by: Russ Amott [ ]
The Cushman Motorworks Company initially began as an engine manufacturer, but in the 1930's began to produce small scooters as a way to increase sales volume. When the United States entered WWII, Cushman, like all other industry, turned its attention to military production. The 32 series entered production in 1942, and was frequently seen on large air and naval bases as well as stateside use in places such as Boeing's huge Seattle plant. They were powered by a cast iron, 4HP air cooled engine. Wheels were 9, 8, or 7 inch, decreasing in diameter to save on rubber. A similar scooter, the 53 series, was made to be air droppable for use with airborne units.
PlusModel has now released a small, full resin kit of the 32 series scooter, the subject of this review.
I am fortunate in that the Hill Aerospace Museum, located adjacent to Hill Air Force Base, has both a 32 series and the 53 series airborne scooter included in their display. I include in this review a few photos of both scooters as a reference. The 53 series shows the engine in good detail.
The kit itself comes in a small blister type plastic package. The parts are protected with a foam insert against the cardboard backing and are attached to the pour blocks. There is quite a bit of cleanup to do, and the frame and front fork assembly in particular are very delicate, but detail is very good.
The instructions are very basic line drawings showing placement of the kit parts. Numbers for parts are found on the pour blocks. No parts were damaged, but there was some very slight warping on the rear frame. The molded on baseplate for the headlight in the handlebar frame came out on it's own as I was cleaning out the front fork assembly.
Paint and decals options are for three different scooters. First is overall olive drab paint, with pre/early war markings of the US Army, number 36828. I have seen photos of this restored scooter online, though I don't know anything about the accuracy. Second is for a scooter in use with the US Navy, overall light gray, number 41948, with photos of the restored scooter again present online. The third scooter is a civilian bike, all yellow with a Cushman logo decal.
Once everything was cleaned up, I started construction.
I used Gorilla Glue brand super glue as it is a thick formula with some flexibility after it is dried. Normally I use BSI corp. odorless CA glue.
I started with the front tire, placing it in the forks. The axle stubs need to be trimmed perfectly flat and parallel to get the tire to sit straight. The tire has really good tread pattern. I attempted to replace the headlight bracket with a piece of copper foil, which did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. The instructions show the mounting bracket attached to the headlight and that unit installed as a single piece.
I attached the engine to the frame, getting it centered. The guide for mounting the etch lever is a little vague, but based on the actual engine I believe I have it fairly close.
The seat cushion goes on the rear body fairly easily, although the small lever to raise the seat is missing. This can be replaced with a small pin or piece of wire with a drop of glue or paint on the tip. Attachment of the two pieces is very simple, but can be easily botched if the cushion is placed crooked or off center.
I added the drive sprocket to the rear wheel, making it straight, and the small axle stub to the other side (the one with the bored out center) and then placed it. The rear frame axle points are recessed, easing placement. I put the rear body on but did not glue it so I can paint later.
Once the front tire was set, I added the fender, and then the etch pedal and bracket. The supplied copper wire is 24 gauge-too thick for the parts. I used 28 gauge wire and it was a perfect fit. I added the kit wire to the front forks for the brakes, but again this looks much too thick, so I will have to carefully remove it and use the 28 gauge wire. The headlight was also added, and it is quite apparent how crooked my improvised fix is. I wanted something to hold on to when I removed the base plate, and the light sits much too low. If used stateside in a factory the headlight and tail light were not installed. The front fork attaches easily to the frame and can be positioned easily. There is no specified length for the kickstand. I settled on a length of about 3mm.
I attached the brake handle on the right handle bar per the instructions, although photos I have seen on line show right and left installation. The 32 series scooter from the museum has it on the left.
Looking at the completed kit, the slight warp in the frame is evident when the rear body is attached. The crooked headlight stands out clearly, but I will deal with that.
Overall, this is a fairly simple resin kit of yet another very unique and appealing subject from PlusModel. Detail is very smooth and nice. Some directions are vague, such as the length of the kick stand, placement of the engine lever and headlight bracket. Also lacking (no fault of PlusModel) are suitable USAAF ground crew and aircraft for a nice diorama setting, or even a single riding figure.
PlusModel has this kit listed at $17.90 US. My thanks to them, and Armorama, for this review sample.
Coming soon, a look at the scooter with a sidecar box.