Wiking is the world's oldest continuously operating manufacturer of
1/87 (HO) scale plastic vehicle models. The company was founded by Friedrich
Pelzer in 1938 and began producing HO scale vehicles in 1948. Many of
the features we now take for granted, like clear windows and interiors,
were first introduced by Wiking. With over 250 models in their current
catalog, they are one of the leading producers of 1/:87 scale vehicles
in the world. Wiking is also the world's leading manufacturer of 1/:160
scale vehicle models.
In recent years, Wiking has begun facing stiff competition, most notably
from Busch Automodelle. Busch has built on the program it bought when
it took over Otto Duvé's Praliné in 1993 by producing models of increasingly
sophisticated detail. Busch's 49100 Mercedes-Benz W230 C-Class sedan
is a good example of just how far the bar has been raised in only a
The newest models from Wiking show the company is fully equal to the
challenge. The Wiking 372 01 33 Unimog U400 model released in December,
2000, is nothing short of outstanding. It is by far the most detailed
Unimog model Wiking has ever produced and is superior to the Unimog
models I have seen from Roco and Kibri. In addition to a wealth of molded
and factory-assembled body and chassis detail, a separate sprue includes
rear-view mirrors, trailer hitches and high-mounted headlight/turn signal
units for the modeler to attach; completing a very nice model to add
to a display or layout. Since the U400 will be distributed in the U.S.
by Freightliner, the Wiking model is fair game not just for American
collectors, but for modern-era railroaders wishing to remain prototypical.
Due to their awesome towing capacity, Unimogs are used for light switching
and maintenance duties by American railroads and several light rail
system operators in North America. Unimogs are also in use for snow
removal and fighting forest fires.
The Wiking 372 01 33's prototype is the latest version of the Unimog
introduced by DaimlerChrysler in the Spring of 2000. The Wiking model
has a yellow cab and silver-gray load body on a black chassis. The interior
is done in a different shade of gray. As you would expect, the molding
is sharp with lots of fine detail that holds up well even under magnification.
Headlights and turn signals are printed since the bumper-mounted headlights
of the full-size Unimog do not lend themselves to the more typical clear
The Mercedes' 3-point star on the grille and "U400" markings
on the sides of the cab are well-defined and sharp. The model scales
out well compared to Mercedes-Benz published specs for the short wheelbase
U400. Overall length is a scale 5100mm (58.62mm) with a wheelbase of
scale 3080mm (35.40mm). For a complete set of dimensions and specifications
for the real U400, go to: http://www.mercedes-benz.com/e/ecars/unimog/techu400.htm.
The interior is nicely-done including the Vario-Pilot panel on top of
the dashboard. Even the small Telligent shift box is correctly located
on the console. These are important because they are two of the key
features of the new Unimog. Vario-Pilot allows the instrument panel
and steering to be shifted for either left-hand-drive or right-hand-drive
operation. The Telligent system allows automatic up-or-down shifting
to compensate for varying loads and engine speeds. Wiking seems to have
begun taking particular notice of interiors. Speaker grilles and vents
often omitted by Wiking competitors are becoming common items on new
Wiking products. The tires are worthy of special notice. The tires on
the Wiking 372 01 33 are models in their own right and have the full
tread pattern reproduced in miniature. This is something I have not
seen before on a Unimog model from any manufacturer.
Wiking will no doubt produce variations on the new Unimog including
snowplow and firefighting versions. Perhaps, for once, they will unbend
a bit and make an American LaFrance version for their North American
fans. Unimog fans wishing to get a glimpse of the real firefighting
version may want to take a look at this press release from American
Whether you're a 'Mog fan, or a collector who admires a truly well-made
model, I highly recommend adding the Wiking 372 01 33 Unimog U400 to
your collection. You can order direct from Crescent Station or Dellergo
(Tom Kaseler also has the promotional models in the PC box) or your
hobby shop can order it from Flint Imports (Wiking's recommended U.S.
distributor). Prices I've seen run around $19.00-$20.00 except Walthers
On-Line which wants $23.99.