Unimax Forces of Valor
Military Replica Series
By Jerry D. Morelock, Armchair General Editor in Chief
and A J Summersgill, ACG Website Staff
Published Sunday, February 24, 2008
Collecting Militaria: Thinking “Small” Can be the Answer to a “Big” Problem
Although the leadership gurus are always pleading with us to think “outside the box,” militaria collectors can find a workable practical solution to a “big” problem by thinking “inside the box” – inside the scale replica box, that is.
Collectors’ “Big” Problem
Those of us who are “afflicted” by the compulsion to collect historic uniforms, equipment and weapons – especially the World War II era – have always faced at least one big problem. The extent of our collections will always be inherently limited when it comes to the “big ticket” items, like tanks, artillery and large military vehicles. Although we can acquire the uniforms, personal gear and small arms that were worn and carried by the crew members who manned these “big weapons,” acquiring the “real deals” — historic tanks, artillery and large vehicles — are way beyond the reach of all but a handful of the most wealthy “advanced” collectors. And even if these “uber-collectors” have a few spare acres to park them on — and preferably a climate-controlled warehouse to keep them in – merely getting their hands on the rarer types (most World War II panzers, for example) is all but impossible. Most of us must be content with periodic visits to museums that feature restored tanks and armored vehicles (such as the superb collection at The Tank Museum, Bovington, UK) or displays of historic artillery (like the Ft. Sill Museum at the U. S. Army Field Artillery Center in Oklahoma). Like kids with their noses pressed to the glass of the candy store window, we’ll just have to be satisfied with the occasional peek.
Or do we?
The “Small” Solution from UNIMAX
One answer to this “big” problem is to think small. Although owning actual tanks, artillery and vehicles may be out of the question, enhancing one’s collection of uniforms and equipment by displaying them alongside authentic and historically accurate scale models of the “big weapons” is likely the next best thing. One company in particular has been producing a line of highly-detailed, historically accurate scale model tanks, artillery, vehicles, planes and helicopters that seem tailor made for uniform collectors who notoriously demand the highest degree in authenticity. UNIMAX Toys Ltd’s Forces of Valor series (forcesofvalor.com), first introduced in summer, 2003, features incredibly accurate, scaled replicas in die cast metal of many of the “big ticket” items that collectors covet from World War II and the Modern Era (Desert Storm through Operation Iraqi Freedom). Tanks, artillery, vehicles and figures are in 1:32 and 1:72 scale and helicopters are in 1:48 scale. The line even includes a “big” treat for militaria collectors who are fans of German armor – massive, 1:16 scale die cast metal replicas of PzKw VI Tiger tanks, including Panzer Ace, Michael Wittman’s Tiger I and Jochen Peiper’s King Tiger of Battle of the Bulge fame. UNIMAX Forces of Valor line features dozens of highly-detailed, superbly-rendered, “battle-worthy” replicas that look terrific when displayed along with collectors’ full-size authentic uniforms and equipment.
Click all images for larger versions.
UNIMAX Forces of Valor replicas feature exquisitely detailed die cast metal scale replicas,
including their ‘Extreme Metal Series’ that includes 1:16 scale Tiger tanks.
Allied vehicles and soldier figures are included in UNIMAX’s superb Forces of Valor scale replicas.
Len Gatdula, Product Development Manager at Panache Place, Inc., the Rancho Santa Margarita, California based division of UNIMAX Toys, Ltd., told this reviewer, “These beautifully realized products have been around a number of years and have garnered quite a reputation among serious collectors and kids alike. Indeed, we strive to make them ‘museum quality’, and UNIMAX is, in fact, one of the few companies that can boast die cast metal construction in their military themed vehicles.” Gatdula didn’t forget to thank collectors as well as the troops who fought in the real life vehicles their scale replica’s are modeled after: “Our products speak to generations of collectors (many of whom have served their country in times of war), and it’s to these esteemed collectors that we give our special thanks and appreciation. We’re big on saluting the service of the brave men and machines that inspire our product lines and who are commemorated with every item we make.”
- Planes, artillery and modern military fighting vehicles all feature an attention to detail
that make them highly authentic replicas.
Based upon the “out of the box” authenticity of the 1:32 scale Forces of Valor replica Russian tank I obtained recently, “museum quality” seems an apt description. The tank’s paint job, in particular, is stunningly lifelike and superbly done.
My Red Army Tanker’s “Companion”
My own militaria collection features numerous World War II Red Army uniforms, headgear, small arms, field gear, equipment and medals, but the closest I’ve gotten to the Red Army’s “workhorse” tank of World War II – the T-34 – has been drooling over the ones on display in Moscow’s impressive Great Patriotic War Museum or the several T-34s exhibited in my wife’s hometown, Kharkov (the site of four brutal East Front battles, 1941-43). Now, however, thanks to UNIMAX, my World War II Red Army tanker uniform ensemble has a great “companion piece” that really enhances the “look” of the display. Forces of Valor’s T-34/85, a 1:32 scale die cast replica is an outstanding recreation of the real thing, sporting a “battle-hardened” look, superb attention to detail and many “extras.” Replicating a T-34/85 fighting in East Prussia in the early months of 1945, the spot-on replica features: moveable treads; hatches, driver’s and engine compartments that open to reveal more detail inside; traversing turret and elevating main gun; and a host of extras that include towing cables and “war torn” diorama props. Two Red Army tank crewmen figures accompany the T-34, each featuring outstanding, highly-accurate uniform detail that passed this Red Army uniform collector’s muster with flying colors. In fact, one of the figures is an exact match for the real Red Army tanker’s uniform I have on display, right down to the padded tanker’s helmet, black leather jacket with correct color tab insignia, bino’s, PPSh 41 submachine gun, trousers, belt, pistol and boots – it’s as if my Red Army tanker now has his own “Mini-Me” in 1:32 scale.
