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Mercedes Unimog by Wiking Review


Please note: The opinions expressed in our reviews are the views of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the 1/87 Vehicle Club.

model critique by Bill Cawthon

New Wiking Unimog is World-Class Model

Wiking is the world's oldest continuously operating manufacturer of 1/87 (HO) scale plastic vehicle models. The company was founded by Friedrich Pelzer in 1938 and began producing HO scale vehicles in 1948. Many of the features we now take for granted, like clear windows and interiors, were first introduced by Wiking. With over 250 models in their current catalog, they are one of the leading producers of 1/:87 scale vehicles in the world. Wiking is also the world's leading manufacturer of 1/:160 scale vehicle models.

In recent years, Wiking has begun facing stiff competition, most notably from Busch Automodelle. Busch has built on the program it bought when it took over Otto Duvé's Praliné in 1993 by producing models of increasingly sophisticated detail. Busch's 49100 Mercedes-Benz W230 C-Class sedan is a good example of just how far the bar has been raised in only a few years.

The newest models from Wiking show the company is fully equal to the challenge. The Wiking 372 01 33 Unimog U400 model released in December, 2000, is nothing short of outstanding. It is by far the most detailed Unimog model Wiking has ever produced and is superior to the Unimog models I have seen from Roco and Kibri. In addition to a wealth of molded and factory-assembled body and chassis detail, a separate sprue includes rear-view mirrors, trailer hitches and high-mounted headlight/turn signal units for the modeler to attach; completing a very nice model to add to a display or layout. Since the U400 will be distributed in the U.S. by Freightliner, the Wiking model is fair game not just for American collectors, but for modern-era railroaders wishing to remain prototypical. Due to their awesome towing capacity, Unimogs are used for light switching and maintenance duties by American railroads and several light rail system operators in North America. Unimogs are also in use for snow removal and fighting forest fires.

The Wiking 372 01 33's prototype is the latest version of the Unimog introduced by DaimlerChrysler in the Spring of 2000. The Wiking model has a yellow cab and silver-gray load body on a black chassis. The interior is done in a different shade of gray. As you would expect, the molding is sharp with lots of fine detail that holds up well even under magnification. Headlights and turn signals are printed since the bumper-mounted headlights of the full-size Unimog do not lend themselves to the more typical clear inserts.

The Mercedes' 3-point star on the grille and "U400" markings on the sides of the cab are well-defined and sharp. The model scales out well compared to Mercedes-Benz published specs for the short wheelbase U400. Overall length is a scale 5100mm (58.62mm) with a wheelbase of scale 3080mm (35.40mm). For a complete set of dimensions and specifications for the real U400, go to: http://www.mercedes-benz.com/e/ecars/unimog/techu400.htm. The interior is nicely-done including the Vario-Pilot panel on top of the dashboard. Even the small Telligent shift box is correctly located on the console. These are important because they are two of the key features of the new Unimog. Vario-Pilot allows the instrument panel and steering to be shifted for either left-hand-drive or right-hand-drive operation. The Telligent system allows automatic up-or-down shifting to compensate for varying loads and engine speeds. Wiking seems to have begun taking particular notice of interiors. Speaker grilles and vents often omitted by Wiking competitors are becoming common items on new Wiking products. The tires are worthy of special notice. The tires on the Wiking 372 01 33 are models in their own right and have the full tread pattern reproduced in miniature. This is something I have not seen before on a Unimog model from any manufacturer.

Wiking will no doubt produce variations on the new Unimog including snowplow and firefighting versions. Perhaps, for once, they will unbend a bit and make an American LaFrance version for their North American fans. Unimog fans wishing to get a glimpse of the real firefighting version may want to take a look at this press release from American LaFrance: http://www.freightliner.com/corp/press_release.asp?id=221

Whether you're a 'Mog fan, or a collector who admires a truly well-made model, I highly recommend adding the Wiking 372 01 33 Unimog U400 to your collection. You can order direct from Crescent Station or Dellergo (Tom Kaseler also has the promotional models in the PC box) or your hobby shop can order it from Flint Imports (Wiking's recommended U.S. distributor). Prices I've seen run around $19.00-$20.00 except Walthers On-Line which wants $23.99.

Bill Cawthon