by: Stefan Halter [ ]
This kit is Bronco Models first rendition of the Topolino, which so far has been followed by two more civilian releases. To my knowledge, this is the first plastic kit of the Topolino, however Tamiya have released its licensed copy, the Simca 5, which is basically the same vehicle with open roof. I do not have this kit; however it would be interesting to compare the two.
The Topolino was designed by the Italian car manufacturer FIAT in 1936. Officially named the Fiat 500, it was commonly referred to as Topolino (Mouse, also the Italian name of Mickey Mouse). It was intended as an inexpensive car for the middle class and was manufactured until 1955. There were several versions manufactured with the version depicted by Bronco Models being the two door/two passenger version. It was just over 3.2 meters in length and weighed some 600 kg empty. It was powered by a 4 cylinder 13 horse power engine. Over half a million examples were produced by Fiat and also under license in France (Simca), England, Germany (NSU-Fiat) and Austria and exported around the world.
Like any other civilian cars during the war, the Topolino’s were pressed into military service as staff cars and any other role they could be useful.
The kit comes in the standard sturdy Bronco Models box and contains 4 sprues in tan plastic containing the parts for the car itself, one clear sprue for the windows, one PE fret for the small details and a one piece body, a really impressive piece of molding which is separately packed in specially designed plastic holder. The decal sheet is finely printed on thin backing and well registered. In addition, there are two tan sprues and one PE fret for the Infantry cart, as well as one sprue for the Jerry cans, one with an MP40 and two gray sprues for the two figures included.
The instruction sheet is printed in color and has the standard line drawings and is easy enough to follow. I noticed no mistakes in the instructions. There is a separate sheet for figure painting and one of the marking options. Also included is the now standard (for Bronco Models) separate print of the box art. This review covers the basic construction of the car itself. Painting and figures will be done at a later stage (I’ll keep you updated). The infantry cart will not be built (as discussed later).
Step by Step: Engine, Chassis, Interior
Construction starts with the engine, which, considering the size of it is a kit in itself: 19 parts, including the radiator. There are some very small parts here, but overall construction is very straightforward and I encountered no problems. Be sure to get the propeller of the radiator on the right way as I had it on wrong first. Four nuts are added to the engine, these are molded separately on the sprue.
Next comes the construction of the chassis. To the main part are added the rear leaf springs and axle. The attachment is not very sturdy and you have to make sure this is square, as otherwise the wheels will not be all on the ground (which happened in my case). The muffler is added to the engine but it’s not clear how it is exactly attached to the chassis.
The wheels were straightforward and can be made movable. The attachment of the wheels to the axle is with a very small joint area and care has to be taken not to destroy the parts while taking them from the sprue or attaching the wheels. In general, I removed many of the very small parts from the sprue with a razor saw in order not to damage them. The front wheels can be attached at any angle you like, but they are not movable. Again, care is needed here to get them in the same angle (there is no guidance) and the steering mechanism consists of three very fine parts, razor saw recommended!
Next, you add the passenger compartment floor and all the respective details. The interior is very straightforward, consisting of the seats, steering wheel (watch out for the angle, there is no guidance here), shift stick and pedals.
Then comes the body around the engine. This consists of four major parts (A62, A2, A36 and A3), which the instructions tell you to attach to each other first and then add to the chassis. My crude attempts at this resulted in a not so square construction, which finally made me rip it apart again. The steps I used and recommend, are to first attach the sides (A2 and A3) to the chassis, then add the rear (A62) and front (A36) parts. This way you ensure that everything fits like it should and can still be adjust if necessary.
Body and Accessories
Out comes the main body part, which is packed separately in a specially designed two piece plastic container. There was a little bit of flash on my example and the normal molding lines, but nothing which cannot be easily removed. On the roof, there is a leftover bit from the sprue, this easily sanded away.
The dashboard is added first, which has nicely printed decals for the dials. Then the cooling flaps can be added open or closed. Note that the instructions show these the wrong way around. While they should be attached to the inner rim (opening in the center), the instructions tell you to attach them to the outer rim (opening on the sides).
The windshield wipers are very fine PE parts and each one is made of two parts. Though I have not yet constructed them, I imagine this will be hard to get lined up correctly. This is one of the portions where the kit seems somewhat “over-engineered” and certainly not for the beginner.
