Soviet Heavy Tank KV-1
Zvezda Kit No. 3539
1:35th Scale

Review by Terry Ashley


The recent Trumpeter KV-1 kits were well received and basically set the benchmark for KV-1/2 kits to come and we now have this new kit from Zvezda of Russia that will inevitably be compared with the Trumpeter kits in terms of accuracy and details offered.

This review will of course make those comparisons as we go along but first off I don’t normally comment on the packaging or boxart as it’s basically irrelevant unless it impacts on what you get in the box.

There are a couple of points here, the first being the kit parts are not packaged in plastic bags and are just roaming free inside the box and you have to be careful when opening for the first time as any parts that have come off the sprues can easily be lost. Due to the parts moving around inside there were a number of parts broken off the sprues with my kits so take care here.

The other comes under the heading of “what you see is not what you get”, as the boxart depicts a 1941 model KV-1 with spoked steel road wheels and the later mantlet with ZIS-5 gun but what you actually get is a 1940 model KV-1 later production type with resilient road wheels and the earlier mantlet with the F-32 76.2mm main gun which is basically equivalent to the Trumpeter KV-1 (Model 1941)KV Small Turret Tank” (kit #00356). Probably not a big deal but it would be good if the boxart depicted the kit inside as this could sway some buyers.

The Kit:
The kit itself has a few issues before even comparing the Trumpeter kit in that the hull is 3mm too short according to the 1:35 plans in the Tankograd KV-1 books and the turret is also 1.5mm too short and the roof 2mm too narrow but we will look at these more shortly.

The kit has 357 parts in dark green plastic, 1 clear part and 22 parts in silver vinyl plus the decal and instruction sheet for a fairly conventional kit by today’s standards with the standard of moulding quite good although there are a few sink marks but noticeably very few pin marks to contend with.
There are some very finely moulded parts most notably on the hatches with the level of detail being adequate but not as well defined in places as on some other contemporary kits and some of the mould seams are a little on the large size requiring care when removing.

Lower hull:
This is made up of four separate parts with bottom that includes the lower front plate, sides and rear panel and as with other kits with multi-part lower hulls the fit here is important to get off to a good start.

The lower floor panel has underside detail but not as detailed as the Trumpeter hull with a few weld seams not present and there was a rather large distortion at the front which needed straightening before fitting to the side panels. The side panels included the final drive housings and the return roller mountings with separate road wheel axles, dampers and idler adjustment linkage. The axles have separate end plates with just three retaining bolts compared to the six on the Trumpeter axles but this is an actual variation seen in some photos and is okay.

Thankfully there are recesses along the hull sides that fit neatly along the floor and the fit was good but you will need to take care while gluing to keep everything in line. The rear panel was also a good fit but the biggest issue here is the overall length is 3mm too short compared to both the Tankograd 1:35 plans and the Trumpeter kit which matches the same plans well. The hull width is okay so it is only the length that is of concern and this means some of the suspension mountings are also slightly out of position as well but probably not that noticeably if the length issue is of no concern?

The resilient road wheels are made up of three parts each with the inner and outer wheel having a separate central hub and a vinyl poly cap is trapped between the two for fitting to the axle. Detail on the wheels is okay and the offset lightening holes is correct for this version of the resilient road wheels but the inner wheel does not include the lightening holes which may look a little odd from some angles. The separate hub cap also does not have the right contours and the Trumpeter hub caps better represent the actual item and also have the lightening holes in the inner wheels for better looking road wheels

The drive sprockets have bolt head and other details on both sides of the inner and outer disc as well as having the central hub disc as a separate part with the correct number of retaining bolts for this version but the contours of the disc is incorrect and it should be a smooth curve as depicted on the Trumpeter sprocket and the drive teeth are also too small (narrow) on the Zvezda drive sprockets and again the Trumpeter sprockets better represent those seen on the real KV.

