by: Robert Blokker [ ]
Originally published on:
Background and History
With the Russian War machine starting up in the mid 30ís and producing material like there was no tomorrow you might imagine they were getting a little problem in the logistics department. Since there were eventually around 37,300 45mm anti-tank guns to be towed to the front. And those guns certainly would not tow themselves. Luckily the Soviets solved the little logistical problem partly with a nifty little vehicle called the T-20 Komsomoletz Armored artillery tractor. Starting pretty much parallel to the production of the 45 mm anti-tank at the end of 1936, Factory number 37 in Moscow started the production of the small armored artillery tractor which was powered by a GAZ M engine with a GAZ AAA transmission giving it double the stages and allowing for 2 ranges in traction and transport. The tractor was lightly armored with plates ranging from 7 to 10 mm and it was armed with a 7.62 DT Machinegun in a ballmount. The speeds it could reach were not much. going from max. 20 Km on the road and 11 km off road and the engine was not powerful enough to provide the tank for long work but since there was nothing available when it comes to alternatives they had to make do with it. Still the T20 Komsomoletz played a huge role in the motorization of the Red Army. And it did well in transporting the Guns complete with limber filled with ammo and its crew to the front. Earning it quite a significant place in the armed vehicles list.
It was not till a few weeks ago that if you, the modeller, wanted to build one of these little tractors you had to resort to the likes of Mirage and Toga which both offered a T-20 and which was quite likely from 1 and the same mold. And with most of the kits from the eastern bloc around that period it meant you got a kit made from extremely soft plastic, a 20th generation copy of instructions that were already not very good to start with. Horrible inaccurate tracks, bad fit etc. etc. Then there was the ADV T-20 which was made from resin. Very expensive and came with Panzer I tracks. Was blessed with the quality of instructions you usually got from the resin companies of that period. But there was no alternative. Luckily now there is.
Mirror models is working very hard on making a name as the company that produces the models nobody else dares. Along with a whole selection of Allied soft skins you could usually only find in the realms of resin and vacuform conversions they also decided to revive the little T-20 artillery tractor in 1:35.
Kit# 35200 comes in quite a small box. It is only 28 cm wide, 4,5 cm high and 16 cm deep. On the top of the lid is a sepia drawing the the T-20 Mod 38 towing an ammo limber. Also in the right hand corner there is a small seal telling me it is a special edition kit which means inside the box are not only parts to built it as a model 37 or a model 38 but also you get parts for a Soviet fuel trailer which is a really nice extra. Donít let the small vehicle in the small box fool you. When squeezing the box you will find out that the box is absolutely full. Pull off the lid and this will confirm it is filled to the brim with medium grey plastic. You will find a total of 13 sprues containing 456 parts. A collection of instruction sheets printed black and white on A4 paper, a small additional sheet of paper adding some details to said instructions, and a decal sheet. Of those 456 parts 417 make up the tractor. A part number that is already high for the average kit but considering the size of the vehicle, it will eventually become, that part number can be called astronomical. It is easy to assume that the biggest part of that number will be in the tracks and although the individual links are indeed a significant bit of the part count that still leaves you with 241 parts (the majority of it tiny). So where do they go?
Going through the instruction sheet it becomes apparent this is a kit and a half. Not only do you get the tractor but you also get its interior; from front to back, all of it, the whole shebang, And that as you will find out is where most of the parts go to.
Engine, engine bay and transmission
The first page of the instruction sheet deals with the GAZ M Engine and the GAZ AAA Transmission. No less than 28 parts go into this assembly spread over 7 steps. Looking over the parts and doing some measurements it appears that the dimensions for the engine and transmission are pretty much spot on. The details of it do match up with the reference that is available to me as well. The only additional detail you could add yourself is the wiring. The details are very crisp and should be a joy for the detail painter. It is almost a shame to hide all that detail under a closed engine cover. Luckily Mirror models offers you the option to model it with an open engine bay.
The hull tub, and drivers compartment
Page 2 shows the built up of the hull tub and drivers compartment. Instead of the conventional one piece tub, a lot of the companies offer nowadays, the T-20 comes with the tub in separate pieces for the floor, the sidewalls and the front and back plates. This means that the modeller needs some time to get everything aligned properly but then again. This way allows for detail on both the exterior and the interior as well; something that is often lacking or is extremely simplified with the one piece tub. The firewall with the big hole in it also looks the part with some really fine details on the driverís compartment side. Page 2 also shows a lot of the interior details like the fuel tank, The radiator cowling with grill, the seats and the fenders. Some parts are molded extremely thin. A good example are the seats, which if you hold them to the light, are almost transparent. Take your time to get these off the sprues. All the parts do match up with what I collected through the years on reference.
Engine cover and crew seats
These are dealt with on page 3. As I mentioned before if you opt to leave the engine bay open to show off that neat engine you can do so. The enginebay cover consists of 2 hatches that are positioned under the crew seats. The benches themselves can also be rotated to access the engine just like on the real thing with again super sharp detail. And most of the parts can be considered large. Also mounted in page 3 are the backplane of the vehicle with a big storage box mounted to it.
37 or 38 is a matter of details
Page 4 is the first page that goes into the details of one of the models you can make and it deals with the mod 37. A couple of the big differences can be found on the back of the vehicle; most notably the exhaust system. A big part of page 5 deals with the armored cover for the radiator of the mod 38 something that is not on the mod 37, furthermore you will find the tow hook which is a 4 part affair.
