The use of military motorbikes has long seemed the territory of resin, or the few poorly molded kits that emerged from the Iron curtain over the past 2 decades. With the introduction of Asian and small 'mark' companies looking to refresh markets for the experienced modeller, we have been offered unusual looks at ubiquitous support vehicles from the Axis, and to a lesser point, the Allies.
If one takes a look at present literature, and internet offerings, the motorcycle as a workhorse has become a clear target for these companies wishing to offer something different. That being said, each release is now challenged to out do the previous offering. Looking in-box at Vulcan's latest kits I think they are rising to that challenge.
The Zündapp company was founded in Nuremberg, Germany, during World War I by Fritz Neumeyer, and produced detonators for the German war effort. By 1919, the war was over. Germany had been defeated, and the Allied powers had forbidden the country from producing weapons of war. Neumeyer had to find some other way to make money, so he decided to go into the motorcycle business.
In 1921, Neumeyer unveiled the Z22, a Motorrad für Jedermann — a motorcycle for everybody. Thanks to its simplicity and reliability, the 211cc two-stroke single was a hit, and Zündapp prospered. Singles were the company’s mainstay throughout the 1920s, but in 1933 the K series, featuring an opposed twin and shaft drive, and available in displacements from 200cc to 800cc, appeared.
As Germany prepared for what was soon to be World War II, its military decided the coming conflict would hinge on mobility, as opposed to the static trench lines of World War I. The Wehrmacht needed a light, mobile vehicle able to get through anything.
At the end of 1937, the Reich contacted Zündapp and BMW, two of the larger German motorcycle manufacturers. The German army demanded a bike that met the following criteria:
• Ability to carry a payload of 500kg (1,102.3lb), the equivalent of three fully equipped soldiers, including arms and ammo.
• It had to cruise at 80kmh (not quite 50mph) and be able to reach 95kmh (not quite 60mph) but also be able to crawl along at 3mph so as not to run over marching troops.
• The tires had to be 5.00in x 16in.
• Minimum ground clearance had to be 150mm (6in) and there had to be enough room under the fenders for snow chains.
• Cost was no object.
Two 700cc prototypes were running by 1939, and were put through extensive testing alongside the BMW R75. The Zündapp employed hydraulic brakes on all three wheels, which would end up a first on a production motorcycle, and the pressed steel girder forks had both internal springs and hydraulic units. This unique design was both strong and light. The frame, also of pressed steel, was heavily built and very rigid. The drivetrain had straight-cut gears, which, while noisy, were very reliable.
The Solex carburetor they chose (a unit also used on small cars) was protected by a Neumann centrifugal air cleaner, with a preheating element to ease starting on cold mornings at the Russian front.
The German army believed the Zündapp design was superior to the BMW R75, and asked BMW to build it under license. At first, BMW refused, but when the dust settled BMW was producing its R75, using the Zündapp designed rear-wheel drive, hydraulic brake system and wheels. Many parts were standardized between the two manufacturers to make spare parts delivery easier.
As testing of the Zündapp continued, the cylinders were enlarged to 751cc. Final approval by the Wehrmacht was confirmed in April 1940, by which time the war was well under way, and over the next several years, 18,000 Zundapp three wheelers were built. The KS750, and its BMW R75 counterpart, saw action all over Europe, and many were sent to the Eastern Front and North Africa. They served the same function for the German army that the Jeep did for the Americans.
For the first three years of production, the German military painted the bikes in different colors, depending on where they were being used. The first few were dark gray, Luftwaffe bikes were charcoal and the Afrika Korp received desert-beige three wheelers.
The Kit With and Without STEIB Sidecar
As the two kits have identical instructions and sprues (different decal sheets) I'll focus on the K800 with sidecar. Looking at the sprues, the difference between the kits is the elimination of the sidecar sprue (self-contained) and the addition of the Vulcan figure from the K500 kit. As seen by the instruction set, Vulcan has been able to keep the use of language to a minimum while letting the modeller see where the parts and PE goes.
Though noted on another site about the K500 fit and use of header pipes, I believe that if any correction is needed with these kits they will be simpler. (I had little issue in my K500 build needing only to re-align the engine block and bend the header pipes by hand).
