OK, I will say it first: This thing looks like it belongs floating in the night sky over a farmer’s barn abducting a cow with a tractor beam. It most certainly does NOT look like the carefully designed Heavy Tank that it actually is.
Briefly, the Object 279 Heavy Tank was designed at the Kirov Plant in Leningrad by the L. Troyanov design bureau. The design was based on studies of tank survivability near nuclear detonations as well as the manoeuvrability of heavy tanks over obstacles and in poor terrain. These led to the idea-melding of a hull design to minimize the effects of a nuclear blast, a hull sheathing to dampen the effects of HEAT and APDS rounds, up-arming to a 130mm main gun, AND all while using 2 sets of dual track systems running off a shared power train to keep the 60 ton tank's ground pressure to less than 0.6Kg/cm2 (8.5 psi). Wow, that is a really low psi...a normal human male is estimated at 8 psi. It had a 1000hp engine that allowed it to go up to 55kph (34mph) with a 300km (186 mile) range. All this with 269mm (hull front) to 319mm (turret front) of armor. The 130mm main gun could penetrate 450mm RHA at 90deg max. Impressive.
It did have teething problems (there was only one prototype made) but it had been approved for full production when it was, along with all other heavy tank designs, strictly forbidden by N. Khrushchev. So it was relegated to being a one-hit-wonder of Soviet Heavy Tank design. (You all remember that band, right?)
Panda Hobby is the first of three (!) companies that announced a kit of the Object 279. Once I heard about it and was able to get a kit for review, I consulted with my friend Kyle Nelson, who is probably the world's biggest Object 279 fanatic. (Ever. Anywhere. By like a factor of 100. Seriously. Dude, he went to KUBINKA just to PRAY to it. Really. I have pictures.) So I will be presenting some of Kyle's impressions in the review as a check on my own more generalized knowledge.
I will separate my notes out between those intended for a regular God-fearing modeler and the AMS afflicted modeler. (I will generally be putting those notes in parentheses).
So onto the kit.
What you get
You get seven sprues, upper and lower hulls, a sheet of PE and a piece of string all packed up in a sturdy enough box. You also get a print with a copy of the box art on one side and the ONE AND ONLY paint recommendation on the other. (Hint, the paint recommendation is NOT pink.)
Overall, the first impression is that the kit is well designed and the lay out is typical for a tank kit. Two piece hull with details, two piece turret build, and three sprues of WAY TOO FREAKING MANY individual track links. You know, the usual.
Detail looks to be good. (It might be a bit too soft and thick. This is a bit of a personal choice issue. Also, I only found general dimensions, not specific details, so I cannot make solid comments on things like the proper size of road wheels or the length of barrel for example.)
Step 1. Sprocket assembly: I had to cut off the locator pins to get parts A24 and A25 to line up properly. Unfortunately this will be a common comment in this review. Many pieces will not line and glue up correctly when using the locating pins used as guides. (The sprocket looks nice and delicate for 1/35 scale. Another example of the detail, the bolt heads on the sprocket mount, are all proper six sided bolts with crisp details. I needed my work microscope to confirm this...)
Step 2. The "legs". C29/C30 actually do mate well with the locating pins. A13 will need some filing down in the slots of the attachment area to fit properly. (Again, something that will be noted with sad regularity in this review, the need to file for proper fit; and why do the attachment points that part A13 goes on to have holes in them if they are completely unseen once A13 is on?) Seams will also be an issue with this kit. The front join of C29/C30 needs to be cleaned up. Parts A6 and A7 are not marked on the sprues, so you will have to find them (near A9). Parts A11/A14 fit very nicely, though you will not really be able to see them once the tank is all together. Parts A8, the return rollers, do not fit on their hull side pegs well (the hole is too small to fit the peg) and once on they DO NOT come off. Make sure you want them on before you PUT them on. Also note, the return rollers are not meant to go on ALL the way... they should line up with the track runs... which means if you break any of the return rollers off, or break the pins off, that there will be excitement (and maybe some creative vocabulary) trying to amend the problem. Be careful. The road wheels are nice in shape and size compared to the real thing.
