Tamiya 1/48 US Army Staff Car (1942)

KIT #: 32559
PRICE: $37.00 SRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


The Ford car was thoroughly updated in 1941, in preparation for a time of unpredictability surrounding World War II. The 1941 design would continue in an aborted 1942 model year and would be restarted in 1946 and produced until the more modern 1949 Fords were ready. During the initial year of this car, it evolved considerably. The front fenders came in three pieces, the theory being that small damage could be replaced easily. During the year, it evolved into 2 pieces with the lower front and back sections being joined. The hood risers changed, the early ones being the same as 1940 Fords, changing during the year to the better later version. In the 1941 Convertible, there were no rear side windows, the only side windows being in the doors, in 1942, quarter windows were added so the rear occupants could see out. There were five different coil/distributor arrangements during 1941, causing confusion for mechanics. Other variations were: two different positions for the generator, and three for the cooling fan front of the crankshaft, front of the generator (rare) and on a bracket. This is thought to be the first Ford to offer an oil filter. There were two interior heaters: a "Southwind" gasoline burner, which had the advantage of keeping you warm in winter at drive-in movies (provided you added a small electric fuel pump), and a more ordinary hot-water type. Both had window defrosters. It had an excellent radio, which could consume the battery in about 2 hours. Electric windshield wipers were available in addition to the vacuum-powered wipers. There were three different convertible power top mechanisms (vacuum, electric screw, and hydraulic), and two different header bar latching systems. Rear suspensions sometimes had a sway bar, most did not. It had excellent brakes for the era, and the best handling of an ordinary car at the time. It was a very transitional car.

The two previous Ford car lines, standard and De Luxe, had blossomed into three, Special, De Luxe, and Super De Luxe. This time, the entry-level 136 CID (2.2 L) V8 was deleted in favor of a new 226 CID (3.7 L) L-head straight-6, the first Ford six since the failed 1906 Model K. The popular 221 CID (3.6 L) V8 remained as the top-line engine and was standard in De Luxe models. Both engines were rated at 90 hp. The 239 CID engine, introduced in 1939 for Mercury and Trucks, was continued in the Mercury Models. The chassis was longer, with a 114 in (2896 mm) wheelbase.

The "ignition key" for these cars was actually used to operate a bolt lock which, on one end, unlocked the steering column (a feature destined to return, mandated, decades later), and on the other end unblocked the ignition switch, allowing it to be operated. Starting the car was then accomplished by pressing a pushbutton on the dashboard, another feature destined to return with the advent of "smart keys."

Although starting cranks had been replaced by electric starters for decades, Ford cars included a manual starting feature until 1948 as an antidote to dead-battery syndrome. The wheel-lug wrench served as a handle (also for the jack) and the jack shaft with bayonet-coupling pins could be inserted through a small hole in the grille to engage a bayonet socket on the forward end of the engine crankshaft. A quick-and-easy twist of the handle was sufficient to start the flat head V8, and the bayonet coupling was self-disengaging for safety.

Ford halted its car and truck lines on February 10, 1942 to begin war production, but not before a short run of 1942 cars was built. Changes were made to the car besides a three-part "electric shaver" grille and the parking lights were moved from the top of the fenders to between the grill and headlights. Tail lights were enlarged and moved from vertical to horizontal. the frame was lowered and softer springs were used to improve the ride. The dashboard was changed, moving the radio from the top of the dash to low down, and the linear speedometer and clock were replaced with round ones. The radio had an optional floor button so you could change preselected stations without moving your hands. War rationing required auto makers to black out their chrome trim, and a special four-door model was produced with no chrome at all for military use. The pickup received new styling as well, with heavy vertical bars, and truck production lasted through March 3.The photo is of the De Luxe model; the Super De Luxe having considerably more chrome.

It is certain that 1942-style Ford cars continued to be produced as military staff cars from March 1942 through summer 1945. These would have been registered as 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 models. Additionally, a large number of 1942 (and a few 1941) cars held in dealer stocks by government edict, to be doled out to essential users during the conflict, were Fords. Some states titled cars by the year of sale, so it is possible to find 1943, 1944, and 1945 models by virtue of their registrations and titles.


 Upon opening the box, one is rather disappointed by how little is actually in there. There is a separate body, a sprue for the rest of the parts, a sprue for clear bits and the by now standard metal frame. Certainly not worth the list price in this reviewer's opinion.

The kit was initially produced as an add-on to a Mustang kit and rather accurately portrays a 1942 Ford four-door sedan. Thanks to it being a military version, there is no chrome at all. While the side of the box shows a civilian version, the instructions made no mention of it and you'd have to do the chrome bits in paint if you so wished.

There are a pair of suspension braces that attach to the metal chassis as well as an exhaust stub. Engine detail consists of the form molded to the chassis. Plastic axles are used for the wheels, which have a separate outer section to assist in painting. Clear bits include a windscreen, forward side windows and the rear side/back window piece as well as headlights. The interior is simply a pair of bench seats with a steering column/wheel that is attached to the floor. An instrument panel attaches to the inside of the one-piece body. One will need to paint the frame around the windscreen and the vent windows with the body color. There is a separate hood which could be useful if anyone did a resin engine and engine compartment. Grille and bumpers are provided large attachment points. A driver figure is provided.

Kit instructions are the vertical type used on Tamiya's smaller kits with Tamiya paint color references. There are multi-lingual notes in each construction step, but the rest of the instructions are Japanese. A nicely done decal sheet provided markings for the box art car. The black bits are for the gravel guards.


Once one gets over the disappointment of having paid so much for so little, I'm sure that the kit will build without any issues. I've built several of their 1/48 armor/military vehicle kits and have found each one to be a trouble free build. This one should be no different.




My thanks to me for picking this one up.

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