The idler wheel mount has a two part tensioning arm for good definition but there is a fairly large sink mark to content with while the idler wheel has the two wheel discs with excellent rib details but the Trumpeter idler includes the small grease nipple that is not on the Zvezda idler. The two part return rollers are also the correct type for this model KV with well defined details although the central hub cap is a little square in profile and the Trumpeter hub is again better represented.

All the drive sprockets, road wheels and idlers have poly caps trapped between them for easy fitting to the axles but when fitting the axles to the hull there is a little play and should ensure they are all sitting at the same height before the glues dries.

At either end are separate towing attachments and shackles, these have sizable mould seams but should be easy enough to clean up.

You are given a choice of vinyl tracks in four sections or pre-formed sections of plastic link and length track to use depending on your choice with the vinyl track having fairly good details for this type of track and is unaffected by plastic glue so you will have the heat weld the sections together. Unfortunately the vinyl track does not fit evenly around the drive sprocket which is a bit of a problem so are best to go with the plastic link and length track.

The plastic track does not included the pre-formed track sag along the top run as does the Trumpeter track and adding this may be a problem. As with the Trumpeter track there are long sections for the top and ground runs and individual links for around the drive and idler wheels. The details on the plastic track are excellent but there are two shallow pin ejector marks on the inside of each link to be removed which shouldn’t be a problem.

Upper Hull:
This is one large moulding that includes the fenders with cut-outs for the turret, engine hatch and intakes and the front and rear round access hatches but again the hull is 3mm too short while being the correct width as are the fenders which sorts of squashes up some of the details a little.

Surface details are okay but not as well defined as on the Trumpeter parts such as the lip on the outer fender is not there and some finer detail is not present or more basic but there are other additions that provide details not included in the Trumpeter kit.

These include the front driver’s visor that has internal parts that allow the visor to open or closed after assembly and the round hatches also have internal latch detail moulded on and as separate parts with again latches that are movable allowing the hatches to open or close.

You will need care when attaching the small hinge parts so you don’t glue it all together but this adds a nice little extra and the hull machine gun is also a complete gun in a movable mounting.

Moving to the back we see the side mesh covered intakes provided as solid plastic as they are with the Trumpeter kit but the Zvezda intakes are 3mm shorter than they should be according to the Tankograd 1:35 plans with the engine access hatch being 2mm shorter when compared to the same plans with the Trumpeter intake screens and hatch matching those plans perfectly. The intake grills would be very difficult to remedy and also means none of the existing aftermarket etched screens will fit the shorter Zvezda screens.

You are provided a basic engine to go inside the access hatch which comprises the upper cylinders and manifolds with the central distributor and round top cover and adding additional wiring would enhance the appearance if you were to use this.

One thing to watch is there are two large “pins” on both ends of the engine (part D1) which look very much like sprue extensions, so don’t be temped to cut these off which would be quite easy to do if you don’t check the instructions first. These pins attach the engine to the underside of the upper hull but there are still gaps around the engine where you can see into the empty lower hull tub and blanking these off with plastic card would stop the see through look after assembly.

Other separate hull details include the fender supports, add on front plate armour panel and the head light with clear lens, two part horn, V bullet splash guard in front of the turret ring and the rear exhaust outlets as well as the fender storage boxes made up of four parts each.

There is a minor issue to watch with the small exhaust stubs as the sprue attachment is right on the thinnest edge and you have to be extremely careful cutting these off or damage will result. One of my parts had been broken off in transit resulting in the thin edge being damaged and a bit of work will be needed to repair this.

The tow cable is provided on the vinyl sprue with two part end shackles but it may be difficult to get a natural bend in the cable without heating the vinyl slightly but take care as this will melt quicker than you can say “oh sh%^’.

There are also additional armour panels provided for the upper hull sides as fitted to the later production model 1940 vehicles that the kit represents and these should be fitted before attaching the tow rope fittings.

The Turret:

This is provided in the more conventional two halves with separate roof, front and rear panels unlike the one piece tub with the Trumpeter kit but unfortunately the dimensional issue continue here.

