by: Darren Baker [ ]
The Zil-131 family of trucks started life back in 1966 and were built up until 1994, over that time 1,000,000 trucks were produced in various forms over that period. I have read that a version of the Zil-131 was in production up until 2012, but I am unable to verify that information. The Zil-131 in its various forms can be found in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and is still widely used by the military and civilians today. The Zil-131 in model kit form has had something of a breakthrough of late, ICM has released several offerings and even Revell of Germany has released an offering (ICM kit I believe), now it is Bronco Models that is sticking their heads above the parapet and released a Zil-131 of their own. So what does this offer that others do not?
This offering from Bronco Models is supplied in a cardboard tray with a separate card lid, despite not being the most appealing military vehicle Bronco Models has supplied a very nice art work on the lid. The contents break down as follows:
11 grey sprues
Plastic canvas cover
A clear sprue
2 decal sheets
A photo etched fret
A length of string
A length of cord
7 vinyl tyres
An instruction booklet
Taking a look at the contents of this offering reveals no obvious horror stories as regards moulding. The parts are cleanly produced and free from any flash that I can see. The parts are well laid out and so providing easy access to remove the parts from the sprues. The sprue gates are a reasonable size and so should not create any major issues as regards clean-up. The sprues are all packaged in their own plastic bags, except where there are identical sprues; this does a good job of preventing damage to the mouldings. It is stated that this model has been produced in co-operation with SKP Model, but I am unable to identify what that co-operation was/is. The only potential issue I can see so far is that the plastic feels different to what I am familiar to as coming from Bronco Models.
From the outset I can tell you that this is not a re-boxed ICM offering, this does look to be a new product to me. The model begins with the chassis of the model and this is a multipart affair. The chassis rails do have some minor ejector pin marks on the inner face that will be very difficult to remedy from an access point of view. There is a glorious level of detail provided by Bronco Models, but I cannot help but think that using separate ĎUí bolts and clasps for adding the rear strengthening chassis rail is taking things a little far; I can hear the complaints now about broken and lost parts.
One of the issues with tackling the chassis of a model in the multipart way is that there is a risk of a chassis is not true/square, what I have started to do is grab a building square and place the element against the square as you build to insure it remains true. Bronco Models really has provided a lot of small elements to this area of the model in order that it is as accurate as possible; however I am concerned that this level of detail will deter many modellers from tackling it.
Having looked at the various parts that go to make up this area of the model and the instruction booklet covering it, I can say that this is a complex and very detailed area of the model. The one area that is a little weak detail wise in my opinion is the front leaf springs, the detail is a little weak and is surprisingly one of the few elements that are moulded as part of the main chassis rail.
The axles are another area where Bronco Models has provided very good detail, but on these elements the detail is not going to drive you crazy during assembly. With that said you will need to check carefully on the placement of some parts when it comes to the rear suspension, to that end Bronco Models has provided some exploded drawings to help the modeller get it right, as with most things take it steady and you should get there. One thing I do not believe I have seen before is the use of photo etched parts to represent the seal around the fuel tanks; I know it is now common in jerry can seams.
The wheels of the vehicle have been made up of no less than seven part and that is not counting the tyre itself. The detail looks good to me and the wheels will be able to be rotated once assembled, I believe. The tyres for the model have good tread detail, but there is a seam line running around the centre of the tread detail. The tyres are also vinyl rubber offerings which is a bone of contention with some modellers. The tyres are also solid as opposed to hollow or pneumatic.
The engine supplied with this model is possibly the best I have ever seen in this scale, as such this is a very complex aspect of the build. In order to provide some idea of just how complex and detailed this engine is, Bronco Models has supplied elements such as the diesel injectors as separate parts for each side. I am pleased to see that Bronco Models has not thrown photo etch at this area of the model just for the hell of it, and has instead provided mostly plastic parts. I should also thank Bronco Models for having supplied a good number of exploded drawings as completing this element without them would be a chore. Once the engine is build all that will really be needed is some cabling for that final added touch.
The next area covered is the cab of the truck. I am pleased to see that Bronco Models has applied as much attention to this area as they have to the hidden areas and the firewall has been detailed on both faces. Surprisingly it is the inner face of the firewall with the least detail, but then again these trucks were built functional not comfortable. Bronco Models has over engineered some areas, things such as having to assemble the driverís seat frame from 5 separate parts before getting to the actual seat itself. While talking about seats I like that the twin seat back has detail making obvious that it is two seats, but the rest of the seat cushions have no detail and so have a brand new look to them.
