by: Jim Rae [ ]
The Mercedes Benz G4 (W31) 1934 - 1939 was originally designed as an 'off-road' vehicle - presumably the designers felt that the traction provided by its 6 wheels would be sufficient. However, cross-country performance was somewhat poor and it was rarely (if ever) used in this role. The vehicle was produced (somewhat slowly!) between 1934 and 1939. Slowly, in the sense that only 57 examples were actually built. Its main role in the 3rd Reich was as transport for (very) senior members of the regime. A secondary function of the vehicle was in a hard-topped 'van' version which was used as a communications vehicle by Deutsche Post.
Not surprisingly, due to its very-limited production run, only three surviving (and verified) examples are known to exist. One of these was used in the popular TV series 'Hogan's Heroes', another was presented to the Spanish Dictator, Franco, in 1942 and is in the auto collection of the Spanish Royal family.
ICM's New Model
35531 - G4 (1939 Production) German Car with Passengers is the latest in ICM's increasingly significant list of 1/35th scale softskins. The model, moulded in a tan-colored styrene comes on four sprues with a fifth covering the clear parts for windscreen, side windows and headlamps. A separate sprue contains parts for four figures labeled as 'German Staff Personnel 1939-42'. Instructions for the G4 come in 12 on a clearly printed instruction sheet. Finally, a small decal sheet gives markings for five vehicles - 3 are in the nature of 'V.I.P.' transport with a Light Grey/Black scheme the remainder, in standard Panzer Grey.
Inside the box
In this section, I'll give my impressions of the model. While never as complete (or time-consuming) as a full build, nevertheless, it should give some pointers as to what to expect...
In the last year or two, ICM have started using a much denser, less flexible styrene. Some have described it as brittle, personally, I see it as holding much sharper detail and less likely to 'tear' than a softer plastic.
The quality of the moulding is again very good. No flash, good crisp detail and mould-attachment points at the minimum. A (very) few, easily-removed mould-lines are present however these are inevitable and shouldn't add much time to the usual clean-up and preparation for building.
The designers have chosen to recreate ,as far as is practical, the vehicle's actual construction, which, inevitably, creates a pretty complex build. There are 39 stages in the process the most intensive or which is construction of the sub-frame and suspension - this takes up 17 stages. The instructions are clear although, as always, some careful consideration will have to be made before actually sticking bits together.
Oh yes, this is a VERY complex model. The reason for this stems from the fact that although it was produced by a major motor-manufacturer, it was effectively a hand-built car. They may have had a production line for the G4, but it would have been a much quieter affair than the Volkswagen production line. The G4 was a vehicle of very complex construction and the designers have done their best to reflect this. Saying that, and understanding it, the model may be a little over-engineered. There are a couple of areas, for example the engine firewall where (I'm not sure why) three parts were necessary. On the other hand, the side doors can't be modeled open although separating them is a pretty simple process.
Preparing for this Review, I spent a lot of time poring over images and film-footage of the vehicle. Fortunately, I was able to get hold of some good contemporary images of the interior and the designers have made a big effort to put everything in its place. I did find the dashboard a little simplified, although there's a limit to what moulding can actually achieve. The super-detailer may want to look at this and improve it.
The front seat also had a central arm rest which was often seen down - this would be relatively easy to add. On the back of each seat was a bar - either for the passengers to grip when the vehicle was going up steep gradients or as a support when the principal passenger was waving at the adoring multitude. These, for those who want a little more detail could be improved. One item which WILL have to be worked on, is part # A18, the air-horn, this is moulded solid and will have to be hollowed-out.
Now, according to the contemporary images, there were two types of tires available for the G4. The first, provided in this model, have a fairly smooth tread and are correct. The second type are a much heavier tread and would be more appropriate for an off-road vehicle. Curiously enough, both types can be seen in archive images - heavy tread in cities, lighter tread in the field.
The representation in the model is excellent although some research will have to be done to add the many cables which ran through the engine compartment. Fortunately, the hood can be modeled opened or closed - giving more possibilities for the modeler.
For those building a more 'Ceremonial' vehicle, it will be necessary to use the pennants on the front mudguards. In this, there remains a little to do as due to various European countries having banned the Swastika (in any form), it isn't included on the decal sheet. Instead, the 'Balkenkreuz' is included which I've never seen used on this vehicle. It isn't a big deal and sensibly, ICM have omitted it to avoid any problems with the various international importers.
The four figures included are good and detail on them is very well-done. The inclusion of the female figure is a nice bonus.
Yes, considering how few were built, it may be seen (by some) as a pretty obscure choice for a model manufacturer. Compared though, to some of the releases we've seen in the last year or two, this comes well into the 'Mass-Production' category. 57 built-examples (and in service) compares well to some of the 'Paper-Panzers'. It's a good subject in the sense it's well-documented, appeared in a lot of newsreel footage and gives the modeler the opportunity to combine it with other (less-spectacular?) subjects in dioramas. It will also look good on its own with a General-Rank officer surrounded by his ADCs (and the driver doing his best to look inconspicuous!). It may not be the most widely-produced vehicle but, it has lots of potential.
The faults, such as they are, are simple enough to remedy. It's a bold step for ICM to issue a vehicle of this type as it certainly won't be the kind of model you'll buy half-a-dozen of. It's an incredibly impressive vehicle, that, for many may well be its attraction. There's a huge amount of potential for super-detailing and even (in the case of the radio vehicle) some potential for conversion.
The AM manufacturers will also get something out of this. Two areas spring to mind: 1) A set of the 'Heavy-Duty' tires and 2) either the raised canvas top or the frequently-seen cover which protected the folded one.
Technically, the moulding is excellent although I still feel that it is a little over-engineered - there are areas where less parts would have given the same effect with less work. Curiously enough, they've chosen to mould the windscreen wipers with the windscreen.. What is difficult is to produce a model of something which is so 'Hand-Built' as the G4 undoubtedly was, in this, I believe that ICM have done an excellent job. The detail on areas such as the engine and the seats is excellent although I would have preferred separate side doors.
So, a worthy addition to what is becoming an impressive 1/35th scale 'Motor Show' and it only remains for me to give a classification for the G4 - not a SUV, a DUV: Dictator's Utility Vehicle....