Step 3. Lower hull assembly. PE7 is a very nice touch (for something you will probably NEVER see again on the underside of the hull). I would suggest attaching the "legs" after they, the tracks, and the lower hull, are painted as it will be tough to paint any of the inside parts later. I left my legs off until after painting, the fit seems good enough to do this, though I cannot speak for the final fit once paint is on. Sprocket housings can be attached if you want. I would leave the sprockets to rotate freely in case it is useful when attaching the tracks. The overall look and shape of the lower hull is good. (Kyle pointed out that the "sheathing" material used on the hull appears to have prominent ridges that look, well, too prominent (and proud) compared to the real thing. This is kind-of like sheet metal, at least in appearance, and the kit does not really capture that aspect well. Not really sure how they could without making the kit a lot more complicated.)
Step 4. The tracks. These are unique to the Object 279. The real tracks were thin and somewhat delicate looking (though no REAL tank track is ever REALLY thin and delicate... each real individual link seems to feel like it weighs at least as much as the tank), and the kit tracks actually capture this look well. The kit track also comes with two “bonuses”: FLASH! and... knock out pin marks! Recessed. And. Right. In. The. Front. Track. Face. You are SO welcome. (Time for some track fixing-fu to prove your superior modeling ability. Or ignore it. I just twitch a lot when I think about it.) Kyle confirmed, as did research photos, that the tracks are indeed relatively correct. Assemble 4 sets and go crazy (either during the construction or by celebrating when done). Remember, FOUR FULL sets here. Enjoy. While the tracks are able to be press fit for the most part, you will want to glue them together because, if one of the inside runs breaks after assembling the whole tank, well, I think a baby kitten dies or something. My heart shrivels at the thought.
Step 5-7 Upper hull assembly. Please remember to put both PE13 parts in the holes BEFORE you glue on Part A12, as this would be a MAJOR pain to remove and fix properly. PE1 and PE2, the main intake screens, are nice. (Detail on the shovel and pick is a little sparse and soft. Might want to replace them.)
Parts A30 look nice EXCEPT FOR THE PIN MARK RIGHT IN THE FRONT FACE OF THE GLASS. Oh come on! Sigh. (It can be dealt with but come on! These are SMALL PARTS. We have to clean up such small pins off the face of them WHILE avoiding removing the rim around the “glass” face. Sheesh.) Oh, no clear plastic ANYTHING in this kit, so get ready with the paint effects. Headlights are nicely sized but the lenses are, you guessed it, NOT clear. The parts labeled C2 for the rear gun lock are NOT LABELLED CORRECTLY. This is a TRICK (I guess). They should be labeled A22. The air intake guards, assembled from C34/C40, PE3, and C33/C39 are pretty nice for what they should be. They should be smooth on the inside, as they are (some people thought they were stamped metal. They are not). The saw, C4, is NOT “the bomb” and should be detailed up a bit or replaced. There are a number of small details added at this point which means, you guessed it, opportunity for TWEEZER LAUNCH! Get ready folks, you also get to make a couple of PE clamps that, if you can actually pull it off, look pretty darn good.
(NOTE: Texturing on the upper hull should basically NOT be there. Period. Most of this tank was NOT cast as seems to be represented. I am ignoring it because the thought of fixing it makes me feel bad.)
Step 8...glue the hulls together. I would do this way back in step 2 since there is no interior work to worry about. There is a big, fat, nasty seam on the lower front where the upper and lower hulls meet. This should be smooth. With some careful gluing and clamping you may only have to use half a tube of putty to make this look right. (Or ignore it, who is gonna flip this "burger" on its back with all those tracks staring at them, begging anyone to break a run and incur the “wrath of the builder”...?) The rest of the seam on the back and sides is actually pretty nice.
Step 9. Side panels and fuel tanks. (For the record, these instructions need another good proof reading. Yeesh.) Part C32 goes on the C-C sub-assembly and C45 goes on the D-D one. Fit, detail, and seams are actually very nice on these parts.
