The Soviet SU-122 (Cy-122) in 1/72 scale.
Eastern Express kit #72015 and UM kit # 332
This review covers an in-the box-review and obvious, initial, assembly recommendations; actual construction will be covered in other parts. These are the two 1/72 scale kits of this Soviet assault gun known to me at this time but a vehicle that I would love to see released by Revell or Trumpeter; not that the UM and Eastern Express kits are bad model kits, but they lack certain accuracy and sophistication in some areas. The Eastern Express kit may be hard to find at this time but is worth picking up if you find one! The SU-122 was a turret-less T-34 tank mounting a Soviet 122-mm howitzer with limited traverse, the Soviet equivalent to the Sturmgeschutz. Looking at the box art of both kits let's take a look at the features of the SU-122 and what is depicted by Eastern Express and UM.
Eastern Express (EE) depicts the left (port) side of a SU-122 in a winter camouflage scheme and simple markings of a vehicle number and small red stars. The roof hatch is depicted open though the kit's roof hatches are molded shut. Just behind the main gun is a fixed square cupola with four visors with flaps but are depicted closed here and are molded shut on the model. The driver's hatch is open and the kit hatch is separate so can indeed be molded open. Though two figures are visible, crew figures are not included in either the EE or the UM kit!
On the rear of the upper hull are two external fuel drums which is common to see on an SU-122 though were typically removed before going into combat. On the opposite site of the superstructure we can see a radio antenna sticking up. The roadwheels are the dish-style with rubber tires; I have not seen any photos of SU-122s with the all-steel or the spider-type roadwheels. On the track guard (fender) we see a typical T-34 storage box, a tow cable, headlight and a horn. The tracks are one of the 1942-44 waffle patterns. Overall I find this boxart is a reasonably accurate representation of an SU-122 vehicle, represents what should be in the box and is pleasant box art.
Here on UM's box art we have a rather dramatic scene of a SU-122 in a summertime olive color within a flaming city! None of the roof hatches are depicted open and none are molded open on the kit. Note that the driver's hatch on the SU-122 is only half the width of the normal T-34 and SU-85 hatch in order to make room for the wide gun mount. The driver's hatch is closed and the single diver's visor is positioned open. Both the kit's driver's hatch and driver's periscope visor can be modeled open. UM is the only T-34 based model kit in 1/72 that offer's driver's visors that can be easily shown open; this is good as otherwise the driver cannot see. (I have read that the optics of this visor was so poor the hatch was often open a little even in combat.) The SU-122 did not appear to have many variations during its production so it's not surprising that UM's SU-122 should closely resemble the one depicted by UM. The only real visible difference between the UM and EE kit as far as the box art is in the style or rendering of the front, curved, mudguard.
Now let's look at the actual plastic in the boxes.
First the assembly instructions for both models, then the parts.
¬ ¢ EE's kit instruction consists of one large sheet with exploded view diagrams in nine steps and very small sprue-parts diagrams at the top. The diagrams are too small to interpret well but are adequate (I like Braille-scale models but not Braille-scale instructions).
¬ ¢ Eastern Express gives us 82 light gray injection-molded styrene parts not including 34 injection molded link & length tracks parts; no etched brass parts included. Extra, unused parts for a T-34 and an SU-85 model are also included. No crew figures are included.
¬ ¢ Except for the box art there are no painting and markings instructions. I found no decal markings in my Eastern express kit but I do not know if they got lost or if the kit was released without them. Other EE T-34 kits come with decals so I suspect mine were lost somewhere.
¬ ¢ The four external fuel drums with the EE kit are mediocre and lack the lip around the ends.
¬ ¢ UM gives us larger and clearer instruction in eight steps. At above left we can see the installation of the separate Christie suspension arms (parts 25A, 31A and 33A) allowing us to easily articulate the model's roadwheels over rough ground, this is one of the best features of the UM T-34 based models.
¬ ¢ UM gives 104 green colored injection-molded styrene parts not including 44 injection molded link & length tracks parts. Two etched brass parts are included. There are no crew figures.
¬ ¢ The instructions for mounting UM Part 81B, a storage box on the fender is incorrect, it should be turned around 180 degrees so there are three hinges facing the hull.
¬ ¢ In four view plans and period photos I have noted several variations is tool storage on the fenders (track guards) and both EE and UM's layout for the fenders appear correct.
¬ ¢ Note the attachment of the etched brass ventilation screen (part 39C) on he rear of the engine deck (part 89D). I've always felt this brass piece was not etched as fine as other manufacturers have done so you may wish to replace it with an aftermarket piece.
¬ ¢ Viewing the bottom of the lower hull it is evident that the green UM hull is notably better detailed than the gray EE hull bottom at right. I cannot say that the UM hull is totally accurate but it is the one I would chose for modeling an overturned T-34 where the bottom would be visible. UM's bottom is missing a driver escape hatch on the bottom though.
¬ ¢ Note how the UM suspension arms are separate and have been attached here. The both kits are marketed as 1/72 scale though the EE kit is shorter by several millimeters. Both lower hulls need some filler at seams.
¬ ¢ These two sprues are UM's special parts for the superstructure of their SU-122. In case you all have not noticed, UM breaks their kit parts into much smaller pieces than other makers in order to release a plethora of related kits using common sprues. This is evident with their T-34, M4 and T-26 models.
