miniatures game.

These are the first PSC models that I have fully assembled and painted and I was dying to know how they would fit in an army that had Battlefront models.  So, as part of this review, I also purchased, built and painted a Battlefront T70 for comparison.

So...what was the T70 light tank? the interwebs where our old pal Wikipedia is there to help:

The T-70 was armed with a 45-mm L/46 gun Model 38 with forty-five rounds carried, and a coaxial 7.62-mm DT machine gun. The tank was operated by a driver and a commander who loaded and fired the gun. Armour thickness on the turret front was 60 mm, hull front and sides: 45 mm, rear and turret sides: 35 mm, roof and bottom: 10 mm.

By 1942, light tanks were considered inadequate by the Red Army, unable to keep up with the T-34 medium tank and unable to penetrate the armour of most German tanks, but they could be produced by small factories which were unable to handle the large components of medium and heavy tanks.  The T-70 was an attempt to remedy some of the shortcomings of the T-60 scout tank, which had very poor cross-country mobility, thin armour, and an inadequate 20-mm gun. It also replaced the very short production run of the T-50 light infantry tank, which was more sophisticated, but also much too complicated and expensive to produce.

The first batch of T-70s were built with a GAZ-202 automotive engine on each side of the hull, one driving each track. This arrangement was seen to be a serious problem, even before the first tanks were issued. It was quickly redesigned as the T-70M (although it continued to be referred to as just T-70), with the engines in-line on the right side of the tank and a normal transmission and differential. The conical turret was replaced by one more easily welded out of plate armour, and moved to the left side of the hull.

Curiously, even after the T-70's production line was redesigned, SU-76 self-propelled guns started to be built with the same unsatisfactory unsynchronized two-engine layout, and all of them were later recalled for factory rebuilding as SU-76Ms.

T-70s were put into production in March 1942 at Zavod No. 37, and along with T-60 production at GAZ and Zavod No. 38. They completely replaced T-60 production in September 1942, although that tank remained in use until the end of the war. Production ended in October 1943, with 8,226 vehicles completed.

In April 1942, the conical turrets on early-production machines were replaced with new welded turrets. The end of the T-70's production run was built with two 85-hp GAZ-203 engines, a Mark 4 commander's periscope replacing a vision slit, and other improvements.
The T-70 remained in service until 1948.

Both the PSC and Battlefront models appear to represent the main production run that started in April 1942 as both have the welded turret on the left side of the hull.

In game turns we have:

Now, let's break down the PSC T70 using my Accuracy/Quality/Versatility/Paintability construct.  Each company takes a different approach.  In short, PSC appears to strive for the 1:1 ratio in detail and nice sharp lines.  Battlefront is more the "Heroic" scale approach.  Certain things are exaggerated to make the model "pop".  It's a matter of personal preference as to which one is better.  I will try and judge each within their unique style described above, as well as answer the question of whether the two different approaches can be used in the same force.

Accuracy:  I am trying to be very thorough in my accuracy review of these models, as I missed several items in my last two reviews...I know...I know...but it's true.  If I missed something that you notice, please mention it in the forum post that will accompany this article.  The first thing you notice is the PSC tanks have very distinct, sharp angles and clear detail.  In both the Battlefront and PSC versions I found some things "off" from the real tank.  The first is the exhaust piping.  All of the photos I found of the T70 had the exhaust piping going up on the upper rear deck and not under the little shelf on the right side.  The mounting brackets as well are a full wrap around on the PSC model and do not reflect the pictures I have seen to date of actual T70s.
The little handle on the right front of the tank's hull appears to be a prop or handle to access the final drive (guessing here). A lot of pictures didn't have one at all...some had it bend to the left and some had it bend to the both the Battlefront and PSC are correct here...or you could file it away and be equally correct.
Still on the pictures above, you will also notice the drivers hatch on both the PSC and Battlefront models are slightly off when it comes to the driver's vision slot.  The model's might represent a later variant or even a local variant that I couldnt find pictures of to verify.

The fender brackets at first glance appear to be different.  With the PSC model having 4 on each side and Battlefront having 3 on the right and 4 on the left.  I found pictures were both styles existed.

The turret is our next stop. and we have several things here.  The PSC model doesnt have the lifting points on the gun mantlet where the BF model does.  You will also notice that the BF turret has little "bumps" on the both the right and left side and the PSC turret is smooth.  I have seen pictures of both styles, more with the bump than without, however.*primeportal*net%7Ctanks%7Cyuri_pasholok%7Ct-70_light_tank%7Cimages%7Ct-70_light_tank_006_of_130*jpg/

On the rear of the turret, there is a little hook.  PSC represents this with a single line whereas BF uses 2 lines that give a better impression of the hook.

One thing that did jump out at me is the size difference in the two turrets.  The PSC turret is slightly bigger, and I believe truer to scale. 

For the tank commander, PSCs is very stiff and the chest seems out of proportional to the head.  BF's commander is of the heroic scale, so slightly exaggerated features, but is at least proportional to itself.

