Fiat Comparison & Contrast by Stephen 'Tank Whisperer' Brezinski
Edited by Rob Haelterman

MarS Kit # 7202 Fiat 621
Italian Kits # 72004 Fiat Spa 38

Introduction and a bit of history.

The Polski Fiat 621 is a Polish built Fiat 2.5-ton capacity, 4x2 drive truck of the mid to late-1930s period built under license from Italy’s Fiat Corporation. About 10,000 Polski Fiat 621 trucks were built before Poland’s defeat in September 1939. Surviving trucks were absorbed into the German forces though I have found few photos of these trucks, either in German or Polish use and markings.
The Fiat 38 4x2 truck was a military truck also of the mid to late 1930s period used by the Italian army on all of its fronts: Africa, the Balkans, and Russia. There is a significant similarity between the two trucks and I can’t help but think they are related. After the autumn of 1943 these trucks could likely be found in German use.
The intention of this review is to compare and contrast not only the similarities and differences between these two truck models, but also the similarities and differences between the MarS model and the Italian Kits model. One thing to keep in mind of course is that the MarS kit is about 10 years older and that often means in this hobby that the older model is less sophisticated; maybe, maybe not.

• From MarS’s box photo of the assembled model we see a vehicle in a light tan or panzer yellow-like color but no markings like a license plate. (Despite my hand printing on the upper left corner “Fiat Spa 38R”, this is not a Fiat 38.) Based on my reference a more appropriate color for a truck of the 1939 Polish Army would be olive green. In German use I recommend panzer gray. On the truck bed is an anti aircraft machine gun mount, which is a Polish made version of a water-cooled Browning machine gun in 7.92-mm caliber (the same round used by the German Army). This model comes with no crew figures or cargo. The model appears to be finely detailed and with delicate parts, particularly for a resin kit of the late 1990s.

• MarS appears to have worked to get as much as they could out of the castings for this truck. Additional 1/72 scale versions of the Polski Fiat 621 truck include kits
#7201 Polish Fiat 621 L 2.5 t/I light cargo truck, with tarpaulin over bed,
#7202 Polish Fiat 621 L 2.5 t/II light cargo truck with open bed and AA machine gun (7.92-mm Browning),
#7203 Polish Fiat 621 L 2.5 t/III light cargo truck & workshop, with a more modern, pressed steel cab and tarpaulin over bed,
#7211 Polski Fiat 621 L/s Army ambulance;
and kit #7224 Polski Fiat 621L / c field fuel tank.
Halftrack versions offered by MarS include:
kit #7204 Polish Halftrack Artillery Tractor C4P/I with an open bed, and
#7205 Polish Halftrack Artillery Tractor C4P/II with covered crew seating,
Kit #7260 PZInz. wz. 34 Army halftrack ambulance, and
#7261. PZInz. wz. 34 Army half-track truck with covered bed.
Many of the comments about quality and assembly for this MarS model kit can also count for the other sister MarS kits.

• Though over 10,000 Fiat 621 trucks and variants were built under license by the Poles, I have so far seen no evidence that this truck was mass-produced and used in Italy or by the Italian military.

• Italian Kits’ box photograph shows a 4x2 military style truck of a very similar style to the Polish Fiat 621. This photo will be helpful in assembling our model. The photos shows the Italian Kits’ Fiat 38R that is unpainted amber resin but would be light brown when serving in North Africa and a gray-green color when stationed in Europe. For the tires I advise dark gray or grimy black color to account for the scale-effect on black tires. With the box art we see a lot of fine detail and small parts.

• Unlike the Fiat 621 this truck has fenders over the rear wheels. There is a spare tire below the bed just aft of the cab and several storage boxes. The truck has no bumper but does have a brush guard in front of the radiator. This model comes with no crew figure, cargo or weapons. The canvas tarpaulin and supports included in the kit are not shown here. Besides other softskin vehicles like the Fiat 626 and Fiat 666, Italian Kits offers other variants of the Fiat Spa 38 truck in 1/72:
such as kit IKA-72012 Spa 38 with Scotti 20-mm AA machine gun,
and IKA-72013 Spa 38 R Autofrigo (refrigerator truck);
and IKA-72015 Spa 38 R5 Radio Furgone/Van.


Assembly Instructions

• Back to the MarS model of the Polish Fiat 621. We have the complete assembly instructions for the model. Rather than multi-part exploded view assembly instructions we have just one line drawing attempting to show placement of all parts. Parts numbers are given but the actual parts are not numbered so we’ll have to carefully study the parts and diagram before we glue them together. I find these instructions to be the weakest part of the model and I urge MarS to redraw the instructions into five or six steps. Placement of the parts on the chassis will really be trial and error so you have to study the instructions and reference photos before applying glue.

• Above is part of the 4-part, exploded view line-drawing instructions for the Italian Kits (IK) Fiat 38. We can see how the assembly is broken down into ‘themes’: putting together the chassis, then the cab, etc. Even though much of the cab interior can’t be seen when the model is built, the interior contains many small and well detailed parts. Notice even the well detailed fuel tank which is later hidden under the driver’s seat (something helpful in depicting a wrecked vehicle though).

• Even though these instructions are superior to that in the MarS kit there is still lack in clarity as to where some parts go under the chassis.

The Parts

• This scan shows a comparison of the main body parts. At the top are the amber resin parts from MarS and below the light gray resin parts of the Italian Kits model.

