Friday, 13 January 2017

German WW2 helicopter kits in 1/72 scale and other esoteric Luftwaffe model kit ramblings by a HUMA nut! by Steve in Richmond

...esoteric Luftwaffe model kit ramblings by a HUMA nut! ( a revised, updated and extended post from my Luftwaffe blog)

By Steve 'Kolibri 282' (from Richmond)

 " ...Ever since I bought a model of the Focke-Achgelis FA 223 'Drache' German WW2 helicopter in 1/72 scale from Hannants in Lowestoft (East Anglia, UK ) in the late 1970's I've been a fan of Huma kits. It always amazed me that such obscure subjects could be made in a limited run model series. So it was thanks to Hannants in the UK that I came in contact with Huma models years ago and the Fa 223 was the first kit I bought from them. I had reservations because it was a limited run kit from a little known manufacturer and it was not cheap. I took the chance and ordered the model. Two weeks later it turned up. When I saw the actually kit I was blown away. The quality of molding and the intricate tiny molded parts were unreal after building Airfix, Frog, Heller etc. However the first thing you would learn about Huma kits is that the instructions could be very vague. It took me some time to work out the rotor arm struts positioning; in fact some are missing from the kit altogether. This kit is a real tail sitter as well. I fashioned some cargo from lead, covered  and painted to resemble wood and metal boxes. As this helicopter was used for cargo at some point it didn't go against historic accuracy. It really is a lovely kit made up.

I really was blown away by the Drache kit.  The 'Drache' though was Huma's crowning glory in just about every way. I guess you could argue it could have been better, but even so it's totally unique in 1/72 scale and so different. The only 'kit-bash' I did was use guitar strings to represent the struts holding the rotor arms together. It looks better and more to scale. After finishing it I immediately set out to get as many Huma models as I could and on the whole (although some were incredibly basic) they are all pretty good kits.."

"...The other model Huma produced that really is unique is the Triebflügel. Although very basic with a little work it looks amazing. This genre of models was also of great interest to me as I am very interested in the German secret weapons programmes. Huma's Fl 282 Kolibri in 1/72 scale was never that great sadly, more flash than model on the sprue. RS Models re-released the kit with a photo-etch brass upgrade. It appears it is or is about to be discontinued as well by RS. I'd dealt with just about every central European model manufacturer in the 70's so I was a little dubious buying this model a) because I had doubts about the quality  and (b) because it cost so much. As far as I am aware Huma's first kits were the Me M35b, Kl 35 and the Fw 44, released around late 1982/ early 83..."

Below; Huma's 72nd scale Kolibri " ..more flash than model on the sprue.."

"...Huma kits changed considerably during the company's existence. These earlier kits such as the Klemm 35 were pretty basic whereas some of the later ones had incredibly fine moldings, while their Dornier Wal seaplane was also another substantial kit. The FA 223, as I've said, was a work of art. It was only released after Huma had gone from clear plastic bags to full-colour boxes, which may have been as a result of German company Kager taking over Huma's distribution. That must have been around 1990.  At that stage Huma were very much a one-man operation that was progressing quite happily in that format until the contract for larger production/promotion that apparently leached the fun from it all. There may have been other more personal issues, of the kind that one-man companies are prone to, but I don't know. On top of this Kager went bust in the mid 90s, and I think from then on everything became very sporadic for Huma. Sadly I notice that Huma no longer appear to be a going concern, they certainly are not  producing new kits and to get hold of them is becoming hard and expensive. I did ring Hannants a while back and asked them about their Huma stock. I was told due to delivery issues not being met and other issues they weren't going to stock Huma kits anymore. It was from Hannants that I learnt that the Flettner 282 Kolibri kit had a rather short life because the mold  was dropped and suffered so much damage it could no longer be used. As I said, I suspect RS Models used the old Huma molds for their Flettner 282 releases that had photo etch parts and a new molding part for a variant. I notice in the Hannants current list of Huma kits the FA 223 Drache is missing which is to my mind one of the most elegant and outstanding kits Huma produced. Sadly the FA 223 in 1/72 scale is not available anywhere else so the Huma kit is priceless for a German 1/72 Luftwaffe collection..."

 "...It would be great if someone could re-issue some of these Huma models as has been done with Dragon and even Hasegawa kits in Europe. The most obvious choice to reissue would be Revell to my mind as they are German and would most likely have the resources and money to produce them. It would be great if Revell took them on and built a Luftwaffe 46 collection with their own excellent models  i.e Flitzer, Arado E555 etc. Huma were really something special and incredibly unique. I really can't see anyone else producing the Fa 223 to such a fine standard if at all in 1/72 scale sadly.  I am unaware what material Huma used for their molds, but I'd consider it likely that one reason for Revell not taking those molds so far - if they ever had the opportunity in the first place- is that they were incompatible with Revell's molding equipment, and were thus unsuitable for Revell's (relative) mass production techniques. I can imagine that the molding of Huma kits required significantly more manual effort by workers than standard long run molds, making them more expensive, especially if not run by the entrepreneur himself..."

