by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The Dornier Do 17 has an unfortunate history as a 1/48 scale kit. Many years ago, it was the subject of a series of kits by Hobbycraft that have since acquired a degree of notoriety because of their very non-prototypical upturned fuselage. While the original Dornier was known as the "Flying Pencil", Hobbycraft's version was soon unkindly dubbed the "Flying Banana" by many modellers. Correcting the kit was possible, but it involved the kind of serious surgery best left to experts. That left most modellers with no way to complete the classic trio of the mainstay of the early Luftwaffe bomber force, for while Dragon and Revell tackled the Ju 88 and He 111 very successfully, the Do 17 was somehow always forgotten... until now!
There was considerable excitement when short-run producer Classic Airframes announced a new kit - the first of what promises to be an extended series of Do 17 versions. The kit arrives in one of the company's typically attractive boxes with all the parts packed into a single large plastic bag (actually, in my example, two resin parts that had been missed during packaging were taped to a flyer included with the kit). Don't worry - within that bag, the resin and clear parts are secure within their own individual bags, but what isn't so good is that the decals have also been packed in with the plastic parts - unprotected, and in my case quite badly creased as a result.
The kit consists of:
103 x blue-grey styrene parts
9 x clear styrene parts
19 x grey resin parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The plastic parts seem to originate with one of Classic Airframe's two main sub-contractors, Sword Models, showing their distinctive colour and high surface polish. Not surprisingly, as with any short-run kit, the detail is rather heavier moulded than you'd find with a mainstream manufacturer, but I did find the parts showed rather more flash than of late from this manufacturer and there are a few sink marks to take care of. The sprue attachments have been kept commendably small, but there are some massive ejector pin marks, some of which are very poorly placed and interfere with assembly and, in some cases, fall right across location points on parts, necessitating some re-carving.
The surface finish is very basic. The panel lines are reasonably done, although they do go a bit soft in places, but there has been no attempt at all to depict the fabric control surfaces or smaller external details such as navigation lights or the fixed trim tabs on the ailerons. In a way, I'd prefer to add rib tapes to smooth surfaces rather than try to deal with the dreadful "sunken sacking" effect that plagues some kits, but the control surfaces here aren't very convincing, simply marked with heavier scribed lines and just crude blobs for the aileron actuators. A look at reference photos of the Do 17 shows there's a lot of work you can do here if you so choose.
Parts Breakdown & Test FitA clear sign of future versions is the way Classic Airframes have broken the fuselage down into front and rear sections. The nose is split laterally, while the main fuselage is in traditional halves. The wing has a massive full-span top surface into which the nose section slots very neatly. I found the front/rear join may need a bit of work, but some careful trimming should ensure a smooth finished result.
The vertical fins plug onto the stabilizer very securely, but the latter is a sloppy fit on the fuselage. It was while looking at this that I realised something seemed amiss and, after checking references, realised that the kit doesn't feature the distinctive step and bulge over the tailplane incidence adjuster. Instead, there's a smooth, flat blend across the tail surface, making the tail seem set slightly too high. Ironically, for all its faults, the Hobbycraft kit captured this aspect better (along with depicting fabric control surfaces). Another point open to question is the vertical fins - Björn Karlström's scale drawings published by Argus in the 1980s show the starboard fin offset by 3.5 degrees. Classic Airframes have both fins in line with the direction of flight (while again, Hobbycraft depicted the offset).
ConstructionAssembly is broken down into 23 clearly illustrated stages. Colours are indicated throughout, with RLM refs and FS equivalents in most cases.
Stages 1-7 - are devoted to the cockpit, which is nicely detailed with a mix of plastic and resin parts. It's a shame that more use isn't made of resin (although this probably would have increased the cost of the kit), because some of the smaller items are quite heavily moulded in plastic.
The seats, however, are all resin - and are beautifully delicate castings. Looking at photos though, it's clear that some of the original seats featured lightweight woven bases - a point which is missing here (Hobbycraft spotted it...) and all the seats will need harnesses added.
The resin sidewalls have some nicely detailed engineering and radio panels, but the pilot's floor is plastic with a pair of nondescript rudder pedals that look nothing like the originals. The instrument panel fair - although I've seen better... - but will repay careful painting to bring out the bezels. A nice touch is that the reverse side is festooned with the backs of the many instruments, all ready for wiring which will show through the bomber's clear nose.
The left sidewall includes a moulded-on ammunition cannister and there are plastic versions to fit on each machine gun (added later in the assembly), but I can't help but think the crew would have felt pretty defenceless with so little ammunition - photos of operational Dorniers show the rear of the cockpit jam-packed with ammunition drums...
Stages 9 & 10 - deal with a nicely detailed bomb-bay. The locating holes for the bomb racks need opening up in my kit where they are blocked by excess plastic, but having the open bomb-bay is a real bonus and the detail extends onto the inner surface of the wing which forms the roof of the area.
Stages 11-13 - assemble the tail and wing.
Stages 14-17 - deal with the engines, their cowlings and nacelles. The engines are beautiful one-piece resin castings that should look stunning when painted. The prominent cowling braces aren't included and these should really be added from thin rod or similar.
Stages 18-19 - build and fit the undercarriage. The gear legs in my kit have a bit of flash but should clean up well enough - it'll just need a bit of care to maintain the circular profile. The wheels have quite good hub detail, but the tyres are moulded "unweighted" without any treads. That's not to say Do 17's were never fitted with smooth tyres, but all the photos I've checked show treads, so I'll probably add some while also bulging the tyres to give some impression of the weight of the fully laden bomber.
Stage 20 - finally, the nose is attached along with the bomb-load and doors. I must admit I think leaving off the nose section until so late is simply asking for trouble. On the basis of the test fit, I'd attach it at the same stage as the wings and rear fuselage - maybe even joining Part #4 (the nose top section) directly to the wing and taking care of any resulting gap between it and the lower nose as need be.
Stages 21 - 23 - complete the assembly with the canopies and propellers. The transparencies are quite thick but pretty clear (although a dip in Future / Klear still won't go amiss) and the framework is precisely moulded to aid painting. The kit includes the beam guns fitted as a result of painful combat experience, but you'll have to scratch-build the guard-rails visible in many photos that prevented the gunner from shooting off the propellers etc.
Painting & DecalsIt's perhaps surprising that Classic Airframes have ignored the obvious Luftwaffe colour schemes for their first issue of the kit, preferring instead instead to go for a trio of Finnish aircraft:
1. DN-63 of 1/LeLv 46, October 1942
2. DN-53 of 3/LeLv 46, February 1942
3. DN-52 of PLeLv 43, summer 1947
The decals are printed by Techmod and, as you'd expect from this manufacturer, are beautifully thin and glossy, with exceptionally good registration. The Hakaristi are annoyingly printed with separate centres for the sake of political correctness - although quite what's politically incorrect about the Finnish insignia always mystifies me... The decals in my kit were badly creased and slightly scratched through being packed with the plastic sprues - a needless accident that's rather frustrating.
ConclusionWhile not perfect, Classic Airframe's Dornier Do 17 is without the doubt the best kit of the aircraft yet. Overall, it's a huge improvement on the old Hobbycraft kits, but it's short-run nature and relatively high price really make it a model for experienced modellers, in whose hands it will certainly form the basis of a very impressive model. Judging from the excitement that following its announcement, I wonder whether this kit will also have woken the "majors" up to the gap in the market for a mainstream kit...
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