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Roden M43 ¾-ton ambulance

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/35 scale vehicle kit

Dodge’s M43 ambulance saw service from 1950-70s in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The M43 was based on the M37, but with new parts to accommodate a new and larger medical support compartment.

Roden’s new kit of the M43 ambulance, like the real thing, is based on Roden’s M37, which was released in 2016. Like that kit, some care will be needed handling the sprues here as the plastic is brittle and some smaller parts are easily broken.

Instructions for this build start straightforward with the engine and then the frame, which is a single part. Mine had a bit of flash, but fair warning: you’ll need to be careful cleaning the frame as a few of the attachment points look like flash.

The engine and cooling system also are built early on and were trouble free and were relatively simple. I think being able to pose the front wheels is a particularly nice touch here. 

After the frame and floor are in place, the build turns its attention to the driver’s compartment and the medical compartment in the back, where you have several build options. You can build it with the stretcher racks in place, or folded down where medical personnel could sit. However, this is not shown in the instructions. Instead, reference photos are your friend for accurate construction.

In fact, the kit’s instructions jump around a bit and I strongly suggest waiting to attach any of the parts to the frame until you have them all built separately. I followed the instructions and ended up with a sloppy-fitting model. If you attach all the main components at the same time you may be able to get some to fit together a little better, or at least have a bit more wiggle room to fix them.

As I was finishing mine by gluing the doors to the main body I discovered the panel gap between the top and bottom of the doors was way too large. My solution was to pose the vehicle with the doors open to avoid calling attention to that gap.

However, after a slightly frustrating build, I found the paint really helped this model. It started to pull the detail and the potential from the kit and looked quite nice.

Yet I would suggest aftermarket decals, or masking off and painting the ambulance markings yourself. The decals in my kit were printed in a weird way making them look almost hand-painted with thick and thin parts of the white on the crosses almost like there were runs.

This wasn’t my only issue with the decals. I spent a fair amount of time making sure the decals were properly set with no silvering or visible edges.

A combination of Microscale Micro Sol and heat helped settle the decals. A quick application of clear gloss helped blend them, but a final coat of semigloss clear made the decals silver in some spots again. I tried everything I could think of to fix the silvering but nothing helped.

The final product is a good-looking truck with a few nice posing options. But this one was a frustrating build despite its low parts count.

I would only suggest this for experienced model builders. I spent a little more than 38 hours building and painting the kit. 

Download a free wallpaper of this ambulance here.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2019 issue.


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