"...It would be a shame for such well produced and unique models to just disappear off the radar for good. While the Huma Ju 288 had the look of a hurried kit, some of the later models were incredible. It's hard to think such unusual and elegant subjects are just gone. The molds must still exist somewhere unless they were destroyed long ago. I heard the molds for the Kolibri 282 in 1/72 scale got dropped and broken years ago and that's why the model virtually disappeared. I do have a sneaking suspicion though that RS Models got hold of the molds and re-packaged them with photo etch upgrades and new parts tooled for a different version.. Huma's "special technique" small injection parts are incredible, and I don't know if anyone has tried something along those lines since.."

 "...after moving to the US a few years ago I set about tracking down the three big kits that Huma made, namely the Fl 282 in 48th scale, the Ju 287 and the Ju 288. Mustang Hobbies in New Jersey is an excellent source of discontinued models. Owner Jim will search for kits for you as well. He tracked down the  Fa 223 for me which as I mentioned is becoming highly sought after and expensive. Check him out if you want a particular model! The Fa 223 cost me $40.00 plus minimal postage charges. As an aside for Luft 46 fans I picked up two Dragon  Arado 234's in 1/72 scale for $15.00 and one for around $20.00. Two were in sealed boxes. These models can easily cost around $100 on Amazon and E-Bay nowadays!  I got more rare kits from Rareplane Detective in Las Vegas who located the Lippisch DM 1 for me, while Roll Models found the DFS 264 and Ju EF128. Elsewhere Model Hobbies in the UK had the Ju 287 and 1001 Hobby Kits had the Ju 288. Thankfully the internet made it extremely easy to get these models. I guess you have to be a serious fanatic of Luft 46 to go to such lengths though !..."

" ... a lot of the more easily found kits in Europe are extremely hard to find and expensive in the US as a lot of people here buy them for collections, to make a profit on selling them on. Most modelers are into 1/48th and larger, braille scale is looked down on a little here. Kits by companies like Special Hobby are as hard to find as  Huma..One look on E-Bay USA will tell you how much these models are being sold for, in US money it's eye watering! I got the FA 223 for $40.00 and that was cheap believe me! A Heinkel 177 by Revell is going for $150.00, even in UK money that's steep. I just tracked down the last piece of the collection I wanted to get together today for $25.00 which was the Special Hobby Heinkel 1078A. Modeling is a seriously expensive past time in the US ! I'm not at all sure how popular the Luft 46 model scene is or how popular any of the 1/72 scale Luft 46 models are, but I suspect it's quite alive and active around the world. I understand a lot of modellers feel the fact these crazy prototype machines never existed a good enough reason not to model them. It was a huge surprise to me to see the few Luft 46 models Revell released a few years ago. I suspected they wouldn't last long though ( although a couple were re-released I believe) I also noticed Revell reboxed a few Dragon kits as well with the photo etch parts reproduced in plastic. ( I have the Do335 they reboxed so I can say that with certainty) There were of course the excellent Dragon Golden Wings series incorporating a family of Arado 234's which were a joy to build. I have (at much expense and searching) tracked down the whole range thankfully. Then there was the Special Hobby group of seriously obscure Luft 46 subjects, they suffered from the usual terrible moldings, but at least they had photo etch parts and decent enough decals. With work and patience you can make some lovely models which mostly are extremely rare now and unique. The more esoteric are tucked away with such manufacturers as RS Models( who appear to be venturing into the Luft"46 scene slowly) They made the only Gottingen Go9, a rough kit in every way, but again a lot of work it turns out a nice model. Encore and Bronco have a couple of nice kits as well. Brengun are starting to make some oddities. I just bought their Zeppelin Rammer, Bachem Natter and the Blohm und Voss BV 40 glider. Extremely small with some even smaller photo etch parts! There was of course the excellent less obscure from Revell and Italeri: The Junkers 290's and the Blohm und Voss BV 222 designed for Revell by the man behind East German kit manufacturer VEB Plastikart. Revell of course produced their superb Heinkel 177's and reboxed rarities like the Heinkel 115 ( later remolded with photo etch upgrades) Blohm und Voss BV 138 ( originally from Supermodel/ Mach2, if I''m correct) from Italeri they had the Messerschmitt 323 glider and transport plane and the very unique Gotha glider/ transport plane. Of course there was the very basic PM collection with the unique Lippisch P13a, Me 1111 and the Horton Go229 V7( I have plans to rebuild it using spare parts from a Revell Go229 if possible, especially the undercarriages.) the one big surprise I found online was a Gotha P60 nightfighter by AZ models( which is now out of production sadly), but AZ are releasing a different version sometime soon with twin jets on top called the Raptor) not a great kit and will need work by the look of it, but it's unique in injection plastic 1/72 scale. It remains to be seen if AZ, Encore, Brengun, RS Models etc will continue building on their Luft 46 ranges, hopefully they will..."

