The following introduction is as provided by Zvezda:
Serial production of the artillery tractor STZ-5 (STZ-NAT I-2 TV) was launched in 1937 in Stalingrad tractor works (STZ). Its endurance was undoubted as it had made nonstop runs from Stalingrad to Moscow and back without breakdown in 1935 and 1939. The STZ-5 was the most mass produced military tractor of the Red army. By the beginning of World War II 3,438 tractors of this type were in service. Production of the vehicle continued during the war until the German army attacked the Stalingrad Tractor Works in August 1942. In total 9,944 STZ-5 tractors were manufactured.
This offering from Zvezda arrives in a flip top box, which is then packaged in an end opening carton with the art work for the model on it. The main sprues for the model are all packaged inside a single plastic bag, with the clear sprue packaged inside a Ziploc bag along with the decals - which is something that I do not like to see. The parts in this release appear to be in good order, with good access to the various pieces. Removal of some of the finer mouldings may prove problematic due to the risk of damage.
This offering from Zvezda is provided with a reasonably complete engine and gearbox. I am rather impressed with the level of detail and would compare it to that currently offered by ICM, due to the fact that Zvezda does not currently include photo etch in their releases. This is a bit of a double edged sword, as the lack of photo etch makes the model easier to tackle by any modeller but at the same time the improved realistic scale that photo etch provides is lost. This particular vehicle is a little odd to me, as the engine is mounted at the front of the vehicle then a drive shaft travels along the length of the vehicle to the transmission that provides the drive for the tracks.
The wheel assemblies for this release are a multi part assembly which while the spring of the suspension is fixed, the four wheel assemblies can be rocked to provide some manipulation to show the model on an uneven surface. The tracks in this release are link and length by design and have a very nice level of detail moulded into them, but one thing I would suggest you take into account during assembly is that the drive wheel is just a single cog and so I would attach the lower track run and then run up to the rear cog in order to get the correct orientation of the tracks. A particularly nice aspect of this release is that the top track run has been accurately provided with track sag, which can be difficult to replicate otherwise. It should be noted that as all these elements come together, the chassis of the vehicle is made up of four rails which while nice detail is present you want to use the engine to get everything squarely assembled.
Crew comfort was never seemed to have been considered by the Soviet designers, and function over form meant very basics in design. I give them credit for providing a padded seat, but no consideration has been given to the back rest. The clear glazing for the windows and lights has been well tackled being reasonably thin and so easy to see through. Zvezda has included decals for the instrument cluster and I feel this is as good a method as any other. Another nice aspect of the cab, is that the doors have been provided separately, with door furniture also being supplied separately, and so could be shown open with a little effort. I believe that the doors on this vehicle open backwards so take that into account. Some of the mouldings do have visible ejector pin marks that will need to be tackled.
The rear bed of the vehicle has good wooden detail where required, that careful painting will add a lot of appeal to. The deck of the rear bed has two separate doors in it, which allow access to the top of the rear transmission and this does provide potential for a story line to be started. The seats in the rear of the vehicle can be shown in both their deployed and stowed position. The tools that are mounted here are moulded with their brackets in place, and I am happy with that. Only the cable that mounts on the tail gate is something that I would work at replacing either completely or in part. When you get to the end of the build, a nice concluding part is that the bed can be displayed in three different ways, you can have the bed bare with the mounts for a canvas folded, and there is also a box that goes on the front which I believe contains that canvas. You could finish it with the hoops raised bur minus the canvas; lastly there are a number of parts provided to assemble a canvas with clear window ports in place.
Zvezda provides two finishing options for this release which are the basic Soviet green, with me only questioning the red fire extinguishers mounted on the vehicle. My complaint about this area is that no details are provided as to what the finishing options represent.
This release from Zvezda is quite a nice little model, which with a crew and perhaps towing a gun will make for a visually appealing piece. The ejector pin marks present are no excessive in any way, but will some effort to clear up due to access. The detail on the engine and track suspension area is very pleasing and the rest of the model is of a good standard. This model would however, benefit from provision of details on what the finished vehicles represent, as despite being very generic some guidance would be appreciated. Otherwise a very nice affordable model.