The Soviet Union's JS-2 marked the pinnacle of tank development in World War II with its 122mm gun and well-sloped, heavy armor. The Model 1944 ChKZ depicted in Tamiya's release differed from earlier versions with its cast, sloped glacis plate.
The kit's dark green parts are beautifully cast with crisp panel lines and fine bolt detail. Cast texture on the hull and turret is outstanding, and there are nice weld seams and torch-cut textures. A small photoetched-metal fret includes two intake grates for the engine deck. Nylon cord is provided for tow cables.
Take your pick of vinyl or link-and-length tracks. The latter has a bottom run as well as short, slightly curved lengths for the front and rear. Two forms for the top lengths allow you to easily model the appropriate sag. Very nice! However, there are shallow ejector-pin marks on the back of almost every link.
A small decal sheet gives markings for four vehicles. Two are for the Red Army, Berlin, 1945, with white air-recognition crosses on the turret. Polish and Czech markings are also included. The decals are in-register, although the red seems to bleed through the white eagle on the Polish 4th Heavy Tank Regiment insignia.
I deviated from the instructions by painting the wheels on the sprues and assembling them after painting the hull.
The model builds beautifully. Every-thing fits perfectly; I had only to scrape a couple of minor mold seams on the suspension arms. A drop of super glue filled a tiny gap between the glacis plate and lower hull. In Step 9, you need to open several location holes, including options for the horn and headlight; choose the one appropriate for the Stalin you're modeling. I love the effect of the engine louvers (parts C57 and C58) under the photoetched-metal grilles. Sponson blanking plates are included. I attached the tools, tow cables, and auxiliary fuel tanks before painting.
The gun-barrel halves fit perfectly; the seams disappeared with a couple swipes of a sanding stick. The two-part muzzle brake needed a little more work, but it looks great. Poly caps in the mantlet allow the gun to elevate.
The turret halves attach along a natural seam. Grab handles outside the turret have very faint, molded locating marks, allowing their omission as necessary; some tanks had all the grab handles, others had just one or two. The handles are scale thin.
I airbrushed the turret white, masked off the air-recognition markings, and painted the hull, turret, and wheels Model Master Acryl Russian armor green, highlighting panels with a lighter shade. Decals went down well over the semigloss surface with help from Micro Sol.
The wheel halves sandwich poly caps, making drive assembly a snap. The forms for the sagging tracks worked well, but they are handed: The loop from the idler to the first return roller is longer than the loop from the last return roller to the drive sprocket, so the ridge on the form goes toward the front of the tank. The instructions warn you to mind the direction of the tracks, but they show the left run backwards. Despite instructions showing how many links were needed for the curves, mine came up short one link. Unfortunately, there are two types of link, with a guide horn on alternating links making it hard to fill in with just one. I attached the extras at the idler so the extra guide horn is not visible. I also test-fitted the vinyl tracks and found them very tight around the wheels.
Two figures in casual poses occupy the turret hatches. I painted the figures according to the instructions and box art, but they are the weakest part of the kit; good poses, but the facial expressions are a little flat and there are heavy mold seams.
I spent about 20 hours on my Stalin with only about eight hours on construction, including the link-and-length tracks. The model captures the brutish appearance of the Soviet heavy. Any modeler who's already built a couple kits will enjoy the smart engineering, and superdetailers and diorama builders will love the possibilities this new kit presents.
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