Tuesday, 12 November 2013

New H&R T-54/55s -

This week I received some lead from Andy Kirk at Heroics & Ros.  Some of it was just extra stuff to fill in some gaps in my collection (particularly more SMG-equipped stands for my WW2 Czechoslovakian 1st Corps), but of more importance were the 10 models I had ordered of the new T-55AM2 that has now just become available.  These will enable me to extend my Czechoslovakians right through the 1980s by providing a battalion's worth of tanks for a 1st echelon Motor Rifle Regiment, like those of the 20th Division.

Andy also threw in a couple of sample models for me to look at - the new T-54A, and the remastered T-55.  (He has great customer service!)  So let's take a look at the beasties...  I've stuck them onto my customary 30 mm square bases rather than the 1 1/4 inch square (31.75 mm) bases that MSH recommends, ready for spraying - the standard green colour that the Czechoslovakians used for their vehicles is light enough to use as the base coat for the base, which is very handy, as you can spray both at the same time.

Let's start with the new T-55 model, since I already own 5 or 6 dozen of the old one.  The first thing to notice is that this is a T-55, and not a T-55A, since it lacks an AA gun.  Why the real thing was made this way is a complete mystery to me, because the preceding T-54A had one, and the need was obviously there, given the succeeding T-55A also had one!  The re-mastered model sells for 65p rather than the 50p of the old one, so it's more expensive (although still cheaper than any rival, so that's not at all an issue in my book!).

You can see a side-to-side comparison with the old model here.  The new model comes with auxiliary fuel tanks at the back, unlike the old model, and it also has a turret-rear stowage basket, plus hand-rails around the turret (don't file these off mistaking them for flash...).  The details are all more prominent, with the exception of the gun's fume extractor, which is much thinner than in the old model.  It's probably about the right thickness now, although because the barrel is still necessarily too thick, it means the difference in thickness between the two is now possibly understated.  I won't be sure until it's painted up.  In any case, the new one looks better in this department.  The wheels are also much more crisp and detailed, but here lies the one fault with the model - and unfortunately, it's a big one.  The entire drive train is modelled back-to-front!  The distinctive gap between the 1st and 2nd road wheels that makes identifying at T-55 from a T-62 easy is here positioned between the 4th and 5th wheels.  I hope this gets corrected; I'll be sending Andy a heads-up today...

So let's move on to the T-54A.  The model is very similar to the new T-55 model.  The main differences are the lack of a main gun fume extractor, and the provision of a DShK machine gun for AA work.  This is a separate piece, so you can mount it at any angle you like, and makes the 65p price tag look even better.  If you look carefully, you can just make out the small ventilation dome in the middle of the turret which is the only thing that seprates a T-54 from a T-55 once a fume extractor has been added to a T-54.  There are auxiliary fuel tanks at the rear of the model; much smaller than those of the T-55 model, however.  I'm not sure how common such small fuel tanks were, as I'm only familiar with the large ones.  The lack of a fume extractor means the model can't really stand in as a T-55A; hopefully Andy will produce a T-55A variant as well.  Unfortunately, this model isn't really suitable for my Czechoslovakian force, since not only were all the Czechoslovakian T-54 models eventually upgraded to T-55 standards once the T-55 was introduced, but they started being produced with fume extractors from the outset.  (As an aside, many Czechoslovakian T-54As seem to have lacked AA MGs entirely until they were upgraded to T-54Ms in the 1970s).  Again, the wheels are crisp on this model, and again, this model, alas!, suffers greatly from having the drive train the wrong way around...

So now let's check out the new T-55AM2 model, which is the thing I'm most interested in out of the three.  The addition of side skirts makes this model wider than the earlier marks, and thus giving it a noticeably greater bulk.  The good news is that in this model, the drive train is the right way round - but it's not so easy to spot given those same side skirts!  There's a faint mould line near the top of the skirt which you can just see in the photo to the left, toward the rear of the vehicle (I've scrapped it away in the centre, but am not sure how necessary this will be until I spray the thing). The extra armour over the hull front also appears to be modelled, although you really have to know what you are looking for to spot this.

It's the turret that has the most changes of course.  The smoke grenade launchers are there at the sides (the cluster pattern of these makes me believe the model is representing a Czechoslovakian-produced vehicle rather than the equivalent Soviet one; Czechoslovakian T-55s were a big export success), along with the distinctive somewhat horse-shoe-shaped extra armour around the frontal arc, interrupted by the main gun barrel.  Over the main barrel is the bulk of the laser range-finder component of the Kladivo fire-control system (probably a bit too bulky - the wide flat top should narrow down underneath); the cross-wind sensor's thick mast is also modelled on the back of the turret.  It would be great if Andy could produce a T-55AM1 variant - which has just the fire control system, but not any of the extra armour or the grenade launchers, because this was introduced much earlier into service than the T-55AM2.  On the other hand, it wouldn't be all that hard to scratch-build such a model...  This variant is found all over the place, because it's are a relatively cheap upgrade for a T-55. Want to model a contemporary Cambodian force?  You'll want a T-55AM1...

Like the T-54A, this model comes with a separate DShK machine gun, and all-in-all is really great value for 65p - an excellent addition to the Heroics & Ros range.  Now, I'm not really all that interested in post-cold-war forces, so this model will see only limited use with me - I just don't really need more than 10 of them at the scale I usually play.  But a lot of table-top forces from the late 80s onwards can make good use of this model, so I hope it sells well.


  1. Oh ho, nice! That settles it. Must get my order away...

  2. Interesting review Luke. I was pleased to read of a T-54 now being available.

    1. Andy has just contacted me to say he'll be correcting the drive train before the model gets officially released (and checking the other T-54/55 variant he has in the pipeline...)

  3. Great Review. I have some of the new H&R T54/T55 ranges for my Polish and Czech forces and great new models they are to. I agree with you Luke it would be nice to see the T55AM1 but like you say it is a fairly simple conversion and Andy at H&R is a great help when you need different turrets for different bases which is great when it comes to my current Taiwan/South Korean project. I can thoroughly recommend the new South Korean vehicles from H&R as well. An interesting new range!

    Cheers Luke

    1. Yeah, I think I can see myself buying 10 of the T-55s to turn them into T-55AM1s, because I can see myself actually getting a lot more use out of them: T-55AM1 is available from 1983 for my Czechs in the 20th Div. (later for others, if available at all), but T-55AM2 only from 1988...