by: Matt Flegal [ ]
By the fall of 1944 the US Army believed that there was a need for a heavy tank comparable to the German Tigers, for morale purposes if nothing else. On September 14th 1944 a recommendation for four pilot heavy tanks was issued and series production was authorized for these new heavy tanks on April 12, 1945. However, by the time the first tanks were delivered in October of 1947 the full production run had been cancelled and only eight T29 pilot tanks were ultimately delivered. Being relegated to test beds, the eighth T29 was modified with housing on the turret to mount an eight foot wide T31E1 stereoscopic range finder. With this modification, the tank was designated the T29E3 and this tank is still in existence today. This also happens to be the only T29 that conducted live fire trials.
Instructions and Assembly
Assembly starts with the suspension and it appears pretty accurate with some nice if generic cast textures. Takom has included jigs to line the road wheel arms up, which is a nice touch and very helpful as the tracks are length-and-link sections so you wonít have much play if the wheels arenít perfectly lined up. It should be noted that the T29 family had special 5Ē grousers attached to the tracks to help distribute their massive weight. That means that, at least for now, there are no aftermarket tracks available. This may be unfortunate because, while the track looks pretty easy to use, the outer edges of the track/grouser connections lack an awful lot of detail. This does draw the eye and will not be an easy fix if it bothers you. If you really want a fix, MMC Designs on Shapeways was kind enough to master a set of 5Ē end connectors for me several years back and they came out pretty nicely.
Steps 7-18 cover the hull and everything is fairly standard for construction. Overall, the detail compares well to the existing tank although the rear tow shackle is missing. Youíll need to add the electrical lines for the headlights and such. There are a few missing small cast numbers on the hatches and some of the hinges on the engine deck and fender storage bins have been simplified but again it is a solid job. One thing that bears mentioning is that overall the cast texture on the tank is somewhat generic. Unless youíre obsessive this should be fine but some of the charm of these pilot tanks is that they are effectively handmade, with lots of ground down steel, casting marks, and so forth. On the hull, this is most evident around the driverís and bow gunnerís hatches which are noticeably more refined on the kit.
Steps 19-28 cover the turret and completes the kit. Overall, it is again fairly standard and the turret halves fit together very well. One thing that I appreciate is that Takom provides two main guns; one with the canvas mantlet cover and one without. There is also a four piece canvas mantlet cover that looks quite nice but may prove a delicate puttying task. There are a couple of decisions made on the kit turret that are a little puzzling. The first is that the cannon is molded without a muzzle brake but has the threading for it molded instead. This is accurate to the photos of the T29E3 during testing but will be noticeable if you want to do a World of Tanks/1946 display and requires a tricky seam clean-up.
The second is that the rangefinder hatches are molded closed on an insert that fits in the range finder housing. Itís a bit surprising that there is no way to display them open without some scratch building. The 50 calibre MG looks well detailed but I confess to not being thrilled with the two part assembly. There is some simplified detail in small handles and the like, the only one that is really noticeable is that the two large springs on each of the gunnerís and loaderís hatches are represented as smooth cylinders and would benefit by being replaced. The periscope housing on the right upper turret stands a little too high and I rather wish it had been able to be displayed open.
For those who dislike rivet counting, Iíd recommend skipping this paragraph as it may be triggering. Youíve been warned. . . To go back to the surface textures; on the actual tank there is a bit less of a lip along the lower portion than on the existing T29 as it was rather crudely ground away in a wavy pattern. This isnít reproduced on the kit. There are several casting flaws, raised casting ďdotsĒ, and grind marks that are not represented. Additionally, the front of the range-finder is incorrectly shaped with a rectangular protrusion instead of it flowing out into the turret roof. This is really the most significant inaccuracy I could find in the kit before building it. It should be an easy fix with some epoxy putty but itís a puzzling error considering how obvious it is. Finally, there is a cast number on the upper left portion of the tank that I am pretty sure isnít supposed to be there. However, when I was climbing on the real tank thatís about the only spot I didnít get a good photo of so I might be wrong.
Metal tow cables and a very small decal sheet are provided. The decals appear thin and in good register. The various periscopes and the entire commanderís hatch housing are molded in clear plastic to allow the periscopes to be portrayed as clear.
The instructions themselves seem easy enough to follow and consist of a series of 3D style drawings. There is some full color painting guides as well, although being a US army tank you are limited to olive drab or you can even go wild and add some black spots for a ďwhat-ifĒ version.
Takom wins the race to get the first 1/35th scale kit out in injected plastic. While they are also releasing a T30 variant in a bit of a surprise they have released the single T29E3 variant instead of the original T29. They also had the opportunity to climb on and measure the original tank itself, so hopes have been high that this would be a good and accurate kit. To cut to the chase, they did pretty well. There are a few slightly odd decisions and some missed contours but they hit the mark relatively closely.