by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
Hasegawa’s Type 97 Sidecar is another addition to their expanding series of 1/48 ground vehicles. The Type 97 Sidecar is actually the Type 97 Military Sidecar Motorcycle, the motorcycle being the “Rikuo” motorcycle. The Rikuo was Japan’s first domestically produced motorcycle, the first delivered in April 1934 by RICE, the Rikuo Internal Combustion Engine Corporation. RICE was a joint venture between the Sankyo Company and Harley-Davidson, which the Imperial Japanese Army officially adopted after 1915. The machine was a license built Harley-Davidson, and bore the name Harley-Davidson until near the outbreak of WW2. The driver could run the vehicle with just the rear wheel, or he could engage an axle to power the sidecar wheel, too. Amongst the roles the Type 97 was utilized for were patrolling, police work, reconnaissance, liaison, and communications. They could be armed with a Type 1 heavy machine gun. The Imperial Japanese Navy also adopted the Type 97. After the war the Type 97 served with traffic control units.
Hasegawa’s Type 97 Sidecar kit arrives in a two-piece top & bottom box. Inside are sprues for two Type 97 Military Sidecar Motorcycle models. Each model has four sprues: one with 37 tan plastic styrene parts and a clear set for the Type 97, and two sprues with 20 parts for the figures. A decal sheet is provided for each vehicle. The model can be built as the Rikuo (without the sidecar.)
There are parts unique to the three versions:
1. Sidecar with the Type 1 heavy machine gun,
2. Unarmed sidecar with a passenger windscreen,
3. Civilian traffic control sidecar.
Twenty parts are for the two soldiers. You can choose from two different torsos and heads for the driver, which is equipped with three separate cavalry ammunition pouches, a goggle case, and a Type 38 rifle. The NCO has a pistol holster. Try as I might, I could not get the driver to set on the Rikuo in such a way as to allow the hands to touch the handlebars; the legs are slightly to close to fit around the engine. Carving away the inside features would help.
molding and detail
The parts are crisply molded and well detailed. This is a small model and some details are simplified. The frame for the Rikuo and sidecar are greatly oversized, as are the wheel spokes; no doubt these could be molded closer to scale but the model would be very fragile. If you build just the Rikuo, the attachment holes for the sidecar are prominent and distract from this otherwise sharp model.
No ignition wiring or cables from the handlebars are provided (and happily, no attempt was made to mold them on), but fine wire or stretched sprue can rectify that. The mount for the machine gun seems toy-like, but I have found no images of a Type 1 heavy machine gun on a Type 97.
I found no flash, mold marks, nor ejection marks. Minor seam lines are on some vehicle parts. The machine gun has a seam that is noticeable along the barrel and muzzle.
Unfortunately, most figure parts have prominent seam lines.
The figures require some molding cleanup with a hobby knife, and filing for a gapless fit between limbs and body trunks. The facial and uniform details are impressive. I can not tell any difference between the uniforms other than the driver wears wrapped leggings and shoes, and the NCO has boots.
I built my Type 97s with CA and spent about an hour and a half on each. The fit of the parts is tight and solid. In fact, I dropped the IJA model onto a hardwood floor. Only the spare tire broke loose!
paint, decals, instruction’s
The instruction sheet is a quad-fold illustrating 11 steps, and marking & painting guides for the vehicles and troops. These are detailed yet easy to follow. It features a short history of the Type 97 and other motorcycles of Imperial Japan.
The two paint brands referenced are GSI Creos Aqueous Hobby Color, and Mr. Color. Three paint schemes are given: brown Imperial Japanese Army, blue-black Imperial Japanese Navy, and white with striping for a c.1951 traffic control scheme. No mention is made of Type 97's that were camouflaged in the segmented pattern of greens and browns with hard yellow-tan demarcation lines, as photographed by Australian troops on Borneo. Some mixing is required for the proper colors.
The decal sheet has service markings for the IJA, IJN, and traffic unit. Two instrument dial decals are provided. Some decals are not shown on the guide. Long strings of numerals are provided but there is no guidance as to any vehicle numbering system. A note states, “Decals without placement instructions may be used freely.”
There are some very small army stars and navy anchors that are not referenced on the decaling guide, I surmise they are for the figures. I put them on the collar tabs but they are so small, and the decal film so relatively thick, that they just set upon the plastic despite numerous softening solutions.
You get two Type 97 Military Sidecar Motorcycle models with figures in a kit. The figures have great detail for their size, though their molding quality is moderate. Fit and molding of the vehicle is high quality. Somewhat simplified, they are good looking models that will enhance any IJA or IJN diorama, be they chauffeuring a pilot, guarding an airfield, delivering orders.
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