Roden's 1/72nd scale Fokker D.VII (early) kit No. 025
By Steve Hustad
Who isn't familiar with Anthony Fokker's superlative D.VII fighter of World War I? If you need the correct history of this landmark plane, I refer you to the following references that tell the story far better than I'd be able to (by the way, these references were also the main sources for evaluating this kit, especially the one listed as No.1):
1) Fokker D.VII Anthology 1, Albatros Productions Ltd., 1997
2) Fokker D.VII Anthology 2, Albatros Productions Ltd., 2000
3) Windsock Datafile 9 - Fokker D.VII, Albatros Productions Ltd., 1989
Roden's kit was announced some time ago now and has been eagerly awaited by World War I aircraft enthusiasts ever since. As with most other World War I types (especially in 1/72nd scale), modelers haven't been so well served as our 1/48th brethren have been. But recently (over the last few years I mean) things have been improving for us in this scale with Eduard, Toko (now Roden), et al satisfying our never-ending, ridiculous and unreasonable cravings.
Prior to this kit's release we've had the venerable old Revell Fokker D.VII kit to build (that kit dates from around the mid/late sixties I think). Now as those old Revell WW I kits go, their D.VII was quite good for its day compared to Revell's other contemporary efforts. It still stands up well in terms of scale, shape, outline and general accuracy, suffering a few minor dimensional faults around the nose and lack of detail overall.
Roden to the rescue!
This kit is packaged in a soft cardboard, end opening (when will they stop doing that?!) box of a larger size than their other recent WW I single engine fighter releases. If you've got the Toko Hansa Brandenburg W.29 kit - that's the size I'm talking about here. On the box is an attractive color painting of 30-victory ace Haupt. Rudolf Berthold's early 'winged sword' D.VII of Jasta 15 in 1918. The rear box art has the painting guide for this same aircraft.
Upon opening the box, we are greeted with four sprues of medium gray plastic. There are 60 parts included, but 14 are marked 'not for use', being intended for other variants or kits. One very interesting feature is that one of the sprues, the one that contains the engine parts and machine guns, has parts for *TWO* engines and a couple of Parabellum MGs thrown in to boot(!). This sprue is obviously meant to serve all the other D.VII kits that Roden intends to bring out (four total), as well as provide parts for other kits that utilize Parabellum MGs. This is exciting news because that signals (to my feeble mind anyway) that Roden likely has some German two seaters planned! :-)
Just so the reader knows; the kit's parts were compared with Ian Stair's very nice plans contained in reference No. 1 above on page 31, as well as the cowling variation drawings contained in that same book on page 35. These plans and drawings are generally regarded as the most up to date and accurate of the type extant. Note that the plans have a few dimensional conflicts with their own book's (and some others as well) stated overall dimensions, but they are minor.
Let's take the kit's components one by one:
This kit represents the early Fokker built variant of the D.VII. The fuselage lays out on Stair's plans at about 3mm too long. It appears that this is mostly at/behind the cockpit because all the 'up front' bits line up very well.
The cowling side panels indicate faithfully that detail typical of early Fokker built D.VIIs as represented on page 35 of Anthology 1. Someone mentioned to me that the detail on the kit's cowling side panels was the same on both sides, making it inaccurate, but that IS NOT the case. Each side is shown just as the drawings indicate - different on each face. The detail is well scribed and sharp.
A nice touch that Roden has provided is the fuselage's structure showing through the fabric slightly. This is understated, but apparent. Very well done!
The upper, forward fuselage is a separate molding that also contains molded in gun supports and ammunition feed chutes, etc. Pretty good, but the outer feed chutes are a bit simplified and need to be curved (molded straight).
Uh oh. Big problem No.1!
The shape and type appear to be accurate. However (and this is a big however!), the piece suffers from poor molding which has resulted in a noticeable 'bulge' in the face of the radiator - naturally in the grill portion. How do we fix this? The only remedy I can think of that will be effective is to Dremel it out from the inside with a grinding bit and replace from both sides with some fine wire mesh. Tricky, but possible. This will yield a much nicer and authentic looking radiator anyway.
Back to the engine sprue mentioned above. Two engines are provided; a 160hp Mercedes D.IIIa and a 185hp BMW D.III, so we're pretty well covered here. Both of these engines are quite well done. No flash, sharp and accurate detail and separately molded exhausts, manifolds, etc. that will build up into very nice 'out of the box' representations. These engines are one of this kit's strongpoints.
Three props are provided by Roden. The ever present Axial brand, Heine and what appears to be a Germania(?), but I'm not positive about that last one. In any case, all are well done and useable. It's thoughtful that Roden goes to this length to make sure the modeler can build any scheme he wants to.
The fuselage has the sidewall structure molded into both halves. It's better done than Roden's previous attempts at such sidewall structure being sharply molded and accurate - if a bit simplified. By simplified, I mean there is some sidewall structure detail lacking fore and aft that's not represented. That omission will likely be visible through the finished cockpitto anal types like myself at least! No doubt, PART will come out with this sidewall structure detail included on a future photo etched set for this kit anyway.
