by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
In his Windsock Datafile, Peter Grosz described the Albatros C.III as a "journeyman aircraft" capable of fulfilling a multitude of tasks from reconnaissance and bombing, to a highly successful career as a trainer. It served on every front, wherever the German Fliegertruppe fought, from the end of 1915 until April 1917, and was unusual in remaining in production until the end of hostilities - such was its usefulness and popularity.
Special Hobby's Albatros C.III arrives in a sturdy and attractive conventional box with the main sprues in resealable bag and other accessories separately bagged within it for extra protection. The kit comprises:
74 x grey styrene parts
3 x beige resin parts
90 x etched brass parts
Printed film for the windscreen
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
Special Hobby kits are produced using limited run technology. These days the term covers a rather hard to define area of the market, because it's now light years more advanced than the traditional short-run kits of just a few years ago, and is biting at the heels of mainstream kits in terms of quality - but kits moulded this way do require a bit more by way of clean up and general modelling skills than the output of more major manufacturers.
So, with this in mind, Special Hobby's Albatros is very neatly moulded. There's a touch of flash here and there, as you'd expect, but the parts are free of blemishes and sink-marks (with one glaring exception, as we'll see later).
The surface finish is silky smooth, with finely engraved panel lines and crisply raised details like louvres and access covers. Whereas some of the older kits from this manufacturer had a rather "hand-made" quality in the way fabric surfaces were handled, the Albatros is very reminiscent of Eduard's style - in fact, the overall impression is of an Eduard-designed kit, but moulded by MPM - which, of course, is no bad thing at all!
Obviously, there's not a lot that you can test fit in a kit like this, so I didn't bother much beyond checking that the fuselage halves line up correctly - which they do, very neatly. The lower wings curved upwards slightly toward the tips, but this maybe partly due to tension when they're on the sprue - once removed, the warp was appreciably less, and the softish plastic used was easy to straighten out. The lower wings have substantial locating pins which bodes well for a sturdy assembly, but the holes in the fuselage will need opening up and enlarging to accept them.
A few detailsConstruction begins with the cockpit, which is nicely fitted out with a mix of styrene parts plus a resin fuel tank and etched seat harnesses and bomb tubes and releases (sadly, no bombs are included). 34 parts in total go together to create a suitably busy "office". The only fly in the ointment is a couple of very badly placed ejector pin marks that will not only be visible unless tidied up, but lie slap bang on the moulded stringers! (Why do mould designers always seem to pick the worst possible place to put ejector pins? A 1/2 cm lower in this instance, and there would have been no problem at all...)
Assembly then turns to the engine and machine guns. The engine's parts seem very familiar - maybe it's based on those in Eduard's kits, and it's nice and crisply moulded. There's a choice of beautifully cast resin exhaust stacks. The machine gun are moulded solid, but alternatively can be fitted with the brass cooling jackets and sights provided.
The next stage involves fitting the wings and tail, which have nice thin trailing edges. All the control surfaces are separate and empty spaces on the sprues suggest that a future release will include the different style evident in some photos of C.III types. The struts are well formed and the solid locating pins for the lower wing panels and one-piece top wing should help keep everything lined up, but it's probably still advisable to use a jig to be on the safe side.
With the wings and tail fitted, it's time for the undercarriage. This has 2-part tyres and separate hubs and the prominent "claw" brake. The bracing wires are fitted with etched turnbuckles - a taste of things to come...
Remember I mentioned a sink mark? Well, now you find it on the radiator and it's a whopper! (the surface detail has somehow got lost too) Luckily, etched radiator faces are included as well. They're intended as an optional alternative, but the moulded part is really unusable in my kit, so it's fortunate that Special Hobby have included them.
Finally, there's the rigging - which will be a dream or a nightmare, depending on your outlook! Suffice to say, it's fairly complex, with etched turnbuckles indicated for every cable - the only problem is that I'm not sure enough have been provided (50 are included, and I've counted over 60 shown in the rigging diagrams...). Of course, some people may see that as a blessing(!), and others may prefer to use other methods to depict turnbuckles anyway - but, however you look at it, it's clearly a task for fairly seasoned biplane builders.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly and rigging diagrams are very clearly drawn, with excellent exploded diagrams and additional scrap detail views. Most parts are keyed to a list of Gunze Sangyo paints. The painting diagrams are printed in black and white, but colour versions are available online (as used for this review).
Decals are provided for three colour schemes:
A. Albatros C.III, C.722/16, Kampfgeschwader IV, Kampfstaffel 20, Carignan Base, Western Front, 1916.
B. Albatros C.III, C.736/16, of an unidentified unit.
C. Albatros C.III, C.106/16, of an unidentified unit, Verdun, 1916.
Looking a photos of the featured machines in the Windsock Datafile on the aircraft, some of them include additional external details such as fuselage racks (and even a carbine for self protection in the case of landing behind enemy lines on one of the aircraft) that aren't included in the kit , and I'm concerned that at least one of them might have had the different style control surfaces. As ever - check references if possible.
The decals seem excellent quality. They are thin and glossy with minimal crystal clear film. The registration is excellent and, as far as one can tell on the sheet, the white ink seems good and opaque.
ConclusionSpecial Hobby's Albatros C.III isn't a beginner's model, but it should delight experienced WW1 modellers. It's an excellent model of an important aircraft and will be warmly welcomed in filling the growing ranks of high quality new-tool WW1 aircraft kits. Recommended.
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