The Soviet SU-122 (Cy-122) in 1/72 scale, Part 2
Eastern Express kit #72015 and UM kit # 332
After comparing these two small scale SU-122 kits let us move on to creating an as accurate SU-122 assault gun as possible with what we have and some scratchbuilding.
Above are the box art for the two kits to be built. Why build two models of the same thing at the same time? Well, we can compare the two kits as far as accuracy and ease of assembly; we can compare how the two kit manufacturers engineer a model and compare the detail; and we can assemble two variants of the same vehicle and make our research time more efficient. Building more than one at a time can speed up building a collection of a particular vehicle you like. Having two models on the assembly line also allows one to be drying while we are gluing or painting a second model.
These SU-122 models by Eastern Express and by UM are not state of the art Dragon or Revell models which means we may have fit problems, missing or soft detail, and absent parts. This all gives us the chance to explore the wonderful world of researching, scratchbuilding parts and major modifications; and therefore increase your modeling skill and knowledge!
- The first step on building a model, whether metal, plastic or resin kit is to wash all the parts carefully in warm water and dish detergent, rinse in clean water and then allow to dry in a dust-free area. You should wash your parts again when you are ready to paint them. This should be standard practice for veteran modelers but at times we forget.
- As mentioned in the In The box Preview, the axles on the Eastern Express wheels are very much too short to stay on straight and securely. I recommend snipping off the wheel's axle nubs; then start the hole for the longer axle with a sharp pointed Xacto knife. These are EE wheels from another model kit but of a different color styrene plastic.
- Drill the holes in the assembled wheels while still on the sprue so as to handle them easier and not lose any. A drill chuck in an electric screwdriver works well.
- Though not a great photo, you may be able to make out the heavy copper wire protruding from the wheels three to four millimeters. These will go into comparable holes drilled into the suspension arms molded into the hull sides. Note that the small holes that should be around the perimeter of the idler wheel hub, at far left have not been drilled yet. These holes will only really be visible on the out-facing wheels.
- As recommended in the instructions of both model kits: assemble the lower hulls, wheels and tracks before affixing the upper hull to the lower hull. Here we have the Eastern Express (EE) hull and suspension in gray styrene plastic at top, and the green plastic UM hull and suspension below. Carefully attach the individual links around the sprocket and idler wheels before gluing them onto their axles then glue the roadwheels on so the wheels all line up for the track teeth.
- The EE parts have been partly partially painted, the small holes drilled around the rear idler (at left). The bolts on the roadwheels show up well.
- With the separate suspension arms the UM roadwheels (at bottom) have been articulated so as to be placed over rough ground.
- The UM styrene link & length tracks are thin enough that they can be carefully bent to realistically ride around the articulated roadwheels. The UM tracks pieces mated well together while the EE track links had to be filed in-between every link before gluing together.
- The front side of the EE lower hull is a little short so I had to splice in a thin fillet of styrene to fill the gap. In the photo above we can also one of the triangles of plastic glued onto the bottom and sides to help keep the sides at a right angle in relation to the hull bottom.
- At the pint of these photos we have skipped a whole bunch of steps in the assembly and detailing. Looking at the right (starboard) side of the Eastern Express model, fuel drums from the UM kit have been added to the rear of the hull; these are significantly better detailed that the drums in the EE kit. These fuel drums were supposed to be removed from the SU-122 or T-34 prior to entering combat; this SU is therefore is modeled during travel. The shovel molded onto the EE fender has been replaced by a more realistic shovel from an ESCI T-34 kit.
- At this stage both model have been given a sporadic and light coat of paint to assist in showing imperfections in the surface.
- The handrails on the superstructure side supplied by EE were excessively thick and also broke when I tried to cut them from the sprue so they were discarded and replaced by extras included in the UM kit. Being of a better styrene plastic the UM handrails were thinner and did not break.
- On the fender (mud guard) is the EE storage box with additional styrene sheet on top of it to make it taller then pieces of wire and plastic added to represent clips and hinges. Fore and aft are spare track links, the forward ones held on by straps simulated with pieces of thin masking tape. Along the edge of the mudguard is a strip of styrene glued on as a lip along the edge of the fender, this lip acted as a stiffener for the fender.
- Examining the right side of my UM SU-122 model we see the UM handrails on the side and engine deck, the 122-mm howitzer barrel replaced by a styrene tube f a larger diameter than the original kit part, and lifting rings made from copper wire atop the 122-mm gun.
- For both models the radio antenna was simulated with a paintbrush bristle. Looking closely we can see strips of masking take used to simulate the straps securing the spare tracks to the fender.
