It all started with a typical mail out flyer that James DeSimone sends out to advertise his shows. On the flyer was a beautiful picture of a T-34 and a Hetzer side by side. Short of a Sherman Tank and a German Pzkw Mk. IV, he couldn't have picked a better pair of tanks to tempt me with! I just had to have them. But there was snag, nobody had contacted James and said they wanted any. I knew this was time for me to do something if I wanted something I could afford so I started sending out emails.
I have been purchasing DeSimone vehicle's for some time now but I haven't actually been involved in the development process of them before now. At the time I set up this webpage the Hetzer was in preorder and was going be in production within a couple weeks, however, this is the story of the making of the T-34.
3/30/2003 - The first picture here shows the finished templates for the chassis of the tank. This work was done ahead of time by Calvin Yip. Calvin is the wiz with the calculator and does the technical stuff that makes my head hurt. We spoke at length during the last DeSimone show in Burbank and I was surprised to see he incorporated a couple of my techniques into this project. As you can see he has enlarged plans for the turret from a smaller set of plans to 1/6 scale or slightly larger. This being because he has to account for some shrinkage of the finished production piece after being molded.
The first six pictures are of the templates. After I arrived at DeSimone's house Calvin and Rick hastily assembled the templates with tape so I could conceptualize (a fancy way of saying, 'Picture it in your head') what the T-34 chassis will look like after construction. The turret shown here is not the prototype turret. It is only used here so you can get an idea of what it will look like. The small model is a 1/35th scale model that measurements were upscaled from.
My daughter was pressed ganged (she will do anything for pizza) into standing next to this temporary model so you can get an idea of the size of this thing. Still she is only 5 foot 1 inch but I hope you get the idea.
The next four pictures are of Calvin (in the green shirt) and Rick (with the cool t-shirt!) working on the final prototype chassis. These guys work amazingly well together. I got the impression that they couldn't find their way out of a paper sack by themselves if they had to BUT together they could build the Empire State building in 1/6 scale if they wanted to. It was quite amazing to watch them.
The final picture is as far as they got with the chassis before I had to leave. I was assured they would be done with the prototype chassis by the time the day ended. Of course the turret is yet to be done at this point. Another problem here is the tracks. James DeSimone told me that the tracks will have to be custom made for this project as the existing tracks they use now are just not suitable for this tank.
This is still just in the prototype stage at this time. Cost is yet to be determined and no further work will be done once the prototype is finished until the prior project of the Hetzer tank is completed and orders for finished production models of that tank are in the mail to their new owners. There was some discussion about price on the T-34 and James pointed out this might largely depend on the cost of the tracks for the T-34. With his prior vehicles he was able to use his older tracks which might not have been really accurate but were suited to play and geared toward that purpose. The molds on those were paid for and cost already recouped so that helped keep costs of this vehicles down up to now. The T-34 might have to be as much as $150 each but there might be a lesser 'preorder' price or maybe a lesser price without tracks if customer's might want to make their own. All this is still just in the planning stage though, nothing has yet been established.
The main hull shape is finished at this point. Construction has moved on to the turret and by the end of the day the basic tank (sans wheels and tracks) was done. Detailing will follow after this. Al Franco provided James with tracks that he hopes to mold for this tank.
Dimensions of the tank are:
Length: 38" - 42" (with fenders)
Height: 11" (without wheels and tracks)
I will add updates as available.
5/16/2003 - I got an email from both James and Calvin telling me the prototype of the T-34 was finished! (see last four pictures from Calvin) Attached to Calvin's email were four lovely pictures of a 1/6 scale T-34!
At this time the tracks still need to be molded. They are suppose to be injection molded and created from masters done by a professional modeler, Al Franco. This is going to raise the cost of the T-34 but the old tracks James used for his armor vehicles was just not good enough for this baby. Of course the fact that the T-34's tracks were roughly twice as wide as the Hetzers had a little something to do with it. There is another DeSimone show in Burbank next weekend so I am hoping to get more close up pictures of this beast after that.
The road wheels are only for casting so they didn't mount them on the tank.
5/25/03 - Today after the Burbank DeSimone Show, there was the after show BBQ at James house. There we had a meeting of minds to discuss the track problem. Pictures at left show the track links that Al Franco sent James and Calvin got down to drawing what they wanted to do. Rick, myself and Clark Acton were there also adding our input of ideas on what would help. At the time I left for home, they were still going strong on the track link design.
Clark volunteered to make the track link masters. Pictures of the group at the table show (around the table from left to right) James, Rick, Calvin and Clark. I was not available as I was busy behind the camera!
Ideas thrown out on the table were to make them snap together and one universal link instead of a male and female link. They are looking at injection molding with each individual link on a sprue tree much like a model kit would come with.
Weekend of Heroes Convention in Ontario, California. These pictures are a hastily thrown together T-34 made up of production molded turret and wheels, prototype body and the old Hetzer tracks. James wanted something to display and try to get some more preorders in to help offset costs.
Hasbro Convention at San Francisco Hyatt Hotel. The final production T-34 tank was shown here. This only had the Hetzer tank style tracks as the new T-34 links have not been made as yet. Sadly the outcome of this vehicles poor sales has caused a halt to future projects. At this time it is still in question whether there will be enough monies to make the better tracks that had been planned.
This might be it's final form before the T-34's ship out to the ones who have preordered them. We were really hoping for better tracks.