Articles

HaT - German Motorcycle with side car (8126) _________(EXT)

 

Manufacturer HaT; Armourfast
Scale 1/72
Set Code 8126; 99010
Year 2005
No. of Figures 15
No. of Poses 5
Additional Items 1 BMW R75
Size Tall
Material Soft Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Medium
Glue-ability Good (Super Glue Gel or Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Difficult
Optimal Period 1939 – 1945

Review

In the field of 1/72 WWII Germans, soldiers dressed in Kradmantel (motorcyclist's protective coat) still represent one of the most important gaps, mass production sets incorporating such figures being really few or poor, cottage industry not offering many choices, too. In 2005, based on HaT and Armourfast collaboration emerged a wonderful incentive, materialised in two distinct sets launched in the same time and targeting a couple of the most famous WWII German motorcycles, together with crews. Under their logos, each manufacturer sells the respective kits, the boxes sharing not only the same content, but also artworks and shape.

The two motorcycle sets put forward few innovative things in the field such as the first mass-production sets exclusively incorporating 1/72 figs wearing Kradmantels, complete teams for the bikes, the first motorcycles in a glue-able soft plastic, and the first motorcycles without side-cars. However, the two sets record other undesired propensities, the most annoying being the wargaming approach and the over-scaled vehicles, though labelled as 1/72, the size of the motorcycles is closer to 1/70 scale.

Practically, manufacturer’s tentative failed, instead coming on the market with 1/72 vehicles, they ended up with some in the 1/70 scale. Having in mind the size of the motorcycles, the present review will stick only to the riders, but it has to be strongly emphasised the figs are in a true 1/72 scale. There are few companies bringing in the 1/72 scale motorcycles without, incomplete, or ugly crews and for this reason, the motorcyclists ("kradmelder”) from HaT/Armourfast could be useful, being deployed on other 1/72 vehicles to which they fairly match.

Titled by HaT “WWII German Motorcycle with Sidecar” and by Armourfast "WWII German BMW with Sidecar", the set aims at the famous BMW R75, which at present is the most often encountered WWII German motorcycle in the 1/72 scale, Atlantic’s “WWII German Combination Motorcycle”, Italeri’s “WWII German Motorcycles”, Hasegawa’s “Kubel wagon with BMW Side Car”, and El Viejo Dragon’s “German Motorbikes and Pilots” transposing their more or less correct versions on that legendary motorcycle, also providing some crewmen. In addition, the most complex and accurate reproduction of BMW R75 belongs to Propaganda, but this resin manufacturer, highly specialised in WWII bikes, does not supply any figure. Anyway, not all of the just listed kits ensure soldiers in Kradmantels, so in spite their faults, HaT/Armourfast’s motorcyclists might be useful for all persons activating in the hobby.

Motorcycles benefitted by special attention within WWII German Army and were grouped in various organisation schemes or attached to different units. That army employed the largest number of motorcycles both German made and captured French, Belgian, British, and US ones. The motorcyclists had to fulfil various tasks such as reconnaissance, courier, traffic control, but often the vehicles were used to tow light weapons, carts etc. KStN 147/1941 provided for a motorcycle platoon to include 39 army-men with 27 solo and 3 sidecar motorcycles as well as two vehicles. Kar98K was the most common personal weapon of the motorcyclist, but pistols and MPs could be given to officers, NCOs, and specialised soldiers. Likewise, MGs, mounted on sidecars were standard enforced, a motorcycle unit having to be strong enough for engaging the enemy. The key role and danger motorcyclists had to confront with is simply highlighted by the fact that such a unit reached Moscow suburbia, the closest German unit to the centre of USSR capital. Engaging the defensive lines, the motorcyclists could not pass and had to retreat but according to Russian sources, perhaps for propaganda reasons, the entire unit was destroyed. 

Since 1941 performing on all WWII fronts, the BMW R75 was produced in 16,500 copies until 1946, the Russian M72 and different Chinese motorcycles representing BMW R75 clones made years after the end of war. Weighting 420 kg, with a displacement of 745 ccm, and a top speed of 95 km/h, BMW R75 was assessed as a heavy motorcycle and fitted its famous sidecar on a rectangle chassis. The cross-country performances were remarkable, the motorcycle being almost unstoppable on any terrain and in all seasons, as thousands of WWII photos and filmed materials prove.

The HaT/Armourfast box features as front artwork a dismounted Kradmelder with a BMW R75 in the background and on reverse there is available a scheme for easing the motorcycle and figure assembly. The kit consists in three identical sprues, each delivering various components of the motorcycle, two handlebars, one MG34, one MG42, and five figures, the driver having separate arms, allowing better adjustment for grabbing the handlebar or eventual displays in random positions, bringing little diversity in the set. From the five poses, three are allocated to the motorcycle and its sidecar, the other two embodying dismounted motorcyclists.

All figures wear M40 Kradmantel, marching boots, steel helmets, goggles, and motorcycle five finger gloves, so they are properly equipped for riding the bikes. The Kradmantel was specially created for motorcycle troops to protect them against dust, rain, and wind and became available since 1934. The coat was made of rubberised cotton twill and had a feldgrau wool collar, an unique button system for wrapping the bottom tail around legs, and large hip pockets. Kradmantel was popular and dressed not only by motorcyclists but also soldiers belonging to other units although regulations set up clear interdictions on the matter. The Kradmantels were worn in all seasons and on all fronts, so there are no restrictions for these soldiers which might be used in scenarios since the beginning till the end of war. Nevertheless, for AfricaKorps utilisations, the present coats are quite tricky while a special version, lighter and without wool collar, was issued for that front and due to thickness, the here displayed Kradmantels seem to be the continental type.

