by: Kevin Brant [ ]
During World War 2 in an effort to make British Paratroopers more mobile a small light weight, collapsible motor bike was developed, the Welbike. The Welbikes were produced by the Excelsior Motor Company and powered with a 98cc single cylinder motor and weighed only 71 lbs. The bikes were issued to both the 1st and 6th Airborne division, and it has been reported that some saw action during Operation Market Garden in Arnhem. Tamiya has recently released a four airborne figure set featuring two Welbikes.
Inside the box from Tamiya, the kit contains four sprues of plastic parts, two small fret of photo-etched parts, and an instruction sheet.
Upon examining the sprues for the first time, the first thing that stands out is that the two sprues with figures and Welbikes are identical, and each sprue contains two figures and a Welbike. Thus the kit contains two bikes and two pairs of identical figures. There are two extra arms and two extra heads provided to give the illusion of different figures, but the stances are the same.
As for the molding, the detail of the figures looks to be weak, there is very little uniform definition, and one (pair) of figures have the left arm molded to the body. Looking closely at the figures is difficult to make out some of the webbing detail, uniform details, and the representation of the “crotch flap” on the airborne smocks is very weak.
While the cover art depicts the airborne figures with helmet nets, this is not the case in the kit, the helmets are smooth. Thus a little scratch work will be needed to depict the netting and camouflage.
As for the Welbikes, the molding looks to be good, and clean with very little flash. There is photo-etched parts included to represent the spokes of the wheels and drive chain. Tamiya has also included a plastic molded template to assist in forming the spokes into the proper shape.
The other two sprues included in the kit contains British infantry equipment and weapons. These to look to be off an older moldings, but the detail is decent. The sprue included Lee Enfields, Sten, Bren guns, as well as some infantry personal gear.
Assembly of one of the bikes went very well, the instructions are easy to follow, and as usual with most Tamiya kits, the fit is very good. The addition of the photo-etched spokes and chain really add great detail to the finished bikes. The option to build the bike in use or folded is included in the kit and instructions.
Overall I am not all that impressed with this release of airborne figures from Tamiya. While the Welbikes are very well done, there is only really two useable figures from the kit, especially if you are trying to create a scene or diorama. The molding details on the figures is a little weak and the helmets do not depict the typical airborne helmet with camouflage netting. I could recommend the kit based on the Welbikes, but at the cost I have seen for the kit, it is not worth the cost for bikes and “two” figures, unless you really want the Welbikes.