ARM: Review - ICM 1/35 scale ZIL-131KShM Command Vehicle

Kit Review: ICM 1/35 scale Kit No. 35517); ZiL-131KShM; 307 parts (270 in t an styrene, 29 clear styrene, 8 black vinyl tires): retail price US$54.99

Advantages: first kit of this common but important truck in this scale in s tyrene

Disadvantages: generic body with few internal fittings; no etched brass

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: for all modern Soviet/Russian and softskin fans

As I noted when the base kit for this model was released, During WWII when the US shipped thousands of GMC and Studebaker trucks to the USSR, the Rus sian designers were embarrassed. The best they could do at the time in the medium truck class was the ZIS-5/6 truck which had only rear wheel drive (a nd only brakes on the rear wheels) and a very crude driveline. The US truck s had either 6 x 4 or 6 x 6 options, two-range transfer cases, and a far mo re sophisticated driveline and level of finish. And they were also better s uited to the poor Soviet roads and the "Rasputitsa" in which the thaw turne d all roads into mud.

Immediately after the war the Soviets used the American trucks as a basis for the ZIS-151 which was also now a 6 x 4/6 x 6 truck with transfer case a nd better design. It was followed later by the ZIL-157 which had big single tires and later on introduced adjustable air pressure in the tires for san d and soft ground.

But when the Soviets went to replace the ZIL-157 they went for a more mode rn design. They now used the later Reo M34 6 x 6 truck as their prototype a nd began development of the new design in 1956. Its biggest advantage was a new design V-8 gasoline engine of 125 HP that was expected to carry out it s duties. But it took 11 years of development before the new truck was read y for production, and it did not go into production and enter service until 1967.

The ZIL-131 (ZIL - Moscow "Likhachev" Automotive Factory) was a 3.5 metric ton rated 6 x 6 truck with a 150 HP V-8 engine using a 5-speed transmissio n and two-speed transfer case that gave it a highway range of 660-850 kilom eters. Just under one million ZIL-131 trucks of all types (cargo, box bodie d, radio command, tankers, etc.) were built up through 1990.

ICM has now "doubled down" on the cargo version (No. 35515, also available as Revell-Germany No. 03245) with a command and staff variant. It is a nea tly molded modern kit and presents nicely for a basic version of the truck.

This version is called the MSh1-131 and usually comes with a matching PSh-

1 trailer; the trailer is to provide sleeping quarters for the staff office rs using the truck. This version has three windows per side and twin doors at the rear of the body. It is the base vehicle for the 1V111 command and s taff vehicle of the 9S77M artillery fire control system, and as such contai ns threer VHF radio sets, one HF radio set, one HF receiver, secure voice e quipment, a P-193 field switchboard, and the "Fal'set" digital artillery fi re control system. However, none of this is provided with the model - only the two forward equipment lockers are provided inside the body.

This kit drops the 27 part cargo body of the base kit and adds 102 new par ts for the body, its windows, frame adapter rails, and the "Life Support" s ection (Russian term) which provides for a generator set, heater, vents and other equipment for use as a staff vehicle.

While no etched brass is included in the kit, most of the parts of this ve hicle - like the U.S. Army's M34 2 1/2 ton truck - are designed to be "sold ier-proof" or extremely sturdy so it is not a big problem. The tires are ne atly pressed vinyl but do have a center mold seam, still they run along the intersection of the tread pattern and are not too annoying.

Assembly is straightforward and starts with the multi-piece chassis and ru nning gear. Note that this kit uses different frame rails - parts C2-1 and C3-5 - and thus these must be located first. The wheels are not designed to roll nor can the front axle easily have the steering turned. They are simp le and very sturdy assemblies however and make for faster assembly.

The cab interior appears to be complete with all pedals and levers and ref lects the "civilian" style dashboard used by the original. All of the light s are included as clear styrene parst such as the three marker lights on th e cab roof and others around the vehicle.

The box body - kuzovoy-furgon in Russian - has three windows per side with skylights over each one and twin doors in the rear. The spare tire attache s to the left side door and the right is the one for general access to the inside of the vehicle. Access to the lockers is available from the outside and the hatches are separate parts, as well as fold-down windows in the cen ter of the body. Conveniently, all windows mount from outside so may be ins talled after painting - a nice touch!

Part C1-3 is the boarding ladder and may be either stowed in a rack under the body or attached to the rear of the body for use. These are shorter tha n the US style step ladders.

Directions are very nicely laid out and steps are kept short (but there ar e a lot of them!) to make it simple to build. For example, the chassis cons truction takes 52 steps and the cab 29 more! The body assembly begins with Step 82. Assembly is completed with Step 125.

Eleven (!) finishing options are provided, all in standard Soviet Army dar k green: Soviet Army, 1986 (registration 28-1 OP), Czech Army, 1980s (regis tration 300-54-77); Soviet Army, late 1980s (registration 32-90 AZ); Russia n Army, late 2000s (registration U 488 RS 61); Ukrainian Army (registration 07 27 R7); and six different sets of door markings - NVA, GSFG, Soviet/Rus sian Guards, Polish Army, Russian Army tricolor, or Ukrainian Army trident of Volodomyr. A complex decal sheet is included.

Overall, while the interior screams for an after-market kit to fill it (hi nt!) the basic model is quite sound and very nicely done. I do wish they wo uld do the matching trailer though!

Cookie Sewell

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