by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
There was understandably considerable excitement when, as part of their Christmas line-up, Wingnut Wings caught the WW1 modelling community somewhat flat-footed with the announcement that their long-awaited Fokker D.VII was ready for release. Not only that, but the initial offer comprises no less than three separate boxings to cater for Albatros, Fokker and OAW-built machines, along with four aftermarket decal sheets to accompany them which markings for some truly spectacular alternative colour schemes.
Kit #32027 represents the Albatros-built version and arrives in a typically stylish top opening box, with the sprues and accessories all individually bagged for protection. Something you'll notice straight off is just how heavy the package is, and this is explained by the inclusion of both a hefty 34-page instruction booklet and an impressive collection of large decal sheets.
The kit comprises:
211 x grey styrene parts (28 of which are not used in this version)
2 x clear styrene parts
8 x photo-ectched brass parts
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The moulding is excellent throughout the sample kit, with beautifully subtle detailing and no flash evident. A thorough inspection revealed a couple of shallow sink marks on the underside of the fuselage and on the firewall, but these will only take a few moments to deal with. Ejector pin marks were a source of minor irritation in some of the earlier kits in the series, but the designers have done a great job this time, keeping them entirely clear of the cockpit area and the insides of the engine cowls.
The exterior of the model bears an overall "satin" finish, with neatly engraved panel lines, along with raised fasteners and servicing covers. Particularly impressive are the louvres in the cowl panel; usually little more than raised lumps in kits, Wingnut Wings have managed to depict most of them as delicate open slots.. Similarly impressive is the all-important depiction of the fabric covering, with subtle rib tapes and stitching on the wings and horizontal tail (the control surfaces are correctly left plain), and a very faintly "ballooned" effect on the undersides of the wings to depict the weight of the material on a machine at rest.
It's worth repeating the note of caution I made when reviewing the recent Fokker E.III and DH.2: many of the smaller parts are quite delicate, being moulded as close true-to-scale as possible, and some of the sprue-attachments are substantial to acheive the crisp level of detail. Therefore I'd recommend using a miniature razor-saw to remove the parts with breaking or distorting them.
Test FitThe fuselage feature a couple of extra locating pins compared with some earlier Wingnut Wings kits I've examined and the halves clip together very precisely. The joint on the top decking is adequately supported (although you could still add a strip of plastic card along the inside if you're worried), while the lower fuselage seam is hidden neatly under a separate moulded strip of lacing. The horizontal tail sits firmly in place thanks to a prominent locator.
The wings are beauitiful mouldings. Although the parts seem quite thin and flexible until assembled (to save weight on the slender struts), they are perfectly straight when complete and very solid. The lower wing comprises a full span lower half and separate top panels, with spars running across the base of the cockpit. The trailing edges are nice and thin, and that of the lower wing features a subtle washout towards each tip. Stacking pads are moulded in place on the leading edges, but you may find it easier to remove these to sand the seams and apply lozenge decals before replacing them from scratch.
A few detailsConstruction begins with the cockpit, which features over 30 parts, the precise number depending on which of the featured aircraft you choose to build. There are options for two styles of machine-gun mounts and the altimeter can be positioned either side of the cockpit or omitted entirely. The interior structure is very delicately moulded and needs a few moulding "pips" trimming off before use. Once joined with the floor and the firewall and rear "bulkhead", the whole assembly becomes a bit sturdier, but still needs to be handled with kid gloves to avoid an accident. The pilot's seat features a nicely moulded optional cushion (it wasn't used if the pilot wore a parachute), and comes complete with an etched harness.
Decals are provided for the instrument faces, custom printed for Wingnut Wings by Cartograf. As usual, the quality of these is superb, with the smallest details pin-sharp under a magnifier. The inside of each fuselage half is lined with a faded panel of lozenge decal to represent the pattern showing through the rear of the fabric on the original.
The instructions include a very useful set of colour reference photos of The Memorial Flight Association's replica aircraft which will help detail the cockpit convincingly, although they do caution against relying on them too greatly as some aspects might not match an original machine precisely.
Wingnut Wings have used their existing Daimler-Mercedes 180hp D.III / 200hp D.IIIaŁ mouldings, as seen in the Pfalz D.XII kit. The 25 parts look set to build into a very nicely detailed engine, but looking at the comprehensive reference photos again included in the instruction booklet, there's clearly more plumbing and wiring that you can add, such as the ignition cables and pipes leading to the air pump.
