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Skif 2S1 Gvozdika

John Prigent

Skif's latest kit shows definite promise, though it does have a few oddities.   This is an in-box review, so I can't comment on parts fit.   The 2S1, Skif tells us, was developed by AF Belousov at the Kharkhov Tractor Plant and went into service in 1972. It's a 122mm self-propelled howitzer with amphibious capabilities and carries a four-man crew. The howitzer has a range of 15.2 km, it can fire up to 5 shots a minute, and 40 rounds are carried.

OK, how does it look? The four sprues in light grey polystyrene carry 184 parts which are quite crisply moulded for the most part; though some of the detail looks a little "soft" here and there I'm impressed overall. The lower  hull has the usual multi-part construction - yes, a pain to put together but no harder than scratchbuilding and it does allow Skif to include things like  the bolt detail on the transmission and torsion bar housings. There's even nice under-hull detail on the floor, though I haven't the faintest idea  whether it's correct since I've never had the chance to crawl under one of these beasties.

All the flat parts are properly flat, and there are only a very few sink marks. The only really unpleasant surprise I can see on inspection is that the roadwheels have no indication of their rims - the bevelled "tyre" area just turns into a horizontal flat where the rim should be. Lathe-owners can turn the rims into them quite easily, the rest of us will have to live with it. On the credit side, the suspension arms are all separate with squared locating pins and sockets so lining them up should be straightforward. This  includes the idler arms so adjusting the track tension will simply be a matter of rounding the pins' corners a bit and turning the arms till the track sag is as you want it before fixing them solid. Other problems? Nothing I can see without building the model, except that the periscopes have no surrounding rims but that's a common fault of many kits. Measure and cut rims from thin plastic card as usual and that should deal with them.  The tracks are two-part jobs in flexible black plastic - Skif tells you to solder them together but I rather think they mean you to heat-seal the joint, which has only one pin for each of the four ends. Maybe a problem here as it doesn't look to me as though they will provide a very secure joint, so stapling or sewing the ends together may be needed for more strength.

On the good side, the tread pattern is crisp and the plastic really Is flexible so getting the required sag may be just a matter of supergluing them to the tops of the roadwheels. Also on the track sprues are two short tow cables, to which you add separate two-part hard plastic ends - which could just as well be used on ship-rigging thread or brass picture-hanging wire if you don't like the somewhat disappointing plastic cables. They have too little twist depicted for my taste and rather too many places where the cable twist pattern hasn't reproduced at all.  A neat etched brass fret carries an engine air grille as well as several other detail parts, including - believe it or not - what is supposed to be the driver's windscreen! Skif tells you to paint the glass area silver, but I suspect that most of us will either use it as a pattern to cut clear plastic or cover it with the armoured windscreen hatch - which is also on the fret and looks rather thin as an etched part.

My decal sheet came with the maker's name trimmed off - embarrassment? The markings shown on the box top are not included so forget the parade scheme with its Gvardia flag decals and red star. It gives three tactical numbers 498 in black and another three in  white, some kind of tactical symbol for the turret front, and a pair of Russian or maybe Ukrainian (I don't know the difference but they're  definitely not Soviet) national markings which on my copy are badly out of register. These tie up with the painting instructions to the extent that you can tell where to put each one, but there's no indication whether to use the black or the white numbers on the two colour schemes shown.Other than this, the instruction sheet is good.

Decent-sized clear drawings show where each part goes, and the whole effect is very reminiscent of Dragon's instructions. Two colour schemes are illustrated with four-view drawings, but the patterns are the same so it's a pity Skif didn't use the space to give five views instead - the starboard side isn't shown. Looking on the bright side, the colours needed are keyed to both Humbrol and Testors paints so no-one should have much trouble finding the right ones. I'd suggest, though, that matte black isn't the right paint for the periscope lenses or the infra-red lights! I use semi-gloss, which looks much better.Pity about the wheel rims, but all in all this looks a nice model which will repay the time it takes to build. Now, if only someone would produce a decal sheet of Iraqi unit markings.....

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