Lion Roar 1/35th BMW R75 with Sidecar

KIT: Special Hobby 1/48 Focke-Achgelis Fa-223
KIT #: 3510
PRICE:  $45.00 MSRP
DECALS: Several options
REVIEWER: Greg Ewald
NOTES: Very fiddly build, not for the faint of heart. Dubious location points.


  The motorcycle with its sidecar was used by the German Army throughout every theatre of war in the 30’s and 40’s. Rugged, able to take a beating and continue to haul quite a lot, the BMW  R-75 was a favourite among the ground troops invading, and then retreating, from foreign soil.  It could get you out of a mess quickly, although somewhat noisily. Unlike most cycles, this model actually had a reverse setting, though I can’t imagine trying to control the bloody thing going backwards under fire. Maybe they used it to pull Kubelwagens out of the mud?

The 746cc engine gave a lot of torque, and a fair bit of power to the rather light frame, and the cycle could easily handle a sidecar as well as tow other things, like trailers, small guns, and ice cream carts. O.K. I am making up the ice cream cart thing, but it would have been easy enough to do on the eastern front, and more than welcome in Africa. Rommel certainly adored the beasts, it’s hard to find a photo of the action there without a 75 in it.

The sidecar was not just sitting there for good looks. The rear drive was engaged to the wheels of the attached side sled, rendering the motorcycle as a somewhat miniature car of which the Europeans are so fond. The cross country mobility was astounding, and the bike could race through sand, mud, blood, brick, ticks, peasants, logs, and almost anything else you can think of.  If you put an MG 34 on it, you have a wildly mobile machine gun platform, though looking at the suspension of the sidecar, hitting anything whilst riding about would have been through sheer luck. Bouncy as a car on prom night.

In fact, the R75 was so highly sophisticated, some speculate that Harley Davidson “borrowed” some of the design, and it is quite true that the Russians, irritated at losing the rocket projects, made quite a number of copies of the fantastic cycle, renaming it the “M72”.


You know you are in for it when assembling the engine (more than fifteen parts) can take you over an hour, using fast setting superglue, to end up with something about the size of a pea. There are a lot of photoetch bits and pieces that you will need to attach during the build, in some cases, I substituted wire or styrene for the kit parts when I felt they were out of scale (in most cases, because the PE was too thin).

   The Wheels:  O.K. I like details too, but this almost pushes the limit. Each wheel is made up of 5 bits of styrene and two PE. I was worried that I might have to make a scale compressor and inflate the tires ! While complaining, I have to admit that the end result is absolutely amazing in realism. Be careful to remove the locating points of the hubs before you try to attach them to the spokes, as the spokes bend easily. Glue and wait.

   The Frame:  Well, once you have your miniature engine done, it is time to attach it to the frame. Do not drink anything caffeinated prior to this step. I would recommend using a slow setting glue, as you have to finagle the assembly together, and the pieces are so thin, there is no way you could clamp or even tape it together. One bit at a time, attach the points together, and let it sit to dry. This is like fly fishing for modelers, or learning how to become a Jedi Knight…patience.

The PE mud/gravel flaps are a bit of a bugger to get on.  In this case, I would use a fast setting super glue to attach the main bar to the frame, and then put on the flaps after it has set up. No matter what, it is not the easiest thing to do, but luckily, the metal flaps were often dinged up in combat use, so if you bend them a bit, you will be safe with the jmn’s. Some cycles didn’t even have them on.

I would also recommend leaving the little road pegs off until you have gotten the bulk of the bike built. (that’s a lot of b’s), as they have a tendency to fly off when you are man-handling the cycle itself. Yeah, it’s a big bike in real life, but in 1/35th, this thing is tiny.

The Front Forks:   If you have watched any episodes of “American chopper”, you will notice that they spend a lot of time on the front of the bike. Well, so will you. Be very careful separating  the pieces from the sprue, as the molding is thick, and the plastic is very, very brittle. I had to remake the lower flange of the fork system out of metal after I cut the styrene part too short. This assembly is not easy at all to do, but is quite convincing when completed.  It is easier to glue the headlight to the forks, and then the lower flange, as I found out the hard way. I did not put any of the clear parts or decals at this time, of course.

Attaching the fender struts will require a fair amount of dexterity. Once again, the location points are minimal at best, and you need to refer to the box art or the web for angles and such (unless you own a BMW from WW2). The fender itself is hard to position, just breathe evenly and take your time, padawan.

 Now, you can glue the front fork assembly to the main frame. I used a slow setting super glue, and let it really sit for a while (overnight). I left the handlebars off for the time being, as I wanted to do the base painting and still be able to hit the tires as necessary with black.

The Sidecar:  Glue the port side, that is “left” to you landlubbers, on from the rear to about midway. Set it aside to dry. Do the same for the starboard side  (from the Scandinavian “steering board, the paddle that guided the boat). Once the rear bits are on and in place, you can gently push the front of the sides into the frame of the sidecar, and using an accelerator, get them fixed in place. A note to those who use superglue…vinegar and water make a superb accelerator , if you happen to run out of the commercial stuff, and the hobby shop is closed.!

The leaf springs of the sidecar are on the outside, it must have been a very unpleasant ride. Attach the lower frame onto the upper gondola, and let it set up. You can now put on the wafer-thin handlebars too, but don’t sneeze or even breathe too hard.

The Trailer.  This is possibly the easiest part of the kit to assemble, though the locating points for some of the attachments seem to be merely hinted at in the instructions.  I wonder if they are supposed to be actually three dimensional illustrations, as sometimes the locating arrows go around the back of the drawing?

When it comes to attaching the trailer to the odd hitch system, you are on your own. There were a few different ways that the hitch was made, I chose the one I could find photographic evidence of (see links).

With all of the sub-assemblies in hand, it is time to spray and pray.  I did not attach everything together yet, as I wanted to be able to hit the tires with satin black. The painting sequence is below.


 I recommend the standard armor base painting, that being spraying the whole thing flat black on the sprue. More on the after painting later.  After painting it all black ( I just use Krylon rattlecan  flat black), I like to go back and hit the whole thing with a light olive drab, working your way out from the middle to the edges.

I used a sand colour next, once again, spraying from the middle out, and heavily thinned. Thin layers of paint build up into an interesting pattern, that looks a “rode hard and left wet” sort of bike.  

The decals went on without a fuss, they are perfectly transparent, perfectly thin, heck, they are perfect. Of course, they are all about a millimeter in size, so if you want to admire them, break out the goggles. Once they had settled in ( no microsol or anything required), the kit was given a loving spray of clear satin and  then flat. No lark’s vomit was used at all.


If you really want a truly accurate 1/35th BMW from WW2, then this kit is for you. I think it is overly detailed, and quite unnecessarily complex for the average diorama. It is certainly not a weekend kit, nor a particularly fun build. As far as realism goes, it is perhaps the acme.


Good Photos here:

Greg Ewald

June 2009

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