The Unimog 404, also called the Unimog S and Unimog 404S, was developed by Mercedes Benz from 1955 to 1980. Unimog (taken from UNIversal Motor Gerät, or universal power unit) is a small, capable, 1.5 ton offroad truck that reached a production number of 36,000 for the German military during the Cold War. The Unimog 404 could be driven in either 2x4 or 4x4 mode, being at home in the outdoors or cruising up to 60 km/hr on paved surfaces. The Unimog has a folding canvas roof with a frame and canvas cover for the cargo area. Despite its German origins, the first Unimog 404s were produced for the French Army who wanted the spare wheel moved from the cargo bed to an undercarriage location on a newly designed down swept frame to provide more space for troops and cargo.
ICM is the first company to bring the Unimog 404S (designated the Unimog S 404 by ICM) in any scale to market in injection molded plastic. This versatile and rugged vehicle was used by both the Bundeswehr and Luftwaffe. Marking options in this kit include:
- Bundeswehr, Upper Bavaria, 1970s
- German Air Force, 74th Fighter Squadron, Neuberg, 1970
- 5th Artillery Training Regiment, Idar-Oberstein, 1970s
- 363rd Tank Battalion, Külsheim, 1980s
The first three vehicles are in the Bundeswehr Olivgrün, the fourth in the NATO three tone camo.
Upon opening the cover there is a reinforced white inner box that does a good job of protecting the kit’s six soft plastic sprues, clear sprue for glass, and five rubber tires. The 24-page instruction manual covers 103 steps, split into major subassemblies of the ladder type chassis (good engineering and following instructions ensure the truck sits on all four wheels), cab, and cargo area.
The model build is straightforward, and the sequence is logical. ICM calls out two variants: B for the first three marking options, and D for the fourth marking option – all build the same with the paint scheme being the only difference. All the parts are used except for two optional rear-view mirrors. There are minor notes that are identified here by their instruction step:
Step 19: Take care and study the exhaust manifold locations as improper assembly can affect the fitting of the cab to the frame. Take note of the location and refer to Step 24 for the exhaust pipe.
Step 24: This is where exhaust pipe joins to the manifold.
Step 27: This step calls for the installation of the steering column. I tried it and had to remove it during Step 60 to fit the cab to the frame.
Step 41: Take care with the steering arms as they are delicate and detailed fiddly bits.
Step 44: There are no locating tabs for the bumper, so temporarily place the cab on the frame to determine the proper center location or hold off until Step 60 when the cab is installed.
Step 49: The location and orientation for the fuel tank selector valve isn’t obvious, so check reference material (I chose vertically straight between the tanks, above the fuel tank ridges, but have seen them mounted differently).
Step 57: If the bonnet is closed, none of this detail will be visible, along with the beautifully detailed engine installed earlier.
Step 60: Install the steering column from Step 27 after the cab is in place.
Steps 66 and 68: Be very careful removing the door handles as they are very small and delicate and insatiable to the carpet monster.
Step 78: For ease of painting the cab, I left the canvas cover off until the end of the build. This allowed for installation of the steering wheel and cab details without having to go through the windows.
Step 92: Paint the jerry can before installation as it can’t be placed in its mount afterwards.
Steps 95 and 100: The spare tire mount under the bed is very tight. If the tire is going to be placed here, either paint ahead of installation, or keep the mount (Part No. C5) off until the model is complete so it can be glued in place afterward.
I followed the instructions, and it was easy, if not tedious, to build. Attention and care have to be used as there are a lot of fiddly bits that appear to scale on this smaller 1/35 model. I deviated from the instructions and used tissue paper over the cab cover (Parts A20-22) to replicate the rubberized canvas used on the actual Unimog.
The Unimog was painted over all olivgrün (ICM calls for Russian 4BO) and I chose the 363rd Tank Battalion markings so I could pose it with an earlier Leopard I (I deviated from the instructions as German vehicles were overall green before adoption of the NATO three color camo in the early 1980s). The decals are crisp, clear, and settled in well. ICM has taken the guess work out of the paint colors with their acrylic paint set for Bundeswehr vehicles and AFVs (Item No. 3017).
I had a lot of fun building this gem from ICM. It is a lesser-known German Cold War workhorse truck, that builds into a great model with lots of detail. This is not a kit for beginners, and while there are a lot of building steps, they are logical, easy to follow and enjoyable. I look forward to seeing what more talented modelers can do with this kit.
Wir. Dienen. Deutschland. And Slava Ukraini! (We. Serve. Germany. And Glory to Ukraine!)
Profuse thanks to ICM and IPMS-USA for providing the review sample.
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