Alan Hobbies/Dragon Su-76M Suka Light Assault Gun

By: Mark Powley

This is one of those kits that started off as an easy project but as time went on it just got bigger and more complex. When you open up the box, first impressions aren't too bad and if built up straight out of the box, would probably look quite reasonable. It’s on closer inspection that you notice how thick the plastic mouldings really are. They're thick. The walls of the fighting compartment are about 40 thou thick for example, with even minor details looking really chunky. Also, while the gun compartment has interior detail supplied it's rather basic, very heavy and as far as I can tell not that accurate.

So what can you do to fix it? First off, grab as much reference material as you can find. The January 1992 issue of FineScale Modeler has a very useful set of plans including interior layout drawings. The May 1994 issue of Boresight has a handy article on the Su-76 by Steve Zaloga that provided a lot of inspiration and guidance for my model. AFV Interiors website has a page dedicated to the Su-76. This is an essential reference to have.

There are a few items available to replace the clunky kit parts. An essential purchase in my opinion is the Commander Models Su-76 detail set. This is a mix of resin, white metal and photo etched brass parts that will make a huge amount of difference. The resin parts replace much of the interior as well as the radiator assembly, driver's hatch and gun mantlet. The brass parts include air duct screening, tool brackets and a bunch of parts to go into the interior. Next up is the Italeri/Zvezda Zis-3 76mm gun. This has to be one of the nicest artillery kits I've ever seen and isn't expensive. The contrast between it and the gun assembly supplied in the kit is huge. Finally buy plenty of plastic card as you'll need it.

Assembly starts with the lower hull. This was built as per the kit instructions but I left out the interior dividing wall (kit part A4) as the resin interior replaces it. All of the tool location holes on the hull roof (kit part F5) were filled and sanded smooth. I left off the visor guard (kit part E36), the tow hooks (E39/40), Drivers hatch (A21) and all of the tools. The resin interior insert was then cleaned up and test fitted into the chassis. A bit of test fitting was needed here and one side needed some plastic card shims to get it to fit snugly as I had accidentally removed too much material from one wall. I didn't glue the interior into position, as I wanted to be able to remove it so I could paint it more easily. I made replacement track guards from 10 thou card then removed the trackguard mounts and filled any holes in the hull.

The biggest job is replacing the gun compartment walls and backplate, as the kit items are way too thick to look realistic so I decide to replace them with 20 thou plastic card. This was mostly a case of tracing the walls onto the card and then cutting them out leaving some excess for any trimming to shape and to compensate for the extra thickness of the kit items. I started with the backplate (C12) as I reasoned that it would help me line up the other replacement walls at the right angles and height once it was in position. There is an air vent in the backplate that has to be cut out but the kit item differed in size to the plans. I went with the plans. A corresponding hole is ground out of the resin interior casting and this is painted black to give the vent some depth. Mesh is glued to the inside of the air vent and on the outside a new frame is added to the duct. The interior of the backplate has what looks like two cushion backs mounted on it so I made some plastic card replacements. I also replaced the spare wheel mounting bracket with one made from plastic rod. A new rear door is also needed so the kit item was copied and new hinges added. This was put to one side to be added later as it would have been too fragile to withstand much handling. Once finished I glued the backplate into place and started on the other walls. The side and front plates (parts C11, C13, C14) took a while to get them right but on my second attempt everything worked perfectly. I then detailed them using the Commanders detail set, scratch built items and items salvaged from the kit walls (such as the front vision slot). Once this was done I didn't glue them in place but put them aside.

The gun assembly was next and it was amazing to see the difference in quality between the two kits with the Italeri kit being much more delicate. Construction proceeded normally but I didn't bother with building the splinter plate or mount. Both the kit mantlet and resin replacement are solid so I had to cut the gun barrel, recuperator housing and gun cradle where the mantlet starts. When this done it was time to paint all the interior parts with everything getting a couple of coats of green. Once dry, I gave everything a light drybrush, then glued the interior in place, then added the compartment walls and gun as well as the gun mantlet. Everything was given a brown wash with the floor getting a heavier washing. Finally the floor was given a drybrushing of silver to replicate worn paint.

The tracks and road wheels are a real pain to deal with. The tracks are single link items and look good once in place with some very convincing track sag, but the distance between the guide teeth is narrower than the thickness of the roadwheels. This means I had to thin the inside of the guide teeth for each link. It still wasn't enough so I ended up sanding off a whack of detail on the rear of each road wheel to get the track to fit. Fairly ugly but thankfully hidden from view unless you turn the tank over.

With the track and roadwheels in place I added the new trackguards and photoetch brackets. Then it was a case of adding the new radiator, vents, driver's hatch, tow hooks and brackets to the hull. I didn't like the tools supplied with the kit (again, way too chunky) so I dug some replacements out of my spare parts bin. The front headlight was unsatisfactory so I used one from a T-34 instead. I replaced the kit mufflers (parts D66/67) with plastic rod items as well as the exhaust pipe ends (D72). The main exhaust pipe sections (parts D69/70) were replaced with thick plastic coated wire bent to shape with thin wire wound around it to replicate the real thing. All of the tiedowns and lifting hooks on the hull were replaced with items made from wire bent to shape and superglued in place. I trimmed the Italeri gun barrel down to the correct length and added it to the gun mantelet. With construction complete it was time to start painting.

In The Eastern Front Armour Camouflage and Markings 1941 to 1945 by Steve Zaloga I found a picture of three Su-76's in a winter camouflage scheme all wearing a very stripy, hand painted white wash over the standard green. Not the most attractive but certainly striking to look at. The exterior was painted with Testors Dark Green and allowed to dry. The road wheel tyres and tracks were then painted and then the lower hull given a light wash of dark brown to dirty it up. The white was painted on by hand with a flat brush. I was able to refer to the photo for details of the front and right hand side but had to make some educated guesses about the left and rear. With this done I then applied a light dusting of black pastel powder to the gun muzzle to reproduce a slightly burnt look from all of the firing the gun would have done. Lastly I attached the rear entry door and added a log made from a stick from my garden to the left hand track guard. It was finally complete.

After all of that hard work I can honestly say I enjoyed this project. It was the first time I'd ever had to do any major rebuilding of a kit and it taught me quite a few new skills. I actually entered this kit into the Modified Armour class at the Sapma Expo a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised to get a second prize for it (I got beaten by a Tamiya Sturmtiger with full resin interior). It has potential but it takes a great deal of effort to realise that potential.