¬ ¢ The right sprue shows a separate rear engine deck (part 89D) and fenders (parts 62B & 68B) that extend under the superstructure overhang above the tracks (this is good). UM's superstructure, upper hull, is eight separate parts compared with one part in the comparable EE kit.
¬ ¢ Though not visible in this parts scan, UM gives us extra hull grab handles (parts 122A and 123A) that can be used to replace the ones with the EE kit.
¬ ¢ Note the flat bare plastic surface where the ventilation screen should be on the rear of the engine deck (part 89D); the screen is to be represented by an etched brass part, but more on this later.
¬ ¢ This sprue shows many of EE's upper hull and main gun parts. Here is a good view of the small driver's hatch; due to the width of the gun housing the driver's hatch is narrowed to a point that the driver has only one periscope and appears too narrow to exit and enter by.
¬ ¢ The hull shows small locator holes for the hand rails on the hull sides and engine deck. At the bottom are the handrails; a little thick and crude but something this thin and long is difficult to do in this scale and EE does not have the molding capabilities that Dragon and Revell have.
¬ ¢ Side by side we can see that the superstructure of the UM SU-122 (in green) is several millimeters longer than the gray Eastern Express superstructure. (The UM upper hull here is missing it's front fender pieces and the nose of its glacis so don't let these missing parts fool you as to final size.) The cast gun housing by UM (parts 104E and 105E) comes in two parts so needs putty to hide the seam. Cast gun housings of both kits can use lifting rings, and some cast texture; in this case texturing by wetting the surface with liquid glue and stippling the surface with a stiff brush.
¬ ¢ The four visor flaps on the cupolas do not stand out well enough so small rectangular strips have been added to the cupolas of both SU-122 kits to represent these flaps. Several vision ports in the cupolas have been cut open.
¬ ¢ The pistol port plugs on the superstructure sides have been enhanced by white styrene rod.
¬ ¢ The gray EE hull at right has the rear ventilation screen molded in while EE engine deck (part 89D) now has a large rectangular hole cut into it like on the real SU-122 and T-34. This hole will be covered by an etched brass screen.
¬ ¢ While EE gives us locator holes, well actually locator dimples, for the handrails (parts 39 & 40); EE does not so when installing their handrails you should think and measure carefully. [The handrails with both kits are very fragile so cut them off and handle them carefully.]
¬ ¢ EE does not give location dimples or holes for their exhaust pipes (parts 71A & 72A) so measure and place carefully here as well.
I find it strange that though UM's hull is longer than EE's SU-122 hull, the UM 122-mm gun barrel and armored recuperator housing (here in green) is notably smaller than the Eastern Express gun parts (in gray)! Something is oddly wrong with someone's measurements and engineering! Both plastic barrels have a fine mold seam and the muzzle needs to be drilled out.
¬ ¢ The EE gun barrel has been replaced by a hollow aluminum tube which does not need to be drilled out; the green UM gun barrel may also be replaced by a hollow tube. .
¬ ¢ The above scan compares the gray styrene EE wheels with the green UM wheels. These are the same parts in EE's and UM's other 1/72 scale T-34 kits. The EE sprocket wheels (parts ) is a good representation but needs the small holes drilled around the hub .The UM sprocket wheel looks very good but the smaller idler wheel appears to be an early rubber-tired type that I understand was used in 1940-41 T-34 vehicles.
¬ ¢ At far right are soft rubber tires for UM's roadwheels. Though the tires are molded with black rubber, paint them dark gray to account for the scale-effect on colors. I've heard of occasional bad actions between the soft rubber and the UM styrene so I recommend painting both the roadwheel hub and the tire before assembly, and gluing the tire on with white glue. The bolts on UM's roadwheels are very much too small for my liking; in this scan we can barely see them!
This scan shows the backside of the eastern Express wheels with the metal axle inserted in drill-holes; sticking out about 4 or 5 millimeters these axles will be inserted into corresponding drill holes in the suspension arms.
The green styrene link & length UM tracks at left, and the gray Eastern Express gray styrene tracks are the same as in other UM and EE T-34 kits. They have a similar track pattern though the UM tracks fit together much better and are closer to the correct scale thickness. The molding for my EE tracks is slightly off register.
Looking at the inside surface of the T-34 tracks we see that both sets of styrene plastic tracks have good link detail. The green UM links have taller guide teeth which are more true to size. EE's track teeth are too stubby, short. I wish that UM sold their tracks separately for those who don't like EE's link & length tracks or Trumpeter's and Dragon's band tracks!
¬ ¢ From experience UM leaves us with several extra track links even after mounting extras on the fenders.
¬ ¢ Based on previous experience the Eastern Express T-34 an SU kits are short two track links.
UM provides line drawings showing painting recommendations and locations for markings.
¬ ¢ At bottom left of this scan are UM's decal sheet for the three vehicles shown here. My previous experience is that UM's decals apply well, particularly over a gloss coat.
¬ ¢ At the bottom is UM's small etched brass fret containing the engine ventilation screen and a handsaw for mounting on the port hull side. The screen is too thick and other brass manufacturers do it better.
At this point, now that we know what is in the boxes we can move onto Part 2, the Assembly Phase.
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