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Matchbox - SdKfz. 232 Radio Car (PK85) _________(EXT)

Manufacturer Matchbox
Scale 1/72
Set Code PK85
Year Unknown
No. of Figures 2
No. of Poses 2
Additional Items 1 Sdkfz 231 6 Rad Radio Car (1/76) and diorama base
Size Medium
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Medium
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Difficult
Optimal Period 1939 – 1945

 Review 

Everything started in Braille Scale with the 1/76 scale when British mass-production companies like Matchbox and Airfix have launched a new hobby that nowadays involves hundreds of companies and an entire industry behind. It is almost impossible that through the hands of a 30 years old hobbyist not to pass at least a Matchbox or Airfix kit or figure set while their older colleagues perhaps worked hundreds of those. Such kits have an immense sentimental value as well as a modelling one, major companies deciding to reissue even after 2010 kits launched for the first time half a century ago.

Acknowledged as a 1/76 manufacturer, Matchbox vehicle kits have a special feature, in the box being provided a diorama base and most of the times a couple of figures, in this way modellers having in the same place everything needed for displaying the kit after putting together and painting. Matchbox’s approach is now regretted by many members of the hobby community though is little probable to be copied by nowadays manufacturers, in a period when any piece of plastic added might raise with much the cost of the whole kit.

Likewise, except vehicle kits, Matchbox had produced some 1/76 sets of soft plastic figures, WWII Germans benefitting by two, respectively “German Infantry” and “Afrika Corps”. For some of their vehicles Matchbox appealed to the figures they had already sculptured and selected a couple to accompany their Wehrmacht armour. Even hard to believe, it is not the same thing to cast hard plastic figures with a mould prepared for soft plastic, it might result anomalies and in Matchbox’s case had materialised in some larger figures though their soft plastic homologues were in a truly 1/76 scale. Many modellers might have been disappointed when opened the box and saw some giants for their vehicles, but their sadness is the joy of 1/72 collectors while the figs in case are in the upper scale, and even not in the small side of it, but in the medium one, having same size like many ESCI, Revell, Airfix toy-soldiers. However, it should be underlined that Sdkfz234/2 Puma includes figures in the 1/76 scale as well as the Sdkfz 11/Pak40/BMW R75, for this last one, the figures being from the beginning created for a hard plastic cast

For their Sdkfz 231 Radio Car Matchbox selected two figures from “German Infantry” and decided to emplace them near the ruins of a house, the action taking place in Poland according to the decal that can be set in the upper part of the ruin and the artwork of the box presenting the unrealistic story of the Polish cavalry charging the German armour. Nevertheless, the vehicle is wrongly labelled, Sdkfz 232 even did not exist, and here it is about the radio variant of Sdkfz 231 6 Rad, a vehicle that saw combat in the very early stage of WWII and then replaced by the 8 wheel armoured cars. On the other hand, as well-known, the object of the reviews from this website are the figures and not the vehicles, and even more, the armoured car in case in the 1/76 scale, while here we focus on the 1/72 scale.

The figures were chosen to match the vehicle, Matchbox picking an officer and perhaps an NCO. They interact pretty well, the officer looking in the distance with the right palm protecting his eyes from the sun while the NCO points a direction where perhaps there had been identified the enemy. A little odd is that he has not even the smallest intention to look in the pointed direction, the pose emerging quite flat and rigid. Both army-men have binoculars, so they might embody a recon patrol during a short break or only the officer dismounted for being briefed by a soldier form a forward post.  

They are dressed in M36 uniform, shoe marching boots and the officer has got visor cap and the trooper steel helmet which is suitable for being painted as with camouflage cloth. In conformity with his rank, the officer correctly did not receive “Y” straps but the soldier wears them, thing making him inappropriate for the very Early War campaigns, including Poland. As weapons the officer has a pistol in holster while his subordinate was endowed with a Kar98K but miss the related ammunition pouches. However, at least the right hand pouches might be presumed present but covered by the position of the arm held exactly where those should have been. As gear, this skilful officer according to the Iron Cross shining at his neck received a pair of goggles kept over the cap and binoculars hung on the chest. Due to his pose, medal and somehow facial details, many modellers assessed the figure as General Erwin Rommel, though this is uncertain, but in some extent suitable and plausible. However, better 1/72 Rommels are found in various kits like Pegasus Hobbies’ “World War II, the War Game” and Odemars’ “German Commanders”  or even in specially dedicated sets such as ACE’s “Kfz.21 with "Desert Fox's” and TQD Castings’ “Erwin Rommel”. At his turn, the private or NCO is lightly equipped with gas mask container and shovel that is quite poorly represented, with a too short handle.    

A plus point of both minis and manufacturer consists in supplying related straps not only for binocular, but also for the Kar98K held on the right shoulder by the infantryman. Furthermore, other details charm the viewer, uniforms being very well modelled with pocket flaps, buttons, collar and shoulder boards, and natural creases. Practically these items of garment might be considered superior to similar attire issued by many manufacturers of 1/72 toy-soldiers at present. Facial details really impress with expressively eyes, noses, mouths, and ears, the slightly larger heads offering enough room for the Matchbox sculptor to exercise his great skills. Due to their attributes and size, these heads also work for troopers encompassed by the tall side of 1/72 scale. Likewise, the whole bodies benefit by satisfactory proportions and the palms come with fingers in place though the pointing one emerges a little over-scaled.

Perhaps the minis were some of the first made of hard plastic and opened the gates for easy conversions in a period when the great majority of toy-soldiers were done in a soft plastic intricate to glue with the available adhesives. On such figures elder modellers started to practice their inventiveness and first conversions appeared, so they might have a romantic value, too. Regarding conversions of the present figures, not only hobbyists, but also Matchbox itself carried out some modifications, in “Sdkfz 124 Wespe” kit one miniature being a conversion of the officer. The material is extremely glue-able with any standard modelling adhesive (polly-cement) and allows replacing or adding various weapons and gear as well as body parts. Definitely, here equipment, weapons, heads or arms issued by Preiser and Dragon find their application in a brilliant manner. Obviously, the material offers an excellent base for painting and paints, no matter if those are enamel, acrylics or artistic oils. Moreover, those resist unchanged not only in time, but also after repeated handling, modeller’s artistic effort remaining safe on these toy-soldiers. Except the large base shared by ruins, vehicle, and figures, there are not supplied individual stands for the army-men. Anyway, the minis benefit by an excellent balance, perfectly standing and the base fans can easily put them on stands.

Concerning compatibility with other figures, Early War Germans smartly dressed are the most spread in the 1/72 scale and perhaps in terms of size the best are this time Esci, Airfix, and some Revell. Likewise, it should not be ignored the rest of 1/72 Matchbox toy-soldiers and those delivered by Hasegawa inside a multitude of kits.

Born from a mould error, the crewmen of Matchbox’s Sdkfz 231 Radio car increased the numbers of 1/72 WWII Germans in a period when there exist just several figure sets in the field. Being made of hard plastic they represented some of the first miniatures suitable for conversions though the poses themselves did not allow too much space for easy ones. In spite the special sentimental value for many hobbyists, these figures still impress through their facial and attire details, being compatible or even above figures released nowadays. In addition, nostalgic whishing to recreate in the truly1/72 scale the scene imagined by Matchbox might use the figures and base together with the Italeri Sdkfz 231 Radio Car.

Historical Accuracy 9
Anatomy 8
Poses Quality 8
Details Quality 9
Mould Quality 9
Sculpture 9
Recommendation/Utility 8
Reviewer’s Opinion 8