DAK "Topolino" (German/Italian Light) Staff Car
w/Crew & IFS Infantry Cart
Bronco Models 1:35 Scale Kit No. CB35156
Build Review by Terry Ashley
Updates shown in blue text
In 1935 the Italian Fiat company began work on a small car for low income families, which became known as the "Topolino" (little mouse). Powered by a 4-cylinder 569cc engine it was capable of 85 km/h. Construction was advanced for its day and although sold as a 2-seater, it was strong enough to carry 5 people. Production started in 1936 at Fiat and it was soon judged a success. A close copy of the Fiat 500 was made in France as the Simca 5 the same year, and in Germany the NSU-Fiat was built from 1937. At the start of WWII many of these cars were pressed into military service. Most were used as run-about's by the Italian and German armies, seeing service in Europe, North Africa and Russia. It was a rugged little car that stood up well to military use, many were "liberated" and used by Allied armies as they drove the German's across France and Belgium.
The kit can be built in civilian guise as it was often used in military service with just a paintjob or as a fully militarised DAK version with additional items such as Notek light, tail lights, tools and fender width indicators plus a roof jerry can rack and the bonus of an IF8 (or infanteriefahrzeug ausf 8) Infantry Cart which was one of the most common infantry supply carts of WWII.
The kit comes in the standard sized Bronco box (as with the Jeep) and consists of:
- 150 parts in light beige plastic
- 9 parts in clear plastic
- 16 parts in grey plastic for the figures
- 42 etched brass parts
- 1 decal sheet
- 1- 16 page colour instruction booklet
The standard of moulding is exceptionally high with clean crisp parts without any discernible flash or pin marks seen after assembly with just the usual mould lines to be removed. There are numerous very small parts that will need care removing from the sprues and in cleaning up the sprue bur and the mould lines
The main body in moulded in one piece with quite thin body panels for a good scale appearance, this
is the largest part in the kit and comes packaged in its own clear Acrylic container for added protection with just a single moulding point on the roof. There is a little ‘roughage’ for want of a better word as it’s not really flash in the usual sense around the lower edges/wheel wells that is easily removed.
Details in the kit include the full engine and radiator, separate chassis frame, interior details with separate doors and engine hood, the suspension parts especially the front and steering linkages are quite small and delicate requiring care but allows the front wheels to be positioned at any angle for some animation. The separate wheel hub caps have “Fiat” embossed as per the original with nice tread pattern on the wheels and you get two spare wheels for the rear mounting allow you to mount one or two spares as was sometimes seen.
There are numerous small etched parts for added detail such as the windscreen wipers, radiator badge and decoration, the engine hood latches, door handles plus the DAK items of Notek light mounting, shovel mountings, number plates front and rear, the Jerry can rack straps and the trailer tub as a large etched part.
The compartment behind the engine has the rear interior bulkhead with the fuel tank plus side walls with nice details included; these also form the insides of the wheel wells as well as the radiator bulkhead. This compartment is basically empty as it serves as the air intake for the radiator that is located behind the engine facing backwards.
Assembly of the engine was quite straightforward apart for some very small plastic and etched parts that need care in handling; the fit was good with the only alteration being to shorten the pin for the fan by about 0.5mm so the fan cleared the radiator better. If showing the hood open to display the engine you may wish to add the wiring and other finer details if you have the references available?
The engine is attached to the chassis (after you have assembled the chassis as below) by way of just two locating points and you must ensure the engine sits level with the chassis and also that the springs ends are aligned with the suspension arms on the chassis. There is some movement possible with the engine locating points so this alignment is important for the proper alignment of the front suspension.
The engine compartment has the rear bulkhead with half the fuel tank, the other half protrudes through the bulkhead into the cab compartment but as you can’t see this isn’t a problem, the fuel lines can be added if you are going to have the top louvered doors open to display the compartment interior.
Assembly of the engine compartment requires a little care to get the front side panels positioned correctly as there is only fine raised lines to indicate the correct position on the bulkhead plus the cross member at the front, if these aren’t positioned correctly it can affect the fit of the side panels to the body, fenders and the front engine cover later.
The assembled compartment fits snugly to the body pan recesses without any problems as does the smaller radiator bulkhead with the engine fitting snugly inside the compartment without any snags or other issues.
The rear differential and drive train has four parts with separate side spring units and this sub-assembly is attached the main chassis frame to form the full chassis. The engine assembly is then added to the chassis along with the exhaust pipe and fine front wheel mounts and steering linkages with the full chassis sub-assembly glued to the underside of the floor pan.
The wheels are moulded in one piece with separate brake drums and hub caps which as mentioned include the “Fiat” name embossing. The attachment of the front wheels to the steering mounting is quite small and care will be needed when fitting and not to put pressure on the join after assembly.
