by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The first thing that strikes you about Hawk's new Graf Zeppelin is the size of the box! It's simply enormous! The second thing that strikes you is when you open the box... believe it or not, the massive body of the kit is actually tightly fitted inside! Despite being 1/245 scale, this is easily among the biggest aircraft model I've ever seen.
Having struggled home with this monster through the London rush-hour and won the "most unpopular person on the tube-train" award by a comfortable (or uncomfortable!) margin, it was time to take stock of the beast. The kit is extremely well packaged; the stout cardboard box has internal end pieces to hold the main parts securely in place, with the rest of the kit sprues underneath. For such a massive kit, it's slightly surprising that, in terms of the number of parts, it isn't at all complex, comprising:
2 x full length body halves moulded in white styrene
32 x white styrene parts on 2 x sprues
2 x translucent soft plastic parts
1 x clear styrene part
A bag of electric components
A roll of clear vinyl cord
An historical pamphlet and poster
Hawk state very clearly that this kit is intended for experienced builders, with the advice that younger modellers will require supervision. In practical terms, this means that the parts are a bit basic in places, but the main obstacle for youngsters is the sheer physical size of model. The main body is over 38" (97 cm) long and, despite having ribs and stringers moulded on the inner surface, it has a tendency to flex. Hawk have also moulded really large locating pins inside but, nevertheless, such a long seam will require clamping closed and cementing in stages, while making sure everything stays straight and true.
The surface detail consists of just a rather heavy fabric effect on the body, while the tailplanes have large external ribs. The effect on the real airship seems to vary between one photo and the next - in some shots the fabric looks drum-tight, while in others there's a degree of sag more akin to what's represented in the kit. There's very little flash evident in the kit, but the moulding is generally quite heavy. There are some sink marks on the body halves - sadly due to the large locator pins necessary.
The engine gondolas are very simplified and, strangely, moulded in a soft polythene-like translucent plastic that doesn't seem to respond to standard styrene cement (Revell Contacta just flakes off once it's dry). The propellers rotate, but they are 2-bladed, whereas the photos I've found so far of the full-sized gondolas show 4-bladed propellers.
The passenger compartment is designed as a clip-on fit under the body of the airship and contains some simple interior details, along with a small lighting kit, comprising 3 x grain of wheat bulbs and a flat battery (included in the kit). The landing wheel under the cabin doubles as an on-off switch.
Rounding everything off is a substantial model ship-style display stand. The clear vinyl cord is not mentioned in the instructions, but there are a pair of small eyelets moulded on the top of the body, so maybe it's meant to hang the model from the ceiling in flying mode.
PotentialSo, straight out of the box, Hawk's Graf Zeppelin is a basic kit, that will build into a massive model that's bound to be impressive. But where the kit could really score is as a palette for a massive (literally!) superdetailing project. Despite its small scale, elements such as the engine gondolas and passenger compartment are still large enough for a lot of extra detail - and I can imagine that aftermarket replacements and detail sets could well become available to accompany the model.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and backed up with additional detail views on the box. Accompanying the kit is a nicely produced historical pamphlet describing the Graf Zeppelin's round-the-world voyage and subsequent history. A couple of the photos included will be useful in painting the model for, whereas the instructions merely state "silver" for the overall finish, in fact the airship featured a decidedly patchwork appearance, with varying aluminium-doped tones on the fabric panels. This is also well illustrated on the boxtop and poster.
The kit includes a small sheet of decals which look good quality. They are thin and glossy and, obviously, registration isn't an issue as they consist of just the airship's name and registration. No markings are included for the Graf Zeppelin in Nazi colours, despite a photo of it wearing swastikas in the historical pamphlet.
ConclusionIt's not cheap, but a model this large can't be - and Hawk's Graf Zeppelin will turn heads on account of its size alone. Don't let that small scale deceive you - this kit really is a monster! The real airship was over three times the length of a Boeing 747, so making sure you have somewhere big enough to build and display the model is definitely a consideration. Out of the box, the kit is simplified, but it could form the basis of a major project that will form the centre-piece of any modelling den or club display.
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