As I already mentioned Page 5 deals for a big part with the backside of the Mod 38. The rest of that sheet and all of sheet 6 deal with the rest of the big differences between the mods. And those are to be found in the armored crew compartment, most notably the front plate where the vision ports and the Machinegun are located. On the mod 37 the section with the MG protrudes out of the glacis plate while the mod 38 has a flat glacis with the ball mount installed in it. The MG is a really finely molded weapon and you will need to take care not to damage it while getting it off the sprue. Also a nice bit of engineering is the fact that all the vision ports and hatches are made in such a way that they can be modeled open or closed just like the real deal.
Page 7 Starts with a little headlight mod that was mainly seen on captured Finnish vehicles, and closing up the drivers compartment. And then continues with the first steps of the running gear which is continued on page 8, with the assembly of the suspension bogies with the leaf springs and the attachment to the hullsí underside. The details again are very sharp. I measured a wheel from some drawings I had and they match up pretty much perfectly.
Page 9 delves deeper into the running gear with the attachment of the sprockets, the return rollers and the tracks. Each run consists of max 78 links. And they are really tiny links as well. The links are really well detailed albeit a bit on the chunky size. However with a link being just over 5 mm wide they probably were already pushing the boundaries of what is possible in injection molding technology before the links would become too fragile. It is a concession I can live with. It still beats Panzer I tracks and it certainly is better than what its predecessors offered.
Page 10 offers some insight into painting the vehicle and going through the decal options. It provides you with decals for both a mod 37 and a mod 38 in German service, a mod 37 in Finnish service, an early mod 38 as a finish driving school vehicle, and a T-20 with the markings of the 2nd anti-tank battalion.
Page 11 and 12 deal with the assembly of the fuel trailer, which is a pretty nifty little kit on its own. In total 39 parts make up the trailer together with some bits of wire. The tires are of the 4 layer sandwich type and feature a really nice tread pattern. The details all over the trailer are accurate and very well executed. It also gives you the option to model the stabilizing legs both in transport or standing position.
The instruction sheets and decals
These are not the standard exploded view drawings you see from a lot of the injection molded kit companies. They are mostly cad drawings with numbers next to the parts that need to go into that location. Still they are clear enough and should not pose a problem to most modellers. Keep in mind while building which mod you built and try not to mix up the parts needed and you should end up with a really good model.
The decal sheet is very well printed and gives you quite a number of decals. Colors are very good and they are in register.
Years ago when I bought one of the Toga kits I also got some reference to go with it. And then I found out It was lacking some stuff in the detail department. So I decided to get some more reference. Which admittedly was not all that much but enough to try my hand at some decent detailing, and never got around it. This kit solves a lot of those problems by being as complete as possible.
When comparing the kit to what reference I have available it comes out really well. The engine and transmission are pretty much spot on. So is the interior as far as I can see. The road wheels are correct in size and shape. The correct sprocket with 18 teeth and 4 holes. I already mentioned the track links that are a bit on the heavy side but again I think this is mainly due to the limitations of the injection molding technology. An interesting thing that came up here in the forums was about the fenders being cut at a corner and there was somebody who said this was significant to the Finnish version of the T-20. And funnily enough that is a detail I somehow managed to miss for years. But I went back over my reference and indeed it appears that every original Russian built T-20 had squared off fenders that were a tad longer than what is presented on the Mirror Models kit. Note this is not an inaccuracy since it is not wrong. But for the true connoisseur of Russian armor you might want to spend some time with a bit of Evergreen to recreate the fenders as they were on the Soviet T-20; maybe an After Market company will step in to make a small fender set. One downside is that the kit does not include the engine screens that the mod 38 had on the back around the armoured radiator cover.
When this kit was first announced I could not wait for the moment it was going to released, as I wanted to build one for years. The Toga and Mirage kits, although doable, presented the modeller with a huge amount of extra work, mostly scratch. With every update from Mirror Models on Facebook the kit became better and better, it is as complete as it can be as It even comes with a full interior. The kit has outstanding details; there is no flash present on any of the parts; Which is just as well as some parts are so small that it would be really hard to clean them without breaking or seriously damaging them. The parts do not always attach to each other with locator pins and where they do they are very small (I photographed some of the sprues with a ruler next to it so you can get an idea of the size of some parts). For that reason this kit might be a bit more challenging to the less experienced modeller and for them I really suggest donít rush things and really take your time. It would be a pity if you messed up a really nice kit like this.
Maybe it seems like Iím heaping too much praise on this model, but my anticipation was extremely high and really was not disappointed in any way. A lot of companies should take note here from Mirror Models. Libor does his homework and provides you with a good accurate model of a T-20 which can be built into 2 mods. He then goes the extra step and crams in a full interior and engine, and for added value you also get a really nice fuel trailer. And you get all that at the bargain price of 28 euro. I am aware that this starts to sound like a Tell Sell commercial but in all fairness looking at the competition on the T-20 race, Iíd say that by the time the competitors cross the finish line the Mirror Models T-20 not only finished earlier but also had time for a shower and is already sitting at the bar celebrating its victory. Iíd recommend the kit to everybody.
With such a good base it is probably only a matter of time before weíll see the Zis 30 variant and maybe (hopefully) also the PAK 36 version. But weíll see what the future holds in store for that aspect.
I am planning to use this kit in the Postcard Challenge which starts the 1st of July, and I will start a separate built log to show how to build the kit. I will note anything I think you the modeller might find useful.
Stop the presses!
During my scrutinizing of the kit and my references I received a small PE set from LZ models. This is product# 35429 and it holds 12 PE parts and a small length of metal wire. Most of the PE parts and the metal wire go into the drivers compartment, Iím talking about steering levers and the gas pedal. But the set also has the 2 mesh screens that the mod38 had around the armored radiator cowling. And for 5 euro extra you can make your T-20 shine even more.