- Returning to the Eastern Express model assembly is nearly done and the model partially painted with an airbrush. It was at this point that I noted that the glacis, or bow, of the EE model is sharply pointed! It's not supposed to be, he bow of the early and middle war T-34 vehicles including the SU122 were rounded, like on the UM model below!
- The driver's hatch is modeled partially open here for the driver to see. I've read that the glass in the T-34's visors was so poor that the hatches were commonly open a little for the driver to see well.
- EE's storage box on the fender is too low so a piece of styrene has been added to raise its height and new latches and hinges replicated with plastic and wire.
In this close-up of the Eastern Express SU-122 the bow has been sanded to make it more round though it still s not accurate. A white strip of styrene has been added to each side of the bow to represent a bracket affixing the fender to the bow. Here is also a good view at my attempt at opening the cupola viewports. The rectangular cupola opening are drilled and filed to size and shape based on reference photos then visor flats made from aluminum sheet which were attached to scratchbuilt hinges made from styrene rod and strips.
- The headlight for this and the UM SU-122 have been drilled and reamed out hollow. The inside surface of the headlight will be painted silver and filled with MICRO KRISTAL KLEAR from Microscale Industries, a thick liquid resembling white glue that dries clear; it can be used to represent lenses, make small windows or to glue windows and canopies in.
- Left side of the EE model with the UM fuel drums on the rear. A spare long grab handle taken from the UM kit is on the superstructure side.
A frontal comparison view. Of the two models the Eastern Express model at left is about a millimeter taller than the UM SU-122 at right; it does not sound like much but is noticeable in 1/72 scale. The look of the UM glacis did not look quite right to me and after comparing it to scale drawings it appears that the angle is a little too vertical, the old Eastern Express kit has more accurate dimension and angles. Looking at photos of the real vehicle and scale drawings the EE kit is more accurately 1/72. The lack of the horizontal joint at the bottom of the EE kits glacis plate is annoying and hard to make accurate without major surgery early in the assembly.
With this view we can again see that both model manufacturers did not engineer in space on either side of the 122-mm howitzer to allow traverse of the gun. Traverse to left and right was small but there was some and the space on either side should be evident. If Revell or Dragon decide on this vehicle I certainly expect them to do better.
Close view of the bow of the UM SU-122 with a light atest coat' of acrylic olive drab paint. We can see supplementary armor added to the front of the gun housing, above and below the howitzer barrel. The 122-mm howitzer barrel has been replaced with a hollow styrene tube which is more accurate in size for the scale and cancels the need for drilling out the muzzle of the UM part-103E.
The visor is modeled open as is the narrow driver's hatch. The cupola visors have been modeled open by cutting the visors open and gluing on, in the open position, visors made from sheet aluminum. The front fenders have been removed as was common, perhaps after getting shot up and dented while moving through forested and combat areas.
- Atop the gun housing are two copper rings to represent lifting rings, something both models lack.
- Under the fenders, on the lower hull sides and on the bottom of the lower front plate I added model railroad flocking with white glue to represent dirt and mud stuck to the hull.
- The rear view shows a brass engine ventilation screen added onto the rear deck; this screen is one of many available aftermarket brass parts for the 1/72-scale T-34 that are superior to the brass screen in the UM model.
If you look closely at roadwheel 1, you'll notice that the outer tire has been left off. The missing tire represents a wheel damaged by a mine or shell; the track has been repaired but the rubber tire not replaced. This is the beauty of the UM T-34 kits, the wheel rims can be left bare, without tire. Wheels 3 and 4 are off the ground, to be portrayed riding over rubble when the model is mounted on the base.
- The radio antenna for both models was replicated with a plastic paintbrush bristles which took the acrylic paint well.
On the cupola are the visors doors made from thin sheet styrene; the visor doors and their hinges were not well done on the original kit.
On the superstructure side and the engine deck are the UM kit grab handles which are delicate and well done, I even used extras of these parts on the Eastern Express kit.
At this point assembly of both models is done and they will progress for final painting, weathering and display. I found that both kits assembled reasonably well but they are certainly not up to Revell and Dragon standards for ease of assembly and fit. I don't mean to say that both models are overall poor model kits, both have some very fine attributes as well as problems. I enjoyed building and detailing both models and learned more about scratchbuilding than a kit I shake in the box with some glue and it drops out beautiful!
[I do not represent or work for any model manufacturer or modeling periodical and these models and products were all purchased retail.]
Hope you enjoyed Part 2!