Type 80 Main Battle Tank
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
The Chinese took the basic A.A. Morozov T-54 design and ran it through a vast number of permutations and stretches. The last versions began to change in form and shape, and the assessment has been that the Type 85-I tank was the swan song of the design in Chinese hands. The basic tank went through the Type 59 series (five models – Type 59, 59A, 59B, 59C, and 59D), the Type 69 series (Type 69-I, 69-II in three models, and 69-III), the Type 79, and the Type 80. In the Type 80, the modifications up to the Type 79 (new fire control system, new engine, new 105mm L7 based gun) were combined with a suspension reminiscent of the Egyptian "Ramses" which combined a T-54/55 tank with an M60 suspension. The tank weighed in at 38 metric tons, and could be fitted with a variety of options as well as the rest of the Type 59 family (i.e. any or all of eight "packages" including "Boom shield" bar armor, searchlights, laser range finders, etc.) The Type 80 also had a composite armor glacis and a dual use laser rangefinder/gunner's primary sight.
Trumpeter's model appears to share a great deal of its parts with other kits. The tracks, running gear, and belly pan are from the Type 85-II kits (they say so on the parts) and the turret appears to be from the Type 69/79 series of kits. Only the upper hull and details appear to be unique to this tank, but may be shared with the Type 85-II (I can't tell.) The Type 80 used a new engine, and instead of the "pizza oven" exhaust on the left of the traditional T-54 based hull, it has two direct exit stacks on the right.
The turret is better than some of the T-54/55 efforts – it does have the correct offset to the right of the gun to clear the gunner's position – and has some nice weld detail. Many other details are plain but function (hey, unlike ESCI they at least have three identical sized fuel tanks!) and open frame fender braces. But the lower hull is a throwback to the early 1960s with molded on road wheel arms, and the wheels install with screws to permit free rotation. Detail on the wheels themselves is not too bad, but you will have to come up with some sort of cap to seal the resulting holes in the center of the road wheels as Trumpeter didn't bother to do it for you. With the skirts in place, the suspension may not be that bad. The lower hull is awful, though, as it even has a big ON-OFF molded by the switch position for the motorized version! Out come the files, scrap and putty.
Overall, the Type 80 is not as bad as some efforts, and in areas is better than the ESCI T-55 kit. But this is not a first-rank kit, and from what it shows, the Type 59 and Type 69 series kits are not ‘bullseyes' either. If you want a Type 80, I can recommend the kit if you are aware of its needs. Like the Type 98 tank, it also includes "parade decals" from the October 1999 Beijing Parade (these were the first tanks and in the "A" group.)
Cookie Sewell AMPS
Review Copyright © 2000 by Cookie