This is a great kit that Dragon has produced and it’s a joy to assemble!
The Opel Blitz Maultier (“Mule”) platform was developed in 1942 to deal with the lack of paved roads on the Eastern Front in Russia, and was produced until 1944. An Opel Blitz wheeled truck chassis was modified by replacing the rear drive wheels with caterpillar tracks. The Maultier half-track Sd. Kfz.3 chassis was used with a cargo truck bed, antiaircraft gun mount, and truck bodies used for offices, workshops, & the Maultier ambulance.
Dragon has produced a previous Sd.Kfz.3a Maultier Half-Track kit, #6761 with a cargo truck body. Testors, Revell, and Italeri have also produced kits of the Opel Maultier with a cargo body in 1:35 scale.
This kit is part of Dragon’s 1:35 ‘39 – ‘45 series Smart Kits and comes on 23 sprues in seven bags. The kit is molded in light gray plastic, includes one bag of “Magic Track’ links, two sprues of clear plastic parts, one bag with photoetch, decals, and window masks. The instruction sheet is nicely illustrated with 27 steps, and includes exterior painting and marking schemes for two vehicles. Instruction sheet shows layout of sprues with parts that are included but not used with this kit. There is an abundance of unused parts, including an additional chassis and engine for the parts box.
There is no noticeable flash and the mold seams are minor and easily cleaned-up. Dragon uses lots of mold plugs that limit mold defects, but add many sprue connections that need to be cleaned-up.
The kit is listed as containing over 550 parts for skilled modelers age 14 and over. Kit includes a nicely detailed interior with cabinets, shelves, medical cases, and nine stretchers on racks.
Paint colors are listed it as Aqueous Color, Mr. Color, and Model Master color. The only paint colors noted in the instructions are for the exterior and camouflage, so other references will need to be used for painting.
Assembly begins with the engine and chassis. Color information is not provided for the engine or chassis and this will vary depending upon the color scheme for the ambulance. Engines could have been black, steel, or German gray. The box art shows the ambulance in dark yellow with a 2 color German camouflage scheme. The Maultier ambulance was first produced in 1942 so it would most likely have been used on the Eastern front in a German gray color. Online reference photos show the ambulance with a gray cab and white ambulance body, or in gray without a camouflage pattern. I decided to paint this review sample in dark yellow (Dunkel Gelb) with camouflage as shown on the box cover. Therefor, I painted the engine German gray and will paint the rest of the chassis elements dark yellow.
The wheels are plastic with a center seam that requires a fair amount of sanding to conceal.
Step number three shows installation of the front suspension and wheels. I recommend not installing the wheels at this point so they don’t break off before the rest of the track suspension is completed.
Step number four shows installation of the support frame for the track assembly. This all goes together very nicely and the fit is very good. However, do not install the hubs, parts H11, on the drive axle. I installed these and it put the drive sprockets too far out to align with the road wheels and idlers. Wait until installation of the track to install the drive wheels to get proper alignment.
Step number five shows the assembly of the road wheels, idlers, and springs. These all go together well but be careful to keep track of the left and right sets.
Step number six includes the installation of the hood sections and grill. The hood and grill are wonderful pieces of molding as the grill slats are open and the louvers in the hood sections are also open. The fit of the hood sections and grill is very nice. There are options for fitting the hood open or closed.
Step number seven is the assembly of the front fenders and interior section, including the instrument panel. The gas tank, part D32, should be installed after the fenders and interior section are assembled to the chassis, but before the seat is installed.
The chassis went together very easily and the excellent fit of the Dragon parts made alignment and location easy.
For a basecoat, the chassis was painted RLM gray, Tamiya XF-22. This was coated with AK Interactive Worn Effects and then a dark yellow Tamiya XF-60 finish coat. A wet brush & toothpick were used to distress the paint for a slightly worn look.
The exhaust pipe was painted steel, Worn Effects, dark rust, Worn Effects, dark yellow, and then dabbed with a wet brush to reveal the colors below.
Step number 10 shows installation of the pioneer tools, headlamps, and clearance indicators for the fenders. I held off installing these items until after the track was installed so they wouldn't get broken off.
Number 12 is the installation of the Dragon Magic Track. The tracks are finely molded in separate pieces so no cleanup is required, but they are small and fiddly. I held them down with masking tape against a straight edge and used Tamiya Thin Cement to bind them together. After a few minutes, while they were still flexible, I installed them to get the shape of the drive wheel and sag over the idlers. The complete track can be removed along with the drive wheel to allow finishing of the track off the vehicle. The track links are delicate in scale, look very nice on the model, but I managed to break the fragile tracks several times after they were installed.
When I installed the front wheels, they didn’t match the angle of the treads. With the treads flat on the ground the front wheels don’t touch. This is probably something I did installing the track, so be careful to check it out when the track is installed.
Steps 1 through 12 complete the chassis and cab common to all Maultier vehicles. The remaining steps are for the assembly of the ambulance cab, equipment, and accessories.
Step number 13 is the assembly of the stretchers and stretcher racks. In, subassemblies M&N, note that the supports for the stretchers have a long and short end that need to be reversed for the right and left sides of the truck. This is not explained in the instructions. Bench subassemblies K are shown being assembled but are not shown being installed in the vehicle. The benches are shown installed in step 26. The benches are designed to fold out the open door to allow placing stretchers in the lower racks.
The stretchers are all uniformly consistent and have little detail in the fabric or the stretcher itself. It would be nice to have some of the stretchers with blankets on them and some of the stretchers folded up. The stretchers are canvas with wood handles. I plan to use a couple of the stretchers from Dragon's German Medical Troops kit #6074 as they have more realistic detail.
In step number 14 the hinges for the rear doors overlap nicely. I plan to have many of the doors open to display the interior detail.
In step number 21 the supports for the floor deck have ‘D’ pins on them that help orient the supports in the right direction. A plate covers the recessed wheel well openings on the underside of the body. I don't know if this was on the actual vehicle or if vehicle was built this way and then modified when the treads were installed.
Steps 22 & 23 are the installation of the ambulance walls to the truck bed. I painted and weathered the floor and walls before assembling them. Again, with no paint colors, online references suggested the walls were white or cream color, and the floor dark gray or dark wood to conceal stains. The kits floor is wood, so I painted it with Vallejo Panzer Aces Old Wood and applied MIG’s Dark Wash. I painted the walls & cabinets with AK Interactive’s Cremeweiss and applied MIG’s Brown Wash.
When I completed the roof assembly in step 24 the curve of the roof did not match the curved top of the end walls and had to be bent down. I won’t glue the roof in place so it can be removed to display the crowded interior.
Exterior color for the ambulance is Tamiya Dark Yellow with MIG’s Brown wash. The camouflage pattern was painted with Mr. Color’s Red Brown and Khaki Green using the box art as a guide.
This is an excellent kit of an unusual subject and I really enjoyed putting it together. The engineering and fit of the kit is outstanding and it goes together very well. Dragon has done a great job detailing the interior of the ambulance, which makes the kit really special. The kit has a lot of pieces, some quite small, but the fit and ease of assembly will allow those with even moderate modeling skills to assemble the kit.
Thanks to Dragon for their continued support of IPMS’ review program, and thanks to IPMS for giving me the opportunity to build the review sample.