A new year, a new me. People usually boast about this without actually meaning it, but in my case, I can actually prove it. Why is that? Well, we’re witnessing together the first occurrence of me managing to finish a groupbuild on time! I’m really hoping this becomes the norm and not the odd one out.
Talking about our groupbuild’s theme, we’re commemorating 78 years from the events surrounding Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. Considered to be the turning point of the war, battles on the Eastern front started out with swift German victories. Aided by the blitzkrieg, Axis forces advanced quickly and occupied significant Soviet territories. Soon, their success started to dwindle. The extreme cold, coupled with some questionable decisions made by Hitler himself and the incredible Russian resilience (both civilian and military) meant Germany was forced to retreat for the first time during World War II.
Based on my usual speed and the short three-month duration of the groupbuild, I knew I had to compromise and go for a smaller scale than my beloved 1:35, if I wanted to finish on time. Anxiously approaching my stash, I started pulling down all the 1:72 kits I could find. Ultimately I went for the Italeri 7055 Opel Blitz Ambulance.
Now, if you’ve ever rolled with Italeri, you are aware their kits are hit or miss. They love to rebox ancient models and today’s tiny beast is no exception. Back in 1974 when this Opel Blitz was first issued, it was probably an important event for the market, filling a gap in available offerings. Nowadays though, in 2020, it’s no longer a superstar. The kit goes online for around ten euros, five more than I would be willing to pay for it. And that’s just for the pretty good decals. In fact, this is precisely why I had this piece of history on my shelves. I had used its red cross decals on my Maultier Ambulance two years ago.
Like I said, the kit is no longer up-to-par in today’s world of Rye Field, Meng, Tamiya, and Takom putting out masterpiece after masterpiece, but I believe with enough work, you can make any model look half-decent. With this in mind, I started from the in-box sprues and began customizing my build.
First off, the rear ambulance cabin comes in as a pretty simple six-sided box, with very poor detail and with the windows molded on as solid plastic. The perfect opportunity to whip out my sets of styrene strips and replace it with a pick-up truck profile. Using the original flatbed as a base, I constructed two cargo sides as a simple structure with horizontal and diagonal boards. To detail them a bit, I cut and glued some stretched sprue for the bolts and hinges. The Opel Blitz probably never existed in my custom configuration, but I’m fine with that.
Moving towards the front, I took care of the spare tire. Instructions showed it going underneath the vehicle, but it would have been hardly visible there. Styrene profiles to the rescue! Built a simple rig and placed a large supporting bolt on top to keep it from sliding down on the bonnet. Of course, it’s glued to the cabin, but that would not have been the case in 1941 Soviet Russia.
Next up, the engine ventilation grills looked pretty poor and toy-like, so I scraped them off completely, borrowed a page from uncle NightShift’s book and covered them with a bolted-on piece. While he used metal, I chose to go with wood, to nicely balance the cargo area later on. Two slices of stretched sprue for each side and my customizations were done.
Before closing the cabin, I also had to glue the clear parts. Hey, where’s the clear sprue? Did I misplace it? It wouldn’t be my first time. What do you mean there is no such thing as a clear sprue? Wait, I have to what? Guys, to build this thing as an actual vehicle with windows and such, you are given a clear rectangular sheet from which to cut the parts yourself. And you don’t even get a template for it.
After you manage to shape the windows, you realize there is so little body for gluing them, that they will most likely snap. And they did. Over and over. Frustrating! Ultimately got them to stick using some carefully applied CA glue. But things were still not over. Fitting the cabin required an extensive fitting and gluing session, followed by another puttying and sanding one.
Painting and detailing
In the end, it was time to move forward with the project. I settled for an early winter paint scheme featuring the German grey in combination with a light tan for the wooden parts. A brown wash and some oil panel fading were enough to weather it.
For the stowage, I chose a Pak-36 from Zvezda (6114) which I customized by replacing its gun barrel with a hypodermic needle. Next to it, I added a couple of resin barrels from MIG Productions. You’ve probably noticed the diorama, but that will be described in its own dedicated post, coming up soon.
Overall, I had a blast with this kit, since it allowed me to put my knack for customizing builds to the test. Also, given its small size, I was able to wrap it up quite quickly. Nevertheless, I would not recommend it. The whole window debacle, followed by the poor overall detailing of the cabins was a real blow. If you’re on the lookout for an Opel Blitz, ICM has a decent offering in 1:35 scale. On the other hand, if you want to build a 1:72 model, I’ve only heard good things about AMMO’s new T-54 B. Yes, it’s a bit pricier, but you get your money’s worth.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will let you guys do the math on this one: