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Bilek's 1/35 WC-55 Dodge M6 37mm Gun Truck

 

By Ray Mehlberger

 

History

The Dodge WC-55 M6 anti-tank gun truck is based on the ĺ ton, all-wheel-drive, standard truck of the U.S. Army. A number of special vehicles were based on the 3/4 ton chassis:

Weapons Carriers WC-51 & 52
Command Car WC-53
Van WC-53 (carryall)
Ambulance WC-54
37mm Gun Truck WC-55 (the subject of this kit)
Command & Reconnaissance Car WC-56 (same as WC-53, but with a winch)
Radio Car WC-58
Telephone Maintenance Trucks WC-59 & 61
Emergency Repair Truck WC-60; and
Ambulance WC-64

The Dodge WC-55 M6 truck was equipped with a 37mm anti-tank gun with a light shield for the gun crew and first saw action in the early years of WWII. Due to its light shield, it proved to be rather vulnerable to enemy fire. However, it was fast and very mobile.

Tech Data:

Engine: Dodge 6 cylinder 80hp petrol engine
Length: 4.52m
Width: 2.29m
Height: 2.08m

The Kit

This kit is a re-boxing/re-release of an old Italeri kit. Matter of fact, only the box says Bilek. Everything inside - the instructions, decals, etc. say Italeri.

Actually, the molds go back to the mid 1970ís. This kit was originally produced by a Japanese firm called Max (later sometimes called Peerless/Max). Back then it was kit no. 3504 for them and sold for just under 8 bucks.

The decals are identical to the original Max kit that I have in my stash from back then.

The parts trees are laid out differently in places, but the parts are the same. The original kit had 3 figures in it though, where the Bilek/Italeri kit has boiled this down to just the driver.

The re-written Italeri instructions are easier to follow than the original Max ones. Those were all in Japanese at that time. Italeriís are multi-lingual, including English, and the assembly drawings are less complicated too. The very dark green plastic that the two kits are molded in is very similar in shade.

Although an old mold, the parts seem to have weathered the years well. I found no flash or warpage in the re-released Bilek kit. By the way, Italeri sells this same kit under their banner as kit no. 245. Max put all there parts in their kit into several cello bags, but Italeri insists on throwing the parts of their kits "naked" into their boxes- the Bilek boxing is this way too. This is one of my pet peeves with Italeri - they need to put stuff in cello bags!! My Bilek kit arrived with the steering wheel and 2 other small parts ripped off the trees and floating around the box.

Although Max went bankrupt, and all their molds were eventually sold to Italeri, their products were highly detailed and years ahead of the state of the art for armor kits back in the 70ís. Their molds still can hold their own against other armor kit companies even in todayís market.

Maxís last 3 announced armor kits were to be a U.S. dump truck, a Stuart M8 howitzer version tank, and the Styr RSO tractor with the wooden cab pulling a squeeze bore weapon. Italeri did do the wood cabin Styr this year, but the first 2 subjects mentioned never have appeared nor the squeeze bore weapon from them. Tamiya however offers the M8 in their line.

There are 6 very dark green parts trees in the Bilek kit. Also included is a clear parts tree.

The first (of the larger) parts trees has 42 parts on it: the tires, front floor board, seats, 2 alternate grills (one is not needed), & 4 very poorly detailed and inaccurate jerry cans with their holders molded integrally. These cans have only one central carrying handle on them. They should have 3 handles. Tamiyaís U.S. truck cargo load kit will provide better alternatives to these. However, you will have to do the holders from scratch using the Bilek/Italeri ones as kind of a guide for making these.

The second one of the larger parts trees has 47 parts on it: the rear axle, headlight housings, windshield frame, front fenders, front & rear bumpers, 2 leaf springs, dashboard, tools, control levers, and the radiator etc.

The third largest parts tree has 45 parts on it: the 37mm gun parts, 4 live rounds of ammo, the guns shield, the rear compartmentís floor board and wall sections, storage bins for ammo, driver figure, 2 rifles in leather boots, mud flaps, more tools, and a pail.

A fourth smaller tree has 9 body panel parts on it.

The fifth smaller parts tree has parts for the frame, 2 more leaf springs, a transmission piece, and a drive shaft. 5 pieces total here.

The final small tree has 2 rear side panels on it only.

A clear plastic tree contains the windshield piece with the wipers molded into it.

The instructions are in several languages, including English. They are actually the Italeri instructions shrunk down. These instructions are 8 small pages long, with 13 steps of assembly and a decal and painting drawing on the last page.

Decals are only offered for one unit. Unfortunately, there is no mention as to what outfit this is or where it served. Too bad!

I highly recommend this kit to all those modelers who like US WWII soft-skinned vehicles. The only gripe I have is with the inaccurate jerry cans. You will also have to drill out the many cup marks molded into a breech guard, part no. 99. These were actually holes on the real gun and not cups as molded in the kit part. Some string will also have to be scrounged up to wrap around the winch on the front bumper.

All in all, it is nice to see this old kit again, in what must be its third or fourth reincarnation. I am sure that it will find itís way into a lot of new armor modelerís collections that did not have a chance to get it in the past.




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