by: Bill Cross [ ]
Originally published on:
Of all the German soft skins in WW2, perhaps the most common were the light and medium-duty trucks built by Opel known as the Blitz (for “lightning”). Several different models in 1-3 ton versions were built from 1930 until B-24s destroyed the Opel’s Brandenburg factory in August, 1944. But the most-common was the 3 ton version; over 100,000 were built, and served in every corner of the war, carrying virtually everything, including specialized conversions for water and fuel, radio vans, ambulance bodies, or even fire equipment. The Blitz was also used as a gun platform for several small anti-aircraft weapons, especially the 2cm FlaK 38. It even ended up equipped with tracks (the so-called Maultier (or “mule”), a field modification introduced in Russia by the 2nd SS Panzer Division, Das Reich.
The Blitz truck that modelers know from the Italeri and Tamiya kits and multiple aftermarket conversions in 1/35th scale began life in 1937 as an “S” class vehicle (4x2 chassis). Later an “A” type 4x4 configuration was introduced as conditions on the Eastern Front showed no conventional truck could handle the poor roads and inclement weather. The power plant was a 3.6 liter 75hp 6-cylinder Chevrolet engine— Opel was owned by General Motors at the time of the Nazi seizure of power, and the Blitz is sometimes referred to by wags as “General Motors’ gift to the Nazis.” Later in the war when gasoline supplies were almost nil, the Blitz was converted to use a wood gas generator invented by a Frenchman, Georges Imbert.
To compliment this amazingly useful vehicle so popular with modelers, Wing & Wheels Publications has brought out another of their “In Detail” series called .For kit builders, this is about the best source for detailing other than a Toadman CD-ROM or your own private Blitz.
Written by František Kořán, Jan Moštěk and Alois Vesely, with English text by Jan Moštěk and Jiří Bumbálek, this 108-page glossy color book opens with a two-page history of the Blitz. Don’t expect incredible detail; the text is simply to put the Blitz in context, and assumes the reader is more interested in the photos. These first few pages include six of the versions covered in the book, which then jumps right into the color plates, all taken from surviving and restored examples (except the Kfz. 305/22 which seems to exist only in B&W):
Exterior: Page Six begins a ten-page look at the exterior details of the prototypical Blitz taken from a variety of vehicles. There are close-ups of the headlamps, grill, hood/bonnet, Notek lamp, tool brackets, gasoline cans, etc.
Interior: An 8-page look at the inside of the cab, which interestingly is painted in what looks like a dark Panzer interior off-white or a faded Dunkelgelb. Detail geeks will enjoy the pictures with the floor of the cab removed showing the wiring.
Engine details: This section has 10 pages of engine close-ups. Since the Tamiya kit has no engine and the Italeri kit only a rudimentary one, these photos are essential if you plan on having the hood open on your build. The Blitz had lots of wires connecting the various components, so be forewarned!
Chassis Details: These ten pages are divided between the “S” type (4x2) and the “A” type (4x4). If you plan on converting either standard kit to a 4x4, you’ll need this visual guide.
The book then breaks down into sections on the variants of the basic “vanilla” cargo version and all the boxes and tanks the chassis carried serving a wide spectrum of needs:
Opel Blitz 4x4 Cargo: Five pages of the basic cargo version of the Blitz, a kit that should be in every Axis modeler’s collection.
4x4 Fire Engine: Fourteen pages of close-ups of the fire brigade version.
Airport Crash Tender: Another fourteen pages of details and close-ups. This vehicle with its square, boxy attachment looks more like a handyman’s van with loads of cubby holes and places for tools.
4x4 LC/Koffer: I have been unable to find out what the abbreviation “LC” stands for; it’s not in any standard dictionary or list of German abbreviations, though the term is currently used in ads for modern German trucks and seems to refer to a square cargo enclosure. But the eleven pages devoted to this particular vehicle are a bit chilling: at least two of them were converted by the SS for use as mobile gas vans for killing Jews and other “sub-humans” in newly-occupied areas during the invasion of the Soviet Union before the extermination camps were set up. While the text describes the vehicle as a military ambulance, the bars on the windows tell me clearly it was some sort of paddy wagon at best, evoking at worst the darker side of the Third Reich and its vehicles.
Tucked into this section is a half-page list of all the variants of the Blitz (Kraftwagen 305, abbreviated Kfw.305). The list is printed in the old Fraktur typeface, but information junkies (you know who you are!) will appreciate this bit of arcane classification.
Kfz.305/18 Radio Van: The one page of B&W photos devoted to this rare vehicle that supported an enormous aerial is supplemented with a large, clear photo of its radio apparatus.
Kfz.305/22: Another rarity that seems to exist only in B&W photos, of which three pages’ worth are reproduced here.
There then follows three pages of photos of the various radio sets and accessories before the final section of 12 pages on the Luftwaffe Radio Van. The photos of this incredibly detailed vehicle with the built-in roof antenna should keep a scratch-builder occupied for years.
While the photos are entirely made up from images of museum-preserved or collector-restored examples with no period or in-the-field pictures, the trade-off of authenticity vs. clarity comes out squarely in the book’s favor. Preserved or restored vehicles should never be used as a basis for paint schemes or markings; in the case of the LC/Koffer, it's on regular call for movie shoots. But while we can argue about tire treads or other possibly modern restoration items, overall this is simply a terrific book for those like me who feel the Blitz is as important to have in your Axis AFV collection as a Tiger or Pz. IV.
This book is so thorough and rich with detail, I simply can’t imagine a better one; one collecting the many period photos of the Opel Blitz would be an excellent companion volume, but for modelers, the close-ups are clear and easy-to-follow. Anyone who wants accuracy or to take today's pedestrian kits to a higher level couldn’t ask for more. I can’t imagine building another Blitz without referring to the book, and recommend it without reservations, especially to those of you planning to do one of the many variants.