Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
One of the great advantages of not building kits when you first buy them is that on occasion you can compare an old standard with a fresh, new kit of the same subject. Most of the time the comparison isn't all that much fun, as the new kit almost invariably skunks the older one. This is quite true with Tamiya kits, as their new models set the standard that all others must follow, while their early ones established many a "cottage industry" pioneer in fixing Tamiya's mistakes.
Skybow has been one of the very best, even though they only really have four kits on the market right now (two M38A1 Jeeps and two T214 Dodge trucks). This kit, which numerically was the first one in Skybow's stable, actually came out nearly a year after the WC 56/57 "Patton's Command Car" 3/4 ton command car version.
The other kit has a more convoluted history. Originally released in 1975 by Asian manufacturer Peerless Max, it was one of five kits of the Dodge T214 family of light WWII trucks: the WC-51/52 weapons carrier, the WC-54 ambulance, the WC-56/57 command car, the M6 37mm self-propelled antitank gun, and the WC-61/62 6 x 6 weapons carrier variant. All five kits shared the same common sprues, and only the body and options were changed. Originally the kits also had metal axles. However, in the mid 1980s Peerless Max went under and most of their molds were purchased by Italeri. Italeri did some cleanup and redesign work on the kit, which resulted in its using all plastic components. Due to their marketing arrangements with the Testors Corporation, Testors reboxed the kits under their label and sold them in the US as Testors/Italeri kits. Later, the kits were simply sold under the Italeri label, and in the late 1990s the molds were loaned to Bilek of the Czech Republic.
Both kits are of the same subject – the T214 engine powered 3/4 ton weapons carrier, nicknamed the "Beep" for "Big Jeep" due to its appearance. They can be built as either the WC-51 version without winch, or with one as the WC-52. Skybow includes an M24A2 pedestal mount for a .50 caliber M2HB machine gun, and the Testors kit includes two figures and a top in the "up" position.
The Testors kit includes the same incomprehensible decal sheet that was used by Peerless Max. It provides two sets of serial numbers, one Army and one Marine Corps, but none of the rest of the markings make much sense. Better to find another sheet; while Testors/Italeri always provided very good decals, they're not worth much when they're this far off. On the other hand, the Skybow kit comes with a very complete sheet with markings for three different vehicles: the only problem is their explanations are totally off the mark! The three include a vehicle from C Battery, 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 3AD; A Company, 15th Tank Battalion, 6th Army; and one from what should have been B Company, 1st Battalion 507th Parachute Infantry, 82nd Airborne, but the markings now read "82AB 107 1B-4". A variety of stars and labels are also included.
The Testors kit comes in a single vinyl bag; the Skybow kit comes with each sprue wrapped separately in a resealable cellophane bag.
Getting into the kits themselves, the single biggest difference is that the Skybow kit provides a complete engine and engine bay interior; the older kit only provides the oil pan, radiator, and transmission. But based on experience with the WC-56/57 kit, the hood is very difficult to remove on the Skybow kit once the mirrors and other bits are in place (and virtually impossible when the "Patton" command flags are installed). The bodies of the two trucks are also totally different; the Skybow kit has a wooden floor, seats and panels; the one on the Testors kit is all metal. I have no reference data on whether or not the production line changed the body on this vehicle, but as production of both WC-51 and WC-52 types of vehicles ran near 40,000 units, it is not unlikely.
Both kits provide the troop seat backs, but Testors provides the kit with a complete one-piece top in the erected position, and the Skybow kit instead provides a set of three top bows and longitudinal brace. Neither one provides opening storage bin lids, but both kits come with working tail gates.
The cab interiors are actually fairly similar, but the Skybow one has crisper and more petite details. Both use a two-piece seat with shell and pads as separate parts. Skybow provides underfender details, and other small bits which are not found in the older kit. Surprisingly, both kits suffer from injection pin marks; those on the Skybow kit are often in the midst of their "wood grain" detail, which is annoying as it is harder to remove and replace.
Based on photos of the finished models, the biggest difference between the two is that the Skybow one sits about 3-4" in scale lower on its chassis. I'm not sure why, but the only thing I can think would cause that is Peerless Max basing their model on one in a museum that may have been up on jack stands. The Skybow kit looks much closer to the photos of the actual vehicles in service during WWII.
Again, having built both kits, the biggest difference most newer modelers will find is that the Skybow kit just about clicks together, with all parts fitting nearly spot on. As noted, due to some parts being shared with at lest the WC-56/57 kit, you will have to drill out the mounting holes in the kit part. The Testors kit is not as modeler friendly, and the front fenders are really nebulous in their overall fit and alignment. Likewise, the grilles on the Testors kit really look like they were designed to be used as cellblock bars rather than simple guards for a radiator; the Skybow ones, being state of the art, are more petite. .
Overall, the difference between these two isn't as much as I would have thought. My basic recommendation would be that if you want a "showpiece" or centerpiece to a diorama, use the Skybow kit as it is ready to go right out of the box. If you want a background piece, the Testors kit is still fine and can make a good model. By picking up the Eduard set of etched brass, most of this kit's most egregious sins can be expunged and it can still make a nice model.
Cookie Sewell AMPS
Review Copyright © 2000 by Cookie