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Eastern Express GAZ-66 with AA Gun ZU-23-2

Peter Brown

1/35th plastic kit from Eastern Express. UK price around 17-18.   The basic GAZ-66 truck has been available as kit C783501 for some time from a company called "Scale Ltd" in St Petersburg. Eastern Express's kit is the same parts and these parts are marked on the sprues in Russian credited - if I have used my Russian-English dictionary correctly - "Forgers" or "Forgemasters".

The kit represents the Russian 2-tonne,  four-wheel-drive truck GAZ-66 which came out in the mid-1960s and has since been used widely in Russian service and many other armed forces. Parts are moulded here in black plastic - the Scale Ltd version has cab and body in green and chassis in black plastic - and is well detailed with cab interior and basic engine and radiator parts, along with full under-chassis detail such as prop shafts, a small winch and the exhaust system. There are many small details including wing mirrors and windscreen wipers. Windscreen, cab door and rear glass and headlight lenses are provided in clear plastic which are maybe a little too thick in places. Parts are well enough moulded, there is a little flash and a few sink marks but nothing which could not be easily tidied up.

The bodywork provided is an open-back cargo style with simple bench seats, side extensions are moulded in but the instructions tell you to cut these off when used with the gun as the kit intends. GAZ-66 are used with a variety of different body styles which would make easy conversions. Tyres including one spare are moulded in a rubbery substance which is not as soft as some kits provide. Their tread detail is good but a line of flash, even if it is only a small one, crosses the tread area and this will need a little care and patience to remove. The process may be helped by the firmer texture of the mouldings.
Eastern Express's version comes with an extra sprue with the two-barrelled ZU-23 23mm AA gun. Introduced in the 1960s, the guns are the same type used on the ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled  system fitted onto a simple two-wheeled mounting. It was built under license in China and Egypt, and in one or other forms it has been and still is widely used. In action it is crewed by two men, the wheels are raised up so that the gun can sit on large pads on a triangular base. Kit parts come in light grey plastic, the instruction sheet tells you to leave off the wheel parts altogether and fit the gun onto the truck. It would be simple enough to display it towed or on its own in a diorama setting, while there is no word of the gun being available separately the whole set-up works out as good value and the UK importers actually price both at less than the cost of the basic truck on its own in its Scale Ltd form.

No crew figures for truck or gun are included, the box top shows a plain sand vehicle which is not mentioned in the painting instructions which only covers one Russian vehicle in typical scheme plain green cab and body on black chassis. Decal sheet gives marking such as number plates and tactical numbers for two more Russian vehicles plus UNPF number plates and a set of blue UN letters which would tie in with the box-side picture showing a vehicle with tilt in UN service which will no doubt be in its way as a separate kit in due course.

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