The Soviets greatly relied on tractors to transport heavy artillery and mortars across the battlefield. The most ominous of these was the ChTZ S-65 Stalinetz, “Sons of Stalin,” which was built in the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. Founded in 1933, the factory began producing agricultural tractors with the S-60, a copy of the American-built Caterpillar 60, followed by an improved diesel-powered version: the S-65. With the outbreak of war in 1941, the majority of the existing 37,626 Stalinetz were pressed into military service to move artillery.
The German invaders captured thousands of these hefty vehicles, which were immediately used to pull vehicles stuck in the heavy Russian mud during the fall rainy season. But more often than not, the Germans used the S-65 in its original role: as an artillery tractor to move the sFH 18 heavy field howitzer.
This 1:35-scale kit by Trumpeter is molded in light grey plastic, with the parts appearing with very little flash. The fit of the parts is generally very good. The tracks in the Trumpeter kit are offered as individual pads, along with two separate inner brackets to form each link, 34 per side. Assembly of the tracks does take a bit of time, but upon completion you are rewarded with a pair of extremely nice, workable tracks. Combined with the kit’s clear instructions, this is the type of project that can easily be constructed over the course of a rainy weekend.
The kit, however, does have a few issues. The lettering for “Stalinetz” on the front radiator uses the Latin alphabet “N” instead of the Cyrillic “II,” with the same issue recurring on the lower radiator lettering for “diesel.” But the most basic shortcoming: the kit lacks an engine. The modeler’s only option is to construct the tractor with the large side engine panels in place. The oversight is unfortunate, as even a quick glance at period photos show that many of these service tractors were in use with their large side panels removed for increased engine ventilation.
Luckily, Trumpeter’s omission has been remedied by LZ Models, which quickly brought an excellent resin engine to the market. The LZ Models engine is nothing short of brilliant. The LZ parts are presented in light-colored resin, and the kit instructions come on a small CD that includes easy step-by-step instructions and references. If that wasn’t enough, LZ Models also offers a replacement front radiator with the correct lettering as well as photo-etched parts for the front mesh and tractor logo.
The pictured S-65 model has been modified with the addition of a large front boom and T-34 wheels. This bit of scratch building was done in order to replicate a vehicle in period photographs. It is only speculation, but this field modification seems to indicate the tractor was put to use for road construction.
Overall this kit makes a very nice S-65 tractor with some very nice details, especially the tracks. The lack of engine is noteworthy, though the tractor can be built quite accurately with the engine panels in place. For those wishing to go the extra mile, I highly recommend the LZ Models upgrade set.
Originally published in the December 2012 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.