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BT-7 Model 1935 Fast Tank

Eastern Express



S u m m a r y

Stock No. & Description: 35109 - Tank BT-7 model 1935 late version
Contents and Media: around 200 parts of injection molded parts on five sprues
Price: AUD$43 (at NKR Models)
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: Petite and impressive detail; highly accurate; appropriate tracks for this model; "link and length" tracks supplied; authentic rivet detail
Disadvantages: Some shortcuts, errors, sink marks, etc; solid-molded rear grille cover; no marking instructions
Recommendation: Highly Recommended for all "Between the Wars" and early WWII Soviet modelers


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell


F i r s t   L o o k


Of all of the nations who were struck by the forward thinking of J. Walter Christie in 1930 when he burst on the scene with his fast tank chassis, none were quicker to embrace his efforts than the Soviet Union. Striving to create an "instant" tank industry, their representatives went abroad and bought two tank chassis and the rights to build them in Russia. The two chassis (unofficially dubbed "BT-1" for Bystrokhodniy Tank or "fast tank") were used to create the BT-2 fast wheel-and-track tank in 1931.

Even before that tank came off the production line, a replacement, later to become the BT-5 in 1933, was on the drawing board, and by 1932 a follow-on to that tank, the future BT-7, entered the design phase. Based on the experience with the fast tanks, the BT-7's design evolved and was more sophisticated than the first two.

The BT-7 had a slightly wider hull and some ballistic improvements to the bow and driver-mechanic's hatch area. It was also extensively welded and used new production techniques. The main external difference was a new hull rear, which was designed to increase the amount of onboard fuel carried, and the rear-mounted muffler was then moved into the rear of the radiator exhaust grille area, with twin pipes exiting the raised grille cover. It switched to a new short-pitch track which was better for moving at high speed across country, and also to the more powerful M-17 aircraft engine. The latter caused problems early on, as it had far more torque than the predecessor M-5 (copy of the US Liberty engine) and tore up drivelines with great regularity.

The first model to see service was the BT-7 Model 1935, which came in line, commander's and artillery (BT-7A) variants, the latter with a short 76mm howitzer. The tanks remained in production from 1935 until 1941 with the last few rolling off the lines as the first production T-34 tanks began to come off as well. BT-7 tanks fought in a number of conflicts, such as Khasan Lake in 1938 and the Kalkhin-Gol River in1939 against the Japanese, against the Finns in 1939-40, and against the Poles in 1939. One of the most widely produced prewar tanks, when the Germans struck in June 1941 over 4,500 of them were still in service with the RKKA. Many were awaiting repairs or servicing, and were easily captured or destroyed by the advancing Germans. Those which did work put up a stiff resistance, and their 45mm cannon proved capable of knocking out any German tank in service in the summer of 1941. Some tanks remained in service throughout the war, and took place in the final offensives against the Japanese in August 1945. This was a major combat vehicle, and one which contributed heavily to the defense of the USSR in the first six months of the war. Some remained in action in Leningrad for the course of the entire 900 days, and it was a fast and relatively capable vehicle.

Two new kits of the early model (Model 1935) have appeared in the last few weeks, one from Italeri using parts from their BT-5 kit, and this one from Eastern Express using the standard turret sprue found in their BA-3 and BA-6 armored car kits. The EE kit has a completely new hull and suspension created from scratch, and it is an amazingly accurate model. When dropped on the plans in the Armada BT-7 book (BT Tanks Part 3, Armada No. 17) all of the components matched the plans perfectly (with the exception of the 45mm gun barrel, part L8, which is uncorrected as of this writing; the second "step" back from the muzzle is 2.5mm too short at its rear end, towards the mantelet).

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Detail is very petite for an Eastern European kit, and the rivet details are very well done indeed. Since this is a "flat kit" all parts are essentially flat other than the turret sides and the bow unlike the one-piece bodied armor cars, all rivets are in place and you don't have to add any to the basic kit. The fenders have raised ejection pin marks on the bottom sides, but are reasonably thin and the marks are easily removed. EE wisely included "link and length" tracks, something other manufacturers should think about more often. Tracks are thin and petite with strengthening ribs molded in place, and look to be dead on the money. (Note to "heavy track" fans: these were very thin and light, as they were designed for high speed over open country and the vehicle was expected to run on wheels on the highway.)



The only major complaint most modelers will have is that the rear grille cover (part D24) is molded solid, and that no vanes for the radiator efflux are included in the kit. The exhaust pipes (parts B10) have the curved section coming up from the muffler (parts B9) but fit flush with the hull roof (through the grille one could see where they curved down to the header pipes, as the tank had no muffler). The tank has the later large air cleaner (part D33) which would indicate this tank may have been built in early 1937.

Decals are included for what appears to be two separate vehicles: a command vehicle with twin turret stripes and a square "3" with white exercise cross marking on the roof, and a WWII early model with turret number "452" and a white triangular friend-or-foe marking. No directions or examples are included, and the only marking scheme suggested is overall green. It's kind of bizarre that EE would make a kit this nice and then slough it off without any marking instructions!

I have not seen the Zvezda kit, but early reports are that it uses their BT-5 kit's heavier turret and suspension with the older long-pitch tracks from that model. While this is possible (the tracks were theoretically interchangeable) few photos or comments exist on BT-7s with that track, most sport the new six-roller drive wheel was developed for the -7 to get the most out of the shorter pitch track.

To me (but hey, I'm biased towards BT tanks) this is a really exciting kit, and we can hope that someone does up a decent set of markings for it. At least three more versions are forecast: the BT-7RT Model 1935 with rail antenna, the BT-7 Model 1937 with conical turret, and the BT-7A with 76.2mm howitzer turret. Hope they come out soon!

Cookie Sewell AMPS

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Review Copyright 2000 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 29 July, 2001
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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