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Unimog S404 Krankenwagen (35138) 1:35


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Unimog S404 Krankenwagen (35138)

1:35 ICM via H G Hannants Ltd




Unimog was the brand-name used by Mercedes for their truck, tractor and commercial vehicle range that began post WWII as an agricultural brand, initially built by another company for them whilst using their engines.  The range broadened in the late 40s and early 50s to include trucks, of which the 404 series was one, entering production in 1955.  It is a small (1.5 tonne) 4x4 truck that was driven by a 2.2 litre M180 straight-6 Mercedes engine and has impressive off-road performance due to a change that had been required by a customer, the French Army, who wanted the spare tyre to be stored clear of the load compartment.  The designers altered the shape of the rear chassis rails to allow the wheel to sit under the floor, the downward sweep giving the chassis extra flexibility that smoothed the ride on rough surfaces, assisted by coil springs, rather than traditional leaf springs.  The four-wheel drive system could be disengaged on smoother ground, leaving just the rear wheels engaged, thereby saving fuel and wear on the front drive-shafts, and generally improving performance all round.


The 404 series was the most numerous of the Unimog line, and was available as a short or long-wheelbase chassis, with the shorter option phased out at the beginning of the 70s, while the longer wheelbase continued on for another decade before it too was retired.  The nascent West German Bundeswehr were a major customer, buying substantial quantities of the 404S as a workhorse for their forces, taking on many roles in their service.  A total of over 62,000 of the 404S were made over its lengthy production run, with many of them still on and off the roads to this day due to their rugged engineering.  The name Krankenwagen means Ambulance if you didn’t spot the big red crosses on the box, and these often had a turbo-heater fixed to it for the comfort of its patients, as well as a variety of windows and ventilation outlets that varied with time and use.



The Kit

This is a rebox with additional sprues of a new tooling from Ukrainian company ICM of this Bundeswehr pillar of their transport and emergency arms.  It arrives in a top-opening box with a captive lid on the lower tray, and inside are seven sprues of grey styrene, two clear sprues, five flexible black tyres, a decal sheet and a glossy printed instruction booklet with colour profiles on the rear pages.  Detail is excellent throughout, and includes a full chassis and engine, plus the bodywork and new load area first seen on the recent Koffer boxing, all crisply moulded as we’ve come to expect from ICM.  The grille of the vehicle is especially well-done, as are the coil springs on each corner, and the wheels are very neat with multi-part hubs.


















Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which is joined together with a series of cylindrical cross-members, plus front and rear beams, the latter braced by diagonal stiffeners to strengthen the area around the towing eye at the rear.  The suspension is next, adding an insert to the opposite side of each spring to avoid sink-marks, but care must be taken to align them neatly to minimise clean-up afterwards.  Triangular supports for the fuel tanks are added on each side, then attention turns to the six-cylinder Mercedes motor. Beginning with the two-part cylinder block and gearbox, the basic structure is augmented by ancillaries, fan, pulleys and drive-shaft for the front wheels, after which the engine is mated to the chassis and has the long exhaust system installed, adding a muffler insert around the half-way point, and siting another drive-shaft adjacent.  Two stamped fuel tanks are each made from two parts, with the forward one having a filler tube and cap glued to the side, sitting on the out-riggers that were fitted to the chassis earlier.  The front axle is made up from five parts to capture the complex shape of the assembly, to be installed between the suspension mounts and mated to the forward drive-shaft, plus the stub axles for the front wheels.  A stowage box is made for the opposite side of the chassis from the fuel tanks, then the rear axle is built with similar detail and part count, fitting between the suspension and having larger circular stub-axles that have the drum brakes moulded-in.  The front wheels have separate drum brakes, and both front and rear axles are braced with damping struts, while the front axle has a steering arm linking the two wheels together, with more parts connecting that to the steering column.  With the chassis inverted, the front bumper and its sump guard are fixed to the front, and a curved convoy recognition shield on the rear cross-member, plus another pair of diagonal bracing struts for the rear axles.  Each wheel is made up from a two-part hub that goes together much like a real steel hub, but without the heat of welding, around the flexible black tyres.  The front and rear hubs are of different design, so take care inserting them in the correct location.  Lastly, the chassis is completed by adding the radiator and its frame at the front of the vehicle.