Assembly of the chassis was again quite straightforward with care needed for the fine parts especially the delicate front suspension arms and steering linkages. There was a small issue with the rear springs and differential which is separate from the main chassis, the fit was fine but after the chassis is attached to the body the ride height at the back was slightly too low. This is only a little under 1mm but the visual effect is greater as the wheels sit too high inside the rear wheel wells but this isn’t apparent until the final fitting together of the chassis, wheels and body. The easiest method to remedy this after assembly is to put a 2mm square section of plastic rod as a spacer between the underside of the body pan and the spring unit, this will ensure the ride height is correct (see image). The 2mm spacer is due to there being a space between the floor and the springs of about 1.5mm so the 2mm spacer block accounts for this as well as lowering the axle to the correct ride height. You could also make sure the rear suspension arms are angled slightly down for the main chassis frame and not parallel during assembly to arrive at the same result.
The wheels are designed with a small plastic ring that secures the wheel to the brake drum pin allowing the wheel to rotate but given the very small clearances between the parts it’s virtually impossible to not get glue where it shouldn’t go so just glue the brake drum and hub caps to the wheels and glue the brake drum to the axle mountings, it’s far easier.
I also altered the assembly by gluing the brake drums to the axle mountings before fitting the wheels due to the fragile nature of the front suspension in particular and letting the glue dry completely before fitting the wheels. Also note you can fit the front wheels at any angle for steering animation if you wish.
The insides of the doors are free of pin marks and include the storage flap as well as the moulded on door handle and latch detail.
There were no issues with the interior as everything fitted perfectly for a quick and easy assembly, you would obviously paint the interior before proceeding further. Also note if using the driver's figure this must be fitted before adding the body as it is hard to fit later.
Added to the grill are an etched name badge and top adornment, plus the fine etched side securing latches with this whole cover opening on the real vehicle for engine access.
The windows are clear plastic with etched door handles, windscreen wipers, and the headlights are attached to the front fenders and there is a choice of lights with different style blackout strips. There are alternate windows, fully closed or open with the front section slid back as per the original and this gives a choice as does fitting the doors open or closed.
Added to the lower sides under the doors are the step/guard panels as well as choice of front bumpers, one full width bumper bar and one with just small bumpers bars in front of both fenders. Images indicate many vehicles had no bumper bars at all so you basically have a choice of three configurations and it’s best to refer to references for the appropriate bumper configuration. There are some fine raised locating marks on the front of the fenders for the bumper bars so if not fitting the bars just trim off these marks.
At the back is the spare wheel recess with a choice of single or double spare wheels, the single wheel has the normal hub cap while the double wheel stack has the central retaining bracket. The single wheel being more appropriate for conscripted civilian vehicles and the double wheels for the specific DAK and other military modified vehicles although these is no set rule for this.
The wipers blades are two very small and thin etched parts that WILL bend as you remove them from the fret, so after straightening these you have to glue the arm to the blade before fitting to the small locating stub on the body and will require a lot of care to fit. You should also note the Tololino was only fitted with a single wiper blade on the left or right depending if the car had left or right hand drive, the kit should have the left wiper fitted. The instructions are a little misleading on this showing the two blades fitted in step 10 and 11, so just fit the left blade for the correct arrangement, the second wiper is included as a spare given the fragile nature of the etched wipers.
The fit of the doors is very good if closed as is the fit of the separate top louvered panels on the forward body and as mentioned these cam be shown open for a diorama setting if preferred? The clear windows need care when fitting as it’s easy to get glue on the window while fitting as they don’t include the frames.
The body fits neatly to the floor with the fit excellent along the sides and the rear but some work was needed to get the front fenders to fit properly to the body, I first glued the body along the sides and rear joins and left for the glue to dry completely before tackling the front end.
When it came to fitting the fenders to the engine compartment sides it became apparent that the left fender had a very slight outward twist which left a gap of a little over 1mm between the engine compartment panel and the fender, the right fender/engine compartment panel join on the other hand was very good.
Before gluing the fenders into position you need to decide if you are going to show the engine hood open or closed, if open there are two hinges on the front of the chassis that mate with the small hinge stubs inside the lower hood. If having the hood open the fenders need to be glued to the engine compartment side panels and the left fender will need to be firmly held into position until the glue dries completely to compensate to the slight outward twist mentioned above. The hood can then be simply glued to the hinge stubs at the desired angle as per the images.
If gluing the hood closed I firstly glued the top and left side of the hood/body join as these fitted perfectly and when the glue had dried I then “coaxed” the left fender back into the correct position and firmly held in place until the glue had dried. This needs a little care to get the fender in the correct position and while the amount of fender twist was only very small due to the contours of the fenders was quite stubborn about being aligning correctly, but as can be seen by the images everything lines up okay after this process. And of course this won’t be needed if the fenders on your kit are all okay, test fit first to see if there is an issue before gluing.