"..As you can tell I'm a Luftwaffe nut and not just the Luft 46 scene. I have scratch built a couple of models you won't find anywhere in 1/72 scale. I built the rather elaborate launch tower for the Natter. I had to buy the old Dragon 1/48 scale model to do it. By using the sprue illustrations in the instructions and having them enlarged and expanded in a copier by a model shop manager I managed to build the tower in 1/72 scale. The Natter on it at the moment is by Heller, but I have the Brengun model to replace it now. I have the Fries 16 ton portable crane as well which I made from an horrendous FCM model and the Extratech model. I'm also working on the Enzian launch rail. I have a lot of ideas. The Goppingen Go 9 by AML/RS models is another horrendous kit that with work can look great."

" ..The one I really wanted was the Lippisch DM1 to go with the Lippisch 13a by PM models. Apart from the Ju 287 and Ju 288. I was after the Focke-Achgelis Fa223 Drache twin rotor military helicopter. I'm getting the Unicraft Heinkel Lerche VTOL concept aircraft. I want the Messerschmitt Wespe to make the set of VTOL's. I'm slowly putting the helicopter collection together. I've built the two Kolibri Fl 282's by RS Models, which I think might have been made from old Huma kits or reboxed Huma kits with added photo etch brass parts. The Fa 223 the Special Hobby Fa 265 and Pavla Fa 330. I have a huge collection of books I use for details and research. Marek Rys has a great book on German Rotorcraft, although the best title on German rotorcraft is by Classic Publications authored by Steve Coates - a real bonus is a 1/72 plan of the Fa223 inside the front cover.
Below; Huma DFS 346

See my 2009 build of the Huma Me 209 on this blog

" ...I went to a lot of trouble to acquire the radar setups. I don’t know if you know of Tracks and Troops in Eastern Europe, they sell the Extratech kits which are highly detailed resin and photo etch brass. The Wurzburg is really nice and goes together like a Swiss watch and looks quite incredible when it’s not painted. I made the Freya dipole from Aluminium tube and various bits of sprue and plastic rod. I intend to put a mesh over the parabolic dish as the real thing would have had, but it’s a very delicate thing to do as the P/E brass is so easy to bend. Once the netting is in place it has to fit precisely or it’s ruined. I did have one on a platform that was supposed to be the radar guidance for the V2 missile. I had the Freya a coupler of times in the past. One was mutilated when some idiot knocked it flying from the front room mantle piece. It was crushed up beyond repair. The other Freya was destroyed in transit from the UK as were the other radar setups. I bought them all again in 2012. Two are half built and the Freya is in it’s box. I’m attempting to build from scratch the Flakleit G Elisabeth radar array. it’s not easy to find a lot of data on this setup, even pictures are rare. I tried all the major museums and they seem at a loss as to details concerning this radar. I made an educated guess as to the actual size of the setup by the height of the handrails at the back of the larger of the two radar screens. I guessed around 9 feet for the oblong radar panel. The rest of the structure is basically steel panels with numerous holes, this is taking a lot of time to space out precisely especially when the photos I have are somewhat vague to say the least! I have an idea for the Seakat land radar as well. Someone built a 1/72 scale Bismark complete with all the radar setups. There was a fantastic article on a forum showing the amazing work this guy did creating this radar panel..."

" ...I’m getting the FPW Model Horchgerat-Ringtricher as well the rather nice Cromwell models. Not that I’m expecting them anytime soon as Cromwell aren’t renowned for their speed of delivery and all their models are made to order. A flak 88mm 41(although I intend to replace the resin limbers with the Revell 88mm Flak gun limbers.) Rhientocher and it’s launch platform and Rheintocher with Panzer 4 chassis platform. By the way I hear Revell are releasing the Sdkfz with the 88mm flak gun and stabilizers soon. And the best of them all the 15cm Flak Great 50, even as 1/72 scale model it’s huge!.."

"...particular favourites of mine - although an Army weapon, not Luftwaffe -are the Special Armour V2 kits. They are slowly releasing the complete V2 set up. So far we have the Vidalwagen, Meillerwagen, two different V2's with very nice launch tables and trolleys, the liquid oxygen trailer, and Hanomag Gigant tractor. Hopefully we'll see more in the near future. I'm waiting for some Cromwell models from Tracks and Troops, we all know how erratic Cromwell are so I'm not expecting them anytime soon! The models I'm after are the Rheintochter rocket with launch platform, 88 flak 41 gun, a sound locator and flak garet monster gun that was only tested, this thing dwarfs an 88 mm completely! Very unique. Cromwell are bringing Rheinbolte out as well this year soon..."

