My ongoing Battle of Britain project continues. My aim is to build at least one of each type of aircraft that operated on both sides of the conflict in the summer of 1940. My pedantic nature wants me to include all RAF commands that were on active offensive as well as defensive duties, as well as the usual Luftwaffe suspects. Having built the AW Whitley earlier this year, plus an example of a Bristol Blenheim MkIVF and the Gladiator, it was time to switch sides.
I already have a Dornier Do17Z in my collection. I built it about 20 years ago, using the Revell kit (out of Monogram: you could tell by the raised moulded "Monogram" on the outside of one of the tail planes!) with tons of aftermarket details and upgrades. I threw everything at that build, apart from sanding all the raised panel lines down and rescribing them. The cockpit took me several evenings of fiddly etched part folding and gluing alone, and I didn't fit everything even then! I am still proud of that build. It stacks up quite well against builds I've completed since. You can find it in my Flickr photo pages: "Air War 1940".
Nevertheless, when Airfix announced an all new kit of the Flying Pencil, I immediately added my name to the pre-order list. How could I resist?
The box is quite small. It's always a surprise that the Do17 isn't actually all that big, compared to some of its contemporaries. Inside, four sprues contain all the main parts, and one of clear parts. On my copy, very little flash is evident, and any that does appear doesn't affect components. The box tells me there are over 170 parts, but obviously some of these will be alternatives and items that may not actually be used in this build. I note various selections of bomb payload, as well as a full complement of defensive armament and crew figures with separate right arms. Weighted mainwheels and the possibility of setting the main cockpit access hatch open complete the now standard modern Airfix kit. The transfer sheet looks well printed, and contains two marking schemes as well as the common parts. I'll have to source the tail fin swastika markings from the trade.
This build will be out of the box. I shall be using the supplied parts and transfers. As my preference is for grounded aircraft, I won't be fitting the crew figures to the model. I will add an occasionally detail, where I can. An immediate modification I can see is the addition of the metal bar "fences" fitted to the machine gun mounts either side of the rear cockpit. These features are very apparent in photos of the 1940 period. The extra guns were added in the field after experience in battle showed the aircraft was vulnerable to attacks from the side. To avoid crew members inadvertently shooting the engines and wings of their own plane, metal bars were added to restrict the gun barrel movements. I plan to fit these bars from fine brass wire.
I'm already quite familiar with the aircraft, so I felt fairly confident I didn't need my reference material at the outset. I will dig it out and check on various things before I get too much further. I started out by painting interior colour (Humbrol 240) on all the parts so indicated in the instructions. This was a good way of familiarising myself with all the parts and where they were on the sprues. As an aside, I am hoping to use Humbrol enamels all through this build, but the tinlet of 240 I have is that ghastly stuff that's like emulsion. I shook and mixed and mixed and shook, but the paint simply wouldn't give any coverage by brush at all. In the end, I thinned the paint and slapped it on, let it dry, slap on some more, and so on until I got the density of coverage I hoped for. I will have to check the other tinlets to see if they're the same gloopy consistency, and then decide what to do about painting the exterior.
I recall some reviews of this kit complained about ejector marks on interior details. There were quite a few, it has to be said. Many were sited so as to be masked or covered by other details, but I had to deploy a little filler in places. Others were easily dealt with (undercarriage and bomb bay doors, for example) by scraping back carefully with a new scalpel blade. Equally, these modern toolings also have fine tolerances, so I made a note to pay attention to mating surfaces, pegs and slots to ensure a good fit before applying cement. The soft plastic allows for some very fine mouldings, but it is also very fragile at times. I shall be very careful when extracting the undercarriage legs and struts from the sprue in due course.
The instructions start off, as is traditional, with the cockpit fittings. The pilot's seat is a bit of a fiddle, with the base being three parts. I found it paid to do a little careful tidying of mould split lines around mating surfaces. Part of the fiddle was probably due to my having painted the parts on the sprue, and then having to scrape the paint off so the cement worked! It's important to get the base side components (B11 and D31) as square on the base (D1) as possible. In fact, fitting the seat helps this (I went for B26 out of the two on offer - no idea which would actually be correct for the KG77 choice I've made). Once the control column is fitted at Stage 4, it's time to set this assembly to one side to set nice and hard.
Assembly stages 5 and 6 cover the rear cockpit details. I decided to leave these components unassembled at this stage. It's not clear what angles the side cheeks (A5 and A6) are to sit at, and I plan to fit them to the end (C8) to the assembled fuselage in stage 18.
The next stages cover fitting details to the sides of the cockpit. The instructions do cover detail painting, mainly with Humbrol 85 Satin Black. It's at this stage you notice just how many MG magazines were stashed about the cockpit! The instructions fail to note many of the moulded magazines, so it pays to spend a bit of time checking you've painted them all! I also detailed up some of the panels with black.
Stage 8 covers installing part D12. I found this component then got in the way of trying to fit the pilot seat assembly at stage 9, so I carefully removed it before the cement had set. Once the seat assembly is fitted - not trivial, and needs some care to ensure it sits square - D12 can be slotted in.
This is where I got to after a couple of hours (not counting paint drying and recoats). I have skipped over stage 10, as that covers fitting the tail wheel for in-flight configuration. Stage 12 is fitting crew seats (2x B25) to the starboard fuselage side. There isn't much location area for these seats, and I have found the leading seat will not sit square due to the back interfering with part of the side wall detailing. I'll live with it now, but a little trimming of the side of the seat might have been helpful. The small chair on the left of the picture is the rear gunner's position (parts B12, B13 and D11), assembled in stage 14. I haven't fitted it yet, as it relies on the fuselage halves being joined.
You can see the rather patchy interior grey-green finish, due to the rubbish paint. I can't find a suitable reference for further detail painting, so I've used my own initiative to pick out various components in satin black. I've done a wash of very dilute matt black into the panels to give a little shading and depth - a little over done in places. Some dry brushing of the main grey-green can overcome that, as well as some careful dry brushed aluminium colour in places to show a well-used airframe.
As you can see, the kit designers have done a lot of work to provide details in the cockpit. Although much will not be easily seen with the canopy transparencies in place, I do recall the effort I put into the Revell kit with teeny-tiny etched parts to achieve the same thing. Construction is relatively straightforward, but it does reward patience, care and several dry runs to ensure a good fit all round.
There follows a short intermission in this build as once again paying work takes precedence!