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Freitag, 18. März 2016

Review: Rubicon Models Opel Blitz







For my first Rubicon Models review I would like to have a look at one of the most important vehicles of the German army in World War 2. As so very often with important things, it is also entirely unglamorous. And yet they put a snazzy name on it. Of course I am talking about the work horse of the motorized German war machine, the Opel Blitz truck.




Okay, the above info is slightly not quite accurate. 'Opel Blitz' was the name of a whole range of trucks manufactured by Opel between the 1930s and 1970s.

To be precise this review deals with Rubicon's 1/56th scale model kit of the Sonderkraftfahrzeug 305 'Opel Blitz' 3-tons cargo truck. The claim that 'they' named the vehicle – or as we now know range of vehicles – 'Blitz' perhaps was a bit misleading as well in that it implies that this was a matter of the German army or higher-up places. The name for the new series of cargo trucks was determined via a prize draw in 1930. While we're at it...




The Historical Bits


Starting from 1934 with a range of civilian light and medium trucks, the main focus of this little summary will be the versions used in the German military. In 1935 Opel made a contract with the German military and specifically built a new plant in Brandenburg.


In 1937 the original 3.5litres 68HP General Motors engine was replaced by a 3.6 litres 75HP Opel engine. By 1940 the two main versions of the Blitz 3,6 for military use were in production: The Blitz S (Standard 3 ton lorry, rear wheel drive) and the Blitz A (Allradantrieb = 4WD, with a slightly shorter wheelbase). They remained pretty much unchanged over the course of the war (well, in 1942 the rear axle suspension was improved) with a wide range of chassis. In June 1942 Daimler Benz was made to produce Opel Blitz under license, which they did not like at all. After all their own Mercedes L 3000S was deemed inferior and now they had to produce the competitor's model. It was of a simplified design, especially the driver's cabin, and did not feature the Opel Blitz logo.


Initially the National Socialist regime was a bit cautious about getting a US-owned company on board for the rearmament of Germany. The feeling was mutual. The whole matter of in how far GM had ties to the Wehrmacht and more importantly the NS regime is a very interesting one and there have been a few works about this topic published over the past 15 to 20 years.


GM had just acquired the Opel company in 1929 and naturally wanted this investment to generate revenue for them, so they did not pull out of Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933. They complied with industry standards and laws. Management was opened to party members and Jewish co-workers and opponents to the new regime were let go or transferred to the US. In years to come a weird tug-of-war for the control of Opel emerged. Originally GM HQ's position was 'We are a multinational company, we strictly do business. We don't meddle in politics.'. Basically sit it out, things will cool off, let's focus on what we do, things can be arranged. This was the attitude of many industrial companies in the 1930s.

This lasted until 1939 at the latest when Opel factories worked on aircraft parts for the Luftwaffe. That deal had been made by GM managers and the GM higher-ups had not been informed (they did not cancel the deal though when they were). By 1941 Opel formally was owned by General Motors (and remained so), but ties had effectively been cut. After the war GM came back and claimed over 20 million Dollars from Opel's business activities during the war, which looking back wasn't very clever PR- or even business-wise. To GM this sum was peanuts and it directly was produced through contracts with the Nazi regime. While Opel never employed KZ inmates 20 to over 50 % of the workforce in their factories in 1942 were slave laborers.

So yeah, iffy stuff and to this day a lot of detail are still kind of blurry. Usually I stick to the technical bits, but given how big a factor GM-owned Opel was in Germany economically it is a rather interesting topic to look into. I will keep the rest of the background stuff shorter, I promise.

During the construction of the Westwall in 1938 ca. 11,000 to 12,000 trucks of all types were used and at the same time tested for use in the field. Out of all the competitors Opel's Blitz proved to be the most reliable and easiest to maintain and repair in field conditions. A huge order was placed with Opel. Not only for the Blitz, but also a range of other vehicles for staff cars, light artillery tractors, scout cars and so on. Another perk of having a range of Opel vehicles in service was that many parts were interchangable between models and supply of spare parts was simplified.




