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