Willys Jeep With Trailer
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII


I'd built this jeep years ago, and the trailer shows up in my Hürtgen Forest diorama. I've built a couple of Tamiya jeeps in the meantime, and this version is still the gold standard. But in building the Signal Corps communications set from C.G.M., I got a chance to reacquaint myself with the earlier Italeri kit, which was generally well respected but lost some of its luster when Tamiya retooled its jeep in the mid 1990s. Italeri's product had surpassed Tamiya's older effort, which also included a ¼ trailer and figures. However, the Big T's second version is about as close to a perfect kit as you can get.

But just because the Italeri jeep got some dust kicked in its trademark grille doesn't mean it was forced off the road. This remains a reliable kit, just lacking some of the refinement of the Tamiya version. And while the latter comes with a .30 machine gun on a pedestal mount and a few other accouterments, Italeri's still has the trailer and the option of the deployed rag top.

One of the main differences between the kits is the breakdown of parts for construction. To simplify building, Tamiya has grouped many of the suspension components together on the chassis and the side walls are fixed to the vehicle's floor. This saves a few steps and ensures proper alignment, but that's certainly within the abilities of all but the youngest modelers. There's nothing inordinately difficult about Italeri's arrangement.

The frame for the jeep's canvas roof does require a bit of attention to align; it's best to assemble this off the jeep in case you want to smooth and round the joints. Or, you could replace with wire. (ABER makes an extensive set of photoetch fittings that will give you the plates that mount the frame to the jeep wall.)

Italeri provides a decent start for the engine, which you can further detail with the requisite wiring if you want to display the jeep with the hood open. These photos might be helpful. You can dress it up with a resin and photoetch detail set from the now defunct Kendall Model Company that might still be found collecting dust on the shelf of your local hobby store, or you can opt for parts from ABER.

A few of the more notable items provided by Tamiya but missing from the Italeri box are the fire extinguisher and delousing sprayers that mount on the interior front wall panels and the hip pads on the outboard side the front seats. You can adapt some plastic card and tubes to replicate these features if you desire.

Tools seem to be a perpetual problem for Italeri models. Probably the biggest drawback for the overall look of this kit is the rather lame shovel and axe. If you are using photoetch, you might want to use the tools from Formations (#FO56) without brackets and straps. That will give you a much better shovel and axe, as well as some other tools for your spares box. Another option would be to just replace the anemic handle for the axe with some plastic card.

Likewise, you can fabricate a couple of small semicircular shapes to represent the wiper motors that should be located on the top of the windshield frame. Both jeep kits omit the two spring clamps mounted on the hood that secure the windshield when it is lowered.

The MBT-3 model trailer, designed by the Bantam company, looks the part out of the box, but can be helped with some minor improvements, including alterations to the frame and the addition of a parking brake lever, lighting wiring, towing chains, and the stays that helped secure a tarp to the trailer body. This trailer was later modified after the war and known as the M100 in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

And finally, the wheels on both the trailer and jeep can use valve stems.

If you've got parts left over from a previously built Tamiya jeep—say, the .30 gun and mount, the front towing assembly, or wire guard—you can use these with little or no modifications. Along with the photoetch sets, there are several suppliers of resin wheels with snow chains, and Trakz offers a better looking canvas top.

This set gives you the only decal sheet with markings for a 101st Airborne jeep, as well as the 5th Army in Italy and Marine jeeps deployed to Guam and Iwo Jima.

Italeri includes two figures, a driver and a soldier firing a recoilless rifle. Both men and the weapon are poor representations and should be discarded or given to a youngster to add to his collection of "Army men.".

If you need a trailer, this is the kit you'll have to pick up for the foreseeable future. But if you aren't extremely picky, you'll probably enjoy seeing what you can do to bring out the best in this old jeep.



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © Timothy S. Streeter