Roden provides an 8 part cockpit made up of: seat, floorboard, control stick, with separate triggers (!), rudder pedals, rudder connecting rod for atop the floorboard, instrument panel (yes, the D.VII had one) and the compass with it's stand.
The smaller parts are a bit thick and will require judicious thinning down to scale, or replacement but all provide a good and useable starting point for a pretty complete cockpit.
UPPER & LOWER WINGS:
These both lay on the plans 'spot on' as to span, chord, number and placement of ribs, ailerons and outline. There are no dimensional deviations worth mentioning.
(Roden appears to have dispensed with their controversial molded on 'fabric effect texture' with the advent of this kit. So those who objected to that before will not have to sand it away on these D.VII kits).
However (uh oh, another "however"!), we run into a couple of other problems here. First, the lower port wing's upper trailing edge has a 'bulge' in/on it that looks like the mold halves separated, or failed slightly here during the molding process. It's not REALLY big, but you'll have to sand it down to match the rest of the wing.
Another bigger problem lies with the top wing.
Now the D.VII was quite innovative for it's day, incorporating a cantilever wing of thick central cross section, tapering away to thinner tips. The top of the wing should be 'dead flat', but with a built in underside dihedral (Did I explain that clearly enough?).
Anyway, the 'built in' dihedral IS correctly portrayed on the underside of Roden's top wing, but unfortunately there is also dihedral evident on the TOP surface of this wing as well. At first I thought this COULD be simply a molding/warping flaw only on my kit and a few others. But after a couple of friends also had a look the final consensus seems to be that this dihedral is deliberate on Roden's part - and is WRONGit will be VERY difficult to fix this...
Perhaps immersing it in hot water and warping it will do the trick? I don't know, but this IS evident, it is a SERIOUS error and it WILL require correction.
On the positive side, all struts are very well molded and very close to scale requiring little in the way of thinning - which is a good thing for us WW I model aircraft nuts, as these are usually provided way out of scale and unusable!
TAILPLANE & RUDDER:
Not much to say here except that all these pieces lay on Ian Stair's plans perfectly. Note that these are also without Roden's previous 'fabric texture'.
The struts and wheels all look good and correct for the type and scale. The axle wing though (I'd used "however" too much, so am switching to "though" now... ;-)), is about 2.5mm too short. Not much if it were over a long span like (say) a fuselage or main wing, but this is very noticeable for a short axle wing. Two axle wings are provided - each with different surface detail, but both are too short by 2.5mm. Scratch build one, or cut this one in two and insert a lengthening splice. Or use the Revell kit's axle wing. Sigh.
Besides decals provided for Berthold's plane (see above), Roden also provides markings so you may build one of three other D.VIIs as well. They are:
Ltn. d R Hugo Schafer (11 victory ace) D.VII of Jasta15, 1918. This plane has a red and blue fuselage with a white coiled serpent on each fuselage side and top and with pre-printed fabric wings.
Oblt. Bruno Loerzer's (44 victories) D.VII of Jasta 26. A Black & white stripped machine (not to be confused with Goering's last D.VII of similar markings), pre-printed fabric wing undersides and lower wing topsides.
Oblt. Hermann Goering (22 victory ace) early D.VII of Jasta 27, summer of 1918, White nose, streaked fuselage, white tail, pre-printed fabric wings.
Happily, all markings and painting guides provided seem to match with current accepted notions as to what is correct for these planes according to the above listed references.
There are also decals provided for the pre-printed fabric "lozenge" covered wings. Roden is getting closer here to the correct colors - relative to their past efforts - but these are still 'off' and I recommend you not use them. Substitute those from Americal/Gryphon, Eagle Strike, or Pegasus, as those are all very good representations.
So, what's my final grade you ask? (Okay, so you didn't ask - just humor me please!).
I reluctantly give Roden's new Fokker D.VII effort only a "C" grade overall.
I take major points off for the upper wing dihedral problem, the short axle wing(s) and the radiator molding flaws as being it's biggest shortcomings. The fuselage length doesn't bother me as most of that difference can be remedied with a little careful knife work and sandpaper - the remainder won't be noticed. Other 'nit picks' can all be easily overcome by anyone with just a little bit of patience and modeling experience. The kit has many good points as mentioned above - many are unusual, but very welcome for a 1/72nd biplane kit
I'd say this kit is worth buying - especially if you can snare a couple at a price below it's retail price of (I think?) $9.00 USD. But expect to correct the major faults at least.
Maybe that pile of old Revell D.VII kits you've still got lying about can cough up the needed new upper wings and axle wings?
If the noted corrections are made and you include the expected PART photo-etched detail set, Roden's D.VII should build into a very nice model - albeit, after a few headaches!
Special thanks to Roll Models for the review sample.