by: Russ Amott [ ]
In the early 1960's China was looking for both an improved lightweight military vehicle and lightweight, highly mobile artillery that could provide significant offensive capability.
The first of these needs was met by the introduction of the BJ212, a four wheel drive vehicle manufactured by Beijing autoworks that was based on the UAZ 469 and powered by a Chinese copy of the Soviet GAZ M21 engine. The vehicle was officially adopted in 1965 and shown to the public as the inspection vehicle used by Mao Zedong used in Tian'anmen square at the start of the cultural revolution. It was a reliable vehicle and was mass produced both for military and commercial use until replaced by the BJ2022 in the late 90's. Of particular note is it's use in the recent (at the time of this review) revolution in Libya.
The type 63 multiple tube rocket launcher was also based on a Soviet design, the BM12 MRS. It is a simple. lightweight design of 12 tubes in three rows of four tubes each. It originally fired a rocket with a 1.8kg warhead but in the mid 70's the warhead was improved to up to 8kg explosive charge. The launcher could provide a high volume of firepower, with the downside being a lack of accuracy. Originally 18 launchers were provided to infantry divisions, with 6 per regiment. No longer in service with main line units, it is still used by airborne, mountain and other specialized units.
Trumpeter has now released a combination of the BJ212 and Type 63 107mm launcher in styrene. It is listed as an all new tool kit, but only the Type 63 is new tooling, with the BJ212 being the previous release of the vehicle. The kit comes in a top opening box with artwork of the vehicle and launcher on a mountain road somewhere in China. While not the most dramatic setting it does provide a nice reference for the build.
The kit parts are all carefully bagged, with the vehicle body set aside in a separate compartment in the box. The box is not over crowded, and everything is well protected. There are 6 regular sprues, one clear parts sprue, the vehicle body, a small PE fret with 12 small brass tube sections and tires, in rubber, for both the vehicle and trailer. A metal axle is provided for the rear tire set on the vehicle.
• Sprue A is the vehicle frame,
• Sprue B has the suspension and parts for the frame,
• Sprue C has the engine, radiator and passenger compartment details,
• Sprue D has external body parts and details, and the vehicle top,
• Sprue F has the wheel hubs,
• Sprue G is the clear parts,
• Sprue H is the new tooled trailer, with 12 rounds,
• The PE parts are all for the Type 63 launcher.
The plastic parts are all well detailed and generally carefully molded. There is a small amount of flash visible on some parts. Most annoying is the presence of knock out marks on several prominent surfaces, such as the outside of the rear bumper and all four doors. The instructions are in booklet form, with clear line drawings showing part assembly, and painting instructions called out in each step. Assembly takes 26 steps total. The vehicle is painted in overall olive drab, with a field drab canvas top. The decals provided for the kit consist of dials for the dashboard. No external markings are provided. A full color print of both the vehicle and launcher is provided, with multiple views of each.
Assembly begins with construction of the transmission components and axles. Assembly allows the wheels to turn once the kit is completed, if you are careful with glue application. The front tires can also be positioned for steering. Parts are added to the frame and then the leaf springs are placed on locator pins on the frame sides. Only some minor trimming was needed to get parts to fit properly. It was easier to position the axles first, then the gear box, and then the drive shafts. Detail of the leaf spring suspension was, I thought, excellent, but make sure they are lined up straight. The rear metal axle rod will be movable from side to side until fixed into place with CA glue. Check alignment before this is done. This takes you up through step 5. Step 6 is assembly of the engine. Assembly is basic, but with good references you could add all the plumbing to have a very nice looking engine, if you wish. As assembled, the only way the engine will be visible is to see it from underneath. There is no battery or radiator hose, and I don't know what else may be missing under the hood. Online references are surprisingly scarce. Step 7 adds the engine, radiator and tie rods to the front wheels. Use care with the tie rod. When you place the pins into the wheel hubs, if you just apply glue without thinking (like extra thin liquid cement) it will promptly flow into the wheel and all the effort to make it movable will be lost. The rear shocks are placed per the photo, based on the instructions, with the ends of the shocks apparently resting on the axle. Step 8 adds the front shocks and the tires to the wheels. The tires have decent detail, though it is not as sharp as the tires for the trailer. Also, the exhaust is added. The upper portion, which will be hidden under the body, is solid. The lower portion, visible if you turn the vehicle upside down, is hollowed out. There is a small indentation on the exhaust end. The frame is most attached parts are painted black, with only the engine, front shocks and exhaust being painted differently. Step 9 begins construction of the vehicle body. The rear bumper has some major ejector pin marks to fix. Then it receives the tow hook and bumpers, which need some cleanup to remove a heavy mold seam. The rear hatch also has ejector pin marks on the inner surface that are very visible and require filling. These were very deep. I elected not to install the tail lights until after painting. Step 10 adds the inner mud wall, hood details and windscreen. I held off on the hood until I knew how the fit of the body would be to the chassis. Then the heater and gas tanks are assembled and placed inside the body, along with driver's pedals. The dash can be added but I elected to wait again until painting to make decal placement easier, as well as painting the heater duct. T handle latches for the hood also go on. Step 14 assembles the front seat frame. This is very delicate and can be bent or warped easily so use care in placement. I did not put the cushions on, again for painting. The shift levers are then installed, along with the rear bench seat.
After filling the sink marks in the door and window frames, I added the pull handle and latches, blackout lamp and rear view mirror, and assembly of the vehicle was complete. There were no errors or omissions and everything was fairly easy to follow. Step 21 starts with assembly of the rocket launcher, with the frame and tube assembly. The box assembly is photo-etch and has very nice, detailed appearance. The openings for the tubes will need to be reamed out carefully for the tubes to fit properly. I set the assembly on a level surface to make sure all the tubes were positioned equally. If you wish to add the rockets they will need to be thinned down as well to get them to fit the tubes. The launcher pedestal and tires are also assembled in this step.
Beginning in step 22, you have the option of building the launcher in either towed or deployed mode. I elected towed mode as there are no figures to place with it.
Steps 23 and 24 are for towed mode. Parts PE4 are shown attached in a general sort of reference manner, and in the next drawing are shown in place. I used it as a guess reference to place the ends against a bolt head molded on the inner surface, and then placing the part at an angle to where it contacted the front frame. Parts PE6 are the brackets for the trail arm spades. I would suggest attaching the spades to the tow arms and then placing the brackets as the easiest way to get everything on without knocking the brackets off and losing them (like me). There is a clear image for construction of the spades in step 24, and the color drawing gives clear placement. The launcher tube assembly slides into the pedestal easily. The entire assembly is surprisingly heavy and quite sturdy when complete. Parts H29, the front braces, are shown placed in deployed mode. For towing mode, refer to the box art as they are not depicted otherwise in the instructions.
Overall, the kit went together well. I am very happy with the level of detail provided. The Type 63 launcher would make an excellent kit on it's own. I rate the kit as follows. Molding would be very good but for the ejector pin marks. Instructions are very good, assembly was very good, kit details excellent. The decals appear clearly printed. Packaging ensured that everything arrived in good shape. Aside from the sink marks, the only issues I would raise are with stowage for extra rounds for the launcher (normal loadout appears to have been 24 extra rounds carried in addition to the 12 in the launcher). The rockets would not be seen if in the tubes, but if not, there is no guide for painting. Even with those shortcomings, I was very happy with the kit, and recommend it. The Type 63 launcher was attached to a number of other vehicles and was exported to a number of other countries, or licensed for copy. It is something that can be added to a number of other releases, which I hope the folks at Trumpeter do. I shopped around online and found this kit at a number of web sites. With shipping included it could be had for $30.00 US or less.