The body fits to the chassis without problems and also the fit of the doors and hood is perfect. The doors can easily be positioned open, as is intended with the river figure to be added with its arm holding the door open. There are two options for the door windows, three actually: Fully closed, partially closed (or open?) and, of course, fully open.
In the next three steps, all exterior details are added. The headlights are only provided in the army version with camouflage slit lights. There are two options and all four headlights are a very nice slide mold. More minuscule PE is added here, including what has to be Bronco Models insignia consisting of two separate parts. I lost one to the carpet monster and had to replace it with thin plastic card. A note on the PE here, it’s backed with sticky paper on both sides and by leaving one side on during cutting, you make sure that the part does not go flying around to neverland.
The Notek light is quite straightforward but a nicely detailed sub-assembly. A shovel can be added here and has two PE parts as attachment points. The front part is kind of hard to bend, especially considering the fine bend needed to hold the shovel’s grip. One think of note is that there is no indication of where exactly the PE goes and in particular there is no little indent for the part to adhere to.
There are two types of bumpers and three types of rear number plate (two types for the front), though there is no indication in the instructions which one is to be used for which marking version.
Next is the installation of the jerry can rack on the roof (an optional item). The Jerry cans are very nice items with great details and include a separate PE part for the center line. Unfortunately, the handles are not as wide as the can, leaving a noticeable ledge on each side. The rack is made up of one very fine plastic part to go around the cans and 6 different PE parts for the straps. Again, the instructions tell you to make this sub-assembly separately, but I don’t know how this could be done as there is no stability. I first added the two lower straps (parts P9) to the four attachment points on the body. Once dry, I glued the jerry cans in place. Now it was place to add the plastic part (C3). Then I combined the other PE parts (P15 and P15), which make nice straps and added these t the top. It helps to use slow drying CA to be able to reposition the parts. While the way to get there is tedious, the end result is well worth it.
Finally, there is a choice of adding one or two spare wheels to the back, as well as a small bedroll or similar. However, the latter does not look very convincing to me and I decided to leave it off.
Step by Step: Infantry Cart – or how I failed to get a square box
On to the infantry cart… The positive first: This is some seriously fine molding. However, I couldn’t help but think that if everything the Germans constructed during the war was so complicated, it was no wonder they lost the war! Adding all these fine parts was frustrating, as the attachment points were weak, to say the least, and the parts kept breaking when handled. Once the rib skeleton is finally done, you have to add the inner “bucket” or box from PE. Now if you fail – like me, despite the use of a PE folder – to get this exactly square, the part will not fit between the skeleton, or rather just break it off. I tried how I could, but finally gave up on the infantry cart, not having intended to fit it in the first place. This was a rather frustrating experience, and though I appreciate all the details and the fine molding, I wish there had been a bit more margin for error and some sturdier attachment points.
There are three marking options in the kit. Unfortunately there are no indications of units, time or even country. The first and most obvious is the DAK version as built here. I have not found any period photos of this marking option. However, I did find some photos of a museum version (Link: http://500world.blogspot.ch/2012/11/2012-11-07-03.html) I’m not sure this museum based its markings on an actual vehicle, as they seem very Hollywood like. I’ve never seen a soft skin with Balkenkreuze and I don’t see why a vehicle close to the frontlines would have a nazi flag mounted, that was – to my knowledge – only used on staff cars in the back areas. So therefore, while the markings look fun, I have strong doubts they are accurate (though I’m open to proof of the contrary).
The second option is obviously an Allied Topolino in overall olive drab – probably captured? – Though I have not found any photos of this exact version to confirm this. I did find another allied version with much smaller stars (Link: http://www.oldclassiccar.co.uk/topolino.htm). I assume it’s captured as basically the whole roof is covered with a large white star, which would indicate a heightened need for aerial recognition. Further markings include a red “spade” and the markings 9 / 38TL. I have checked US, French and Commonwealth unit insignia but have not found the red spade anywhere.
The last version is another German version with large red crosses, indicating it is a medic’s or doctor’s vehicle. It has no license plates and only the letters WH besides the crosses. I have not found any photos of this version either.
Overall this is a very nice and detailed kit with good fit. Some PE parts are very minuscule and easy to lose. Therefore I can only recommend this model to more experienced builders. The Infantry cart – though nicely detailed – is easy to botch up and care is needed to get the PE box properly square, otherwise it won’t fit. There are some doubts on the markings as mentioned above.