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Trumpeter 1/35 Soviet ZIL-157K Military Truck Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review August 2004 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Soviet ZIL-157K Military Truck Scale 1/35
Kit Number 1003 Primary Media 355 parts (334 in olive drab styrene, 11 in clear styrene, 7 in black vinyl, 1 length of cotton thread, 1 section of wire, 1 section of fine brass chain)
Pros First kit in this scale of this vehicle; very nicely done with complete engine and interior; scale thickness to parts Cons Scale thickness to parts may make some very hard to remove and install
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $36.95

First Look

The Soviets were very embarrassed when the Second World War started and they realized how woeful their automotive industry really was in comparison with the rest of the world. The best trucks they had at the time - the GAZ-AA/AAA and ZiS-5 - were copies of foreign trucks from the early 1930s and not very sophisticated. Most only had brakes on their rear wheels, and the only reason they were in production as they were not technically demanding.

When the Soviets became an official ally of the USA, and the famous "Lend-Lease" agreement was signed, they were stunned to see the quality of the vehicles provided to them by the US. The light Willys MB "Jeep" was superior to the clunky converted cars like the GAZ M-1 and the six-wheel trucks - the GMC CCKW, Studebaker US6, and International M-5-6 - all had three driven axles, transfer cases, and brakes on all six wheels. They were also very reliable and rugged.

While the Soviet industry did not produce any really equivalent trucks during the war, once the war was over they took a look at creating their own versions of this class of truck. Using the two most prevalent - the GMC and Studebaker models - they created a synthesized and "Sovietized" version of the trucks at the "Stalin" automotive factory (ZiS) which initially had only two axles as had all previous Soviet medium cargo trucks (ZiS-150). But that was seen as not capable enough, and so a three axle version, the ZiS-151, entered production in April 1948, remaining on the production lines until 1958 (when Stalin fell from favor in the 1950s, the ZiS factory was renamed for I. A. Likhachev - ZIL). This used a ten-wheel three-axle chassis with a closed steel cab and open cargo body with folding troop seats. It was rated as a 2.5 ton truck but could be loaded to 4.5 tons for road travel. It was powered by a 5.5 liter straight six engine producing 95 HP in its original form. Trucks with a winch were dubbed ZiS-151A.

As time progressed, and the ZiL-151 was seen as becoming obsolete, a new updated version was created and placed into production in 1958 as the ZiL-157. This used parts and components from the closely related BTR-152 series of armored personnel carriers, based on the ZiS-151 (and of course, that was converted back into a common chassis for both the ZIL-157 and BTR-152!) The main difference was that the ZIL-157 used the large single wheels and tires from the BTR with their adjustable tire pressure feature for better traction in soft ground.

Later, in 1961 the truck received a new transmission and was redesignated as the ZIL-157K. Other variants followed: ZIL-157KG, with electronic suppressors for use with communications gear; ZIL-157KYe, with two fuel tanks; ZIL-157KEh, export model for countries with humid climates; ZIL-157KYu, export model for countries with tropical climates; ZIL-157GT, a truck with electronic suppression and fitted out for tropical climates; and ZIL157KV, a tractor for use with semi trailers (like the SA-2 and SCUD B transporters). The trucks used the same engine with an upgrade to 109 HP. The final models produced were the ZIL-157KD with the vehicle later being replaced on the production lines by the more compact and more modern ZIL-131 series.

A Chinese knock-off of the ZIL-157, the CA-30, entered production in the mid 1960s.

More than any other truck, the ZIL-157V personified the Soviet Union during the heart of the "Cold War" and showed up very frequently on American TV screens in all parts of the world. As such, it was also used in a myriad of body styles from the radio van versions (KUNG in Russian) to mobile cranes and support equipment. For years, NATO ran a book called the "Box Body Vehicle Identification Guide" that showed drawings of every known version of Soviet trucks; more than half of those in the Guide in the 1980s were ZIL-157 variants.

Trumpeter released a series of four kits last year based on the ZIL-157 and its Chinese clone, the CA-30 -a cargo variant and an SA-2 transporter of each one. This is the Soviet ZIL-157V cargo variant, and it is an amazing kit when one realizes how many parts have been wedged into the box.

The model comes with the open cargo body and a very neatly done three-piece canvas cover (with grommets included so that they can be drilled out for installing tiedowns, a nice touch). The doors and hood sections are positionable as is the tail gate, and a section of chain is also included to use for lowered supports for that platform. The model has a very detailed engine, as well as very detailed chassis and driveline. Even the mounting pads for the cargo body (parts G20 and G21) are included as separate parts.

The front axle cane be made to steer. The directions do not indicate it, but as with most Soviet vehicles (copied from US designs) the front windscreen sections can be opened, but the braces and locks are not included in the kit. Seats are also positionable. Many parts are provided but there is no direction provided as to how to improvement, such as an oil cooler on the radiator (part B10) or the air tank system. (This model properly needs a lot of wiring and lining, and I suggest if you can find a copy of the "Russian Motorbooks" issue on the ZiS/ZIL-151/157 you pick it up if you want to really make this model pop!)

The kit comes with a reasonably good if basic decal sheet, but only provides basic Soviet era markings (two number/two number/two letter registration plates) and a pair of Guards badges. This is sort of a shame, as it is a really great kit and as it was used by just about everyone not buying US trucks in the 1960s could really be painted up nicely into a Third World scheme.

Overall, this is a great kit that can stand alone or really perk up a diorama.