by: Rick Cooper [ ]
Originally published on:
It’s big, it’s green, it’s mean, and it has a cool nickname: Zveroboy, the “beast killer.”
It just doesn’t get much better than that. If you are a fan of really heavy Soviet armor, another fine example has been added to the pantheon of Russian stars with the recent release of the Trumpeter Soviet SU-152 (Late) version.
According to Steve Zaloga in Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War II, the SU-152 was developed in a record 25 days. It began life with the designation KV-14, and was a tank destroyer built on the KV-1S heavy tank chassis after the KV-1S had reached the end of its useful design life. The vehicle mounted a powerful 152mm howitzer, the ML-20 model 1937 gun, which proved more than capable of dealing with even the heaviest German armor— hence the nickname! The new tank destroyer was accepted into production as the SU-152 with something in the neighborhood of 700 eventually being produced at the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant from March of 1943 until production ceased in December of the same year when the ISU-152 superseded it.
Opening the sturdy slip cover-style box and you are confronted with:
10 sprues of varying size in light gray plastic
A one-piece hull
A one-piece fighting casemate
Two frets of photo-etched material
A small decal sheet
A one-page painting & marking guide
12 twelve tan sprues of individual link tracks
A turned aluminum barrel
A small, clear sprue
A small length of braided copper wire for the towing cables
The molding throughout the kit is first rate, not a bit of flash on any of the parts in my sample. There are a few knockout pin marks that you may want to deal with, but only a few. The underside of the plastic exhaust deflector has a few, for example, but they would be hard to see, and Trumpeter provides an optional photo-etch piece for the deflector if you want to go that route instead. I would recommend the PE piece, as it gives you a much better representation of the fairly thin sheet metal section, and you don’t have to deal with the knockout pins, a double win. The inside of the crew hatch lids all have nice knockout pins to deal with, although each is in an easy-to-reach location. The kit provides no interior of any kind, so you may want to just keep the hatches buttoned down anyway.
The instructions are divided up into 13 sections that all seem pretty straightforward. For such a large vehicle, the kit appears to be a fairly simple build that may go a bit quicker than some other recent releases from other hobby giants. If you have built any of Trumpeter’s previous KV series of vehicles, you will already be acquainted with most of the first seven steps to the instruction process, as it is essentially the same. If you have built the KV-1S, even more so.
There are, however, a few changes; before you even get started the instructions have you cut away a portion of the front edge of both the inner hull and the outer hull panel where the front glacis plate will fit in. Along with that, you will need to open up six different locating holes for parts later on in the construction process.
The lower hull and suspension all look very well-done, perhaps with detail not quite as fine as on some of the more recent Bronco or AFV Club kits, but, hey, this is a heavy Russian assault gun, not a whole lot of finesse in the actual vehicle, either. At any rate, the lower hull is constructed using a hull tub and additional panels for the lower sides that provide all the locating holes for the suspension parts. The suspension, as well as the sprockets, idlers, swing arms and wheels all have that pleasing robust look of heavy Russian armor— I think that is the best way to put it.
The drive sprockets are the sixteen-bolt utilitarian style that I believe all of the KV family utilized with the armored hub (I am assuming the hub is armored, if anyone knows different please let us know) as separate piece to insert in the finished assembly. The idler wheel is the common six-spoke variety; again I believe this is common to the entire KV family. The road wheels and return rollers are from the KV-1S kit; the road wheels feature the eight lightening holes. The road wheels do have a light seam that will need to be dealt with, as do the 12 suspension swing arms, but this shouldn’t be much of a big deal. Don’t forget to add the small lower hull reloading access hatch.
The lower hull front and rear are also pretty easy affairs. The rear end does offer the option of the photo-etch assembly for the exhaust deflector, a much better option than the plastic part. Also, they have included the PE screen for the engine intake just above the deflector. The lower front is also an easy build, a couple of towing eyes and shackles and the small bracket used for mounting a pump for the recharging the recoil system and your ready to move on.
The only other thing that you will need to deal with below the level of the fenders is the tracks. They are the split-link variety, which has only one guide horn for every two links. In their infinite wisdom Trumpeter has gone completely with individually molded links rather than the “link & length” system that they have used in the past. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely loved the link & length tracks in the earlier KV series. Oh well, plow on man, plow on. The track links are designed as non-workable, and each have two sprue connecting points and two “nodes,” however, they were thoughtfully placed on the inside of the connection area between links. You can clean up the connection points with a quick pass of a file or a bit of sandpaper, but even if you don’t, it is hard to see where they were removed from the sprue. They don’t quite “click” together, but they do go together very easily. I’d guess that an hour of dedicated track time and you should have no problem having two complete runs of track in front of you.