The cab is the first section of the bodywork to be made, starting with the floor, adding foot pedals, shaped metalwork around the gearbox cut-out, sidewalls and the internal wheel wells below floor level.  Several additional parts are glued beneath the floor to assist with mounting later, then the lower cab is built up on the floor, including the front with recessed headlight reflectors; bonnet surround, dashboard with decal, plus various trim panels.  The floor is then lowered onto the chassis with four arrows showing where it should meet with the floor, taking care with the radiator.  Once in place, the bonnet and more interior trim is installed along with a bunch of stalks and levers between the seat positions.  The seats are made from the basic frame to which the two cushions are fixed, much like the real thing, then they’re mounted inside the cab, followed closely by the two crew doors, which have handles on both sides, pockets on the interior, and can be posed open or closed.  More grab-handles, controls and other small parts are fixed around the dash, and the windscreen with two glazing panels are put in place, with a highly detailed steering wheel that has the individual finger ‘bumps’ on the underside, and for your ease, it’s probably better to put the wheel in before the windscreen is fixed in place.  The cab is finished off by adding the cabrio top, which starts with an L-shaped top and rear, to which a small rectangular window and two side sections are added, dropped over the cab when the glue is dry and the seams have been dealt with along with the side windows that consist of the frame with two glazing panels in each one.  Later, the recessed headlight reflectors should be painted with the brightest metallic you can find before they are covered by the clear lenses and their protective cages, joined slightly outboard by combined side-light/indicator lenses, a choice of two styles of door mirrors, and a pair of windscreen wipers to keep the screen clear.


The load bed begins with a flat rectangular floor, several supports and two lateral beams that takes the weight of the bed once complete.  The sides of the load area are covered with raised and recessed detail, and comprise four parts, one for each side, with windows and optional grilles added from the inside.  The roof has two options, one has moulded-in hatches, which are covered by a tubular framework, the other is much simplified.  A set of poles are glued to the side in a rack, handles are added to the recessed areas of the doors, with a frame fixed to the front of the load box to carry the turbo-heater that is built next as a clasped case and a tubular assembly, cutting off an ancillary tube on the side, and adding a flashing light with its own cage at the front of the roof.  Underneath is a rack for a nicely detailed jerry can, several stowage boxes and optional racks or steps, and the spare wheel on a dropped C-shaped mount, built in the same manner as the road wheels, plus steps that can be folded or deployed for access as you like it.  A choice of two number plate holders is hung under the rear, also holding the rear lights for that side, with another less substantial part on the opposite side.




You might guess that most of the decal options are green, but there is one in NATO camouflage that is so typical of how I remember the Unimog in West German service.  From the box you can build one of these four:


  • Unknown Unit of the Bundeswehr, 1960s
  • 5th Company, 3rd Medical Battalion, Hamburg, 1970s
  • 2nd Company, 10th Medical Battalion, Esslingen, early 1980s
  • 4th Company, 12th Medical Battalion, 12th Panzer Division, 1986

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The decals are printed by ICM’s usual partners, and consist of dials, number plates, stencils and a few other small decals, with good register, sharpness and solid colours.


If you don't think you have the correct paint shades in stock for this kit, there is a new Acrylic Paint Set from ICM specifically designed for this range of models, our review of which you can see here.




The Unimogs were ubiquitous in Cold War West German army service, so there ought to be a good market for a modern tooling of the type, with many more variants still to come in due course.


Highly recommended.


Available in the UK from importers H G Hannants Ltd.



Review sample courtesy of



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