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Märklin Unveils Another Theme Set.

By Charlie Pack


Quietly and inconspicuously, Märklin, German manufacturer of premium quality metal construction sets, continues to turn out more and more interesting "theme" sets. The latest one to roll onto North American shores is the No.1085 Märklin metall truck set. This set, based on a three­axle MAN heavy-duty truck chassis with tandem dual rear wheels, contains enough parts for either a flatbed truck with sides and optional snowplow, or a dump truck.

On the positive side, we have a pair of very well­thought­out models (in a 1:16 scale) with the robust look of real heavy­duty trucks. On the negative side, I would have liked to see more detail in the cab. Historically, this is Märklin's second venture into model trucks built mostly with parts from the standard construction set line. Märklin has been building sheet­metal truck models since the 1930s, but these were independent from the standard metal construction sets. From 1980 through 1985, they offered a No.1056 truck set which was part of a group of four available theme sets, each using a selection of the orange­painted standard strips, girders and brackets available in that period.

The No.1056 was unique in that it also contained a selection of black and white flat plastic panels that were used for the sides, bottom and top of the truck cab and body. As a result, the truck models built with this set tended to have a boxy style which-along with the lack of dual rear wheels on some models-gave a somewhat toy­like appearance. The new No.1085 truck set overcomes these problems and more. The plastic panels have been replaced by formed sheet-metal panels which you bolt together to make the cab. The cab represents that of a modern MAN heavy-duty truck.

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The model color scheme is red, green and black. The red color of the cab is almost an exact match to the current Calais Meccano red. The truck bodies are made from individual strips and girders in the standard Märklin green color, which is close to the 1960s Meccano green color. The frame members are black 35­hole angle girders (the chassis is about 17.5" long including the front bumper). Tires, fenders and front bumper are formed black plastic.

You get 10 tires with the set (the old 1056 had only 8); they mount on standard flanged wheels which are made of red plastic. The front tires have a special hub. A lot of attention has been paid to detail in the chassis. First, the steering mechanism-although not of true Ackermann type- is compact and well designed. It uses special brackets to support kingpins and front axles (Märklin is known for the rich variety of brackets in its parts lineup). Leaf­type springs (also special parts) are used with simulated shock absorbers in the front suspension. The tandem rear axles are also mounted on leaf suspension. The rich detail in the front bumper and suspension, combined with the black frame members, black plastic mudguards and tandem dual real wheels, all combine to give this truck a heavy, robust look. This can be further improved with the addition of a saddle­type fuel tank made up from standard parts.

Pity, though, there is not even a hint of a differential: the rear axles are not split. The narrow frame-only 1½" wide-would probably preclude the installation of any type of gearbox or differential made with standard parts. There is no gear reduction mechanism for the steering wheel-and no room for it anyway.

When assembled, the model is a good likeness of a heavy-duty, cab-over­engine style truck. However, the assembled cab lacks detail for such an otherwise fine model. There are no door handles, no windshield and not a single marker light! The cab roof does have a simulated ventilator, and the front cowl has a prominent simulated radiator grille with the MAN logo on it. And the front bumper is well detailed, even incorporating simulated headlights.

In most real dump trucks, the load bed is raised and lowered by one or two hydraulic cylinders. This technique is difficult to duplicate in Märklin or Meccano, unless you have a well equipped machine shop. In the Märklin 1085 dump truck model, this problem is solved in an elegant way. A threaded rod, mounted in the truck's frame, turns in a rectangular coupling fixed to a strip directly attached to the bottom of the bed. This threaded rod is about 0.235" (6 mm) in diameter, turned down to about 0.157" (4 mm) on each end. It is turned by a crank handle through a 1:1 bevel gear arrangement which is also mounted on the chassis frame. As the rod turns, it moves the coupling and raises the dump body.

While Meccano has used this technique for many years, they have based it on their standard 5/32" diameter threaded rods- which are not strong enough for really stressful applications, and are not always truly straight. They have just been "one­upped". This has implications for the model-building hobbyist: Will Märklin make this threaded rod and special coupling available as separate parts? If so, expect to see them in other Märklin (and Meccano) models. Do we now have simulated hydraulics for the modeler without a machine shop? Is Meccano S.A. listening?

To sum up, the Märklin 1085 Truck set is an excellent addition to their existing product line. Not withstanding a couple of "nits", it is of their usual premium quality. The suggested retail price is $278. And more is on the way. Märklin has already announced the addition of the No.10851 "Truck" Extension Set at a suggested retail price of $179. A larger variety of truck models, such as a tow truck, garbage truck or heavy duty transport truck can be built. Perhaps, an 18­wheeler?

Last Updated: October 1, 2000