By Robin Godwin
Dickie-Schuco are now the owners of Märklin (thanks to our Continental Editor Hans-Georg Schmitt for confirming this with Dickie-Schuco). Back in 2007, Märklin introduced a superb line of 1:87 military vehicles under the 4MFOR brand name. Although they were designed primarily as accessories for HO trains, and in particular, the Märklin Bundeswehr train sets. These were also released as 4MFOR items, but I won’t talk about the trains. The 4MFOR vehicles were exceptional and collectable in their own right. The series initially consisted of soft-skin vehicles (unarmoured), armoured wheeled vehicles, tanks, and AAA mounted on a tank chassis, all unique to the German Army. Later some of the models and rolling stock were issued in Danish, Swiss, Netherlands and Austrian Army markings – mostly based upon Leopard Tanks and Gepard AAA (Leopard chassis). The vehicles were largely die cast with some plastic detail components.
I was disappointed in one aspect of the models – the tank tracks and rolling gear. The first 4MFOR catalogue from 2007 showed what looked like separate tracks mounted on accurate rolling gear – in the catalogue photos one could see daylight through the gaps between the road wheels. These must have been pre-production prototypes, as the models were issued with wheels and tracks as one-piece (per side, that is) coloured plastic castings and with no daylight visible. They look like plastic, and in fact, appear to be less detailed than the metal hull casting. I suppose, as display pieces, this doesn’t really matter, but rubber or plastic tracks running on metal wheels would have looked much better, and been more consistent with the general construction of the vehicle.
The 2008 4MFOR catalog illustrated a Mercedes-Benz LG 315 canvas roof military truck which, to my knowledge, was never actually issued as a Märklin. There was a 2009 catalog (which I don’t have), presumably with more future releases illustrated, but things went very quiet on the 4MFOR front soon after that. I can only assume that the line did not sell particularly well, or that Märklin was in financial trouble, and production ceased. Perhaps portending the Schuco acquisition, a few of the soft skin vehicles issued by Märklin as 4MFOR vehicles were actually sourced from Schuco which, of course, were sourced from a Chinese manufacturer – see photos.
Schuco is now issuing a Military 87 line, and the first issue was the Märklin Mercedes Benz truck illustrated in the 2008 catalog. It is a beauty, with metal bonnet, lower cab and tractor bed. Everything else is plastic. There are two more recently issued vehicles which I believe had Märklin origins but which were never issued. These are a steel roof MB LG 315 military truck, and a Marder Infantry Combat Vehicle. This would indicate that design and pattern work had likely been underway at Märklin, but production was never started. The latest Schuco releases are the Serval (light Special Forces vehicle) and two versions of the Wolf G (by Mercedes Benz), a light Utility Support vehicle that is a military version of the G-Wagen. Both the Serval and Wolf were issued as Märklins, with 4MFOR cast into the bases, but likely this has now been changed to Schuco. These vehicles are not inexpensive at 20 to 30 Euros each, but you do get what you pay for. I’m looking forward to some Schuco original vehicles.
Leopard Tank illustrated in the 2007 catalog showing what must be a pre-production sample. Note gaps between road wheels and what look like separate tracks
A production Gepard Anti-Aircraft gun, mounted on a Leopard chassis. Note the one piece wheels and tracks, looking very “plasticy”
2008 catalogue illustration of canvas roof Mercedes-Benz LG 315 Army Truck. To my knowledge, never sold as a Märklin
The Schuco issued Mercedes-Benz LG 315. Look carefully and you can see a tiny perfectly-formed plastic MB emblem above the radiator. For those who care, the license plate is different on the production model
Base of Mercedes-Benz LG 315 with Schuco cast in
Simple but very effective packaging – no screws or wires
Märklin 4MFOR #18706 VW 181 Open Police Vehicle
Base of Märklin 4MFOR VW 181 – oh my, it’s actually a Schuco, long before Schuco owned Märklin. Keyhole in base is for key-like fastening to a plinth that was not used by Märklin 4MFOR. This fastening system is typical of High Speed, likely the original source of the Märklin/Schuco model.
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