BEFORE: Reviewer’s Great Patriotic War Red Army ‘Tankist’ uniform ensemble looks good .
But not yet great! Where’s his tank?
AFTER: UNIMAX’s Forces of Valor 1:32 scale replica T-34/85 really complements the ‘tankist’ uniform display by adding an authentic replica of what this tanker would have ridden into East Front combat.
- UNIMAX’s Forces of Valor 1:32 scale T-34/85 replica “in the box” comes ready for display. “Mini-me” tankist in black leather jacket (second figure from left) is nearly an exact match of the real thing.
For more information on the complete line of UNIMAX’s Forces of Valor’s impressive scale replicas visit forcesofvalor.com.
Jerry D. Morelock.
I’ll get this out in the open - I have absolutely no patience, skill or time when it comes to model-making and I am completely incapable of even gluing two pieces of plastic together without making a complete mess of it and throwing the whole lot in the bin. And don’t even get me started on painting models…
So if you’re like me, you will often find yourself in a bit of a quandary when it comes to model collecting, as we are generally left with inaccurate, out of scale or horribly deformed models that bear little resemblance to the vehicles they are supposed to replicate.
Which is why I knew I had found something special when I began to collect the 1:32 scale Forces of Valor "Combat Proven Machines" range a few years ago. I was finally able to get my hands on a unique series of replica vehicles from my favourite era of military history - World War II. These vehicles were not only beautiful to look at, they featured an astonishing amount of detail, a vast amount of scaled accessories and the kind of battle-worn appearance generally only achieved by the best model-makers in the business.
Part of my collection of Forces of Valor 1:32 vehicles.
In the remainder of this article, I’ll be focusing on three different ranges produced by Unimax under the Forces of Valor banner.
We’ll begin with the 1:32 range I mentioned above, and this wonderful Willys Jeep. This particular vehicle is a replica of the type that was used during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, as used by the 11th Armoured Division.
Although this is only a small vehicle, the detail is incredible - coated in mud and frost, this battle-worn Jeep has clearly seen a lot of action. The paintwork is scratched and worn, scuffed from daily use. The seats are tired and frayed, the windscreen coated in grime, the only clear areas those swept by the wipers.
The accessories that come with the Jeep are no less amazing. There are spare fuel cans, a mounted machine gun that can be dismounted and which features not just one ammunition box, but three spares as well. Equipment packs can be hung from the sides of the Jeep and a large radio antenna protrudes from the back. The driver figure that comes with the Jeep is covered in grime and one can almost smell the stench of battle on his uniform. His grim face gives little away as he drives his vehicle through the blasted countryside.
The Jeep also comes with a small two-sided information card which gives the useful vital statistics of the real vehicle.
This vehicle is typical of the 1:32 range - the attention to detail is lavish, the care that has gone into the production is amazing and I’d recommend this range to anyone interested in models or the era as a whole.
The second model on my list is this 1:72 Die Cast Metal German Tiger I of the type that would have been seen in Normandy, 1944.
I’ve not bought any of this range before, but despite the diminutive size, the detail is still incredible, and the Tiger model itself features a detailed Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating on the front, rear and flanks. The rubber caterpillar tracks on the Tiger tank turn together and the elevating gun turret rotates as well. There is much more detail than any other model I’ve seen at this scale.
Accompanying the Tiger are small scaled troops from both sides of the conflict. German forces appear to be counter-attacking given their running stances, whilst the Allies appear to be defending a fixed position, crouched behind sandbags. To add to the scenery, tiny petrol cans litter the surrounding area and a telegraph pole stands nearby.
If there are any modelers reading, this would be an excellent model to form the basis of a proper diorama.
The final models I’m looking at are from the 1:18 scale Bravo Team range. To begin with, we have the truly huge US M3A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Made from durable plastic, this is a hefty model which features a rotating turret, an elevating gun and opening hatches. The tracks rotate and the model would appear to be aimed at younger customers as I would regard it more akin to a toy than a model. However it’s really rather nice to play with if you’re an adult as well!
Two soldiers, one from the US Marines, the other from the US Army, complement the Bradley perfectly. These troops come with highly detailed uniforms and weapons. Helmets are removable and they can be mounted on small plastic stands for display purposes. The number of points of articulation in the figures is incredible - arms bend and rotate, heads turn, even the feet and hands can twist - something I’ve never seen an any kind of "action figure" before. The result is a figure that can adopt nearly any posture you care for - which is of course vital in combat!
To summarise, I was pleased to see that that even lines other than the 1:32 range which I was already collecting appear to meet the same standard of accuracy and detail and on this basis I can only give Forces of Valor my top approval.
A J Summersgill.