Motorcycles offered a lot of advantages to the German army during the Second World War, but were mainly used for communications, reconnaissance and scouting. Their ability to go where four-wheeled vehicles could not, and particularly to get round congestion on the roads, made them invaluable and tens of thousands were used during the conflict. From the box artwork it is clear that these motorcycles are specifically intended for the campaign in North Africa, where large barren areas with very few roads had to be covered.
The box contains four bikes, two of which are fitted with a sidecar. The first two figures pictured above are those actually in control of these machines, and either can be seated on either motorbike. They are quite similar apart from one wears a helmet and goggles while the other is much less appropriately attired as he wears a field cap and no goggles. The man with the cap has standard belts and carries a bread bag, field flask and gas mask case, although the latter seems to be held only by the belt as it lacks the usual separate shoulder strap. The helmeted man was the same equipment, although he lacks the vertical straps, which means there is no apparent means to hold his gas mask case, which merely sits in the small of his back. Furthermore motorcycle troops were instructed to carry the case on the chest using a shortened strap, so neither of these figures are following the rules.
The next two figures are alternative pillion passengers for the motorbike without the sidecar. They too have fairly standard equipment but both also carry a weapon. The seated man is fine, but the half-standing man has a problem. Clearly he is supposed to resemble the box illustration, but unfortunately the sculptor has failed to give him the necessary twist at the waist, so in fact he can only be facing fully forwards. This means all he could see in his binoculars is the back of the head of the man in front of him!
The first two figures in the second row are alternative occupants for the sidecar. One is holding a submachine gun but apparently not using it, while the other has an MG34 machine gun mounted on a bar in front of him, and he could easily actually be firing this. Both are good figures although they do have items of kit on their belts which would at least be very uncomfortable in such a confined space and would probably have been moved in reality.
Finally we come to the last two figures, which in truth are not really related to the bikes at all. Again one is good for a reconnaissance role, but both are perfectly useful and well worth including to add value to the set. As with all the figures they wear typical tropical uniform, but the man carrying the MP38/MP40, while having the correct ammo pouches for his weapon, has managed to attach them to the back of his belt, which makes them difficult to access and would require taking the belt off to achieve, plus they are also vertical when the mounting loops forced them to be at an angle.
The two bikes are both the BMW R75, a popular choice with the German army. The design of this bike meant it was better able to withstand the heat and sand of the North African environment, so it was particularly common in that theatre. As a result it is an excellent choice for this set. As can be seen from the sprue each bike is only two pieces yet the level of detail is excellent. Certainly there is some simplification and doubtless more finely detailed models exist but these are still very good and most customers will probably appreciate the ease and rapidity of assembly these offer.
The general level of sculpting is excellent throughout, with all the detail and natural folds you could wish for. There is no flash and very few small areas of excess plastic that are not visible to the mould. All the figures fit the motorcycles well, with pegs fitting into holes in the saddles. The bikes themselves fit securely into holes in the rather large and untextured bases, but at least for the sidecar variant these pegs could easily be removed and the model would stand without any base. The MG34 fits into a hole on the sidecar which looks a bit ugly if the other sidecar figure is used, but that is a small point which again could be resolved by trimming if really necessary.
Overall then this is a really good product. Our various quibbles about the kit these men carry, and the manner in which they carry it, are about the only down side here. Certainly these are very much better models than the Armourfast equivalents, and it is good to report that both men and motorcycles are exactly the correct size (something Italeri does not always deliver).