by: Matthew Lenton [ ]
Originally published on:
With Vol.28: Gleisketten-LKWs “Maultier” (Sd.Kfz.3), Nuts & Bolts have departed somewhat from their normal in-depth analysis of a single vehicle or weapons system, concentrating instead on the variety of German soft-skinned half-tracked trucks generically referred to as “Maultier”.
The assault on the Soviet Union by German forces provided a different set of challenges to those they had faced in Western Europe: more materiel, greater distances, a sparsity of paved roads, fewer railways, and a campaign that dragged on through autumn and spring mud, and winter snows. The existing half-track chassis in military use were needed as the basis for armoured vehicles, so cheaper tracked systems that could be applied to existing commercial trucks were a simple solution that provided mobility with ease of production. This book deals with the variants of the basic half-tracked trucks as produced by Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz, Ford, Opel and Mercedes.
This principle author of this latest volume is Joachim Baschin, who also produced the Pz.Kpfw II volume in the series, and has been responsible for the layout of the last few issues. The book is produced to the now usual high standards with glossy paper, dual English-German text, well laid out photographs, high quality line drawings, with full colour paintings as well as photographs of contemporary surviving vehicles - and some models, of course.
The text makes up the first 25 of 160 pages, including a double page spread of technical data as well as two double page tables of “Reported figures of Maultier half tracks in units of the Feldheer” documenting the numbers of these vehicles in use by various named units.
Many will have come across the story that the “original” Maultier was the result of an Eastern Front SS Das Reich field conversion in 1941/42, whereby a Ford 3 ton truck was married to Carden-Lloyd track bogies which had probably been captured from the BEF in France in 1940. Opel had also however developed their own track units for use on their 3 ton truck, and the story is told of how the two designs were put into competition against each other. Perhaps not untypically for the Nazi armaments industry, it wasn’t the cheapest option that was chosen for mass production, and some rather interesting political machinations behind that decision are related.
Technical construction details of the generic vehicle are followed by sections on the distinguishing features of the Opel, Ford, Magirus and Mercedes-Benz models, with some description of the various roles that these vehicles performed in their field service.
The text is rounded off by Tony Greenland’s section on models of Maultiers, starting with a survey of the available kits and then a description of the models he built for the book.
70 pages of wartime photos follow, showing all the variants described, so the early prototypes with different wheel designs and configurations, then lots of Opels and Fords performing various roles, followed by slightly fewer examples of the Magirus type, and finally the Mercedes 4.5 tonner.
John L Rue provides plans and isometric views of each of the types, including some nice variations, such as an Opel with a crane, box-types used for ambulances, a Ford mounting a 2cm flak, a Magirus mounting a 3.7cm flak, plus the Mercedes with both PzKpfw II running gear and the prototype twin bogies, with both metal and wooden cabs, with tarpaulin stays and with 3.7cm flak.
Laurent Lecocq’s high quality 16 colour plates are similarly comprehensive, including four different finishes on the Mercedes for example.
25 pages of colour photos show general shots of each vehicle as well as details such as the Ford V8 engine, different types of swing arms, variants of road wheels, idlers, undersides of the chassis, cab interiors, and so on.
I wonder if the popularity of the admired Zvezda (sometime Revell) Mercedes L4500R kit might have been one of the motivations behind the creation of this volume. Certainly there seems to be a considerable desire among modellers for there to be more kits of these types of vehicles available, and perhaps this book can simultaneously feed off that desire while at the same time add to the clamour directed at manufacturers for more kits. As Jim Rae said in his review of ICM’s V3000 truck “At a time when we get 4 manufacturers rushing to produce the same model of a 'Paper-Panzer' which existed on the back of an envelope… it's a pity that more of the less-secier [sic]vehicles haven't found their way into model form.”
It is an oddity that I can’t really explain but there is a dearth of photographs of the L4500R when compared to photos of other vehicles, and in relation to the numbers produced. Certainly most of the photos of this vehicle that I previously encountered are here, although some are included that are new to me, for example, a rear view of the well-known Ski-Jäger Brigade 3.7cm flak carrier in winter camouflage, and one - yes, just one - example, possibly a prototype, featuring the truck pattern full-width front fender that is provided in the kits, rather than the truncated radiator-width only version which is seen in every other photo.
If you are building this particular kit, you will find useful information and will have what is probably most of the existing photos of this vehicle in one volume along with some good paintings and drawings. It would actually be hard to devote a complete Nuts and Bolts volume to this vehicle; for one thing it seems almost certain that there is no surviving example, not even any record of examples surviving post-1945 at all.
With the subject matter of the other Maultier types, there are probably a greater number of photos to select from as the vehicles were produced in large numbers and used widely. Consequently there are vehicles in many different roles and finishes and states from brand new to well-worn. Particularly interesting is a pair of photos of the same vehicle, in winter camouflage, one taken in deep snow, the other in what looks like the later thaw. Lots of modelling and detailing ideas here, even if we don’t see too many dioramas that include crews posing next to their vehicles…
In contrast to the Flakvierling volume, where Tony Greenland was spoilt for choice with the various kits available, for Maultiers, 1/35 scale choice is restricted. The Zvezda Mercedes L4500R is the only even remotely straightforward model here, being built out of the box.
He also builds an Opel Maultier with 2cm Flak from the Cyber-Hobby Blitz kit, converted using Italeri parts, Dragon tracks and some scratching; ICM’s Ford V3000 he converts to an Ambulance Maultier, again with the aid of Italeri and Dragon parts; New Connection’s discontinued resin Magirus Maultier was, by the sounds of it, beaten together using Dragon, Cyber-Hobby and Italeri parts.
The description of the modelling does not take the form of a comprehensive step by step guide, although some stage photos are included. Bear in mind here that this is four quite complex builds documented over just a few pages. I must say that I couldn’t help feeling for Tony Greenland as I read this section; some of these builds sound like a bit of a nightmare, and you can’t help thinking about the commitment of doing them for the book, with a deadline no doubt, when under normal circumstances you might just not have bothered to finish some of them, or at least spent three years over it! I see that the subject of the next volume hasn’t yet been announced on the Nuts and Bolts website; I wonder if it will be something easier from the modelling point of view? Then again, there’s always the option of building in smaller scale.
Nuts & Bolts books may be purchased directly from Nuts & Bolts, although mine came from Historex Agents in the UK for £21.20 plus p&p.