Between April 1937 and August 1944 (at which point production ceased due to Allied bombardments of the factories) a staggering 129,795 Opel Blitz 3-ton trucks were produced. For the German army in WW2, this is an enormous number. It certainly was the Wehrmacht's ubiquitous workhorse, performing reliably in the Blitzkrieg years, in the deserts of North Africa and the Russian winter alike.



The Box


Rubicon's model comes in their usual sized high-gloss cardboard box. The cardboard is sturdy enough. Not quite thick, not flimsy.


I have to say that I'm not a fan of the artwork on Rubicon's boxes. They look overly CG in style and most of them are well in the realms of looking like they are out of a video game. I know, it's a matter of tastes, but I just do not like the look of those. It looks just completely sterile and artificial. I would much rather have traditional looking artwork or even just a photo of the model (with photoshopped effects added, if you must.).


The back of the box is of slightly spartan design, but in this case this is in part due to the dark grey schematic side view of the model on a gray background. I like the historical bits for all the factual info you get instead of flowery depictions of how the sight of a single elite Opel Blitz would strike fear in the hearts of whole battalions or something like that.

There also is a large picture of the decal sheet to which I will get in a second.




The Contents


This box is rather tightly packed with goodies.


As you can see everything is shrink-wrapped in plastic. The eye-catcher here is the one-piece driver's cabin, protected by being taped to a sheet of corrugated cardboard.


A very impressive piece, that driver's cabin, and certainly clever.

The rest of the pieces are on two regular-sized plastic sprues:


The casting quality is really good; up there with Renedra's casting. I especially like the slight texture on outwards parts like the fenders. The tires look nicely detailed. Usual amounts of mould lines: They are present, have to be removed, but it's not all that much. By the way – that new GW mold line remover thing is way less ridiculous than it sounds. It actually seems to be a pretty handy piece of equipment. So much for my product review of GW's mould line remover tool.



The only problem I found with the casting was a common thing – there are those circular casting marks on the inner sides of the wooden construction in the back. It's not bad, but should be removed should you want to have the truck's back open.


Speaking of which – in this set we get the option to add a detachable canvas top with a choice of open or closed rear tarpaulin bits. Very cool.

There are two optional driver figures on the sprue. These didn't quite convince me. Details look a bit mushy and the fellas being 1/56th in scale they are a bit on the slight side for 28mm figures.

Now for two things Rubicon impress me with over and over: Assembly instructions and decal sheets.


The instructions are very clear, have additional historical bits to explain what parts does what and on top of that they supply templates for making a windshield. Just cut it from a thin piece of clear plastic and glue it on.


Yup, this is what assembly instructions should look like.

Now for the decal sheet:


With each model kit Rubicon supplies us with a surprisingly large decal sheet, covering all kinds of subjects and possible variants of the vehicle. I really dig these decal sheets Rubicon do. Easily my favourite part about their kits.



Assembly


Putting this chap together is very straightforward, as 28mm wargaming models usually are. I went with a regular transport version with canvas top and closed rear and additional searchlight.


Getting the canvas top and the back bit to fit somewhat seamlessly required some scraping and gap-filling, but you want those to look like they are one piece in the end, so it's worth it. The nice thing about this canvas top is that you can just put it on top when required or take it off again later on. This of course opens up for scenario ideas like 'easter egg hunts' with various potential locations of the goods such as enclosed trucks, buildings and so on into which the umpire actually puts some token or objective marker. Always nice to have a haptic aspect to such a scenario.

The driver cab being cast in one piece means that you do not (and in my opinion you should not) glue it in place prior to painting. First, you will want to be able to paint the interior and second you may want to add a windshield and side windows later.


Stowage items include boxes to the side of the chassis, a spare wheel,jerry cans and some digging tools to the sides of the front.

