Ken’s Armor Files (T-72)

A Look Back at the Cold War: Building a T-72 From Scratch

I originally built this T-72 back in 1983, at the height of the Cold War. It is scratchbuilt/kitbashed, using the then-brand-new Tamiya T-62 kit as a base. There were basically no good references to go by at the time; the best reference I had was the book “Soviet Tanks Today” by Steve Zaloga, published in 1983.

All of its photos are black and white. Essentially everything you see on this model is rebuilt, scratchbuilt, or taken from something else, the only original parts left from the T-62 are the drive sprockets and the rear fuel drums. With very little references to go by, I had to “guesstimate” a lot of it.

Both the turret and hull had to be re-done. The road wheels were built using wheels from several 1/25 Jeep CJ kits, the support arms are from a Tamiya M60A1, the support rollers are from a Heller AMX-13. All of the stowage boxes on the turret and hull fenders are made from sheet styrene, as are the fuel tanks. The entire front of the hull had to be rebuilt from plastic sheet, and the front “V” splash guard and the frame for the engine air intake are Plastruct angle iron strips. The turret had to be chopped up and reshaped using lots of styrene and putty. The gunner’s sight and hatch are both scratchbuilt; the TC’s hatch and machine gun were converted using the kit parts.


The oldest photos I have of finished model are from 1992, at which time it was nine years old. In one photo I compare it to a then-new AMT/MPC/ERTL T-74 kit I had just finished; I think the scratchbuilt one is better.

In 2021, I decided to revisit this old build, and fix it up a little bit. It had gotten some damage over the years – hey, its nearly forty years old, and I wanted to correct a few things I never got to doing before. Some of the road wheels had broken, and an idler wheel. In this photo of a broken road wheel, you can still see some of the chrome from the Jeep kit it came from.



I also had to repair the fuel drums and the rear of the hull. The oil tank and engine exhaust were broken off, so I replaced them with parts from the AMT/ERTL kit. While working on those, I decided to do a few upgrades. The first two were things I had planned to do all along, but never did.

The machine gun was modified from the Tamiya DsHK. I was going to cut off the feed mechanism from the top of it, and never did. I snipped that off and sanded it down. Then I added the small triangles at the front fenders. They are just styrene sheet. I also used a pair of nippers to cut out the sides of the original Tamiya tracks, to better replicate the RMSH tracks from the T-72. All of this took less than ten minutes, but it took me almost forty years to get around to it. No excuse for it really, just lazy.



I never liked my original engine fan cover; the glue had soaked thru the screen. I pried it off with a screwdriver and replaced it with one from the AMT kit. I also added a bit of photoetch to the engine deck, and a leftover hinge for the engine cover. I had a scraper blade left over from a Dragon kit, so I added it to the front.


One of the tie-down loops had broken off the turret, so I replaced that, and added a bit of photoetch to the top of the sight. Also, one of my headlight guards lost a couple of pieces; I replaced them with copper wire. While working on the lights, I added some new lenses from SKP.

I did not want to do too much in the way of upgrades to it; I wanted to keep it pretty much as I originally built in back in the day, and there is simply no way I could bring it up to modern standards. But then I don’t have to, there are plenty of better kits available now, I even have some of them. So at that point I touched up the paint and called it done. Comparing the finished tank to more modern kits like my Dragon M-84 or the Amusing Hobby T-72M1 I found that it does hold up pretty well, especially considering the lack of resources I had. The dimensions are a bit off, but not bad. The shape and layout of the back of the turret and the rear of the engine deck are wrong, but I could not make out the correct details with the photos I had.

One thing I did notice on mine, because it was based on the Tamiya T-62 kit, the turret is too far forward. I had no way of knowing that at the time. Here the hulls are lined up (first picture); and here are the turrets/guns lined-up (second picture). 

A small difference, but it is there. Otherwise, it is pretty close. All in all, I am quite happy with how it came out, especially for when I built it!