The 39.M Csaba was the standard armored scout car used by the Royal Hungarian Army during WWII. Some 39.M’s were used by the police force as well, but the main users of the vehicle were the reconnaissance units of the Army.
The Peace Treaties after WWI prohibited Hungary to possess any type of armored vehicles. This was the reason that the design and development of such vehicles only started in the ’30s. The story of the 39.M started with an automotive engineer, Miklos Straussler, and the Weisz Manfred Factory in Budapest. Straussler was an expat, who moved to England in the interwar period, and designed amphibious and off-road vehicles. Probably his most known designs were the flotation system for the DD tanks used by Allied forces during the war and the Alvis Straussler Bomb Trolley. He set up collaboration with the Weisz Manfred factory to produce armored cars and other designs for his home country.
The first armored car prototype –named AC1- was built in 1932 by Weisz using Straussler’s plans. This was followed by the AC2 in 1935. They enjoyed a modest export success, as the British Army ordered 53 AC2 chasses from Weisz Manfred. The engine, weapons, transmission and armor was supplied by the freshly formed joint Alvis-Straussler company in England. The “39.M Csaba felderito pancelkocsi” (reconnaissance armored car, named after the son of Attila the Hun) was developed from the AC2 in Hungary. It was a modern design and a very successful vehicle. The sloped body was riveted using 9mm armor plates. The powerplant was an 8 cylinder German-made Ford engine which gave it a maximum speed of 65 km/hrs. The transmission had 5 gears in both forward and reverse. All four wheels were driven, and the car had two driving positions as in most contemporary designs. It had an excellent off-road performance, but the complex driving arrangement made maintenance difficult, and due to the fuel capacity the range was somewhat limited (150km). It was armed with a 20mm 36M cannon and a 34/37A M 8mm MG in a rotating turret, giving it a respectable firepower. All vehicles were supplied with an R-4T radio, and had a crew of 3 (gunner, driver, radio operator/driver).
After the successful trials in 1939 the Army ordered 41 vehicles first, which was followed by subsequent orders. Altogether 135 39.Ms were built of which 30 was a special command version, the 40.M Csaba. This vehicle had extra R/4 and R/5 radios and a large pneumatic lattice radio mast installed, while the armament was removed.
The Csaba was used throughout the war; unfortunately no example survived.
The model comes in the usual Hunor box: sturdy, flat cardboard (it found a new life as a toolbox). The box art is a very nice picture of the vehicle; it mistakenly says 39M (should say 40M, the command version). The parts are in ziplock bags, protected by packing peanuts. There are only 20 resin parts, a small and delicate photoetched fret, and the decal sheet produced by HAD. (My review sample did not contain the decals, so I used the Bison Decals offering of Hungarian tanks; it offers a number of options for most armored vehicles used by the Hungarian Army; in fact I was hard pressed to decide which one I want to use.)
The instructions are quite basic. Most of the time it is not a problem as the model is easy to assemble, but there are some areas where references will come invaluable. The pneumatic arms raising the radio mast, and the lifting hooks on the body need to be made by the modeler, and not much reference is given.
The parts are molded in cream colored resin; the pouring blocks are smartly placed, and easy to remove (with the exception of the turret where you have to saw through the whole base, which is not a design flaw, but a necessity of the molding process). The quality of the resin is very good: I did not find any casting imperfections. The model measures up to scale drawings nicely; the rivets and the armored panels are at the right place, and more importantly, right size. (In small scale models rivets tend to be exaggerated, giving the models a very characteristic Warhammer 40k look.) The included PE fret carries the radio mast and a few small parts for the model. It is very fine and delicate; care must be taken not to break the metal.
The construction is quite straightforward and simple; it took me about two hours total. As I mentioned the only part I was worried about was the fabrication of the pneumatic arms, but it was surprisingly easy to make them from Evergreen plastics. I used slow drying superglue to fix the radio mast and the arms, which gave me time enough to position them correctly. The lifting hooks I made are a bit oversized and placed too close to the arms –they should be a bit further up.
The camouflage I chose was a pre and early-war three-color one with big, colorful markings from Bison. I used a paintbrush, as I still had no access to my airbrush when I built this vehicle. (Later in the war a much more subdued overall green or gray color was adopted; perhaps later I’ll build a 39.M in those colors.) Weathering was done using pigments mostly.
All in all, it’s a cool little model, and the antenna makes it look very unique.
The Magyar Steel, Modell & Makett kulonszam, online photos and the-blueprints.com website.