Eduard 1/48 Fokker D.VII
Dual Combo

By Mike O'Hare

Background

[Given the notoriety of the Fokker D.VII, and the coverage the type has had in recent years on Internet Modeler, I thought I’d forego the usual aircraft history, and instead look back on the kit’s history; if you would like to read about the development of the type, see
http://www.internetmodeler.com/2005/february/first-looks/roden_dvii.php
http://www.internetmodeler.com/2006/april/first-looks/eduard_fokker.php
http://www.internetmodeler.com/1999/october/galleria/d7.htm ]

It’s amazing how time flies. It was just over a year ago, as I type this, that Eduard released their then brand-spanking new Fokker D.VII at the US IPMS Nats. I think it’s fair to say that the kit stunned many modelers, and seemed to be one of the most notable releases of the show. The buzz on the modeling discussion boards immediately after was that it was a shoe-in for kit of the year, fantastic detail, gorgeous moldings, and an instruction book that had to be seen to be believed. Most importantly, it had that certain X-factor that Tamiya are so good at, that feeling when you open the box that this, is a great kit. Even the sprues are laid out for maximum appeal. It seemed designed to proselytize: you should build WWI aircraft, and this is the kit that will convert you. And interestingly, those applauding the loudest immediately after its release, seemed to be those who didn’t usually go in for WWI stuff. Eduard’s Fokker finally proved that WWI kits weren’t crude lumps of ancient or limited run plastic that had to be assembled and rigged in a mysterious voodoo ceremony.

At the same time, however, it was the source of much controversy. It was the first release under Eduard’s new “limited edition” policy. Some didn’t like the suggestion that they had to buy now, or do without, instead preferring to buy as and when they liked. It was also a fairly pricey kit – retail was about $40 on initial release, which put it into Hasegawa F-14 territory. But the biggest issue of all was that the Fokker D.VII family had just been covered - very well - by Roden. This meant that brand loyalty drew battle lines for some and made the debate about which Fokker was best, rather heated at times. Eduard was criticized for their high price (the Roden kits were half the cost); for their experiment with ‘weathered lozenge’ (printing splatters of brown to simulate weathering); and even, for their ease of build (Eduard’s Fokker wasn’t as good because it was too easy to build).

So now that we’ve had a bit of time to calm down and breathe deeply, it seems a good opportunity to reflect on things. We are lucky. We have fantastic, state of the art kits of one of the most important aircraft of the Great War, from two manufacturers. Really, there’s not a lot between them. Roden (at the moment) have more comprehensive coverage of the family, but a trickier build. Eduard has finer cockpit detail, but a weaker engine bay. Some people prefer Roden’s representation of ribs, others feel Eduard’s is fine. Eduard’s prices have dropped dramatically: the single kits sell for $30, but the dual combo releases are just under $40, meaning you get a pair of Fokkers for about $20 each. This puts them right in line with the Roden family of kits. The weathered decals are (thankfully) gone. It was an interesting idea and it’s nice to see model companies thinking laterally, but, it didn’t work. Live, learn and move ahead. And there have been three additional releases of the Eduard kit, with more to come later in the year – clearly you DON’T have to get it right away, and the kits will (thankfully) be around for a long time. And of course, the colour PE is still there, for good or ill. Love it to bits? You’re in luck. Don’t like it? Paint over it.

After what has been a fairly turbulent year in WWI modeling circles, I think it’s fair to say that it’s all been a tempest in a teapot. Each manufacturer has its merits, each has its demerits. But none of them (good or bad) are worth getting up in arms over – there just isn’t enough between the two to argue about (though I suppose, it’s precisely because the two are so evenly matched that people DO argue so heatedly).

At the end of the day, there is a D.VII to suit every taste and preference. And it’s not a BAD thing to have duplication: for a long time, the only 1/48 kit was from DML, and then it disappeared; now if one company puts their tooling away for a while, there’s still another alternative. Besides which, it’s a kit that is obviously drawing new modelers go the genre, and that can never be a bad thing.