I chose not to add the driver figures as they didn't impress me too much and for reasons of practical reasons: How many games with 28mm figures have you played in which you are required to move a lorry around? Unless you play a LOT of ambush scenarios it makes no sense for a group of infantry to sit in the back of a truck at the ranges depicted by a 6' by 4' table with 28mm figures. On the other hand a truck used as an objective marker or just a bit of scenery will be the case at least as or even more often and it looks a bit weird if there are two chaps patiently sitting in a truck while bullets whistle by. I generally prefer having no drivers sitting in truck models. And when in doubt, just mess up the windshields, so nobody can tell the difference. ;-)



Painting


Okay, here's the reason why most pictures say 'Battle Brush Studios, 2015' even though it evidently is not 2015. If you read this in 2015 you have to update your system clock or indeed we have a weird timeline paradox at our hands.

The reason why this review took so long to finish was that I've had a whole bunch of 15mm and 28mm German WW2 vehicles to paint and somehow I kept adding stuff, but never had time to actually paint it. Of course it makes the most sense to paint all of it at once so it would look similar. So I had to make time in my schedule for not just quickly painting one truck, but quite a lot of vehicles, which is a bit harder to schedule. Anyway, after a way too long while I finally got to it and here we are – the finished Opel Blitz in July/August 1944 colours.


Usually only vehicles in direct front line service got camo painted on, so this one might be part of a Panzergrenadiers formation, who knows?




I can not say much about the painting as it was rather straightforward. Base colour, camo, weathering. Maybe I did  abit too little on that, but I can always go back and add some weathering. Keeping the driver's cabin separate until the whole model was done was a smart move if I may say so.


As planned, I added a windshield as well as side windows, all of which I just cut out of some old blister pack I had lying around (don't throw blisters away. They are incredibly useful and get rather rare these days anyway.) and then gave it a bit of dust and mud.









Verdict


Rubicon Models' Opel Blitz is a kit I can't say anything bad about. It is perfectly serviceable if you require a 1/56th scale or 28mm size Opel Blitz for your games, dioramas or just for the showcase.

Maybe a bit much, but this would have worked better for me as boxart.
I do not like the box art and I am lukewarm on the whole box design, but citing that as a negative in the final verdict is reaching a bit I suppose. On the plus side I really like the decal sheet and the instructions folder work and a loaded with interesting bits.


The model itself leaves nothing to be desired visually, historically or technically. There is the nifty canvas top, the impressive one-piece driver's cabin and a nice amount of stowage. And last but not least conversion potential. Be it a civilian Opel lorry, a destroyed truck to be used to cover, one of the many, many variants used during the war or just cutting the canvas top in half, bending some wire into shape and making the loading space somehow half-covered.


Adam Kuller's blitz from http://www.militarymodelling.com




At € 25,00 / GBP 18.00 the kit can be called a reasonably priced car, especially considering the good number of accessories you get along with it. Warlord Minis offer two variants of the Opel Blitz, with closed and open top. These are resin kits from 2011 if I got that correctly and are GBP 21.00 a piece. The Perrys, in their cooperation with Blitzkrieg Minis, offer an Opel Blitz for GBP 20.00 and West Wind Productions have a 28mm Blitz in their Berlin or Bust range for USD 26.00 which seems affordable and surely is an interesting option if you're located in the US. A particularly interesting one I found at ebob minis for just GBP 14.00 and Offensive Miniatures offer an Opel Blitz for GBP 22.00, including a driver and quite a lot of stowage.



Yup, lots of 28mm Opel Blitz around. Rubicon's is the only one in plastic so far though. I'm sure that Italeri/Warlord Games will get one out soon as well. After all, it's much more likely that your German troops have an Opel Blitz in their proximity than a Tiger or a Hetzer.



Right, I hope you like the model, I hope you enjoyed the review and found it interesting (and not too top-heavy this time). If you have any questions, comments or indeed commission enquiries, feel free to let me know via the comments section, the Battle Brush Studios Facebook page or via e-mail.

























Kommentare:

  1. Sehr interessantes Artikel.
    (Please forgive my bad German)

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  2. @Martin: Dankeschön. :)

    @Whiskers: Thanks very much! Got a bit carried away on the history bits, but found it too interesting to snip out.

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