KIT: Zvezda 1/35 KV-1 heavy tank
KIT #: 3539
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Includes both link & run and 'rubber band' tracks.


After disappointing results with the multi-turreted T-35 heavy tank, Soviet tank designers started drawing up replacements. The T-35 conformed to the 1920s notion of a 'breakthrough tank' with very heavy firepower, but poor mobility and armor protection. The Spanish Civil War demonstrated the need for much heavier armor on tanks, and was the main influence on Soviet tank design just prior to World War II.

Several competing designs were offered, and even more were drawn up prior to reaching prototype stage. All had heavy armor, torsion-bar suspension, wide tracks, and were of welded and cast construction. One of the main competing designs was the SMK, which lowered the number of turrets from the T-35's five to two, mounting the same combination of 76.2 mm and 45 mm weapons. When two prototypes were ordered though, it was decided to create one with only a single turret, but more armour. This new single-turret tank was the KV. The smaller hull size and single turret enabled the designer to add more armor while keeping the weight within manageable limits.

When the Soviets entered the Winter War, the SMK, KV and a third design, the T-100, were sent to be tested in combat conditions. The heavy armour of the KV proved highly resilient to Finnish anti-tank weapons, making it more effective than the other designs. It was soon put into production, both as the original 76-mm-armed KV-1 Heavy Tank and the 152 mm howitzer-mounting assault gun, the KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank.

The 45-ton KV outweighed most other tanks of the era, being about twice as heavy as the heaviest contemporary German tanks. The KV's strengths included armor that was impenetrable by any tank-mounted weapon then in service except at pointblank range, good firepower, and good floatation on soft ground. Along with these strengths, its flaws were quite serious. It was very slow and difficult to steer. The transmission was unreliable. The ergonomics were poor, with limited visibility and no turret basket. Its weight tended to strain smaller bridges.


Zvezda has been getting good press from modelers as of late. Not only for the quality of their moldings, but also for the most reasonable price of their kits. This new KV-1 tank looks to be another in that vein. The quality of the detail is really quite good with crisply done bits and pieces. The hull is made up from four sections, a lower section, two sides with mountings for the suspension bits and a rounded rear section. Idlers, road wheels and sprockets are also well detailed. Now this kit shows the return rollers as having rubber facings, but I was told that these were all metal. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise if someone knows.

There is a partial upper engine section to put under the engine hatch. All the crew hatches have inside detail, though there is no interior to this kit. I mentioned that one has a choice of link and run treads or the vinyl one piece versions. I'm not sure how well the vinyl will hold paint and weathering, but for those who don't like one type of tread system, it is nice to have the option.

There is some detailing in the turret itself that includes shell storage, the rear firing machine gun and the breech of the main gun itself. There are also the inside view pieces for the four view ports. The rest of the kit has the usual boxes and bits for the outside. The tow cables are in vinyl and it appears that the tow hooks can be moved into position as needed.

Instructions are well done and show all the parts quite clearly. Color information in Model Master references is provided as well. There are options for three tanks, all in Russian Armor Green and all carrying either slogans, or artwork or both. The box art tank is probably the most colorful with a large artwork and kill markings on the side of the turret. Decals look to be usable though the carrier seems a bit on the yellowish side. It should disappear once applied against the dark background.


It is nice to see a well done KV-1 and judging from the price of other Zvezda armor kits, it will be at a price that won't break the bank. I'm sure this one will find favor with many Soviet armor fans as it looks to be a nice one.

September 2007

My thanks to for sending in the review sample. You can find this one at your local hobby shop. If you don't see it, ask them to order it for you.

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