by: Andrzej Snigorski [ ]
The first Bayerische Motoren Werke motorcycle was built in 1923, but only 3 years later BMW had to drastically change the design. The frame designed in ’23 was not strong enough to support a sidecar, and the welds keeping it together were cracking in sidecar service. The newly designed frame was stamped in two lateral sections and held together with rivets. It was called a “star frame” and was strong enough to support the sidecar and all additional forces that the sidecar added.
The new 750cc engine was assembled on this frame and was the most powerful and largest BMW engine built so far.
The original trailing link unit with stamped forks and leaf spring working as a front suspension was the root cause of many problems, and was replaced with the telescopic fork for the R-12. An internal piston design with valve system damping on both the compression and rebound forces solved this and was the birth of the modern design. A rear suspension was not installed at all.
In 1936 BMW changed the design a bit and replaced the riveted fasteners with electric arc welding. It improved the endurance of the motorcycles and made the R-12, along with its successor the R-75, the most popular and produced motorcycles up until the early 1970’s. Over 30,000 of them were built, with approximately 10,000 dedicated especially for Wehrmacht needs. Many of the civilian models were also enlisted for army usage in 1939.
R-12 motorcycles were used as scout/messenger vehicles, and with a sidecar as machinegun carriers amongst other uses. They were used in Europe and Africa during the whole war, but after 1942 they were overshadowed by the R-75 which was designed for military purposes.
This kit allows the building ofan R-12 motorcycle with sidecar. Along with the motorcycle, three Wehrmacht soldier figures and one pig (pig carcass to be precise) are present in the box. Figures of a driver and gunner are one option, while a soldier driving the motorcycle while holding the pig in the sidecar is another (this situation is based on a photograph).
The kit comes packed in a cardboard box with artwork showing the motorcycle with driver and the gunner holding a pig on his knees. The back side of the box shows cad images of the kit assembled in two versions. The box is not very sturdy, but it survived a flight over the ocean and other adversities that international post arranged for it and managed to protect the model inside.
Inside the box one can find assembly instructions, one small decal sheet and three sprues with132 parts. No additional protection is present (plastic bags etc) but all parts arrived intact and none was missing. Decals are also not protected, so they may dry out or otherwise get damaged over time.
The parts are made of good quality, grey styrene. Details are nicely sculpted and are quite sharp for a plastic model. Seam lines are very fine and only delicate sanding may be necessary, flash was not observed. Surfaces are clean, smooth and flawless. Ejector pin marks are delicate and placed mostly on “tree” close to the parts or in areas that will be not visible after assembly.
Delicate details like the cooling ribs on the engine and wheel spokes are very fine and require almost no additional care. The four wheels are made up of two pieces each, which gives a very realistic effect of spokes. Also the tire tread is correct.
An interesting solution proposed by Zvezda is the handle bar with the drivers’ hands molded on it. This allows to show the figure actually HOLDING the bar (not like in many other kits where the figure is holding 2cm of air around the bars). A second handle bar is present for standard assembly and for version 2 (the one with the pig).
Some elements such as the gondola and mud guards are made in two pieces and will require join seam removal after assembly. Fitting is very good though and no filling should be necessary. BMW letters are precisely sculpted but seem to be oversized. The sidecar frame is molded as one piece so it should assure correct shape and angle of gondola. The biggest error found in the kit is the lack of the motorcycles’ battery.
The figures are nicely sculpted and in realistic positions. The figure depicting the soldier carrying the pig is based on a picture, although the motorcycle in this picture is actually an R-75 and not an R-12.
The uniform jackets are not correct – the pockets suggest M36 or M40 jackets but the number of buttons matches rather later models. Also the belt buckles are simplified which is strange taking under consideration the nice quality of many other details.
The weapons are one of weakest parts in the kit – the MG34 lacks many details and the cooling jacket has oversized holes. The MG34 is supposed to be fed from a drum magazine. The Kar98k has the stock a little too thick, and the bayonet is a little too short, but the rest of the details are on an acceptable level. The pig carcass is composed of three pieces, the head and two parts for the torso (laterally dissected).
Assembly and Painting
The assembly instructions consist of 19 steps for the motorcycle and both versions of figures. The instructions are clear and they appear to be accurate. Assembly is planned in logical sections allowing the build to progress smoothly. Random checks showed that the parts fit perfectly and the positioning pins fit the holes quite tight which helps in correct assembly.
It seems that after assembly of the sidecar access to the right side of the motorcycle will be difficult, therefore you may want to paint the model during subassembly and finalize the assembly using the pre-painted segments.
Decals are available for four marking schemes - 12th Panzer Division 1941, Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Group 1941 and two other Eastern Front 1941 markings. All versions are shown on the last page of instructions along with painting instructions, which the only suggested painting scheme is Panzergrau.
Zvezda continues to show the great progress they have made in recent releases. Remembering their old models as poor quality kits, I was pleasantly surprised with how they’ve vastly improved their quality. A few minor errors are a small price to pay for quite a good quality, interesting kit.
This will be an eye catcher either as a standalone model or as a part of diorama with figures. In my opinion, the version with the pig may be especially useful for “at ease” dioramas.