• The MarS Fiat 621 kit consists of 41 amber cast resin parts; no etched brass in either the MarS or IK kit. Casting quality is superb; sharp and with no discernible sink holes or air bubbles. Being solid under the hood (bonnet) there is no engine included. For me, the quality of the molding and attention to detail can be seen in the radiator and the driver’s seat. The side windows and the windshields are molded solid but are easy to cut out with a sharp knife so as to install clear windshields.

• The parts all come with casting plugs such as seen on the front fender parts (a large casting plug has already been sawed off the cab roof). Some of the casting plugs are difficult to cut off; be careful not to gouge and break the parts. To remove the casting plugs I have had good luck using a hacksaw blade, razor saw and sharp Xacto knife. Keep the saws wet to reduce pulmonary-hazardous resin dust.

• The Italian Kits Fiat Spa 38 kit consists of over 88 light-gray cast resin parts, some quite tiny; in fact so tiny I had to resort to a magnifying glass to identify many of them. What is great is that most of the parts are separated from their casting plug so you have no annoying sawing to do. Casting quality is also superb and every bit as good as MarS. Evidently, by having over twice as many parts and more delicate parts as the MarS kit, the Italian Kits truck has greater overall detail and accuracy. For example, the IK Fiat 38 model has gas and brake pedals in addition to three gear and shift levers, and three knobs on the dash board; none of which can be seen when the kit is assembled! At lower left we see the underside of the IK Fiat 38 canvas tarpaulin with excellent stay (support) detail on the underside.

• This scan shows a comparison of the amber colored MarS parts and the light gray IK parts. The MarS wheels are excellently molded and detailed. I did find the rim bolts rather long and some snapped off during routine handling. Above the wheels is the Fiat 621 truck frame with the rear leaf springs molded on; above that is the IK truck frame and leaf springs.

• At the upper right is a small water slide decal sheet for the Italian Kit Fiat Spa 38 kit. Markings are for two Italian trucks serving in Russia in 1942. IK also supplies placement instructions for the decal markings. MarS provides no markings for their Polski Fiat 621 so we will have to improvise Polish or German license plates.

• Even though both trucks look similar, the IK Fiat Spa 38 is a longer truck with a longer wheelbase.

• At bottom right are some very finely cast storage frames I thought would show the fidelity of IK’s casting. We’ve come a long way in casting in ten years time. In defense of MarS, this Fiat 621 is MarS’s earliest of models and I have found present day MarS kits to be every bit as detailed and finely crafted as the Italian Kits’ Fiat truck model.

• This photo above of the MarS Fiat 621 shows the mostly assembled truck cab with dashboard details, a shift lever and a rather thick steering wheel visible but not yet painted. The seat cushions and bed sides are well detailed. This early Fiat 621 cab has a wooden construction so I thought some interior framing would be a nice touch. Not having any actual photos of the interior of this truck, this framing is pure speculation, what some call “artist’s license”.

• Assembly of the parts was good but with annoying difficulty setting the cab and the bed in the right locations on the truck frame; dry fit well before gluing!

• This photo is of the Italian Kits Fiat 38 cab and engine. The truck’s fuel tank is visible, located under the driver’s seat. (This is not a comforting thing for the driver.) The engine is a beautiful piece of resin workmanship and it is a shame none of it will be seen after assembly.

• Like with the Polski-Fiat 621, I have added framing for the interior of the wooden cab of the IK Fiat 38 model.

• This second photo of the IK Fiat 38 shows a better view of the cab interior with the separate dashboard and floor board, the three brake and gearshift levers and fine steering wheels. On the truck frame is a multitude of casting nubs that are to be cut off and filed smooth.

• The underside of the MarS Fiat 621 here is complete except for small parts like lights and tow hooks that have been left off for now so they do not break off during handling. I have added universal joint details to the drive shaft and added steering linkage. On the bottom of the storage box and backside of the wheels we can see the vestige of the pore plugs.

• While the IK Fiat 38 (below) has the front fenders mounted integrally onto the cab, the MarS Fiat 621 model has separate fenders.

• Compared to the underside of the amber MarS model, the underside of this gray resin Italian Kits Fiat 38 shows the superior attention to detail and the greater number of parts. In addition to the complete engine (well, the engine does still need spark plug wires) we have a better transmission truck frame and drive shaft.

• Be very careful when attaching the cab and bed to the frame, I found it easy to mount the parts askew, a little bit crooked, which you may not notice till both parts are glued down. With both models there are no absolutely clear mounting points and the kit instructions could be better.

Conclusion & Recommendations
• Both kits appear to be fine representations of the Polski Fiat 621 and the Fiat Spa 38 military trucks and are great model kits. With no scale references or access to specimens of the real trucks I cannot say if they are true to 1/72 scale but they certainly appear to be 1/72 when compared to 1/72 figures and to each other.

• The Italian Kits Fiat has twice as many parts and finer details than the MarS Fiat model, but it is not fair to judge the MarS kit harshly on this since it is about 10 years older than the IK model and we have come very far in the detail demanded by modelers and offered by manufacturers. Contemporary MarS model kits are similar to Italian Kits in detail and quality.

• Both models are suitable for intermediate and advanced modelers due to the complexity of the kit, number and delicateness of the resin parts and vagueness of the kit instructions. It would be a simple but beneficial matter for MarS to expand their assembly instructions. It has always bugged the crap out of me when resin model manufacturers put all this effort into making a superbly crafted model and then don’t make instructions to match the quality of the model.

• When assembling any kits like this I recommend putting together and painting the basic large parts (chassis, wheels, cab), mounting the model to a secure base, and then add the small, fragile resin parts; then complete the painting and weathering.

Photos of completed MarS Fiat 621 kit

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Article Updated: 24 September 2010, 30 October 2010