Internet Modeler : First Look : Aviation

Special Hobby's 1/72 Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber

By Chris Banyai-Riepl

History

The Me 264 came about through a requirement for a bomber capable of taking the war to the United States by bombing East Coast cities. Messerschmitt stepped up to the plate with their Me 264, a huge plane with long, thin wings and four engines. The streamlined appearance of the plane gave it an attractive, graceful look both on the ground and in the air.

As successful as it might have been in its original role, it was quickly squashed as an intercontinental bomber and relegated to maritime reconnaissance roles. Only two were built as a result, the Me 264V-1 and V-2. The differences between the two were constrained to the wings, with the V-1 utilizing complete engine nacelle assemblies from the Ju 88A-4. The V-2 had its wings extended from 127 feet 7.5 inches to 141 feet 1 inch and replaced the earlier Jumo engines with BMW 801D engines (much like what happened with later models of the Ju 88/188 family). Unfortunately only the Me 264V-1 ever flew, as the V-2 was destroyed on the ground during pre-flight ground tests.

The Kit

Who would have thought that we’d have an injection-molded Me 264 in 1/72?  Not me!  But here it is, and boy does it look nice.  You get four light gray trees of plastic parts, two sets of vacuformed canopy pieces, a handful of tan resin parts and a small decal sheet.  The kit features recessed panel lines throughout, all of which are quite fine so take care that you don’t sand them off in assembly.  That covers the basics, so let’s take a closer look.

The interior is all resin and has plenty of detail.  This is a good thing, as the vacuformed canopy is very clear and will show everything off quite well.  The main office is made up from a floor and a rear bulkhead, with the instrument panel mounting on a pedestal that makes up the front end as well as the nose gear attachment point.  The nose gear well is a separate piece that fits onto the bottom of the cockpit floor.  The cockpit is finished off by two seats, separate rudder pedals, a two-piece control yoke, and details for the sidewalls and cockpit roof.  There is also a note suggesting a minimum of 30 grams of weight on each side of the rear cockpit door.  That’s a total of 60 grams minimum to keep this plane on its nose, and in a pretty small area.  If you run out of room in the fuselage you could also fit a bit of weight in the front of the engine nacelles.

Speaking of the nacelles, these are made up from right and left halves, with a resin front piece.  There’s two exhaust shrouds on each side and a large fairing on the underneath, all provided as separate pieces.  The one downside to these parts is the cowl flaps.  These are molded in the closed position, and all the photos of the Me 264 on the ground that I’ve seen show them in the open position.  The good news is that the Me 264 used the same nacelles as the Ju 88, so you could replace them with aftermarket ones if you want.  The back sections of the nacelles are separateparts from the wings, with the outboard ones being made up from two pieces.  The inboard nacelles cut across the wheel wells so they’re a bit more complicated.  In front of the wheel well is a three-piece nacelle, including a blanking plate.  The back end of the nacelle is one piece, fitting onto the lower wing behind the wheel well opening.  The wings have marks on them to show where all of these parts go.

While on the subject of the wheel wells, these are provided as one-piece resin inserts.  The wheel well openings in the wing have their edges tapered, though, so the fit isn’t as flush as it should be.  This can be remedied by chamfering the edges of the resin inserts, which will result in a very snug fit.  The wings themselves are split into upperand lower halves and are very long and thin.  In fact, each wing measures almost exactly 11 inches!  Unfortunately this is a problem.  According to the information in William Green’s Warplanes of the Third Reich, the Me 264V-1 had a wingspan of almost 128 feet.  The kit scales out to having a scale wingspan of around 140 feet.  Now the Me 264V-2 had a wingspan of 141 feet, so problem solved, this is a kit of the V-2 version, right?  Wrong.  The V-2 version had BMW 801D engines, not the Jumo 211 engines given in the kit.  What to do, what to do.  Well, if you want to do the V-1, you can cut the wingtips off at the panel line that’s about an inch in from the tip and fashion new, squarer tips.  Or you can find some BMW engines from a Ju 188 kit and use those and make the V-2 version.  Either way you’ll have to do a bit of work.

The landing gear on the Me 264 is probably the most impressive part of the plane, mainly due to the incredibly large wheels used.  The kit provides all the parts in plastic, with the wheels split into right and left halves.  The nose gear strut has a split fork, allowing you to mount the wheel without difficulty.  The gear doors could probably use some thinning down, a simple enough task.  The main gear doors incorporate the curve of the lower inboard nacelle as well.  The tires are perfectly round, but in this case you’ll want to flatten and bulge them a bit, as the low-pressure tires used on the Me 264 did bulge out on the sides.

There’s not much in the way of options for the plane, as only one example flew.  The instructions state that it was finished in a splinter camouflage of RLM 70/71 over RLM 65.  Initially designed as a bomber, these colors make sense, but it also was suggested that maritime reconnaissance would be a good role for it, so it’s possible that RLM 72/73 was used for the upper surface camouflage.  Once you’ve got the camouflage figured out it’s on to the markings.  Crosses, swastikas, and black code letters are it for this plane.  The kit provides markings for the V-1 aircraft, coded RE+EN.  It’s unsure what colors the V-2 was finished in, if it was even camouflaged, and it is uncertain if it wore code letters, so if you’re planning on modeling this example be prepared to do some heavy research.

Conclusion

This is a very impressive model, no doubt about it.  While there is a question as to the actual length of the wings on the real plane, there’s no question about the length in the kit.  This model has a completed wingspan of nearly two feet, making it the largest model produced to date by Special Hobby and it’s parent company MPM.  What this means is that MPM et al can now produce large bombers in 1/72 or even medium bombers in 1/48.  Personally I’d like to see them do a Stirling and Halifax for WW2 bombers, and to round out a Berlin Airlift collection an Avro York and C-54.


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