Despite what you may have heard, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN, usually referred to as the NVA in much of the West) during the Vietnam War was not an army without armor. Both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China gave North Vietnam tanks, APCs, and a variety of tracked and wheeled vehicles, in addition to materiel captured from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Plenty of T-34/85s, T-54s, Chinese Type 59s and Type 63 APCs served, mostly north of the 17th Parallel, the so-called "Demilitarized Zone" or DMZ that divided the two countries after 1954. For the most part, this was due to the PAVN realizing how American air power would make short work of their vehicles.
In an effort to counter that threat, they created the A24/Type 65 anti-aircraft tank.
Armed with the Type 63 AA Gun, the vehicle unfortunately is not well-documented, aside from one captured in 1972 during the Easter Offensive. This war prize was subsequently turned over to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for evaluation (it is now in Ft. Sill, OK). According to historian Steven Zaloga, the vehicle is a T-34/85M fitted with a Chinese Type 65 twin 37mm gun. He maintains the vehicle is the fruit of a partnership "between Factory A34 (the main North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun repair factory) and Factory Z153 (the main North Vietnamese tank repair plant)." No one is quite sure how many were built, whether it was eight or eighteen, or whether the vehicle was actually made in China.
When I say there isn't much documentation, I'm not kidding!
Now Vietnam's own B&L Models has produced a 3D resin conversion in 1/35th scale that recreates the vehicle captured in 1972. It is meant for the Zvezda or AFV Club T-34s (two of the more-available base kits in Vietnam model shops), but likely can be converted to others.
The kit is made up of several "flats" with 3D-printed resin parts, along with two brass barrels, some markings and instructions.
Keep in mind that B&L Models is a start-up, the effort of a Bao Nguyen, so we're talking about products that are evolving all the time. When Zaloga pointed out the original turret of the model was too shallow, "the company" rejiggered it and provided replacements to all who had purchased the model. That's the kind of customer service we would love to see from the "bigs."
As pointed out, the conversion experienced some controversy when Zaloga attempted to build it. His verdict was the turret was too small and not deep enough in the rear bustle. In the interim, B&L Models replaced the turret which now seems to-scale. The pieces for the conversion are all 3D printed, so they come attached to plates with long, elaborate "trees." Care should be exercised when removing parts, as I find much 3D resin quite brittle. One suggestion is to remove parts inside a plastic baggie that will catch any "fliers."
The kit offers plenty of detail, and should build up nicely. As always, resin parts are easily-damaged, and care should be taken when handling them. CA glue or some other non-styrene cement will be needed.
One constant with B&L kits are their raised markings. Rather than using water-slide decals, Bao Nguyen has chosen to use appliques that work well with his civilian subjects, but frankly should be replaced with waterslide decals for any military vehicle. This isn't a big problem, since PAVN vehicles often had no real markings, other than the national roundel and sometimes some numbers.
The good news about 3D resin printing is that it allows, even welcomes, small batch runs for kits that aren't going to interest conventional styrene manufacturers. The printing is excellent, and the manufacturer is responsive to criticisms and corrections, something the larger manufacturers rarely do.
Thanks to B&L Models for providing this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when purchasing your own copy.