Below; the first assembled test shot of the A-Stoffanhänger model in 1/72 scale in the Special Armour series and the trailer attached to the SS-100 Gigant tractor

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

East Kent Scale modellers club meet (3) - January 2017

Second Tuesday of the month is club night for the East Kent Scale modellers group. The group meets at the RAF Manston history museum, where it is pretty cold on a January evening. A good turn-out though, some 15 of us, late arrivals getting the benefit of at least two fan heaters. Recent and/or current builds go on the table along with photo albums, books and magazines. A chance to look at the latest museum exhibits and rummage around the shop, enjoy some modelling chat and pick up hints and tips of all sorts! And offer congratulations to our Telford Gold Medal winner Peter Buckingham (Fiat Mesphestopheles). Not many new builds on show ( so a few additions from the December meet below) but Stu's Airfix Matilda and Keith's Valom Saro Cloud were stand-outs. And Stu builds his bases from old Cornflakes packets..

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Airfix Sea Vixen 48th scale - fitting the undercarriage (7)

Part 7 of my Sea Vixen build.  This build has been sitting on the 'shelf of doom' since February 2011!   Nearly six years since this kit was released and I last touched it here ...err, what happened ?! Still, I'm on a roll with kits from the 'shelf of doom' this year, this is the fourth to be retrieved and with this post I've equalled last year's post count..

Last time I put the Vixen down I was struggling with the flaps, where the fit is poor and then the wing-fold option - a kit like this with so many options left me struggling to make up my mind how I wanted it to look. But now I have the lower surfaces painted and masked up for the EDSG and the gear is fitted - so far so good with the 'weighted' nose.

Monday, 5 December 2016

AZ Model Martin Baker MB 5 in 72nd scale in-box first look build review

The Martin Baker M.B. 5 or "V" otherwise known as the MB F.18/39 has been described by some as possibly the pinnacle of UK piston-engine fighter design during WWII. Resembling a 'P-51 on steroids' it was a quite large aircraft, much bigger than a Mustang (37 feet long vs 32 feet) and somewhat longer than a Thunderbolt (36 feet long). It had shorter wings than a P-51. Despite its outward apparent similarity to the Mustang it adopted some of the aerodynamic elements used on that aircraft, but was entirely its own machine. It could easily have been a world-beating fighter. But the fact that it was a piston engine fighter in late 1944 was largely its undoing. A one-off late-war prototype, it was swept away by the new jet fighters, being test flown just as the Meteor was entering service.  James Martin and 'Val' Baker developed five aeroplanes between 1929 and 1944 before specialising in the ejection seat technology for which they are still renowned today. This followed the crash of the M.B. 3 in which pilot 'Val' Baker was killed. The M.B. 5 was developed from the M.B.3, which in turn had been built in response to Air Ministry Spec F.18/39. The aircraft was powered by an enormous Rolls-Royce Griffon 83 V-12 engine developing some 2,340 h.p and had a maximum speed well in excess of 400 m.p.h. The Griffon though was not the most reliable of engines and the story goes that the Griffon engine failed during a demo in front of Sir Winston Churchill which didn't do much for its chances. But this was 1945 and with the end of the war in sight, the writing was most definitely on the wall for all new piston-engine fighters. Ultimately though of course piston engine fighters and other types were still in service for the next war - Korea.

According to the box blurb this is a "Limited run technology" kit.  After a first look at the parts and some dry-run fitting based on a build thread over on BM a few specific points to note ;

1/ the undercarriage bay surrounds seem to be a poor fit. I think the part numbers in the instructions may be incorrect, so make sure you check before applying glue.

2/ Check the rear cockpit bulkhead is square when seated - the modeller is supposed to put the rear bulkhead behind the cockpit floor, not on top of it. If you do that it all seems to fit fine ..

3/  Some comments suggest that the slot for the starboard tailplane had to be raised a bit to match the port, but on my model there seems to be no problem here. Note there are two sets of tailplanes (small and large) and two sets of fin/rudder including the early M.B. 3 -style 'triangular' fin/rudder.

4/ The fuselage halves fit pretty well and, apart from the rear cockpit bulkhead, so do the interior part. The  instrument panel looks neat with some nice raised detail, see the photo of the actual cockpit below. The starboard console seems to have been molded the wrong way round, but otherwise looks pretty neat. It should be possible to replicate the array of dials on this console with some slithers of sliced clear sprue.

5/ The intake below the spinner is very poor, not sure what to do about this. The wing halves are butt-joined as is the wing to fuselage join.

6/ The single piece canopy is rather thick and may not fit very well. The solution here would appear to be to cut it open..