One issue that may need some correcting— or at least clarification— is that the tracks are the same width as the regular KV series: 700mm or about 27.5 inches, which is exactly what they scale out at using my trusty Armor Research Company scale ruler. However, the KV-1S used a smaller 650mm (25.5 inch) track. Off to the right I have drawn in what the size of the track should be. Perhaps some of the SU-152s used the wider track; wiser heads than mine will need to answer that question. If you want to replace the tracks, I know that Fruil makes a set (ATL-54) of the narrower track. How they will fit on the sprocket remains to be seen.
The rear engine deck is very well-done; again, if you have experience with the KV series that Trumpeter produced, this will look very familiar to you. The tiny little lifting points for the rear engine deck are once again provided for as separate parts. The round engine access hatches have the correct raised lip surround, and the more angled exhausts have been provided for, which is one of the changes with the late SU-152.
The heavy wire mesh engine intakes unfortunately are still molded as solid pieces, and could do with an aftermarket replacement. If Trumpeter was to ask me, and I’m sure they won’t, this would be one of the changes I would make. They already provide a PE part for the rear overhang (which can hardly be seen), and I would guess most modelers would gladly swap out that piece of PE for a pair of intake screens for the upper hull instead. The cylindrical fuel tanks are provided as four-piece assemblies, which eliminate the seam in the middle of the end cap. The more ambitious among us may want to carve away the solid handles on the end and replace with some PE for a more correct look.
The large fighting compartment is a good-sized, one-piece molding that looks great. Perhaps not quite as rough as most Soviet armor seems to be, but nonetheless very nice. It even has those typical pits and imperfections that occur in the foundry process on the casemate sides; the weld seams, however, seem a bit more uniform and refined than normal. Maybe Uncle Joe was touring the factory that day and shoddy work just wouldn’t have been a good idea? The lifting points are provided as separate parts, just like the engine deck. Plus the hatches are well done, and the new ventilators for the roof are first-rate with a very well-done armored texture that makes them one of the highlights of the kit. The addition of the ventilators was one of the differences between the early and the late SU-152s. And you have a choice of two different styles of pistol port for the rear; either is correct. Be careful with the hand rails for the sides: they are always prone to breaking.
The gun and the large mantlet and cover are sublime; the rough cast texture is about the best I have ever seen. It really will help to give this beast that heavy-duty look. The main armament is provided for as either a typical two-piece molding or a turned aluminum barrel that mates to a separate slide-molded muzzle brake. I would heartily recommend that you ditch the plastic and go with the turned aluminum. While the plastic offering looks very well-done, the aluminum piece with the slide-molded brake eliminates most of the work of removing seams. I was impressed with all those gas vents along the side which are completely flash-free.
The fenders and front upper hull have all been seen in previous KV releases as well. They are very well-done, though the undersides of the fenders do have quite a few knockout pin marks that you may want to fill. The fender bracing is provided for in both PE and plastic, and while the plastic is fairly thin, you will probably still want to thin it down further if you prefer styrene over PE. The kit does provide for the small storage box that fits behind the fuel tanks, and the box is particularly well-done. The tools (what tools? It’s just one pick, plus the barrel cleaning rods) are nicely-detailed; the mounting and retaining hardware is, however, molded in-place and could do well with replacement from an appropriate PE source. The upper front hull is enhanced with the addition of the large cast bullet splash guard that was another change from the early to late SU-152.
Your painting options are green and well, green. Okay, to be technical it is Russian 4BO green, but that is about it, so go green! As to what paint you should use, well, that is a whole new can of worms to pop open! I will say that Lifecolor has a set for 4BO that contains three different shades for base color, fading, and shadow. I haven’t used them yet, so if someone has given them a try, it would be great if you could share your experiences. The decals are a bit of a letdown: no cool slogans or markings, just a set of generic national stars in red and white and a double set of Cyrillic style numbers to add your own numbering. Of course it’s best to check your references here.
This appears to be a really nice kit. It does have a few issues: the tracks may be a drawback for some especially. The overall look of the kit and the moldings are first-rate, and I really like the heavy cast texture and the pitting on the armored casemate. It will be interesting to see how this one compares to the upcoming release of the Bronco kit of the same subject. I would guess that this one will be a somewhat easier build, and will therefore earn a place on many modelers’ shelves.
Thanks to Stevens International and Trumpeter for the review sample. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed on Armorama when ordering.