When Fiat introduced the “500” in 1936, it included a useful little van version. These could be seen in the usual range of civilian colours (often with darker fenders, typical of the time), or even marked up with a company logo. My favourite web “find” is a van marked up for Maserati from 1938, seen here
, but other examples can be found such as this
. These vans were built under licence in other countries, and could be found roaming the streets long after WWII. The 500 range got a face-lift in 1949, so this van only represents an early model.
This is the fourth (?) outing for the “little mouse” from Bronco, so many of the parts will be familiar. Aside from the body, the new parts here are the figures and the milk cans. Note that these kits have no relation to the Tamiya Simca 5
kit other than being the same subject vehicle.
A cross-section drawing of the car version (showing the drive train) can be found here
As with the Opel staff car I built last year, this tiny car comes in a box big enough for a whole tank. The parts could easily fit in half the space, but I guess Bronco gets a bulk discount on a standard box size. Inside the large sturdy “lid & tray” box, there is a smaller box (for the body shell), seven tan sprues holding 131 parts, three grey sprues with 21 parts, a clear sprue of 9 parts, a decal sheet, and a small fret of photo-etched parts – all in plastic bags to prevent chafing in transit. There is a 16-page instruction booklet and an A4-size print of the box artwork.
The tan parts are the actual van, and are crisply moulded with no flash. Many of them are frightfully tiny, making them a challenge to remove and clean up. Also, the car heritage of this kit means a number of parts aren’t used, like the car floor and roof. One sprue of parts makes the four milk cans, which I am sure will appear in many dioramas!
The use of slide-moulds means the cans are a one-piece cylinder with lid, base, and handles to add. The headlights also benefit from slide technology, as does the body shell with its interior ribs and details on all faces. The bonnet and flip-up hood panels have louver detail engraved on both inside and outside, making it attractive to pose these open.
Our new figures make up the grey sprues, with nice crisp details and a logical parts breakdown. There is a man in typical “worker” garb and soft cap bending over to lift a milk can, with a nun and a boy both standing by watching. The man could be reassigned to numerous other lifting tasks, while the nun could stand alone. The only figure that might be hard to re-use is the boy, because his arm is extended to hold the nun’s hand.
(I don’t think the figures and cans are sold separately, but they ought to be!)
The decal sheet holds a selection of number plates, including blank ones to use with the number-jungle provided. No other markings are supplied, so you’ll need to raid the spares box for military markings.
I started with the figures, to see how they came out. I had fun adding the tiny Y-shaped base to the man’s braces (it crosses the split between torso and legs, so needs to be a separate part), and found I needed to shave down the back of the nun’s head and shoulders to make her wimple sit properly without a gap at her forehead. Aside from the fit of the nun’s head-dress they all went together just fine. I like the details and poses, and think the figures have lots of potential beyond the obvious “war-time Italy” setting. The nun could represent a catholic sister from almost any time in the last few centuries, in many European counties as well as the USA. The others are more likely to be early to mid-twentieth century in fashion, but again could be from most European countries.
The van build began with the engine, which is complicated by the tiny parts added for the inlet and exhaust manifolds. Alignment of parts is less than ideal, with microscopic dimples instead of bigger “tab & hole” mountings. Some parts like the radiator are very tenuous indeed, with next to no real mounting pegs. It took a fair amount of patience to get it all lined up properly, and even more to let it harden overnight before handling it!
Cutting parts from the sprue is challenging, as some are very tiny. And cleaning up the cut points is an exercise in microsurgery. With very thin items like the lower front suspension arms I found it best to leave the clean-up until I’d assembled the whole front end for stability. (Don’t break these when cutting from the sprue, or you’ll struggle to find anything to hold the wheels!)
When I added the rear axle I made a mistake – again due to a lack of alignment tabs. It became obvious later, when I dry-fit the body, and meant I had to break off the springs and refit them in the correct location. (I set them too wide where they meet the frame, pushing the axle a full millimetre too far back.) There is no reason why these springs couldn’t have had a tab fitting into a slot in the frame, that would be hidden by the floor…
I deviated from the instructions when it came to wheels, choosing to fit the brake drums to the suspension, while leaving the wheels off for painting. This made it easier to fit the very tiny steering arms at the front, as well as the tie-rod that I broke clipping it from the sprue. Since the steering arms lay against the back of the drums, I’d glue them on before fitting the drums to the suspension next time.
I decided I’ll have my model with the bonnet and doors open, as if getting work done. While I left the doors off for painting, I did add the louvered panels in front of the windscreen. Only one was opened because I only managed to get one support arm off the sprue intact! The front end is very fragile, so don’t be tempted to pick it up by squeezing the two front fenders between your fingers, as this will bend them inwards. When I added the open hood panel I found there wasn’t any real hinge to align it. Likewise the closed panel “floats” in the hole for want of any rebated lip to hold it securely. (If doing this again I’d add a strip of plastic underneath…)
One of the good things about all this delicate detail is the ability to model this van in various states of disassembly without having to scratch-build the missing parts. There are pictures
on the web of vehicles undergoing restoration that are merely bare frames with wheels and an engine! The only missing elements would be brake piping, engine wiring, and (oddly) the steering box that connects the steering column to the front wheels.
While I haven’t yet finished the build, I’ve done enough to know this is definitely a kit for the more experienced modeller.
This little van is a great addition to the Bronco range. Vans of this type were seen in civilian use before, during, and for a couple decades after the war, and of course were used by a number of military “owners” across Europe. And the figures make a refreshing change from the more limited military types we often get!
But it isn’t all rosy – the lack of strong locating points and tiny size of parts will make this a real challenge for advanced modellers, and downright unbuildable for many folk. Still, for those who persevere this will be a nifty little scene-stealer!
other Bronco version reviewsRick Cooper's civilian Topolino review
Stefan Halter's DAK Topolino review
Darren Baker's Open-top Staff Car review