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Italeri #297 (Zvezda) ZIS-5

Cookie Sewell

Kit Review: Italeri (Zvedza) 1/35 Scale Kit No. 297; ZIS-5 Soviet Truck; 160 parts (147 in grey styrene, seven in hard black vinyl, and six in clear styrene); price between $17 and $20

Advantages: Clean, useful moldings with all of the main parts of the ZIS truck portrayed; nice kit at reasonable price

Disadvantages: some softness to the moldings, typical "flat" mold assembly procedures

Rating: Recommended

Recommendation: for any WWII diorama and Soviet Army fans

It is surprising to many people that the Soviet Army got through the Second World War with very few all-terrain trucks in its force. Considering the trouble that the Wehrmacht had with Russian steppes and muddy roads, one would think that the Soviets would have spent a higher amount of effort on developing them. Yet, for the most part of the war they did with the GAZ-AA and GAZ-AAA 4 x 2 and 6 x 4 light trucks, and the ZIS-5 and ZIS-6 4 x 2 and 6 x 4 medium trucks. They eventually solved their need for all-wheel drive trucks with the Lend Lease provided Studebaker US6 6 x 6 2 tonner.

The ZIS-5 was the standard three metric ton cargo truck in use throughout the war, and met most Soviet needs very well. It was adapted into a long-body variant with more cargo capacity by adding a second driven axle to become the ZIS-6, half-track drive to become the ZIS-42, and a "box body" as the ZIS-44.  A simplified wooden cab with flat fenders (ZIS-5V) was developed to speed production and often times this came with either one or no headlights. 

Italeri's effort is the third ZIS-5 kit to hit the market, and as a point of reference, is midway between the other two in quality. To be perfectly honest, it is actually the simplified ZIS-5V version and not a ZIS-5. As noted, it is better than the first one to hit the market, the AER kit, but the molding quality is not as good as the SDS/FORT version from Ukraine. It is more complete, however, as the FORT model did not include any of the brake system which the AER and the Zvezda kits both include. In addition, the Zvezda kit also comes with two sets of number plate markings and a five-part figure of a driver. This figure is a very colorful sort with big mustache and curly hair, and if the directions can be believed, can be posed as either in the driver's seat or checking out the engine from a crouching position. If used, I suggest letting him do the driving.

Unlike the AER kit, which had miserable molding quality and suffered from parts which were too thin, incompletely molded, of loaded with ejector pins and sink marks, the Zvezda kit is pretty clean and sink-mark free. Parts breakdown and assembly is of the typical Eastern European "flat" mold layout, with a number of pieces (nine) needed to assemble the basic chassis. Happily, the prototype was redesigned in the V variant to use as little machine work as possible, so it lends itself easily to this sort of kit production. A complete engine is included, as is the option of leaving the side panels to the hood off so that it can be seen. Doors are also separate to permit optional positions. The cargo bed is clear, but most of the Soviet trucks were used for cargo and not troop transport, so that is pretty much on the money.

The painting directions show the entire truck being painted Soviet Army Green (FS34079) but for most Soviet trucks, the chassis was black and the upper works were painted green or ochre. The chassis included the wheels, axles, springs, running gear, and any additional items such as power takeoffs. The rest, including fuel tanks and tool boxes, were usually painted the overall color.

Overall, unless you really want a ZIS-5 with the steel cab, I suggest skipping the AER effort. If you want a quickly assembled and neat little model, the SDS/FORT kits are the best. But if you want an accurate version with some minor compromises, this kit is as good as they come.

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