T-55 Enigma

Published: April 3rd, 2012     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: Chad Richmond - IPMS# 10346
Scale: 1/35
Company: Tamiya
Price: $75.00
Product / Stock #: 35324
Product provided by: Tamiya America

Between 1958 and 1981, Iraq received more than 3300 T-54/T-55's from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Egypt, Romania, and China. Even though the basic tank design had become obsolete in the 1980's, Iraq, like most owners of the T-54/55, continually attempted to make upgrades in their aging fleet of armor. Prior to the Gulf War, the Iraqis came up with the "Enigma" design, which was nothing more than bolting on extra armor blocks on the glacis and turret to provide extra protection. These were nothing more than hollow welded boxes that were bolted on. A counter-balance arm was required on the rear of the turret because of the extra weight on the front of the turret.

The exact number of "Enigma" modifications is unknown, but they were all in the Iraqi 5th Mechanized Division, which made a highly unsuccessful attack on Coalition forces along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border. They were halted by the U.S. Marine 1st and 2nd Regiments and the superior air power of Coalition forces. After the war, many of the Enigmas were sent to the United States, Great Britain, and France. No unit markings were present on any of these vehicles, and all were painted a sand color.

Tamiya's T-55 is one of the best and easiest assembled armor kits that I have ever built. I cannot say enough good things about the Tamiya T-55. The drying of paint and glue are the only things that slow down construction. It's one kit that puts the fun back into modeling, and is the basic platform for this release of the rather obscure piece of armor used during the First Gulf War by the Iraqis. I received a rather plain pre-production box that contained the original sprues for a T-55, plus two new sprues giving the modeler the new parts that make this an "Enigma". The new or replacement sprues were molded in a light gray styrene. You can see in one of the pictures all of the new parts that make up the Enigma.

Since this was a pre-production kit, the box was a plain white box with box art and the instruction sheets were twelve 8 1/2 x 11 3/4 sheets, plus two 11 3/4 x 17 sheets with the history and line drawings of the Enigma. The construction sequence is the same as the T-55, and it is a dream to build. The new Enigma parts are no exception. They go together just as well as the rest of the kit. There is no need for putty or filler of any kind throughout the construction. Tamiya has released a new sand spray can color, TS-46 Light Sand, for the Enigma, but I was unable to locate anyone who had the paint in stock, so I mixed my own using Tamiya's XF-2 Flat White and XF-59 Desert Yellow. I used the pictures of the Bovington Enigma as my reference. Unfortunately, my photos don't give a good representation of the color. Using hindsight, I would have painted some of the added armor assemblies prior to gluing them on, as painting becomes somewhat of a chore trying to get uniform coverage on all of the undercuts and angles. First, I sprayed the whole kit XF-51 Khaki Drab because I had designs to try and duplicate the highly worn, rusted and chipped finish of the Bovington Enigma. Then I had second thoughts and left it plain, with very little weathering using oils and some dry brushing. The tracks are one piece, continuous, that do not allow for the T-55 sag. You can glue the tracks to the road wheels, drive sprockets, and return rollers to try and duplicate the sag, but I opted not to. The front portion is hidden by the bolt-on armor boxes.

A new tank commander figure was provided for the Enigma, and it is very nicely done. The fit of the head and arms is really good and the arms are easily positioned so the binoculars are being held in both hands. As I have stated before, I am anything but a figure painter, but I had to at least give this guy a try. The detail is very nice, and can produce a convincing figure to display with the tank.

Now that we have an update to the T-55, can we possible hope for a backdate of the kit to a T-54? Or, what about a Tiran 5? We can always dream.

My sincere thanks to Tamiya and IPMS/USA for the review sample.

  • Pre-production box art
    Pre-production box art
  • Enigma parts sprue 1
    Enigma parts sprue 1
  • Enigma parts sprue 2
    Enigma parts sprue 2
  • Enigma upper hull
    Enigma upper hull
  • Enigma turret parts
    Enigma turret parts
  • T-55 and Enigma comparison
    T-55 and Enigma comparison
  • New tank commander figure
    New tank commander figure
  • Turret closeup
    Turret closeup
  • Left side
    Left side
  • Front
    Front
  • Left rear
    Left rear
  • Armor placement
    Armor placement

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