Mud and wheeled transportation donít mix to well, and Russian mud and German transport in particular donít mix much at all. When the fighting on the Eastern Front continued on through to the next spring and the resulting mud appeared after the snow melted the Germans found themselves without a reliable form of transportation to move the much needed material that modern war demanded. Always looking to find a solution near at hand they married a small Carden Lloyd style tracked drive unit in place of the rear wheels on the very successful 3 ton Opel Blitz chassis and voila! The result was the Sd. Kfz 3a Opel Maultier (mule, as most of us are surely aware), a very successful marriage indeed. The Maultier was eventually superseded by the RSO but soldiered on until the end of hostilities.
Add to this the penchant of the German military to put a gun on anything that moved and you have the Maultier with 37 mm flak gun mounted in the cargo area which is the subject of this new kit from Cyber-Hobby, #77 in their white box line. Most of us are familiar with the relationship of Cyber-Hobby as smaller, specialized, arm of the Dragon family that is charged with producing shorter production runs of kits that are often a bit more obscure or esoteric. Part of the allure of the Cyber-Hobby kits is the rarity factor that comes from their policy of one, and only one, production run. (But thatís okay as most of us surely have a stack of the Tiger I initial production kit, right? What, you donít? Well, you can always take out a 2nd mortgage!)
What you get in the well stuffed slip top box is the usual set of fold out instructions with 18 steps of varying complexity, the goodies card with small decal sheet, paint masks for the windows, two small frets of photo-etched material , a bag of tiny Magic Track links, one sprue of clear parts, and 18 sprues of light gray plastic. My example had no flash of any kind, virtually no knock out pin marks, and mould seams that range from light to non-existent thanks to the use of modern mould technologies (Iím trying to write a review without using the term ďslide mouldingĒ, darn I think I just failed!).
This is not really a kit that has never seen the light of day; it is simply a kit that has never been boxed together. What Cyber-Hobby has done is to take the parts from the recent Sd. Kfz.3a, kit 6761, reviewed by Matt Smith which took a majority of its parts from the earlier set of Opel Blitz three tons that have made their appearance in the Cyber-Hobby line up; No64, the early style, No68, the later style, No70, the later style mounting the 20mm Flak gun which was so ably reviewed . Add to that the superb 37mm Flak which first saw the light of day as part of the Dragon Sd. Kfz. 7/2 Flak 37 kit No6542 and you have the makings of a really nice kit. Links to both of these reviews are at the end of this review. One question that always comes up with these mix and match, off the shelf parts, kinds of kits is what exactly is new in this one? Truthfully, not much, okay even less than that; one of the two small photo-etched frets is new, and Iím not even sure I will use it when building this vehicle. It includes only two parts, the sheet metal (?) cover for the windscreen and a piece that goes over the cab roof as reinforcement or something? Honestly, I donít know what the piece is for and getting the right contour for it to fit correctly over the cab roof appears to be a daunting task. I donít quite get the need for either of the new pieces, canít imagine this thing charging into battle, guns blazing, with a need for a protected windscreen, or the gun banging onto the cab roof, but stranger things have happened.
The instructions are typical Dragon/Cyber-Hobby style; busy with lots of things going in different directions. One continuing issue with their instructions is the optional parts, no hint as to which are for which vehicle or which would go together, and so handy reference can be well worth the cost. Options are fairly limited in this kit so it is not quite the issue that it has been in other offerings but do be aware.
As far as the rest of the kit, nothing short of superb, there was nothing wrong with any of the donor kits for this one and nothing wrong here either. The Maultier comes with the later style cargo bed with the raised strakes. The sides and rear gate can be modeled in either the raised position or lowered position, either choice is easily done. No wood grain pattern is present so if you are a fan of the grain you will need to add your own. One option here is the removal of the raised strakes, but that involves shaving off moulded on portion of the strake which may be more trouble than it is worth.
Moving forward to the cab you will find a fully detailed interior complete with levers, shifters, brakes, pedals, etc. My favourite part of the interior is the instrument panel which is moulded with completely flat faced gauges (Yeah!). The detail for the gauges can all be found on the decal sheet and make for a vastly improved system over the old paint the inside of the gauge black and dry brush the raised detail in off white style.
The entire front of the vehicle is a nice one piece moulding with separate engine louvers that can be modeled in the open or closed position. The engine side louvers deserve special mention, the ventilation slats are all very well moulded with hollow openings behind each slat. You will want to either model this kit with the side louvers open or at least loose in order to display the superb 3.6 litre, 6 cylinder engine in all its glory.
Diving underneath we find a nice one piece frame, decent wheels, tires that will require some pesky seam work, and a superb gas tank and spare tire. Moving further back we come to the Carden-Lloyd suspension and all those tiny Magic Track links, what joy. I for one wish that Dragon/Cyber Hobby would think about dropping a set of DS tracks in with these kits; I know Iíd be elated if they did.
Moving back up top we arrive at the business end of the proposition, the 3.7 cm Flak 37 gun. Again, we have seen this one before, but it is nicely done. The gun can be modeled in travel mode or a more in action type of display. The gun sight is moulded in the gray plastic as a two piece affair; it might have been better served to have moulded this in clear plastic. The barrel comes in two parts the main tube which is decent enough and the flash suppressor which is a work of art; it may be the best part of the whole kit. You can tell it is something special as Cyber-Hobby bags it separately in its own tiny zip lock bag. The kit supplies ammo trays and racks of ammo ready to go if you wish to display it in that manner. The gun shields are pleasingly thin and the platform is the solid triangular style. One drawback is the manner of mounting the gun to the bed, there is none it is simply placed in the bed. I would hazard a guess that these may have been bolted onto the bed, if so you would be able to see something underneath the cargo bed. However, I have been wrong before so check your references.
The kit only shows paint schemes and markings for one vehicle; almost standard practice now for Cyber-Hobby kits. The paint scheme is for a whitewashed winter version from 1942. The markings are for that largest of all German formations, the ďunidentified unitĒ on the Eastern Front. As such they are very minimal, and by minimal I mean license plate markings only, no balkenkruez or unit emblems of any kind. Hopefully, one of our aftermarket friends will step up soon and provide a bit more for us to spend our money on!
This should be a well received kit that will probably sell out fairly quickly. Even though this kit doesnít provide much in the way of new parts or markings you will still end up with a unique vehicle that has not been moulded in plastic before. As a bonus you get a veritable bucketful of spare parts, one sprue only uses a single part with the remainder for the parts bin. All in all, a really nice kit that I can easily recommend.
Sd. Kfz.3a, kit 6761
20mm Flak gun