The Kit

This release is similar to the original Fokker D.VII Eduard brought out a year ago – the same instructions, the same plastic, the same photoetch, the same kabuki masks. Following in the tradition of their previous Dual Combo releases however, there’s a bonus. The bonus is that for a small premium, you get two kits in one box: two sets of that plastic, two sets of photoetch, two masks. In short, you get two identical, complete kits, duplicates of their original Fokker D.VIIF edition. This is definitely the way for the Fokker fan to go, a cheap and easy way to stock up on a great kit. In fact, the Dual Combo kits are actually cheaper than Roden’s D.VIIs.

Eduard have broken their family of kits down into modeler friendly releases. Rather than have individual cowls for each sub-type, or deal with countless mould inserts, or have the modeler add or shave off louvers, they include two different fuselages in each release. In the D.VIIF release, these depict early- and late-production airframes. This makes building the model easier, even if modeling some of the more individualized versions is a little more difficult. This also makes the whole process less intimidating for the inexperienced WWI modeler. You don’t need to study up on which factory did what, and when; you can pretty much just build it out of the box.

Overall the tooling is extremely nice. Parts are cleanly cast with just the expected hint of mould seams around the edges of parts. The struts seem to be very nearly scale thickness, yet surprisingly robust, so they shouldn’t snap when you cut them from the sprues. A big plus, as the only thing worse than a chunky strut, is one that breaks on you. The control stick is probably one of the nicest I’ve seen, of any subject, in any scale – it’s just a perfect little work of art. And the control horns are wonderfully miniscule. As a fantastic touch, Eduard include an insert for the bottom of the fuselage, to depict the prominent stitching which ties the fabric skin together. Things like that make it obvious this was a labour of love for the folks at Eduard – it’s a detail that most people ignore, and most WWI fans would just use PE stitching instead, but with some clever lateral thinking, Eduard have eliminated the need for another bit of aftermarket kit.

The wings have thin trailing edges, though to the detriment of one lower wing half in my kit – it was damaged in shipping, and will take some work to repair. The upper wing also feels a little flexible, so I’ll definitely look at some sort of reinforcement to avoid warpage. Another fantastic touch is the inclusion of stacking pads on the wing leading edges – tiny pips to simulate the bumpers on the real plane. Just be careful you don’t sand them off!

Also included in the big box, are a pair of (identical) colour PE sets, with belts, instruments, gun details and the like. Interesting to note, they have changed their wood effect on the instrument panel – it used to be a pale tan with dark brown ‘streaks’ to depict the grain. The ones in my kit are a solid medium brown. I plan to re-paint mine anyway, but it’s interesting to see the change; I guess Eduard listened to another criticism of their kit. Rounding out the package are a series of decal sheets (more on these later), and some Kabuki-tape masks.

There aren’t a ton of optional extras in the box, but there are a few. Most prominent of course, are the fuselages. Any way you slice it, you’ll have two complete fuselages for your spares box when done. There are also different exhausts, wheels, axle wings and props. The props are a little disappointing: Eduard include two types, Heine and Axial, and each of these is done as a ‘normal’ prop, and with a quick-release boss (that’s four props total). Unfortunately, the two Heine propellers (parts B-10 and 16) are too short – they are apparently close to the length needed for a rotary engine, but incorrect for an in-line engine. I suppose you could build up the length with plastic sheet (I’ll certainly give it a go), but I’m thinking, life’s too short… The difference isn’t immense – about 5mm total, but it is a bit annoying. Less annoying though worth pointing out – the kit contains parts for both the BMW and Mercedes engines, however the former should mount slightly higher than the latter. Not a huge deal (okay, I’m nitpicking) and easy for the modeler to shim, but BMW engines stick out more from the fuselage, and the kit doesn’t depict this. They do provide accurate exhausts and a manufacturer’s data plate though.

