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T-55 Model 1958
with BTU-55



S u m m a r y

Stock No. Trumpeter 1/35 Scale Kit No. 00313; T-55 Model 1958 with BTU-55 (static model)
Contents and Media: 352 parts (326 in light olive styrene, 18 in light olive vinyl, 3 in clear styrene, 2 in steel colored vinyl, 1 nylon string, 1 copper wire, and 1 sheet of nylon screening)
Price: USD$19.95
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: CAN be built into a T-55 Model 1958, T-55 Model 1970, upgraded T-55, or Type 59/Type 69 with work; all parts for both the early and late T-55s (cupolas, DShK) in the box; BTU nice kit on its own; finally made of styrene and not ABS plastic
Disadvantages: Hull proportions are wrong; turret needs correction; and tracks need replacement
Recommendation: Recommended with Reservations for all T-55 or Type 69 Fans


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

Trumpeter's 1/35 scale T-55 Model 1958 is available online from Squadron.com


F i r s t   L o o k


I have apparently gone on record as having an "attitude" about Trumpeter and their kits. That's not true, as I have only given them honest reviews when the kits have been unbuildable (made from ABS or similar plastic) or clearly pirated from other manufacturers' kits.

I built their Type 69-II (or rather attempted to build it) in October 2000. It was nearly impossible to assemble as the kit was molded from a dark ABS type plastic which even the kit's own cement would not adhere to. But it was a unique kit, and suffered from many of the same failings as the rest of the first group of Trumpeter releases: bad proportions, poor assembly components, and obsolete design.

They recently reported they are stopping these practices as they wish to be a serious model company. I salute them for that, if it comes to pass and they stop the practice of copying styrene or resin kits and concentrate on achieving world standards.

In the case of this model, I must state up front this T-55 kit is uniquely theirs, and is now made from styrene. Those are two great things in its favor.

Trumpeter has reworked and cleaned up their molds from their earlier Type 59/69/79/80 kits and now is molding them in a light olive styrene similar to the Tamiya T-72M1 and IS-3 kits. This is a good step forward, for modelers that can assemble your kits tend to buy other products from the same company, and can also swap their parts with other models. Assembly is therefore modular and the kits use "mix and match" sprues of the same sort as Tamiya and DML now do. This kit uses a "standard" A, B, and D sprue set with a specific T-55 turret (E), 100mm D-10T2S gun (H), T-55 add-on parts (J1 and J2), and the BTU-55 assembly (K). The result is that the model comes with two sets of hatches and two DShK machine guns (one of which was missing a barrel in this kit, but that is moot if the Model 1958 is built which does not have the loader's AA gun mount).

All of the T-55 and Type 69 light parts are also included. Unfortunately the lights are the correct size for the Type 69 and undersized for the T-55, and as only one set is included, you will have to scrounge some from an ESCI T-55 or Tamiya T-62A kit. The engine deck is that from the T-54 or Type 59 and as such is incorrect for a T-55 (the accessory access door to the air cleaner on the right side is rectangular, and it should be more of a uneven quadrilateral shape with the longest side facing the right side of the hull.)

The turret mirrors the turrets from the Lindberg and ESCI T-55 kits in that it is equilateral and has the gun on the centerline. While the shape and height are not too bad, this is an error as the gun needs to be moved about 2.5mm to the right (and yes, it IS noticeable in the finished model.) The reason is that without this shift there is no room for the gunner on the left side of the turret, and the gunner's sight appears in the wrong place on the turret. This is a reasonably easy fix, as one can cut a strip off the right side and fix it to the left. The mantelet attachment strips (parts B95 and B96) are separate, so you will have the right details to reattach when done.

The wheels and driveline are infuriating. The wheels are the most accurate of any T-55 wheels in a kit but have odd bars on the tire tread surface which have to be removed. They also fasten with the obsolete external poly cap system Tamiya junked years ago for hidden internal caps. The ones for this kit are different than the ones included with the Type 69-II kit I built some time back, but are still slightly undersized.

Most of the details are not too bad. The fuel tanks are at least all the same size (!) and at least close to the original design. A separate set of bins are included for the T-55 which hopefully fit better than the Type 69-II set, which actually prevented the turret from being attached or swivelled.

I have two sets of super-accurate T-55 plans, one from noted US modeler and researcher Karl Rosenlof and one from Russian modeler and researcher Vladimir Levkovich. I used them to compare the three better known T-55 kits to the original. (Note: I ignored the SKIF T-55 kit as it is so bad as to not be worth the effort. It may have an accurate hull but the rest of the kit is so poor that it needs to be replaced, and ergo is of little value to anyone except SKIF's backers.)


T-55 Model 1958 Actual 1/35 Lindberg ESCI Trumpeter
Length overall   9000 mm 257.1 259.0 259.0 263.0
Length (hull only) 6040 mm 172.6 172.6 174.0 177.0
Width (fenders) 3270 mm 93.4 95.2 93.4 95.2
Height (turret crest) 2350 mm 67.1 66.5 63.0 69.1
Ground clearance 425 mm 12.1 13.0 14.0 12.1
Hull depth 1010mm 28.9 29.2 29.2 32.5

Alas, as can be seen, Trumpeter modified the hull to fit in a power pack and as a result the hull is too long and too thick. This throws the rest of the kit out of whack and makes it look thick and chunky when completed. It appears that the 4.4 mm length problem is all at the rear of the hull, as it is the reason that the length is off. The 3.6 mm height problem is split evenly between above and below the fenders. These are very tough problems to fix, and most modelers will either ignore them or find another way. (Swapping bits between the ESCI T-55 and the Trumpeter one may be the way to go, as the ESCI hull SHAPE is more accurate whereas the Trumpeter hull DETAILS are more accurate. But either way, that's a lot of work.)

The BTU blade, on the other hand, makes a nice model and consists of 58 parts by itself. It comes with a separate moldboard and backing frame, and also has all of the mounts and pistons for operation. The transport cables (parts K-36 and K-37) are the only weak parts to it as they are molded in one piece from styrene. The only drawback is that there is no other "good" T-55 out there to mount it on!

Decals are included for one Finnish vehicle, Ps 261-2. Side numbers are provided but would seem to be a non-starter with only one registration number set.

Overall, this is a better kit than the Type 69-II. While it does have nice touches, in its own right it is just as poor as its Lindberg and ESCI predecessors. (It is better than the SKIF kit, but that did not take much to accomplish.) It CAN be made into a T-55 but it will take a lot of work and extra kits to get the job done. Even if you decide to build it as is, the tracks are very thin and lack depth, and will have to be replaced with an after-market set.

Cookie Sewell

Review Copyright 2002 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 14 August, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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