Gear is light for these soldiers and all are armed with personal weapons, except the one in the sidecar who should operate the MG and perhaps would have had pistol. The whole arsenal rests in by three Kar98K, one MP40, one MG34 or one MG42, the model of machinegun to be installed in the side car staying at modeller’s choice. Those with Kar98K received correspondent ammo pouches but the one with MP40 misses the related pouches. Likewise, the MG34 has attached the 50 round drum magazine, a repeatedly encountered small mistake because in general MGs set in sidecars were fed by 50 round belts.

The poses of the mounted motorcyclists are quite nice, the rider holding the handlebar, the pillion passenger looks like maintaining his position on the motorcycle by holding tight the ring handle designed for the back seat person, and the one in the side car doing nothing with his hands. For better entering in the sidecar, the last mentioned figure misses legs, but this is not such a big problem, installed in its own place, the lack is hard spottable and the same might happen in other sidecars. Moreover, legs absence can be hidden through various tricks, such as a blanket made of paper tissue. The dismounted figures have nothing special, quite common, advancing, the one with Kar98K holding the rifle with both hands, while the other, with MP40, which can be apprised as the NCO, keeping the weapon in the left hand while with the right points something, maybe indicating to his subordinates where to park the motorcycle.

Bodies are in scale, well balanced, but heads are quite big and awful sculptured, the dismounted ones featuring extremely ugly facial details. Luckily, otherwise the same hideous faith would have waited for them, the driver and the pillion passenger have goggles set in position. However, side-car passenger’s face, wearing goggles over the helmet, is much better, he might be assessed as the ”handsome” of both HaT/Armourfast sets on motorcycles. Still, with some efforts during painting, the facial details might be slightly improved, diminishing the unattractiveness of these heads. In addition, the helmets look bigger than those put on 1/72 WWII German soldiers by other producers, a solution, if not completely replacing the heads, being painting the helmets as with camouflage cloths. Changing heads raises a sensitive issue if the modeller wants to have motorcyclists with goggles, such stuff being quite rare in the scale. Preiser supplies few separate heads with goggles/spectacles/sunglasses which might be deployed but the general appearance of the figures do not deserve the effort. Many times footwear has no many things to say in Braille Scale, but the marching/jack boots met here are very poor. While the motorcyclists riding their bike do not need bases, the dismounted ones are fixed on bases and hobbyists wishing to extract them from there can extremely easy do it.  

At their turn, all firing weapons are really weak, too big and with basic details, Kar98K emerging more as a simulation of that weapon while the MP40 is sinister, particularly the magazine which has to be either shortened and slimmed, or even replaced. The MGs are out of scale while there were designed for the sidecar, the connection being achieved through the pin and hole system, the MG mount appearing simplified and unrealistic.

The motorcyclist coat is interesting but too short, this thing being visible primarily at the standing figures while at the seated ones the fault is not noticeable. In reality, such coat should reach almost the ankles and here hardly touches the upper part of the marching/jack boots. Still, the sculptor strived to add some details like buttons and shoulder boards, but in line with the overall product, other distinct features completely miss.

Flash and seam lines are not too intricate to be eliminated, more work involves the MP40 either to fix or replace. Gluing the parts requiring assembly as well as eventual improvements attained with Preiser, Dragon, or Caesar spare gear and weapons or potential head substitutions should be done with cyanoacrylate, the adhesive giving pretty satisfactory results by creating a strong bond able to resist to shocks. Besides super glue gel, this wonder rubberised soft plastic, strong enough for keeping the barrels straight, takes well standard modelling glue as well as enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, properly holding them despite heavy handling. Anyway, the new tendency of swapping this material with the better hard plastic, adopted both by HaT and Armourfast inside their WWII German kits issued in 2012, is much more welcomed. 

Except this set, few soldiers dressed in motorcyclist coats are available within Hasegawa's "Schwimmwagen & Kettenkrad", Preiser’s “Military Police. Guards”, MIG Production’s “German Kradmelder”, and TQD Casting’s “Halt! Feldgendarme” and “1944 Ardennes Waffen SS Command” but obviously, the here reviewed riders match the best with their comrades from the twin set ”WWII German Zundapp Motorcycle”.  Furthermore, the motorcycles from the HaT/Armourfast sets go great together, both types being in the 1/70 scale and compatible with WWII Volkswagen Beetle series released by Military Wheels. After Vaillant has come in the hobby with figures and kits listed as 1/72 but in reality, also larger, close to 1/70 scale, HaT/Armourfast motorcycles are an excellent completion for those miniatures.

Though addressing more to wargamers and collectors, these figs might have a petite potential for static modellers, mass production WWII German soldiers dressed in Kradmantels being an extremely rare presence in the 1/72 scale, cottage industry not submitting many solutions in the field, too. In spite their unattractiveness, particularly due to the motorcyclist coats, these army-men might find different utilisations not only on the wargaming table, but also in the background or hidden on a diorama, the riders also fitting quite well on 1/72 motorcycles. 

Rates referring only to figures

 

Historical Accuracy 7
Anatomy 6
Poses Quality 7
Details Quality 6
Mould Quality 7
Sculpture 6
Recommendation/Utility 7
Reviewer’s Opinion 6