Other things worth noting on a cursory thumb through the instructions: Eduard would have you paint the seat leather. This probably isn’t accurate for the period – regular service machines would most likely have fabric (ie. Lozenge) covered seats, not leather. They also show the plastic and PE instrument panels as being largely interchangeable. They aren’t. The PE item is an Albatros panel, the plastic one an OAW/Fokker panel. Obviously it’s not the end of the world if you use the wrong one, but it would have been nice if this was pointed out in the instructions. I’m also a little let down by the guns. I believe that Eduard have said that this kit is always going to be the equivalent of their old Profipack series, which means it is pretty much designed to use PE. So every release for the foreseeable future will have etched cooling jackets for the Spandaus. If that’s the case, why did they tool the guns with the jackets on? It’s a pain to cut the gun apart and glue the muzzle to the PE, not to mention finding rod fine enough to depict the barrel inside the jacket. I would have LOVED to see them include two types of gun – one with the plastic jacket (as per the kit) and one with just the barrel, which the PE jacket would fit around. There’s certainly room for it on the sprues, and it’d make life easier.

Although these are all minor gripes and issues – things that are easy to fix, or ‘woulda been nice’, but certainly don’t detract from an excellent kit.

The Decals:

Unfortunately the decals ARE a disappointment. They’re Eduard’s standard, nicely printed AVIPrint sheets, but I feel let down by the execution. This release, is a dual combo. You’re supposed to be able to build two of the four subjects in the decals. But Eduard only include one set of four colour lozenge, and one set of five colour lozenge. This immediately cuts your options in half. Aftermarket is a tricky option – there are lots of lozenge sheets available, but every manufacturer’s idea of lozenge differs dramatically, so putting Eduard’s four colour loz. next to FCM’s will look odd.

Furthermore, the decals, as Tom Solinski pointed out in his review of the OAW release, the lozenge decals and rib tapes have an odd, almost smoke-tinted carrier film. It would normally mean many hours of tedious trimming, but Fokker-built D.VIIs had rib tapes cut from lozenge, so the kit tapes (pink and blue) are unuseable anyway. It’s probably academic, but you wouldn’t have enough tapes to cover both kits in one colour, even if Fokker used pink or blue. Along with this, you only get one set of stencil data for four colour lozenge, and one for five colour, making aftermarket just that much trickier.

Worse still are the wing crosses. Three of the four kit schemes use the same wing crosses, but Eduard only include one set of this type. They include a wide range of styles for the various fuselage and tail crosses, but only one set of late wing crosses. So if you’re expecting this release to be a good way to build two of the options in the first Fokker release, think again. It’s still an economical way to add some Fokkers to your stash, if you plan to use aftermarket decals, though. Oh, and to top it all off, there are decals to depict the laminated props (nice touch), but only enough to do one of them. Ditto the instrument decals.

For what it’s worth, the kit’s subjects can be seen on Eduard’s web site. OOB, you are stuck doing Willi Gabriel’s aircraft, and either Greven’s blue machine, or that of an unknown pilot from Jasta 2. If you do Paul Aue’s aircraft, you won’t have the lozenge to do Gabriel’s, and won’t have the wing crosses for Greven’s or the unknown pilots.

Conclusion:

Don’t get me wrong, I like the kit. I like it a lot, and I can’t wait to get started building. There are a few niggling little issues here and there that only the most pedantic modelers will care about. I just wish they had thought a little more about the decals. The main decal sheet is identical to the one seen in the original Fokker release. Literally – it’s even got the same product number. I’m not really surprised about the rib tapes, or lozenge. I pretty much expected it. I could live with the prop decals and instrument dials. But to only include one set of wing crosses, which three of the four subjects use, is pretty bad. Even just throwing in a small addendum sheet with extra crosses, would have shown a little forethought. It’s so close to perfection, yet maddeningly far away. It’s still a great kit, and a great bargain, just beware that you will NEED aftermarket decals. Although to be fair, I’ve used Roden decals, and you NEED aftermarket replacements for their kits too.


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