by: Robert Skipper [ ]
Originally published on:
I don’t often ask to write a review of a new kit. However, when I saw that the PMZ –A-750 was being released I felt compelled to volunteer. I love Soviet bikes. In fact I own one, complete with its own MG, so it seemed natural. The 1/35th scale kit is from a company I had never heard of – AIM Fan Model. When it arrived on my doorstep I decided that I’d do a build review of it. How hard could it be? After all, it’s just a motorcycle kit. Heck, I build 1:1 bikes in my shop. Besides I abhor “in the box” reviews.” So, I busted out the tools and dove in.
PMZ (Podolskiy Motor Zavod) manufactured motorcycles from 1935 until the end of World War II. The PMZ A750, produced from 1935 through 1939, was widely used by the Red Army and the civilian police. It utilized a 747cc side valve V twin motor, but any similarity to a Harley Davidson ended there. The motor featured unitized construction (combination motor and transmission which HD is loathe to use in their big twins even to this day) and a three speed gear box. The frame is a very BMW styled pressed steel type, which the fuel tank sits within, rather than on top of. Front forks have a leading link leaf spring while the rear is a “rigid” as in having no suspension at all. Rider comfort is achieved through very well sprung tractor style seats.
My initial impression was not favorable. The box was reminiscent of those old VEB Plasticart kits I used to buy in the DDR – flimsy cardstock with somewhat uninspiring artwork. The back of the box did however have two side views of the machine, nearly identical save for the auxiliary fuel tank and machine gun on one. There was also a color guide using Model Master Paint numbers.
A quick glance at the sprues reminded me of Soviet women from a time gone by – sturdy, dependable, and unbreakable under pressure. I noted that some of the sprue attachment points bled over the edge of the parts. Pay careful attention to these areas for a good fit. The parts themselves were very well detailed, and tiny! I worried a bit about this not so much because I feared losing parts, but I thought cleaning them might break a lot of the delicate parts. As it turns out, the plastic is not brittle like that of some other brands, and I actually cleaned up all of the parts without breaking any. I was starting to warm up the kit now.
So here’s the obligatory breakdown: Three sprues of medium gray plastic, one small sprue of clear parts, and two frets of photo-etch for the wheels’ spokes. A small decal sheet is also included for the frame emblems.
Building the beast begins with the centerpiece of most motorcycles – the motor.
Part numbers are annotated along with letters which correspond to the painting guide on the box.
The two piece cylinders need a little work to flatten them and enable the cylinder heads to sit flush atop them. (Lapping is actually done on the real thing for the same reason) I did not do this on the first one so I’ll have to go back and fill with a tiny dab of CA. I left the gap in the photo so you can see. The very pronounced cooling fins were are well represented on the heads as I’d like, but at this scale they would have been very fine indeed. The cylinders are offset on the engine case, which you might expect on a V twin, but in actuality there appears to be little or no lateral offset in photos. This creates a problem - the intake manifold, (the most poorly represented part in an otherwise decent kit) does not fit into the intake ports in the motor, because they do not line up correctly. The manifold should sit between the cylinders front to back, not at an angle. I gave up on making this tiny piece work and decided to make a more reasonable one later.
The exhaust outlet was the next challenge. Photos of an actual A750, and the instructions themselves, show the front exhaust flange coming off of the cylinder at a roughly 45 degree angle. The kit cylinder appears a little too squared off in that area, making it all but impossible to mount it any way but straight forward. This will probably go unnoticed by most, but a problem may arise when it’s time to add the exhaust pipes.
The final battle with the motor involves the pushrod covers. On the real thing, they are two piece affairs with the top section having a smaller diameter than the lower. Halfway down is an octagonal piece which I assume is for disassembling the covers to get to the rods for adjustment. In the kit they’re simply represented as stubby cylinders. Bearing in mind the scale of the kit and the size of the parts I’m prepared to overlook this, but the rather thick sprue attachments are right in the middle of the parts, not on the ends which would make cleaning them a lot simpler. There are also no locating holes for them, and placing them correctly is an exercise in patience. Rather than fight with the kit pieces I elected to just use stretched sprue. I may still go back at some point and add a little more detail to them.
The last step in the motor assembly, adding the final drive cover and the generator, I’m happy to say went without a hitch.
At this point a stiff shot of bourbon and a shoulder massage was starting to sound good, but I knew I’d need my wits about me for the next step – the wheels.
Let me preface this by saying I’ve built several kits with PE spokes, but I knew when I first opened the kit there was going to be a problem. When I compared the axles on the sprues with the PE spoke pieces, I noticed the axle holes on wheels were far too small. I either had to make smaller axles or enlarge the holes. I elected to enlarge the holes, but with the relatively fragile pieces, I decided to drill them out larger by rotating a new no. 11 blade in the hole rather than using a bit. That done, it should have been easy from there. It was not.
There was no lip on the inner face of the tire, so the two PE pieces had to be glued to each other with the axle as a spacer. After much, and I mean much finagling I successfully mated them together. All that’s left is to center them in the tire and trap them between the two flanges. Again, by not having some sort of lip in the tire, this was quite challenging, but not impossible. But when I finally did complete the assembly, the flanges were way too far apart. Picture a two inch wide tire on a three inch wide wheel. Sooo… I tore them apart and sanded quite a bit of thickness off of the inside of the flanges. I still have not mustered the energy to attempt the whole assembly procedure again.
Happily, the frame assembly went together well, but not easily. I highly recommend an Optivisor for this step. The cross members are painfully thin and the locating holes are microscopic. Getting all of the parts to set up correctly took quite a few attempts. I decided to leave the motor out to simplify painting later on, so maybe that’s why – it may have given the whole assembly more rigidity had I installed it. I will say that the design of the fuel tank was interesting – a top and bottom half attached to a flat platform between the frame rails. This simple design was far better than trying to center the whole fuel tank in the frame. If only it were so simple in real life.
The Front Fork Assembly
I was pleasantly surprised that I did not encounter any problems here. Other than the front wheel that I need to redo, assembly was straightforward. Slide the fork assembly underneath the neck and secure by cementing the top yoke to the top of the handlebars. I omitted this for now to facilitate painting.
The seat and exhaust, and all the little niggling parts that I save until the painting stage. Other than their tiny size I don’t foresee any problems – floorboards, brake pedal, center stand… You do have an option of mounting the machine gun or not. If you elect to go without it, you’ll have dual headlamps instead of one. The single large headlamp lens does have some very nice detail on it. The last option is the auxiliary fuel tank mounted on the back fender. Detail nuts will want to add a brake cable and some spark plug wires. There’s a nice Youtube video to show you where everything goes. Which brings me to.
Other than my limited knowledge of two wheeled conveyances, the only other reference I found happened to be on my shelf: The illustrated Guide to Military Motorcycles, by Pat Ware.
If you’re a diehard fan of WWII motorcycles, I’d recommend this kit. If you’re the type who sees a kit on the shelf of the local hobby shop and says, “Hey, this might be kind of cool.” Then this kit is not for you. Do yourself a favor and start learning Mandarin instead. I don’t know how many hours I put into this kit, but I can honestly say that less wiring, I have assembled an entire motorcycle from the frame up in less time.
In the beginning I stated that I abhor “out of the box” reviews as I’ve never found them particularly helpful. Well this one tried my patience but I’m still glad I gave building it a whirl. I would never have guessed by looking it that it would be that difficult. Oh! I see they have a sidecar version out…