Fruilmodel 1/35 Track set for PT-76, GSZP-55, BTR-50, or BTR-50PU
|Date of Review||May 2009|
|Subject||Track set for PT-76, GSZP-55, BTR-50, or BTR-50PU|
|Primary Media||200 track links in white metal, plus four sprocket wheels and a loop of brass wire|
|Pros||Clean, neatly done set of tracks for Trumpter or Eastern Express kits, or resin conversion kits; proper “sag” when installed|
|Cons||Wire roll causes problems in assembly; hingepin holes often required drilling or reaming to get proper fit|
The PT-76 amphibious light tank has enjoyed a career of nearly 60 years, and even today the Chinese have a goodly number of new build variants in service and even in production. Designed as a reconnaissance vehicle, the PT-76 was never supposed to be a tank, and when used as one suffered inordinate combat losses. The vehicles based on it such as the BTR-50 series of armored personnel carriers (again, command variants are still in service) were more successful in some respects and the vehicles were even used as the first Soviet tactical nuclear delivery systems in the person of the “Mars” and “Luna” series heavy rockets (FROG-2/3/4/5).
In 1958 ITC came out with kits of these vehicles in 1/32 scale but they were basically toy-like approximations. About 10 years ago a new company from Russia, Eastern Express, released a pretty good kit of a basic PT-76B which had single-link tracks in plastic. Now Trumpeter has released at least three kits – a PT-76 Model 1951, a PT-76, and a Polish PT-76B with more releases likely in the future. The basic result is that it was a good time for after-market companies to step up, and now Fruilmodel has done so with this nice new set.
The current generation of Fruilmodel tracks are basically “love ‘em or hate ‘em” items. Made from nicely cast white metal (e.g. lead based, so care must be taken with them) they are now assembled by inserting a length of brass wire, cutting it flush, placing a dab of superglue on the end, and moving on to the next link. As most of the links do need a bit of TLC with a knife and a small drill (the directions saw 0.4mm or about 0.016", so an 0.020" bit works fine) this can be incredibly tedious and painful if the wire goes through the link and into your finger. But with care they can be assembled and are far more rugged than plastic links, able to take more punishment and also easier to paint. It’s up to the builder as to what he likes and what he prefers, but the result with patience is worth the effort for vehicles with no return rollers and “dead” track such as the PT-76 series chassis.
Many modelers who use them frequently generally just get sections of either 0.020" straight brass wire or plastic rod as it is faster and easier than the wire roll which comes in the kit. One enterprising chap even had steel pins produced to exact size to fit most of the Fruilmodel tracks so that there is a “head” to ensure easier assembly, but he had to order 10,000 to do it!
Overall this is a nice and useful set, and should prove popular with a selection of items that use them.
Thanks to Bill Miley of Chesapeake Model Designs for the review sample.