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Tank BT-7 Mod. 1937
Early Version


S u m m a r y

Stock Number and Description Eastern Express 1/35 Scale Kit No. 35111; Tank BT-7 Mod. 1937 Early Version
Media and Contents: 196 parts in grey styrene
Price: USD$22.00 - $29.00
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: Nice, new from the ground up kit of this vehicle; very petite detailing on the major parts; includes standard production "short pitch" tracks
Disadvantages: Some shortcuts and errors; "magic" floating front wheels will frustrate many modelers
Recommendation: Recommended for all "Between the Wars" and early WWII Soviet modelers


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

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F i r s t L o o k


Of all of the nations who were struck by the forward thinking of J. Walter Christie in 1930 when he burst on the scene with his fast tank chassis, none were quicker to embrace his efforts than the Soviet Union. Striving to create an "instant" tank industry, their representatives went abroad and bought two tank chassis and the rights to build them in Russia. The two chassis (unofficially dubbed "BT-1" for Bystrokhodniy Tank or "fast tank") were used to create the BT-2 fast wheel-and-track tank in 1931.

Even before that tank came off the production line, a replacement, later to become the BT-5 in 1933, was on the drawing board, and by 1932 a follow-on to that tank, the future BT-7, entered the design phase. Based on the experience with the fast tanks, the BT-7's design evolved and was more sophisticated than the first two.

The BT-7 had a slightly wider hull and some ballistic improvements to the bow and driver-mechanic's hatch area. It was also extensively welded and used new production techniques. The main external difference was a new hull rear, which was designed to increase the amount of onboard fuel carried, and the rear-mounted muffler was then moved into the rear of the radiator exhaust grille area, with twin pipes exiting the raised grille cover. It switched to a new short-pitch track which was better for moving at high speed across country, and also to the more powerful M-17 aircraft engine. The latter caused problems early on, as it had far more torque than the predecessor M-5 (copy of the US Liberty engine) and tore up drivelines with great regularity.

The first model to see service was the BT-7 Model 1935, which came in line, commander's and artillery (BT-7A) variants, the latter with a short 76mm howitzer. The tanks remained in production from 1935 until 1941 with the last few rolling off the lines as the first production T-34 tanks began to come off as well. BT-7 tanks fought in a number of conflicts, such as Khasan Lake in 1938 and the Kalkhin-Gol River in1939 against the Japanese, against the Finns in 1939-40, and against the Poles in 1939. One of the most widely produced prewar tanks, when the Germans struck in June 1941 over 4,500 of them were still in service with the RKKA. Many were awaiting repairs or servicing, and were easily captured or destroyed by the advancing Germans. Those which did work put up a stiff resistance, and their 45mm cannon proved capable of knocking out any German tank in service in the summer of 1941. Some tanks remained in service throughout the war, and took place in the final offensives against the Japanese in August 1945. This was a major combat vehicle, and one which contributed heavily to the defense of the USSR in the first six months of the war. Some remained in action in Leningrad for the course of the entire 900 days, and it was a fast and relatively capable vehicle.

This is the second major kit of this vehicle from Eastern Express, and is nearly identical to their earlier Model 1935 with the exception of the turret. This kit comes with the later sloped armor turret (called "conical" turret by the Russians; the earlier one is the "cylindrical" turret).

It is a very nicely done turret; there is a rumor out that it is underscale, but comparing it with the latest set of plans found in the Armada Military Museum series "The BT Tanks" by Pavlov, Zheltov and Pavlov, it is dead on the money in shape and size. Alas, the exception again is the 45mm gun barrel, part N9, which remains uncorrected; the second "step" back from the muzzle is 2.5mm too short at its rear end, towards the mantelet.

Detail is very petite for an Eastern European kit, and the rivet details are very well done indeed. Since this is a "flat kit" all parts are essentially flat other than the turret sides and the bow unlike the one-piece bodied armor cars, all rivets are in place and you don't have to add any to the basic kit. The fenders have raised ejection pin marks on the bottom sides, but are reasonably thin and the marks are easily removed.

EE wisely included "link and length" tracks, something other manufacturers should think about more often. Tracks are thin and petite with strengthening ribs molded in place, and look to be dead on the money. (Note to "heavy track" fans: these were very thin and light, as they were designed for high speed over open country and the vehicle was expected to run on wheels on the highway.)

The only major complaint most modelers will have is that the rear grille cover (part D24) is molded solid, and that no vanes for the radiator efflux are included in the kit. The exhaust pipes (parts B10) have the curved section coming up from the muffler (parts B9) but fit flush with the hull roof (through the grille one could see where they curved down to the header pipes, as the tank had no muffler). The tank has the later large air cleaner (part D33) which would indicate this tank may have been built in early 1937.

One problem I found with the building of the earlier Model 1935 and that this model will share is that of "magic" front road wheels. They attach to the front suspension arms by the retainer cap (part B33) but there is not enough of a tang to hold them in place; I punched out some 0.040" disks from styrene and used those to hold the wheels in place after letting them set up in place. This isn't very difficult to fix, but it is annoying.

Also once again, Eastern Express provides a nice sheet of decals, but no clues as to where to use them or color schemes! I think decals are for five vehicles, but without the paint schemes that is only a guess. One is Finnish, but Eastern Express cleverly got past the Council of Europe ban on swastikas by making them in two seemingly disjointed halves which can be connected on the sides of the turret to form the Finnish version. The others are a number 722 with red stars (probably Soviet Protective Green overall), number 52 with red stars (ditto), one named "SOLDAT" (soldier), and various circle and square tactical markings. It's kind of bizarre that EE would make a kit this nice and then slough it off without any marking instructions!

I recommend replacing the kit tracks with a set of Fruilmodel ones as they are flexible, and getting track to fit on these paired-link Soviet tanks is a pain as there is a Murphy's law corollary that you will always come up with an odd number of links. The Fruil tracks can be tedious to assemble, but it beats having to wiggle and cut track links to fit after getting the model nearly complete.

Overall this is again a good kit of an important tank, and Eastern Express gave it a good effort which can be made into an outstanding model with a bit of work.

Cookie Sewell

Review Copyright 2002 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 29 September, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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