With the body in place the additional items such as the head lights, tail light and the small etched door handles as well as the lower running boards and the bumper bars if you are using them and there weren’t any problems with these parts.
The inclusions for the DAK version include the Notek light with etched mounting, the shovel with etched brackets, the pennant post and the two fender width indicators at the front while at the back are two different tail light configurations with a choice of three style of etched number plates.
On the roof is a finely moulded jerry can rack with etched straps to hold the two jerry cans in place, the jerry cans are the same as in other Bronco kits that come in two halves with engraved details along with the etched central flange and separate handles and filler cap for nice representations of German Jerry Cans. There are locating studs on the roof for the rack and if not fitting the rack these studs can easily be trimmed off.
It should be noted the DAK configuration in the kit is based on a preserved Topolino in a museum exhibit and may or may not be an authentic period configuration, so you can use some or all of the additions included in the kit as you see fit.
On the roof is a finely moulded jerry can rack with etched straps to hold the two jerry cans in place, the jerry cans come in two halves with engraved details for a ABP manufactured can along with the etched central flange with separate handles and filler cap. There is a slight dimensional issue with the Jerry Cans in that the Height and Width measure out well to the actual scale size of 13.5mm and 9.9mm but they are slightly too thick and the handle slightly too narrow. The thickness is over by a little under 0.5mm (not a lot in the scheme of things) but the handles are about 1mm too narrow at the base and the result is the handles don’t align with the sides of the cans like they should but are noticeably inboard.
Fitting the rack to the roof is quite an exercise as there the four studs on the roof with small pins that fit into the holes in the etched mounting strips (parts P9) but there is no locating marks on the plastic rack frame (part C3) so it’s just guesswork and if guessed wrong the strips will not align with the roof studs. The only solution for this is to assembly the rack in situ on the roof by first gluing the etched strips to the roof studs and then carefully gluing the rack frame to the top of the strips. This is a simply butt join so you need to take care to get the rack frame positioned perfectly and using a thicker cyanoacrylate is advisable to give a little working time before the glue cures.
With the plastic frame in place I then firmly glued the jerry cans to the strips to give rigidity to the assembly as the etched strips will bend easily if pressure is applied, with the jerry cans in place I then added the two part top securing straps to complete the assembly which is probably one of the most time consuming sub-assemblies of the whole kit. Seeing as the rack is rather non-standard it could be advisable to simply bypass this step and cut off the roof studs to save a lot of work.
Two sets of wheels are supplied, one with spoke wheels and the other with solid wheel discs although the instructions only show the solid disc wheels. If fitting to the back of the Topolino there is a small tow bar to be added to the back of the body with the tow bar fitting to the trailer or it can be used separate as you wish.
It should be noted this is a completely new cart and not the same as the one included with the previous Bronco kit CB35034 2.8cm s.Pz.B.41 Anti-Tank Gun and assembly will require a little care. The frame floor and sides are extremely fine but fit together well although you do need to take care to get the corners and other joins in the exact right position and let dry completely before fitting the etched box.
The etched box just needs the sides bent at right angles using a good etched bending tool but is it is essential to have the bends precisely on the edges of the box floor and I mean precisely, even the smallest excess width will see the box not fit inside the plastic framework. To get the bends edges perfect I had to first bend using the bending tool and then with the box supported on a hard surface used a small jewellers hammer to lightly tap along the bends until the sides were bent perfectly level with the floor section, tap very lightly and with the head even so as not the damage the etched sides and after a bit of careful hammer work the bends were tight enough for the box to fit perfectly into the box frame.
From there the inner duckboards fitted perfectly and you can add the top frame as well as axles and other details as per the instructions including the wheels, either the solid and spoke wheels as you prefer. The trailer is attached to the bar on the back of the “Topolino” by a simply of a simple U bolt that can slid along the bar and I assume this is how it was fitted in the museum as I doubt this would have been a satisfactory fitting in actual use with the trailer hitch sliding all over the place as you went around a corner?
There is no personal gear supplied for the figures apart from one MP40 but it should be easy to scrounge the required gear from any other kit or figure set to use with the figures.
|Option 1: Unidentified Army Unit
Based on wartime photo, possible a French Army unit?
Option 2: Unidentified DAK Unit
It should be noted this configuration is based on a museum exhibit and may not be authentic.
Option 3: Unidentified Wehrmacht Unit
Overall the fit of the parts was very good but care is needed due to the many small parts included in the kit. The standard of moulding is very high with some very delicate details which match reference photos very well but due to this and some assembly sequences needing care this kit isn’t really suited to young or inexperienced modellers. But the end result gives a very impressive kit that given the level of detail could be the centre piece of a diorama or excellent scene “filler”.
The inclusion of the IF8 Infantry Cart and figures is a also a nice bonus and can be used in any situation away for the kit which offers many possibilities for dioramas being used on most fronts during WWII and by various owners as well as a civilian car.