Back to the pluses and itís the frame of the cab that comes in for praise; it is almost like putting the real think together with glue rather than welds. Bronco Models has supplied detail like separate inner wings, and it takes three parts for each inner wing. The passenger side of cab has two different options, and while I can see the difference I do not know what that change indicates. The wings and front grill are supplied as a single moulding, a very nicely done single moulding I should add.
The doors are supplied door cards and handles; Bronco Models has also supplied the modeller with the ability to depict side windows up or down. The hood/bonnet has very nice detail on the inner face and has been provided with the option of having it raised or lowered, I like this offer due to the display option. The front winch has been cicely replicated here and really looks the part, but I wish Bronco Models had supplied something better than string to replicate the cable. It is worth noting that the winch is optional on this model.
The truck mudguards are supplied as two options; the difference is a the lights. While talking about the lights the brush guards have been supplied as plastic parts or if you prefer photo etch, if you opt for the photo etch option Bronco Models has fortunately also supplied a forma, just as well as it would be very hard to shape the photo etch without it. The cab roof has also been supplied as two options providing the option of two or a single hatch. The wing mirrors are a nice feature of the truck I like and surprisingly easy to add to the model. So with all of those high points what are the negatives? The only real issue I have observed here are the number of ejector pin marks that need to be filled and sanded, areas such as the roof of the cab.
The wooden load bed is next to come in for attention and the news is good in this area. The load bed detail is good on both faces, so much so that I find myself wondering why if this moulding can be free of the marks why are they present elsewhere. The bed and sides are wooden and while there is no woodgrain there is a very subtle texture that I like very much. The metal frame work that supports the truck bed is well replicated, but again the ejector pin marks make an appearance in hard to reach locations. I am pleased to see that along with all of the other details that have been replicated on the chassis the bed is not a poor cousin and is of the same very high quality.
Going topside again I am pleased to see that the bench frames that run down both sides of the truck bed can be shown as benches or folded up as a part of the side frame. The support legs of this frame are very small and care will need to be taken during removal from the sprue and placement on the model in your chosen configuration. The metal hoops for the tarpaulin support frame are supplied as a single solid moulding for use when not deployed or individual hoops when a tarpaulin will be used or just because you want the skeleton in place.
Also provided by Bronco Models is an injection moulded deployed tarpaulin, externally this part is well detail, but the inside is a horror story of filling and sanding of ejection pin marks, and quite large ones at that. Donít get me wrong I love that Bronco Models has supplied a fine string to represent the tie-downs along the side of the tarpaulin to secure and tension it, but the moulding is just too thick in my opinion. I believe that the modellers who are of a skill level to tackle this model would also be able to fashion a tarpaulin for the model and so have more display options. I feel that in addition to the moulded tarpaulin a scale plan for making your own would have been a very good inclusion.
The stowage rack that sits between the cab and the load bed has been very nicely replicated. The frame that supports the spare wheel is particular well done for an area that is hidden away from most angles. One thing I would consider is to leave off the spare wheel and the locking arm until after the model is painted.
Bronco Models has supplied four finishing options for the model:
East German vehicle of the NVA/DDR 1980ís (Late)
Ukraine armed forces (Late)
Czechoslovakian Peoples Army (Early)
Finnish Defence Force truck for towing a 122mm Howitzer (Early)
I do have a little confusion here in that Bronco Models identify this model as an early version vehicle, but have now provided finishing options for two late production vehicles. I am however pleased to have these options as they are all very different in look.
This offering from Bronco Models is a very high end offering of the Zil-131 and as such requires a good skill set of any modeller looking to tackle the model. The kit has been produced with some very small parts included and it is these and some of the photo etched parts that will make assembly difficult. The detail provided in areas of the model that will likely never be seen after the build is incredible, this level of detail does provide a huge scope when it comes to display such as destroyed, damaged or being worked on. This very high parts count and small parts does I feel make this a model that is only suitable for those with a very good grasp of the hobby. The downside of this offering is the number of ejector pin marks, a number of which are in hard to reach locations. All that really needs adding to the base model is some cable and pipe detail to result in a stunning scale model.