This is a beefy kit with a very Russian feel to it. These are the people who built the world’s largest aircraft, fielded the largest tank armies, the largest submarines and set off a 57 megaton atomic bomb after all. It’s big, substantial and makes up for lack of flare and cutting edge moulding technology with some very innovative and downright clever engineering. The major parts (hull, turret etc.) are molded in very thick grey styrene and while much of the detail is a bit soapy there are some very nice delicate mouldings that make the kit a pleasure to work with. The kit consists of 608 parts in 10 sprues not including the individual link tracks and hull top and bottom. The kit isn’t a “weekend build” by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be built out of the box by any modeler with intermediate modeling skills and a willingness to dry fit the parts several times before taking the plunge and applying cement. The kit retails for around US$25 so it is relatively affordable.
In some respects, you get what you pay for. The kit comes in a sturdy box but unfortunately the sprues don’t come with poly bags or any interior packaging, just loose sprues rattling around in the box. In my kit there were more than a few bent, broken and otherwise damaged parts. Some of them, like the turret mounted antenna, were quite a bother to fix.
The moulding itself is a mixed bag. Like I mentioned above, many of the parts are beefy and thick, requiring thinning to look in scale. In scale the mud guards if left as is would represent steel approximately six inches thick. A little filing and sanding is in order here, but that is in our theme of bringing one back to basic modeling skills.
The kit comes with more interior than one would expect from a kit like this. There is a basic driver’s compartment, engine bay and the turret basket is more or less complete. I say more or less complete because while the interior is nice it certainly lacks the “busy” feel of an actual armoured fighting vehicle. The nice thing about it is, there is enough there that a modeler can leave the hatches open and not show a cavernous empty interior leaving his vehicle feeling like it’s on display with its figurative trouser fly down. (Hear that Tamiya, Fine Molds, AFV Club and Trumpeter?) By the same token, if the AMS (Advanced Modeler Syndrome) afflicted hobbyist wishes to spend his time tricking out the insides with lead wire, sheet styrene and all manner of aftermarket bits and bobs his time and effort will be well spent. There is really a lot of potential here.
The kit builds in fourteen steps beginning with the interior. The engine and final drive assemblies are basic, but as stated above they are a wonderful platform for the AMS sufferer to go hog wild. There is no aftermarket set that I know of for interior of this kit so the modeler is left to appeal to his scratch building and superdetailing skills. Other reviewers have criticized Alanger for not including the parts for the radiators and other large engine components, but even with all the available engine hatches open they wouldn’t be visible even if they were there. The same goes for the driver’s compartment and the turret basket. I spent a little time building a center ammunition rack for the turret and in the end very little of it could be seen. I smile knowing it’s there, but that’s just me.
What concerned me more than the spartan interior was the many sink holes in very inconvenient places. Again, this brings me back to the basic modeling skills theme. This kit will make you work in that area. Most were not so egregious as to ruin the kit, but it does take some effort, patience and attention to detail to get them all filled and sanded. The worst of them, and this may have just been my kit, was part B23, the barrel housing recuperator for the 76mm main gun. The tip of it wasn’t really so much a sink hole as it was a case of the plastic never really getting that far in the molding process. It took quite a while to build it up with putty and sand to the correct dimensions. Thank heaven for Tamiya Grey Putty.
The T-28 was large so it follows that the kit is large. There are many separate assemblies that make up the finished tank and it will pay dividends for the modeler to look ahead as he builds to the painting process. Some major assemblies like the huge blower fan on the rear end of the tank, are better left off until after painted. I saved myself some contributions to the swear jar and trips to the medicine cabinet for antacid by taking it slow and thinking a few steps ahead.
By and large the kit goes together well but as mentioned above, not without careful dry fitting. There are no locator holes or pins on this kit which makes it imperative to take it slow and enjoy what you are doing. Most of the exterior detail is very good and even approaches excellent in a few cases. As of this writing there is no photo etch or resin aftermarket set available for this kit specifically and with the exception of the tarpaulin rack and rear louver vents it really doesn’t need one that badly. The rack and vents can be built with plastic strip (notice that back to basics theme again?) or, if time is an issue Eduard does offer a T-28 aftermarket set for the AER kit which contains these parts. There is a smattering of other small bits that are useful in the set as well but you will still be left with many redundancies that will either not fit the Alanger kit or that you simply will not need. It’s not expensive ($8.80 USD from Great Models.com) so it’s not like you won’t get your money’s worth if you don’t use the whole set. I used it for the tarpaulin rack and consigned most of the rest of the frets to the spares box.
One aftermarket item I did splurge on was caterpillar tracks. The tracks that come with the kit are not bad at all. In fact, as individual link tracks go these are fairly nice. I watched a set of the Model Kasten T-28 tracks sitting on my local hobby shop’s shelf for years though and they seemed lonely. I took pity on them and brought them home. I just have a weakness for MK tracks. They look wonderful and are to me a wonder of engineering. To get such small intricate parts assembled into actual working tracks just tickles me. There are also nice aftermarket white metal tracks available from Fruilmodel. I have not examined them myself but hear good things about them. That being said, while the MK set is superior, the tracks that come with the kit are not bad and with some careful trimming and sanding should build up nicely.
No matter what painting scheme you undertake, it is pretty straightforward so long as you tackle it in steps and then assemble the components. The instructions give suggestions for two vehicles. One is for (assuming my rusty, rarely used Russian is correct) a brown and green camouflage tank from the 1st Tank Division on the western front, August 1940 and another in winter camouflage from the 20th Tank Brigade during the winter war with Finland, 1939-1940. The kit comes with no decals. There are many options for painting a T-28 in Soviet or Finnish service. I would highly recommend doing some research and finding a paint and marking scheme that you like and going that route. A simple Google image search for “T-28 Soviet tank” will bring loads of data. And isn’t that half the fun?
Overall this is an excellent kit that does not pretend to be something it’s not by hiding behind flashy packaging or an exorbitant price. It brings something to the table for everyone, from the casual modeler who wants to use his fundamental skills and still come out with a nice kit to show off at the monthly model club meeting to the modeler with chronic AMS and the thousand yard stare who counts rivets in his sleep.