It should be remarked that Vulcan using Swash is a brilliant use of technology. If you have any fears regarding bending spokes and aligning wheels, rest easy. Your wheels will look professional every time by following the build sequences outlined for both kits. The eight piece wheel process ensures that you get the correct alignment of tread. The molding seems a bit softer than Great Wall's motorcycle offering, so care should be taken during clean up and final fitting. The economy of instruction and sprues works very well for both Vulcan and the modeller and I hope they continue this trend giving the modelling world an easy choice between the single rider or the sidecar.
I should note that the plastic used by Vulcan can 'weep' if glued and pressed too hard. Therefore take the time to get an accurate dry fit before gluing and use glue sparingly. Tamiya Ultra Thin grabs this plastic almost like super glue and the pins melt quickly into the joints making corrections messy and tricky.
Some details are noticeably absent, such as a second thumb-operated controller on the left handlebar which was an issue with their K500 kit as well. A judicious trimming of soft plastic should replicate the PE controller outlined for the right hand side. This sort of thing is why I never throw away PE, as I can often find something not used that will fill in the gap.
Once again, the front fork assembly can be a tricky fit to glue together correctly as it has six gluing points all needing to line up, so just like the old carpenter's axiom fit it a few times before committing it to glue.
One of the surprising touches I'm glad to see is the realistic STEIB coil spring suspension with real springs. The instructions are very clear on putting together this slightly complex part, but once again... follow instructions and all should be well. You'll immediately notice how small the sidecar is in comparison to those found on later military bikes. The molded detail shows off the ornate 'torpedo' pattern well and when looking at pictures, Vulcan has not exaggerated the detail. Some putty will be needed to remove the center seem of the gondola which might be a concern if you are not careful. The detail can be easily sanded away.
Along with the sidecar, the unusual tubular frame is proportional if not a bit heavy; once again nothing to upset the balance and can be rectified using 400 grit. Although I tend to build the complete bike and sidecar and then paint, I'd recommend building the three piece gondola and painting it before further assembly otherwise the supports and suspension will be very much in the way. Rounding out the sidecar are the nice PE parts of the STEIB badge for the front and the knock-off hub for the sidecar wheel.
A note on the springs you get with the kit; there are 6 springs and no spares, so be warned. If you have never worked with springs they can be a disaster waiting to happen and a delicious meal for the carpet monster. You should work with compressing them as much as possible and you might even anneal them. If you have friends in the model railway side of the hobby, try their blackening solution which adds effect and weakens the metal ever so slightly.
As to the engine, the 800cc Zündapp is comprised of only 15 core pieces giving you what you might assume is an overly simplistic rendition; but I assure it is not as the Zündapp 800cc was balanced and sleek, and with the sidecar adds to that art-deco quality.
One criticism I have is with the figure. Its definition is not up to what we have come to expect but then we have watched Dragon and MiniArt raise the bar every so often to the point that an average modeller can produce an acceptable figure... for motorcycles, this is a completely different story. The detail is poured into the vehicles with most figures looking like an afterthought. This being said, I would opt for kit 56007 with sidecar and decide as you build whether the sidecar needs adding.
I would also like to see a description of markings for the neophyte builder as there is a very strict marking code amongst German vehicles of the time which can sink a first-timer entering an otherwise brilliant diorama in a show.
I must commend Vulcan on their continuing quality and subject matter. I believe with a bit of work and research on the part of the modeller, a unique addition to your collection can be made. Any further observations on fit and accuracy I'll add to my build article.
I for one will do a 'build' of the K800 with STEIB sidecar in the coming two weeks... and how will it be presented? Well, considering this configuration was civilian and pressed into service I think the sky's the limit... now where did I put my gloss French Blue paint...?
Highs: Completely unique. The STEIB sidecar was a civilian addition pressed into service in the early months of the war, to quickly fill in a switch to motorcycles from horses after the Polish campaign.Lows: Some minor flash, and the plastic can be unforgiving in the wrong hands. Careful clean up and test fitting will eliminate any issues. No direct references in the kit for how the STEIB sidecar was used in wartime.Verdict: This model, and the non-sidecar model cry out to be put in civilian livery with quick divisional markings. The quality from kit to kit is definitely improving making this a unique addition.
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About Peter Wood (PadrePete) FROM: ONTARIO, CANADA
Avid modeler for many years, I have a love of people and of the modeling community and feel we are in the 'Golden Age' of modeling right now. I am never without several kits on the bench and can hardly wait for the next release. Although visually impaired, I never let a great model, book or subject ...