Rating: 8/10 for PSC and 8/10 for BF. Each got most of it right.  The turret size brought BF down, but the commander and other details brought it back up.  The exhaust brackets, crew member and other little details were what brought the PSC model down a tad.

Quality:  I had a few issues with the BF model.  The tracks didn't align and needed a good bit of filing in order to fit.  Also the Resin hull lacked crisp detail, especially on the rear hull deck.  The PSC tank was very high quality.  Very crisp detail on every piece.  The only issue with quality here comes with the builder's skill as a modeler.  This is a model.  Do not forget that.  The end quality of the model depends on you.  Rating:  PSC 10/10 and BF 7/10. 

With regards to assembly of these models, it took me 3 times as long to assemble the PSC T70 than it did to build the BF model.  Time and ease of assembly is not part of actual rating scheme, but it is something you need to be aware of.  The Battlefront model had 7 pieces (counting the crew member) and I was able to clean and assemble it all in slightly over 8 minutes.  This included the filing required to get the tracks to fit.

The PSC T70 took slightly over 24 minutes (24 mins and 43 seconds to be exact).  This was down from my worst time of just over 28 minutes on the first tank.  The last 3 tanks were all completed with 30 seconds of this best time, so I do not think my time would have gotten much faster after hitting that best time.

There are 16 pieces counting the crew member.  Some are a little fiddly and for this a pair of tweezers comes in very handy.  Every piece needs to have some flash trimmed from where you cut it off of the sprue.  Additionally, there are two little cylinders on the back of the tracks that need to be removed and filed smooth as well.

If your don't remove these, the tracks will stick noticeably.  All this prep work and the fiddly pieces makes this an above average difficulty model in my opinion.  To take full advantage of the higher quality, you need to take your timein assembly and have moderate model building skills.

Versatility (and can BF and PSC tanks mix seamlessly):  Can the PSC T70s be mixed with a Battlefront T70s?  I think definitely so.  Especially, if the PSC tanks are weathered to tone down the sharp angles a touch.  Even if I had a pure PSC force, I would use Battlefront figures for the crew or go with no crew at all.  The PSC crew is flat, motionless and not proportional to itself as described above.

Rating:  10/10 for PSC and 10/10 for BF. 

Paintability:  The BF T70's detail was a little lacking, especially when compared to the crisp clean lines and depth of detail of the PSC T70.  Rating:  PSC 10/10 and BF 8/10.

I started these off with my airbrush using  Vallejo's Surface Primer 73.609.  Then I did a dry brush of the green areas with 924 Russian Uniform.  The tracks were painted 950 Black and then a heavy drybrush of 982 Cavalry Brown with a final light drybrush of 863 Gunmetal Grey and a #2 pencil.  Then I gloss coated the model, applied decals and a pin wash to bring our the models details, a little touch up where the pinwash was too heavy and then flat matte coated the model.

I then applied MIG Pigments to the lower hull using a MIG Fixer and then MIG Europe Dust P028 pigment.  When that dried, I applied another coat of MIG Fixer over the pigment I had placed earlier to lock them down really good.  When that was dry, I gave it a final Flat Matte finish.  Don't be alarmed when you apply fixer or varnish and the pigments get all wet and they dry they will go back to their true color.

The Tank Commander was basecoated in 879 Green Brown and then given a hi-light of 988 Khaki.  The helmet was done with 984 Flat Brown and then a black wash.

Overall:  Love them both now that they are assembled and painted.  Hated the PSC as I was assembling them...24 minutes to put together (my best time) was just a killer.  8.25/10 for the Battlefront T70 and,not counting assembly time or the modelling skills of the builder, a. 9.5/10 for the PSC T70.  Someone with less than moderate modelling skills will lower the PSC T70 accordingly.

It boils down to cost in my opinion.  Do you want to pay for ease of assembly?  What is your time worth?  For a tank heavy force that is conundrum.  Take a Russian Tank horde for instance.  Upfront, I can save money with PSC, but will spend roughly 3 1/2 hours assembling 10 tanks for one company (Platoon) versus spending 250% more ($12.50 vs. $5 per tank) and cut assembly by 66% (8 minutes a tank vs. the 24 mins) to only roughly 1 1/2 hours for the same 10 tanks.  As you add one or two more companies (platoons) the cost and time balance starts to get scary.

Regardless which way you go...Battlefront or have a solid model.  I prefer the PSC T70 over the Battlefront model, but would use the Battlefront figures for any crew.  Even though the PSC took 3 times longer to assemble I love them now that I am done and can't want to finish the10 PSC T34s and Panthers I have in the paint queue...all with Battlefront crews of course...and see how they mix together with mu Battlefront tanks.

SonBae (AKA Jeff Flint) is a long time gamer and painter and runs a blog at Journey Back To The Table where he posts photos of his work, reviews, BatReps and the “Painting Miniatures Declassified” modeling and painting tutorials.

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