The Mercedes L 4500, a four wheel drive truck, was one of the mainstays of the German army's logistical support, and was also used as the base for a number of specialized vehicles, such as mobile workshops, field kitchens, and as a platform for a number of self-propelled Anti-Aircraft guns. A 1/35 scale model of this truck has therefore many attractions, for both the 'out of the box' modeller and the scratch builder/converter alike, and that makes it all the more baffling that until now, no manufacturer has produced a plastic kit of this versatile vehicle. When Zvezda first announced this kit earlier last year, there was a flurry of excitement, but inevitably this enthusiasm was tempered somewhat by Zvesda's less then inspiring historical quality. But any fears about the quality of this release were ill founded, as this review will show.
what's in the box box
The kit is packed in a rather thin cardboard box, with a top opening lid which shows an artist's impression of an L 4500 A. This image is repeated on the sides, and no other images, or photos of the actual model, are provided. As the box is shrink wrapped, it is not possible to inspect the contents before purchasing the kit.
In the box are 256 plastic parts on 6 sprues of a light tan coloured plastic, 1 clear plastic sprue with windows and headlight lenses, instructions and a small sheet of water slide decals. The sprues are loosely packed in two clear plastic bags, and whilst there are no broken parts in my kit, parts are not very securely packaged, and could be prone to damage in transit. There is very little flash, and what is there is easy to remove. All the parts are finely detailed and cleanly moulded.
a closer look
The kit includes a nearly complete engine, and this little sub-assembly easily takes centre stage in this kit. Engine block, inlet manifolds with air filters, exhaust system, generator, fuel filter and injection pump, air compressor, even the oil dip stick has not been forgotten. You will just have to add the fuel pipes to the injectors, to finish it off. Another item that I found missing was the battery, which I presume would be fitted against the firewall, (unfortunately I don't have the reference to confirm that, and I would be grateful for any help in that area).
The wheels and tyres are both in plastic, and have been cleverly broken down into three parts, to allow for maximum detail in the tyre wall and thread, as well as allowing the tyre to be separate from the wheel rim, which will make painting easier. The tyre tread accuracy is suspect, as most war time photo's show a different tread, but apart from that, they are very nice. Aftermarket companies will no doubt release replacement wheels in due time.
The Cargo Body:
This part shows of some of the best effort that Zvezda have put into this kit. The various wooden parts have markedly different wood grain pattern and textures, the texture is moulded on both sides of the parts, and there are no knock out marks to spoil the texture. The detail of all the brackets and other fittings is excellent, and the separate latches for the drop sides are a superb detail, and one which sets this kit apart from the other plastic kit models currently on the market. The only omission, and a very major one at that, is the complete lack of tie down hooks for the tarpaulin. This is another item that you really need to add to finish this otherwise superb model.
The chassis is another beauty, and builds up from separate component parts to increase the amount of detail on what is often treated as a hidden afterthought. A completely reproduced braking system, exhaust, parabolic springs without
a mould seam to clean up, and a fully detailed drive train. The brake system includes the linkage from the brake pedal to the servo brake cylinders, and the linkages to the fully detailed actuators, as well as the complete trailer brake assembly, connector and valve and all. EDIT after building the kit it became clear that the linkage is from the handbrake lever, and not the foot brake pedal
. Zvezda deserve a big pat on the back for including this much detail, most of which won't be seen on a curb side model, in a plastic kit. The drive train includes the aforementioned engine, as well as the gearbox, transfer box, and 'workable' drive shafts. The front wheels can be posed at an angle, and with care the steering could be made workable.
The Cabin and Engine Cover:
Surprisingly, the cabin is not as sharply detailed as the rest of the kit. It does have a fully appointed interior, with separate brake, clutch and throttle pedals, levers for gear and transfer box, and the ratchet handbrake. The dashboard is not very detailed, with only a few raised circles giving an impression of the instruments. There are no raised detail on the dials, nor are there decals for the dials. The bench seat is equally simple, with no texture to the seat or back rest. The floor has three knock out mark which need to be removed. The doors are provided with separate handles and window winders. The window glass is provided in thick clear plastic, and if you are showing the door windows closed, these are just about usable. If however you wish to show the window partially wound down, you should replace it with some thin clear acetate film.
The engine cover (hood, bonnet, etc..) can be shown opened up, or closed. The instructions show to simply remove the lower hinged section (for which a pre-scored line is provided, a neat touch) of the cover, which is only partially correct. Photographic evidence shows that the hinged part of the cover was often removed semi-permanently (presumably to aid cooling and/or access), but in such a case both parts would be removed. For normal access the cover would be hinged up. It is possible to do this, but the instructions don't point this out (I will show this in the Blog). A nice touch are the separate bonnet catches, which can be attached either up to secure the cover, or hanging down if the cover is open/removed.
The headlights can be built with either clear plastic lenses, or black out covers. The instructions show the triangle on the cabin roof to be positioned pointing up, but that would only be correct if the vehicle was towing a trailer. If no trailer is being towed, the triangle is positioned flat, pointing forward.
Thankfully Zvezda are including two figures, which compliment the model superbly. The driver leans out of the window, one hand on the wheel, and conveys an impatient, enquiring figure who wants to know what the delay is, and how long it will be. The detail on the uniform is correct, if not spectacular, but as this figure will be all but hidden inside the cabin, that is not too bad. On the other hand, the face and hands (which are prominently out of the window) are very well done, especially the fingers.
The mechanic/co-driver is holding an adjustable wrench, and wears just his combat trousers and boots. A nice detail are the braces which were usually worn with these trousers, hanging down after he took off his shirt. This figure is better detailed than the driver, and makes for a perfect addition to the engine.
The instructions are simple and clear. There is a very simple (black and white) painting and decaling guide on the final page, which looks fairly accurate (apart from the decals), but you might want to do some research to determine what scheme you want to paint your particular model.
These are not amongst the best I have come across, and at best will be just about adequate. The number plates don't look quite right, the number digits just don't seem to fit the plate right (and the no. 5 digit is smaller than the other digits..), and apart from the fact that the unit markings are not shown correctly, there is only one set of each. The instructions indicate that these should be fixed at the front, but there should also be a second set to fix at the rear of the vehicle. So in effect that means that you will have to source your own decals from the spares box.
I must admit that this was the first time that I considered buying a kit from Zvezda, partially because most of their previous releases are not really in my sphere of interest, and partially because of their reputation of less than stellar quality. But with this L4500 A kit, Zvezda proves that they are capable of producing quality model kits, which can comfortably hold their own amongst the other big name manufacturers. Indeed, this L4500 A kit is substantially better than any of the other currently available plastic model kits of either the Opel Blitz, or Mercedes Benz.
There are some issues that can be improved, such as the incomplete decal set, the missing tie down hooks, or the odd choice of tyre thread pattern. Some of the highlights that warrant particular mention are of course the wooden cargo body without knock out marks, the comprehensively detailed drive train and brakes, and that beautiful engine.
The scope and appeal for conversions with this kit is very wide, from a simple addition of a 37mm FlaK on the cargo bed, to an armoured Maultier half track. On the other hand, this kit has everything you need to build a beauty straight out of the box. Hopefully Zvezda will build on the quality of this kit, and utilize its potential with a few variants, and maybe even a trailer.
Very highly recommended.
A Build Log
has been started on the forums to evaluate the kit construction.