WWII Ground Vehicle Set #4
US Ambulance & Tow Truck

Kit #: 13403 Review by Danilo Carli - 172normandyafv(at)gmail(dot)com
Edited by Al Magnus

WC 54 Ambulance

This Academy kit is a multiple vehicle set like others in their catalogue and a light airfield tractor shares the box with the ambulance. The moulds, two for the ambulance and one for the tractor, are in dark pine green plastic, a bit too hard for my taste, while the windows are in transparent plastic. A decal set and instruction sheet complete the kit. About this variant: the Dodge line of military vehicles had different ambulance types. The former WC 9, WC 18 and WC 27 were based on the half-ton chassis (respectively T207, T211 and T215) with the wheelbase stretched from 116 inches to 123 inches. The WC 54 was based on the three quarter ton chassis, named T214, the same as the WC 51 and WC 52 (see ESCI/Italeri kit lists), with a body from Wayne Body Works. The production type depicted by the kit is an early batch WC 54. The main difference, in a 1/72 prospective, with the late production is the fuel cap style: raised for the early series, recessed for the late. 22,857 WC 54s were built in five batches from 1942 to the 1945: 850 (W77841-W78690), 9945 (W78691-W79999, W710000-W718342 and 293 with USN registration numbers), 16 (75068-75083), 410 (718636-719045) and 11,636 (721000-732635).

The moulds look clean and crisp. Details give the impression of a well done replica. Something interesting to note: the clear parts can be glued after the body is closed and painted, thanks to an interlock system which is the opposite of the usual fare. To attach them I use water soluble white glue (used for wood and paper), thinned and applied with a thin brush to the transparent dry fitted in place. If more glue is needed, I apply it in small amounts as required. A preview of this kit (including sprue and decal pictures) by Christopher Benjamin can be found here

Kit dimensions are quite accurate. Again, some small discrepancies between different sources can be found (fractions of inch).

   Real Measurement   1/72   Kit
 Length   16' 3" (or 195")   4,953 mm   68.8   See text below
 Width   6' 6" (or 78")   1,981 mm   27.5   28
 Height   7' 6" (or 90")   2,286 mm   31.8   See text below
 Wheelbase   121"   3,073 mm   42.7   42.3

During the assembly something went wrong and a huge problem arose joining the chassis to the body. Small adjustments and missing details needed manual intervention on a kit which at the first glance looked to be of the class which can be built out of the box.

As far as I've found the kit can also be used for a sole conversion: some WC 54s were used by the US Signal Corps as radio vans.

To make my ambulance I had to make some basic improvement. These include:

  • When I dry fit the chassis to the body something didn't look correct. The wheels stood too far from the mudguards and the interlocking hole in the fuel tank was not filled by the body pin. As a result the model stood at a height of 33.0/33.5 mm. The problem was traced to the rear bumpers which are moulded on too high and are upside down (and too much near the rear body). I cut them off and glued them to the lower body edge in the correct place giving the chassis a hair longer (but correct) 68.5 mm length. The rear chassis now fit correctly in its place and the model's height now was more correct, at 32 mm.
  • The tank is moulded on a flat frame; it is much too slim and shallow. I filed off the frame and I shimmed the tank to make it thicker. With strips of thin metal I fashioned the straps.
  • The rear transversal beam of the chassis frame is missing. I made it with plastic strip and stretched sprue to produce a "C" profile, but I could have made it as a solid rectangular section as well.
  • The moulds have two pieces not indicated in the instruction, which are not unused parts. One is the drive shaft which transmits the power from the engine to the gear box. Academy doesn't show it in the instruction because a transversal beam of the chassis frame is incorrectly moulded straight and does not allow placement of the shaft. I cut the beam off and then I glued a plastic shim. After having shaped it to a curve, the frame was reassembled. Now, having its way unobstructed, I glued the drive shaft between engine rear and front of the gear box.
  • The kit's drive shafts were warped. I had to replace them with segments of stretched sprue.
  • The second piece not included in the instruction looks to me to be the air filter (a bit over-sized) present on the right side of the engine. As I was building my truck with a closed hood I left it on the sprue.
  • The 9.0x16.0 wheels are well done and don't need modification.

  • The hood's sides were foldable and each had six cooling louvers (at least in every war time photo I've seen), but the kit's hood has smooth sides. With thin stretched sprue I added the hinges and louvers.
  • There are holes on the underside of the fenders beneath the lights. I filled and sanded them, which unfortunately removed the molded on support rods. These I replaced with plastic strip.
  • The brush guards are missing the horizontal cross bars, but they look good and I choose to keep them as is.
  • The forward edge of the spare wheel housing isn't straight as presented in the kit. It should be curved, reaching the driver door. I filed and sanded it to give the correct shape.
  • When the body was assembled, two holes remained above the forward doors. I filled them with plastic shims.
  • The right side tool rack was shimmed on the lower rod to can be placed parallel to the body side. The shovel is missing and since I didn't have a spare one, I left it as it is. If the shovel is added, it must be placed with the handle facing the rear and the blade facing forward.
  • The rear step lacks its hinges. I made them with stretched sprue glued just under the rear doors. I kept it closed, but if glued open the folding system has a different layout from the one suggested by the instruction. The step will need to be glued after having adding the Red Cross decals.
  • Just outside of the rear bumpers I made the rear lights with rounded plastic rod segments and plastic strips.
  • The interior is well done and needs little modification, but it is not visible unless the doors are glued opened. Since I was building mine with closed doors I didn't make any further changes.
  • On the little rectangle moulded on the left side I added the fuel filler and cap. For a late WC54 the small rectangle must be replaced by a large vertical rectangular like depression where the fuel filler & cap could sit without overhanging the side panel. On the inner side, a second segment made the pipe which went to the tank.
  • The spare wheel is moulded inside out. To correct it is not easy: I should have to remove plastic from the wheel rim to have a rounded cup like inside. Drilling out the large cooling holes and the smaller holes for the bolts would complete the job. In the end I kept it as is.
  • I left my ambulance back closed. Anyway the interior is well done and few details are needed to make it correct.


While the red crosses are the type used for the ambulances delivered by October 1943, the registration number 751018 lies out of the known production batches (see above).

The unit markings look incomplete. For a better understanding of the US medical units see here for an interesting article at

Regarding the red crosses, based on the photos I've seen, the kit's versions were used only on the late production vehicles, while smaller crosses would be more correct, being used both early or late model vehicles.

Conclusion Well, my corrections look very well to me. On the other hand, its faults are very strange; a well detailed kit but with a chassis which needs the above changes left me bewildered. But it's worth the effort to improve and the WC 54 would work well in diorama settings such as a battlefield, an airfield or other. It could be found in use where ever the US Army, US Air Force or US Navy was present in WW2. Or it could be used accurately in a Korean War location. A good model, when not built out of the box. A better decal set would be welcome.


[1] net-maquettes (walkaround)

Review sample purchased by the author.

Academy products are available at Tracks & Troops

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Article Last Updated: 01 September 2017

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