The turret is 1.5mm too short when measured against the Tankograd 1:35 plans and while the turret width is correct the width of the separate roof panel is 2mm too narrow. This is due to the welds depicted around the roof being the same width as the large turret side welds meaning they are 1mm too thick each side resulting in the too narrow roof panel.

For the insides you get the gun breech made up of three parts for basic detail and this is trapped to the back of the front plate with small attachments but you have to be very careful with the glue if you want the gun to elevate after assembly.

At the front is the separate gun mantlet and gun mounting but unfortunately most details on this are not completely accurate with the mounting extending 1mm too short out from the mantlet and the bolts on the round mantlet shield are placed too high with the top two being recessed while they should be flush with the surface. The sight opening is also too big and there is no weld seam detail around the mounting with all these issues being correctly depicted on the Trumpeter parts which in turn match available photos and the Tankograd plans.

There is probably not a lot you can do with these issues and some may not even bother as they are not huge in the overall scheme of things but sort of highlight the detail differences between the two kits.

The one piece gun tube has a separate end cap and the exposed barrel length is correct but there was a large moulding seam to be removed from my barrel resulting in a distinct ‘oval’ barrel that may call out for a replacement. But this will not be as easy as using an existing metal barrel as the design sees the kit barrel extending through the mantlet into to the inner gun assembly holding it all together.

On the inside is the lower turret ring with crew seats added and side wall mounted ammo racks for the machine gun and main gun as well as the full rear machine gun and periscopes for the underside of the roof and all this should be added before gluing the turret halves together obviously.

The fit of the turret parts is good leaving virtually no gaps to be filled with the additional outer roof details of periscope hoods and front sights, the side grab handles and turret hatch which again has the workable hinge bracket. This hatch is actually larger than the hull hatches, something I have to admit I missed when reviewing the Trumpeter kits and Zvezda have this hatch the correct size while that on the Trumpeter kits is slightly undersized with the separate hatch ring also having excellent details.

Also provided is the anti-aircraft MG mounting and full machine gun to add if you wish and this adds another option to the kit.

The small decal sheet has markings for three KV-1s all in overall Russian Green.
  • 1. Tank KV-1 " Ruthless " constructed on personal money of the Soviet workers of arts -winners of the Stalin premium. A Guards tank brigade of colonel M.Skuby. The western front, autumn 1942
  • 2. Tank KV-1 “Suvorov" from structure 260 separate tank regiment. The Leningrad front, Karelian, Isthmus, June, 1944
  • 3. Tank KV-1 " Fighter ".The Kalininsky front .winter  1942.
Decal sheet and clear plastic part

There are some sizable dimensional issues with this kit that put it behind the eight ball for those who require accuracy and some of the details are not up to the same standards as the equivalent Trumpeter kit but there are also some nice features such as the extra interior parts with the working hatch hinges and basic gun breech and engine details.

It is hard to make a case for the kit with the availability of the Trumpeter kits given the accuracy issues but if you are not that concerned with these it will build into a respectable kit of a Model 1940 KV-1 with a bit of TLC.

Recommended 6.5/10

The Sprues:

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See the KV Sublect Listing for full listings of updates/accessory and other KV reviews on site.

KV-1 Soviet Heavy Tank of WWII - Early Variants
Tankograd Soviet Special
No. 2002
KV-1 & 2 Heavy Tanks

Osprey New Vanguard 17
ISBN 1-85532-496-2
Ground Power Magazine
#75 - 8/2000
Published by GALILEO
Publishing Co.,Ltd.
Russian Tanks and Armored Vehicles 1917-1945
Schiffer Publishing
ISBN: 0-7643-0913-7
Stalin's Heavy Tanks

Concord Armor at War
Series #7012
Stalin's Giants KV-1 & KV-II
Schiffer Publishing
ISBN: 0-8874-0404-9

Thanks to my credit card and Blast Models for the review kit.

Page created June 24, 2007