Mention Germans riding around on motorcycles in World War II and many people will think of that famous cinematic moment when Steve McQueen attempted to leap a barbed wire fence on one. In reality they were used in a similar way to the cavalry of old, for reconnaissance, patrols etc. Several models already exist of these machines, including ones by Fujimi and Hasegawa, but this is the first time one has been realised in 'soft' plastic.
One of the major types of motorcycle used by the German army was the BMW R75, and that is the machine modelled here. Over 16,500 were produced between 1940 and the end of the war, and they served in all theatres, however their importance gradually diminished as the reconnaissance role was taken over by the VW Kubelwagen and other car types. This bike had a 745 cc engine, and was usually fitted with a sidecar, as in this kit.
Our initial reaction to the bike is that it was tremendously long, and indeed it measures 40 mm (2.88 metres) from front to back, whereas the original measured only 2.4 metres. We were also worried by the machine gun mounted on the sidecar - it sits on a single arm support which goes directly into the vehicle, whereas the gun support was usually mounted on a bar across the sidecar. In all other respects however this is a pretty fair model, which comes in a number of parts that require assembly. The plastic used is quite soft, but happily it is of a type that takes glue extremely well, so no problems with construction.
The bike comes with up to three riders. The driver is leaning forward and has separate arms to correctly grasp the handlebars. We found he did not quite reach these, but the soft plastic makes it easy to bend the handlebars sufficiently to solve this. His pillion passenger is clinging on to the ring handle in front of his seat, and the sidecar passenger is, well, just sitting there, clearly not holding the machine gun that is just under his nose. He fits into the sidecar nicely (partly because he has no legs!), but is prevented from fully reclining by the spare wheel behind his back. All three men seem to wear greatcoats which might be expected to be the M1934 rubberised version, although it is hard to tell if this is the case.
The remaining two figures are also dressed as if prepared to ride a motorcycle, although the greatcoats seem much too short. Their goggles are on their helmets, revealing faces which are quite simply the most terrifying non-human visage we have ever seen. Their weapons are equally bad, being poorly proportioned and basically two-dimensional slabs with some engraving on one side. All in all an unimpressive piece of sculpting.
Each bike comes with two apparently identical sets of handlebars (why?), and a choice of MG34 or MG42 machine guns for the sidecar. The soft but glueable and paintable plastic presents no flash to be trimmed, and all parts fit together easily to make a very robust and reasonably attractive model. Despite the problems with the proportions we liked the bike and crew very much, but the less said about the other figures the better.