by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Special Hobby have re-released their 1:32 kit of the Fokker D.II with new decals for a pair of colourfully marked machines.
The kit arrives in a compact and attractive top-opening box, with the main sprues bagged together and the accessories protected in their own bags. The kit comprises:
80 x grey styrene parts (plus one not needed)
A clear sheet of film for the windscreen (a spare is provided)
127 x etched brass parts
The kit is cleanly moulded, but it's worth stressing that it falls into that grey area between "short run" and "mainstream", so you can expect to have to do a bit of extra cleaning up and test fitting. That said, there's very little flash indeed, and I didn't spot any sink marks in the sample kit. There are a fair few ejector-pin marks, though, some of which will interfere with the fit if you don't deal with them. There are a couple of pin marks visible on each side of the cockpit, but these will be quick and easy to remove. Some of the sprue attachments extend onto the surface of parts - I noticed this particularly on the tailplanes - so be prepared to spend a few minutes tidying them up.
The surface finish is pretty good, with the flying surfaces sporting a nice taught fabric effect and rib tapes. The only real problem which I can foresee is that the wings are slightly curved and will need straightening carefully to remove an uncharacteristic upturn towards the tips. This certainly isn't the worst example I've seen of a problem which can afflict even the best kits at times (even WNW have suffered on occasion) and the wing panels straighten out fine with a modicum of pressure, so taping them down to a flat surface and dipping them quickly in scalding water should cure things.
Test FitThere's not a great deal you can usefully dry fit in a kit like this, but I was concerned about how the lower wings and fuselage would go together, so I went ahead and test-assembled those parts. Plus - I wanted to see if the wings would straighten out of their own accord when they were removed from the sprue (sadly, they didn't).
The fuselage presented no problem at all. The halves are moulded straight and true, and everything lines up neatly.
Fitting the lower wing is a different kettle of fish entirely. Firstly, the "spar" is thin and flexible, so the wings tend to droop. The wings are a very tight fit side-to-side (you may need to ease things a bit by sanding the fuselage halves down a tad), but the “spar” is a very loose fit in the slot in the base of the fuselage, with a tendency to revolve slightly if you're not careful, and with large gaps that will need filling.
To help on both counts, I recommend backing the slot with styrene sheet hidden under the cockpit floor to add stability for the spar.
A Few DetailsThere are actually two distinct styles of moulding evident in the kit, with the larger parts appearing closer to Special Hobby's traditional “short-run” type of production, while the smaller details look to be CAD-produced and correspondingly crisper.
The cockpit parts fall into the latter category, and the result is nicely detailed 23-part "office" that promises to assemble neatly. A cat's cradle framework attaches to the floor and supports the pilot's seat, rudimentary controls and fuel tank. The seat is supplied with an etched harness, and there's a decal face for the single instrument.
The Oberursel engine comprises 24 parts and the cylinders are impressively crisp for a kit if this type, and a very welcome touch is that the sprue attachments are on the gluing surfaces, so they don't mar the cooling fins. The spark plugs and ignition wires are etched, so you may want to replace these because the spark plugs do look a bit 2-dimensional. True, they're on the back of the engine, but the ones on the lower cylinders will still be in sight because the cowling only partially covers the motor.
The lMG 08 “Spandau” machine gun is surprisingly complex, with 14 parts in all. A styrene breech, barrel and crash pad are adorned with an etched cooling jacket, cocking handles, a strip of ammunition, plus front and rear sights. The ammunition is doubled over to give a bit of "depth" to the seven rounds, but it’s one of those things where you can only really judge how convincing it looks once it’s done and it still may need a little help to bear close scrutiny.
The Fokker D.II is a 2-bay biplane, so it's a relief to see the interplane struts are on the “CAD” sprue (which should mean they are totally consistent). The kit's artwork and photos of the real aircraft indicate that there should be no dihedral on the wings, so it will be essential to straighten them if your kit's are upturned like the sample. How effectively you manage to do this will obviously have a major impact on the fit of the interplane struts, so this certainly isn't something to be rushed.
Special Hobby provide a myriad of tiny etched rigging attachments and turnbuckles. You could omit these for an easier build - the rigging alone will be quite complex if you tackle it. Of course, seasoned early aviation modellers may choose to scratch-build the hardware or replace it with aftermarket accessories such as Gaspatch's aftermarket turnbuckles.
I was quite surprised to see propeller is not on the CAD-produced sprue, but it still boasts a crisply moulded boss. Nevertheless, it seems a missed opportunity not to have included a brass boss as an alternative option among the photo-etched parts.
Instructions & DecalsSpecial Hobby's instructions are very well produced as a 12-page colour booklet on high quality glossy paper. The assembly diagrams are large and clear, and the sequence seems pretty logical overall. Colour call-outs are given for details at each stage, and these are matched to Gunze Sangyo paints.
Decals are provided for two aircraft flown by Lt. Fritz Grunzweig:
A. Fokker D.II, Kampfeinsitzerkommando Ensheim, 1916
B. Fokker D.II Jasta 16 (formerly KEK Ensheim), 1916
The two colour schemes offer attractive variations in their camouflage, and both sport spectacular leering face designs on the cowling. An extra challenge comes with the machined metal finish on some of the fuselage panels.
The decals are printed by Aviprint and appear to be excellent quality, with precise register and minimal excess carrier film.
ConclusionSpecial Hobby's Fokker D.II looks set to build into a very attractive model. The need to straighten out the wings, plus the potentially troublesome lower wing joint means I don't think it's at all suitable for beginners, but anyone with experience of sem-short-run kits should be able to sort out these issues. The rigging is fairly complex, but you can always tailor how you tackle that to suit your personal style and ability.
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