A choice of radiators is offered, and the lower cowl is marked to allow different additional cooling holes to be drilled out. Two options are given for the top decking ahead of the cockpit, and four styles of engine side panels are provided. Both the early low-mounted and later high-set exhausts are included, and a really nice touch is the delicate weld-seams on these. Finely moulded Heine, Axial and Neindorf propellers are specified for use in the colour schemes provided - although the instructions do state that they were often replaced with different types in service, so there's scope for some latitude if you so chose.
The pair of LMG 08/15 "Spandaus" can be attached to alternative "mid" or "low" mounts and is provided in two forms; solid-moulded for simplicity, or with a an etched cooling jacket to roll to shape. Sights are also included for the etched version, but of course there's no reason why you couldn't attach them to the solid guns. Ahead of the guns, moulded flash guards attach to an etched frame that fits over the engine.
The undercarriage features a very substantial axle which, with a rather clever bit of engineering, also serves as the mounting plate for the struts. The wheels are nicely detailed with maker's marks on the tyres and air valves visible behind the separate covers.
The designers have made attaching the upper wing just about as simple as possible. The main "N" struts slot nice and positively into position but, just as on the original aircraft, it's really the cabane struts that do the load-carrying, with pretty substantial lugs supporting the wing. The front clusters of triple struts are moulded ready to use, so there should be no trouble lining things up.
Of course, one of the attractions of the Fokker D.VII for newcomers to biplane building is the virtual absence of any rigging to worry about. A pair of cables run from the fin to the horizontal tail, another pair brace the undercarriage, and there are control cables to add for the ailerons, elevator and rudders. That's it. The instructions include a rigging diagram showing the aircraft from two angles, so there's little chance to go wrong - although the cables could arguably be highlighted a bit more prominently for anyone who doesn't know where to look.
Instructions and DecalsAside from my previous comment about the rigging diagram, the instructions really are something of a work of art, with beautifully drawn, colour-shaded illustrations of every stage, with most details named and notes describing points to watch out for. The assembly sequence is very logical and well thought-out - very much designed for the modeller rather than the convenience of the illustrator. As well as the diagrams, the A-4 booklet contains numerous fully captioned reference photos, with a mix of vintage shots and modern walk-around style colour close-ups.
Colours are suggested for every detail part throughout the assembly, with Tamiya, Humbrol and Misterkit model paint matches given.
Decals are provided for five very attractive colour schemes that offer an interesting variety of challenges:
Fokker D.VII (Alb) 611/18, Uffz. Harbers, Jasta 73, mid 1918 (1 victory)
Fokker D.VII (Alb) 817/18 "Nickchen IV", Fritz Blumenthal, Jasta 53, August 1918
Fokker D.VII (Alb) (Not 5324/18), Richard Kraut, Jasta 63, October-November 1918 (1 victory)
Fokker D.VII (Alb) "Bowke!", Hermann Pritsch, Jasta 17, mid 1918 (1 victory)
Fokker D.VII (Alb), Carl Degelow, Jasta 40, July-August 1918 (30 victories)
If the kit itself hasn't already impressed you enough, the decals included should floor you! 6 BIG sheets! With printing by Cartograf, you can rest assured that the quality is exceptional. Registration is spot on and excess carrier film is next to non-existent - these are as close to "painted on" as you're likely to see as decals. A clever touch is the way overlapping markings are grouped as single decals. This is something I've seen on other Carograf sheets and seems to be one of their specialities - of course, it only works, thanks to their faultless registration process.
Four of the sheets are devoted to lozenge decals, with both 4- and 5-colour patterns provided. They are provided in "cookie cutter" sections to make for simpler application, and a very helpful touch is the inclusion of additional patches of each colour for spot repairs. The precise colours of lozenge fabric are an endless source of debate (if indeed there ever were "precise" colours used uniformly...), so I'll leave any comment on what Wingnut Wings have chosen to those better informed on the subject than me. However, both the instructions and the Windsock references which I consulted mention the frequent tinted over-varnishing of "standard" lozenge fabric to mute it - and this, added to general fading and wear and tear, makes the perfectly legitimate variations seem almost endless.
conclusionPut simply - Wingnut Wings' Fokker D.VII is superb! I think it could well turn out to be their most popular kit to date, combining the appeal of a legendary subject with great detail, but straightforward construction that won't frighten off anyone wary of more complicated biplanes. Add some of the most spectacular colour schemes you can think of, and you can hardly go wrong! Unreservedly recommended to anyone with a little modelling experience.
Now, Wingnuts - talking of legendary subjects... how about a change of heart and doing the Camel at long last?...
referenceFokker D.VII - Windsock Datafile 9, by P. M. Grosz, Albatros Productions, 1989
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