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Xact Scale Models 1/35 scale T-80U Russian main battle tank

Kit:XS35001 // Scale:1/35 // Price:$69.90
Xact, from Pacific Coast Models, 707-538-4850
Good use of photoetched metal, including preformed screen for the wading trunk; one-piece vinyl tracks that take glue; separate fenders
String for tow cable difficult to work with; instruction drawings all from same aspect, making parts placement confusing; camouflage
Injection molded, 431 parts (35 photoetched metal, 2 vinyl, string), decals

New model companies seem to be springing up all over. Now, from Hong Kong comes Xact Scale Models. Xact’s initial release is the last Soviet main battle tank produced before the USSR’s dissolution, the T-80U.

Molded in a gray-green plastic, the kit features superb detail. The one-piece vinyl tracks join with standard modeling cement; they even have hollow guide teeth. There are two small sheets of photoetched metal providing parts for the front fenders, screens for the engine deck, and several other small pieces. 

Also included is a very nice preformed screen for the wading trunk. Packed with the photoetched-metal piece for the wading trunk is a small die-cut clear part for the gunsight that can easily be overlooked.

A generic decal sheet is included, providing white turret numbers in two styles and decals for the turret gunsight. Four camouflage schemes are covered by the full-color painting diagram, but only the top and one side are shown for each. Unit information is not provided for any of the vehicles.

Construction starts with the hull. Note that the slightly larger gaps between the front plate (C4), the rear plate (B1), and the upper plate (A1) are supposed to be there.

Generally, I leave the running gear off until the hull is painted. But Xact uses an unusual system of gluing the road wheels and drive sprockets to their mounts, and I thought it would be easier to paint the parts as I went along. I had a bit of trouble bending the photoetched-metal mud extractors for the drive sprockets, even though Xact provides a template for them on the fret. With no crimp lines in the metal, it is difficult to determine exactly where the creases need to be.

The one-piece tracks fit well, but one side of each track has a few distorted end connectors. I made sure that I installed the tracks with those sides facing in. Also, one track had an unusual twist in it that I could not correct; I hid this area of the track under the fenders.

Some modelers might complain about the bottomless storage bins on the fenders, but once the fender skirts are in place you’ll never notice them. Before bending the front fender pieces (parts PE1 and PE2), I annealed both by heating them on my stove. I also found it helpful to clamp the parts in a clothespin to give me something to hold onto while carefully bending the sides down.

Before installing the unditching log, I roughed up the bark with a razor saw.

Next up was the turret assembly. Make sure you drill out all of the holes shown on Page 12; you won’t be able to get inside the turret once the solid bottom is glued into place. While there is no interior provided for the turret, Xact does give some of the panels that are located just inside the hatches to prevent an empty appearance should you pose a turret hatch open.

The turret bottom was the worst fit of the kit. While I didn’t need to use any filler, I did use a large burr on my motor tool to blend in the seam while retaining the rough-cast texture so beautifully molded into the turret.

Adding all of the details to the turret was complicated by drawings that show all of the assembly from the same point of view; I would have loved a diagram showing the right side and rear of the turret. I had to look at pictures on the Internet to locate pieces. It is also sometimes difficult to figure out which of the many holes in the turret some of the pieces fit into.

I chose the light tan and olive color scheme for my T-80U, mixing Tamiya paints according to the instructions. After a coat of Vallejo clear gloss, I gave the model a pinwash of Vandyke brown artist’s oil and followed with a coat of flat clear. Finally, I dry-brushed the model with lighter shades of the base colors.

After several attempts at using the material supplied for the tow cables, I gave up and made my own by braiding four strands of .020" lead wire.

It took me about 27 hours to complete my T-80U. The numerous small and delicate parts really put this model in a class for experienced modelers.

My tank matched exactly the dimensions posted on Wikipedia for the T-80U. Xact should be proud of its initial release. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the December 2013 FineScale Modeler.


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