Steps 10-11. Final hull assembly. Sub-assemblies C-C and D-D should NOT sit flush with the tank sides. Big open seams are OK here. (Kyle said he could put a piece of paper through the seam between them. What were you DOING Kyle... sending it love notes?) The fuel lines for the fuel tanks are a nice touch. Be careful putting the fuel tanks on, they may be a little touchy lining up. (One note: on the top of the fuel tanks are what look like rods for the clamping system to keep the fuel tanks attached. These SHOULD have a small gap between them and the attachment point on the rear upper hull. A short piece of stretched sprue will replicate the remaining length that is missing. Consult references to see what I mean.)
Step 12. The turret. Insert some opaque plastic lenses (no clear lenses... again) into locating holes that first need to be cleaned out and opened up a bit. Careful with that hobby knife.
Step 13. Main gun and turret detailing. The two piece main gun fits together surprisingly well. Very little flash BUT I had to putty some pits and a small short-shot right in the middle of the barrel. (Huh? I thought this relationship was beyond that by now.) Part B8 impresses me the most, considering its complexity. I have tried scratch building it myself for another project and Panda Hobby really did a good job on the shape. More of the turret details need trimming and test fitting before you glue them or there’ll be more frustration. Parts A9 are thankfully free of knock out pin marks on the face BUT they are not only small and tough to hold onto, they also have pin marks on the BACK that will just show after being glued on. They need filling. And... the locating holes for them will need to be cleaned out in order for them to fit. Test fit and trim is the theme here. But, in the end, the details look good, when compared to photos.
Step 14 More turret detailing. I will just say it now. Test fit and trim. You know the drill. (BTW, once everything FITS, it actually looks pretty good. Once you get it to FIT.) I drilled out B5 (antenna mount) before I glued it on to help with adding an antenna later. Think about doing that now too. (The antenna mount looks OK to me, but it might be better replaced if you so choose). Part B24 is an insanely small plastic part you can barely find on the sprue. Holy macaroni is that thing SMALL for an injection molded piece. (Take extreme care handling this. WHAT? What do you mean it FELL on the FLOOR! NO! I had glue on it! Man, do you know how SMALL that freaking thing IS?) Be careful of part B16 while you are taking care. It has a tendency to tilt forward while drying, and to bend in half once glued on.
I have no idea what parts B20 or B18 represent. Sorry. Neither does Kyle.
The turret texturing, like the upper hull, is overdone. (I know, the turret and hull show SOME texture, but it is quite a bit more extreme than on the real thing. And as Kyle noted, the top turret plate, in particular, is a piece of rolled steel (like on the T-54/55) welded onto the cast turret. Rolled steel is SMOOTH, not rough at all.) I am impressed with the searchlights, very nicely done. Not sure what PE14, PE15, and PE8 are for, but they look just like on the real tank. Nicely done.
Step 15. Final assembly. It's a boy.... centipede! Whoa. Assemble the two piece gun lock and trim the hinges until it fits. That means not only the hinges to hull, but also the fit of B3 and B7. This kit has some fight in it all the way to the end. (The travel lock is a disappointment as it does not look nearly as "beefy" or "angular" as the real thing. The kit item looks like it would bend under the weight of the main gun... not sure what to do other than scratch build a new one.) Add your turret, pick a direction, lock down that barrel if need be, and you are ready to terrorize random cows.
The paint diagram shows it painted... green. Surprised you, right? And no markings at all - so, no decals.
(As a side note, what pictures that are out there of it on trials showed that they REALLY did a LOT of off-road, in the mud testing of this thing. You could really go to town with the mud and weathering effects and still keep it prototypical.)
The kit measures out within 1-2mm (with my calipers) compared to the general measurements I have gotten off of the internet. I cannot say more than that since I could NOT find any drawings or blueprints I could trust, or more detailed measurements. It also "looks" generally correct compared to photos.
My thanks to Kyle Nelson for his expertise on this vehicle (and his
good sense of humor).
Thanks to Panda Hobbies and Armorama for the review sample.
Unboxing the Panda Object 279 by Staff Jim
Jacques' Build Log
Panda Hobby Object 279 Soviet Heavy Tank