After doing so much to establish the current popularity of quarterscale WW1 aircraft modelling, itís been a long time since Eduard released a new kit. So, unsurprisingly, there was considerable excitement when the company announced itís new-tool SSW D.III - subject of its earliest kit that marked the point when Eduard began to expand from being an aftermarket producer to become a short-run kit manufacturer. A lot has changed since then, with the company firmly established as one of the ďmajorsĒ - consistently producing some of the finest moulded and detailed kits available today.
The new kit arrives in a typically stylish Eduard ďProfiPackĒ box, with the sprues and accessories bagged separately for protection in transit. The top-opening box is quite compact, so itís something of a surprise to see how much free space is left inside around the two densely packed sprues - an encouraging sign that, even in 1:48, the SSW will be a perfect choice for those of us with limited display space.
Eduardís new SSW comprises:
78 x dark grey styrene parts
76 x etched metal parts, some pre-coloured
Printed film for the windscreen
Kabuki painting masks
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
As youíd expect with a modern Eduard kit, the moulding is quite superb. Itís something of a shock to the system to see the new dark grey replacing their traditional linen-coloured styrene, but the result does look undeniably classy. Thereís no sign of any flash on the sample kit, and the designers look to have kept ejection pin marks out of harmís way. I found just one sink mark, which Iíll discuss below. Slide moulding has been employed, and the result is exquisite open vents and louvres on the fuselage belly and the spinner.
The surface detail comprises engraved panel lines on the fuselage, with neatly raised appliquť panels, plus crisply defined ribs and lacing on the fabric surfaces. As impressive as the latter detail is, it looks overly prominent to me, so I'll knock it back quite a bit, together with the raised rivets on the faired struts.
Obviously, thereís only so much you can dry assemble on a kit like this, but the fuselage clips together neatly and sits well on the full-span lower wing to give a good, solid, basis for the build. The stabiliser slots in quite neatly, and includes the rear tip of the fuselage behind the fin, so it might need a smear of filler to hide the seam.
The kit measures up pretty well against the plans in Windsock Datafile 29. The tailplane span is a bit less - but, unless I can verify them personally, I always treat drawings as a useful (rather than absolute) guide, so Iím not going to worry unduly.
A few details
The interior is very comprehensive, with around 40 parts including quite a detailed representation of the fuselage framing, a choice of styrene or etched seats, an etched harness, and decals for the minimal instrumentation.
Under the separate top decking, thereís ammunition storage and feeds, while the rear of the firewall is detailed with the engine mount and fuel tank.
The guns are provided in two styles - solid-moulded or with an etched cooling jacket and, hardly surprisingly, the etched jacket looks much better than the moulded version. In either case, there are optional metal items to add to the guns' bodies if you donít mind a little simple surgery to trim away the moulded details, and you could always transfer the sights from the etched versions to dress up the the solid guns a little if you do want to go with them.
The engine is undeniably rather simplified, comprising just three parts, with rather ďclunkyĒ cylinders and very overscale pushrods. The front of the crankcase also has a small sink mark which will be awkward to fill. However, tucked away behind the front support frame and large spinner, itís effectively hidden from view anyway. So, while itís not good (and something Eduard do need to watch out for), itís hardly the end of the world.
In the photos at right Iíve included comparisons with the Brassin guns and engine that Eduard have released simultaneously with the standard kit. The difference in finesse and detail is instantly visible, so they are very worthwhile upgrades - surprisingly to me, even the etched cooling jackets are finer in the Brassin set. (Of course, cynics may argue that the styrene versions haver been kept rather basic to make the improvement offered all the greater...)
The firewall fits well, but has a simple, curved, opening for the vent over the lower louvres. Vintage photos show a larger vent split by a vertical support that echoes the front frame, so I wonder if Eduard have used Cole Palenís D.IV replica on display at Old Rhinebeck as a reference, as that matches the kitís firewall very closely.
The 4-bladed propeller is crisply moulded, and its prominent spinner has open louvres. Purists may want to thin them for a truer-to-scale appearance, but hats off to Eduard for including them.
Instructions & Decals
The instructions are very well produced as a glossy 16-page A-5 booklet. The assembly diagrams are clear and straightforward, with Gunze Sangyo paint matches throughout. Two pages are devoted to rigging, showing the completed airframe from four alternate angles - a nice way of doing it, and a very handy help, because no less than 40 of the etched parts are tiny turnbuckles and eyelets.
Five nicely varied markings options are catered for, offering some striking schemes. Four are illustrated with full-colour 4-view drawings, while the fifth just has a single side view and a link to artwork on Eduard's website:
a. SSW D.III, Jasta 4, Ernst Udet, Metz, October 3rd 1918
b. SSW D.III 1618/18, Jasta 85 (Kest 5), Ltn. Heinrich Dembowsky, Schaffenhausen, November 13th 1918
c. SSW D.III, Jasta 15, Chery-les-Pouilly, July 1918
d. SSW D.III 1626/18, Kest 4b, Vzfw. Reimann, September 1918
d. SSW D.III 3025/18, Kest 4b, Trier, December 1918 - January 1919
So far, so good - but youíd have to have been living as a hermit to have missed the criticism thatís come from all quarters over the lozenge decals.
Now, Iíll nail my colours firmly to the mast by stating that I'm wary of efforts to pin down single "absolute" colours of lozenge dyes. From my experience of German WW2 paints, where there was considerable leighway between the various colours produced by different manufacturers to the official standards, I see no reason to suppose the situation was any different 20 years earlier, with similar difficulties in quality control and pigment sourcing under wartime conditions. So, I suspect that there was likely to be a degree of difference between batches of lozenge fabric. That said, Eduardís interpretation in this instance is unlike anything Iíve seen elsewhere...
I presume it must be deliberate on Eduard's part, but the hues are so palid and washed out, it's almost as though one is looking at the decals through mist. If it's an attempt at "scale" colours, it's misplaced in my opinion (not least because the other decals aren't treated in the same way), and the decals completely lack the vibrancy one would expect. One good reference for just how rich original lozenge colours could be can be found HERE
In terms of quality, the decals are excellent - they are printed by Cartograf, so they are bound to be. The registration is pin-sharp, and excess carrier film is almost non-existent on most items. The lozenge panels are "cookie-cut", making application much simpler - but, sadly, I just can't see most WWI modellers wanting to use them on account of the colours.
Barring a few minor grumbles, Eduard's new SSW D.III kit is basically superb - beautifully moulded and well detailed - but I'm just left wondering what on earth happened with the decals. The kit is well priced at a shade under £20 in the UK - and, if the lozenge decals had been better, it would be a superb bargain because they are very expensive to produce. As it is, while there are plenty of aftermarket alternatives, you could spend as much again replacing the kit decals. It's a real shame.
Windsock Datafile #29 by P.M. Grosz
Scale Models July 1981 - article by Harry Woodman
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