Back in December, I pulled Tamiya’s Challenger 1 from the stash on a whim. Modern armor isn’t exactly my thing, but building the Chally has certainly piqued my interest to a certain degree.
So I’ve decided to keep the modern thing going with Trumpeter’s new 1/35 T-80BV kit. And, because the kit only includes glue-em style indy tracks (which I HATE), I decided to spring for Trumpeter’s separate Workable T-80 Track Set.
The T-80BV Main Battle Tank
I won’t bother with a deep history of the T-80. In short, it was the Soviet Union’s last main battle tank, and continues in service with Russia and a handful of other countries today. If you want the TL;DR version, go check out the Wikipedia entry.
The T-80BV denotes a T-80B outfitted with Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) for added protection against HEAT anti-tank weapons. Although the T-80B was introduced in 1978 and the BV upgrade appeared in 1985, neither saw active service in Afghanistan. Both did see combat in Kazakstan, where they fared pretty poorly against dudes armed with anti-tank RPGs. Something to do with ordnance storage and the potential for “catastrophic explosion”.
So…not the best tank ever. Though the T-80 does pack a mean punch with its 125mm main gun that can shoot missiles in addition to more traditional tank rounds.
Despite its poor performance in Kazakstan and long frustrations over its buggy gas turbine engine, the T-80BV does have one thing going for it. It has worn some very striking camoflage schemes in its day. That, combined with the busy look of the ERA blocks and the frequent subjection of the T-80 to severe weathering, makes for a very visually compelling subject. And since I’m deliberately operating in a certain cloak of ignorance about modern armor (to avoid falling into AMS mode), that’s enough for me.
Plan of Attack
My typical approach to armor is to build up the hull and turret and keep the running gear as subassemblies until painting or even weathering is wrapped up. On the recently-finished Challenger, I left the side skirts off until literally the end of the build.
That’s basically impossible with the T-80. The fenders and skirts combined probably take up a third of the tank’s width, and adding them after the fact just wouldn’t be pretty.
So instead, I’ve decided to take a different approach, and finish off the lower hull, running gear and tracks before moving on to the rest of the build.
Holy Parts Count
Armor models typically have incredibly daunting parts counts, but the T-80 is probably the most insane I’ve dealt with to date – over 1000 individual parts! A good deal of those are wrapped up in the tracks, sure, but still.
The detail on the kit itself is exquisite. I’d put it up against Dragon or Tasca or any of the other top-tier armor manufacturers.
The workable tracks are pretty damn intense on their own, and comprise well over 700 parts!
The workable tracks are fiddly, for sure. Cleanup is a nightmare. BUT…they are workable. I do wish the end connectors were a bit more of a rubbery consistency for better grab over the track pins (a la the Meng T-90), but the regular styrene parts do the job.
Working in sections of 8 at a time, I got the workables together. A bit further along, I decided to steal some of the kit’s non-workable links as well, and use those for the flat bottom runs beneath the road wheels. Fortunately the two types of links an be made to work together without much difficulty.
The lower hull buildup is packed full of some great detail, but goes together mostly without incident. My biggest gripe is that the suspension is not workable, but also not so snug that it just meshes into a level sit. The way I see it – either give the modeler a full range of motion to play with, or make sure everything fits snug and level. This little bit of play makes fitting the road wheels…interesting.
The upper hull fits down very well over the lower “bathtub”, but be sure to drill out all the holes for the ERA blocks first!
One nifty feature out back is the use of PE for securing the unditching log. The brackets actually are meant to fold over the strap for a nice, secure fit. I found securing the brackets slightly open, then fitting the strap, then squeezing them shut with tweezers worked well.
The ERA blocks on the front glacis are easy. Some portions are molded as blocks-of-blocks for easier install.
As the buildup continues to include the fenders and skirts, you really begin to appreciate how much width they give the tank.
Big Wheels Keep on Turning
Wait? What was that I said about doing the running gear first? Oh yeah.
After the usual hell of sanding the road wheels was over and done, I painted everything with Gunze Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500 Black.
And then Mig’s AMMO Green Khaki.
A few of the road wheels are also indicated as being painted in a light gray…I feel the AMMO color is too light here compared to the grays I’ve seen in reference shots.
Oh well. That’s what weathering is form, amirite?
Next, I painted the rubber on the road wheels with AMMO Rubber & Tires, then gave the green wheels a dash of Vallejo Olive Green wash. The stuff is pretty awesome.
The gray wheels were treated likewise with Vallejo Gray Wash, then they were all mounted. This required a lot of sanding of the suspension arms to get a nice, level sit. Not enjoyable work at all.
I also elected to only complete a half-run of tracks. Since the skirts hide everything.
With the half runs completed and the running gear all mounted up, I moved on to the track. This was painted the usual Mr. Surfacer 1500, then AMMO Dark Tracks.
Weathering came next…the tracks got some brown washes and then the tracks and wheels got some enamel Earth Effects which, when I tried to dilute and vary with white spirits, started lifting the acrylic, supposedly enamel-proof AMMO paint. For shame!
But…good enough until later in the build.
Next time around, I’ll work my way through the rest of the build, complete with the world’s busiest turret.