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GAZ-M1 'Emka' Soviet Staff Car

Ace 1/48 GAZ-M1 'Emka' Soviet Staff Car Kit First Look

By Mark Nickelson

Date of Review May 2014 Manufacturer Ace
Subject GAZ-M1 'Emka' Soviet Staff Car Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48104 Primary Media Injected styrene with vinyl tires, photo-etch
Pros Great subject, nice decals Cons None
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $24.95

First Look

GAZ-M1 'Emka' Soviet Staff Car Kit
GAZ-M1 'Emka' Soviet Staff Car Kit

The kit is Ace brand, from the Ukraine. The Ford is a Model 40, though the box calls it a GAZ M-1 Emka. This is because Stalin readily paid for imported technology and even the licenses to clone it. Ford was a big supplier. On several different car and truck programs, Ford stamped large shipments of body parts in Detroit, and sent along engine drawings and other technical support. The infant auto industry in Russia successfully cloned Ford's historic flathead V-8, arguably a high tribute to the design.

With the Emka program, the Russians set up their first automotive stamping mill in Gorky (the G in GAZ), using Ford parts for patterns. Thus the Emka, built to serve as a Soviet staff car (private car ownership was simply not a consideration in the socialist workers' paradise), passes convincingly for a Thirties workaday sedan back here in this rodina. The Emka had stouter suspension than a U.S. Ford, and the later ones had Dodge engines in them. These technical truths do not degrade the usefulness of this car on a U.S.-theme diorama. GAZ built 62,888 Emkas from 1936 through 1943.

A private e-Bay dealer in Kharkov sold me two GAZes for about $40 including shipping for the pair. Service was pretty good, I thought, especially considering the tensions over there just now: I got the kits in about three weeks.

Ace is supposed to bring out a pickup truck version of the Emka soon. The other post-communist sources for classic 1/48 vehicles are RPM in Poland and UM or Unimodel, another Ukrainian company. RPM makes a beautiful and complex Model T military ambulance. UM makes GAZ AA and AAA trucks with Model A cabs and a variety of work beds, plus an armored version. The RPM kits are at Squadron Mail Order and other stateside sources. UM and Ace appear to require ordering from Europe, at least for the present.

The Emka kit comes with two oval grills, and you will want to graze the online photos to decide which one to use. The chassis fits easily into the one-piece fender and floor pan. Placement and alignment of the springs and axles requires some attention. To position the front axle on the springs, attach the wheels to the axle and then glue the assembly on the springs, after the model is built. In other words, if you're thinking of the effortless positive alignment and overall crispness of a Tamiya Krupp Protze, this is not that kind of kit.

You will want to bore a hole next to the engine pan for the exhaust pipe. There's also a muffler, a one-piece drive shaft and axle tee, and the two rear springs. The underside has, for me, just the right level of detail and complexity. The hood is not meant to be opened, and the engine is not provided in the kit.

In the interior, there are two four-piece bucket seats up front and a bench seat in back, a dashboard, steering column, shift lever, brake handle and three pedals. You have to cut out the clear parts from clear stock (not supplied), using patterns in the instructions.

The coachwork has separate door handles and photo-etched louvered panels for the sides of the engine bonnet—possibly this kit's nicest feature. Vent window frames, tags and tag brackets are also on the photo-etch fret.

The headlamps both have a little sink hole in the center of what would be the lens. I will probably bore them out and set in 3-mm Austrian crystals. I will probably manage to attach 1-mm red Austrian crystals to the little tail lamp fixtures, too.

Tires are vinyl and nicely made. The wheels are cast with commendable detail, and there are moon hubcaps. There are no chromed parts.

The Emka comes with markings for three cars, shiny black ones in Soviet and Nazi service in 1941, and a midwar green one in Soviet service. The Ukrainians cite the color as Green 4BO.

In my personal sense of how the scale model hobby communicates, appropriate scale vehicles are the next thing we need after the central subject of the diorama. Kit makers' traditional bias toward luxury vehicles, premium sportscars and competition machines does not help us much, but a working grade sedan truly fits the flightline context. Few kit subjects could be more welcome.