MPM 1/48 Dornier Do-217 N-1/J Night Fighter
Kit # 48014 Collectors Market Value
Images and text Copyright © 2003 by Matt Swan
During the dark days of World War 1 Dipl. Ing Claudius Dornier made his name when he refined the capabilities of flying boats over a number of progressive designs. Dornier designed and produced both flying boats and conventional passenger aircraft during the 1920s and 1930s that were critical in establishing the international reputation of Germany’s aviation industry.
The Dornier Do-217 was a direct development of the Do-l 7 which first flew in 1934. The Do-217, a versatile aircraft, appeared with a variety of power plants during its career between 1940 and 1944. It served in a number of groundbreaking roles, including nightfighter and anti-shipping guided-missile platform. Originally conceived as a commercial airliner, the Do-17 was redesigned as a medium bomber and long-range reconnaissance aircraft. It was dubbed the "flying pencil" because of its long thin fuselage, and it became known as a reliable and effective aircraft. In 1937, Dornier began work on an improved version of the aircraft which would have a larger payload capability, greater range, and increased performance, the Do-217 series. The early models of the Do-217's were made to be bombers and were continuously refined and modified throughout World War II.
The Do-217 V1 prototype first flew in August 1938, and in early 1940, the Do-217A-0 reconnaissance variant became the first version to enter service with the Luftwaffe. The first operational bomber version was the Do-217E-1 which was developed from the Do-217 V9 prototype and Do-217E-0 pre-production aircraft. It featured a deeper fuselage that housed an enlarged bomb bay. The main bay was fourteen feet, ten inches in length, and it was enclosed by two sets of doors. Two additional doors that permitted a torpedo to be carried completely inside the fuselage covered a five-foot, eight-inch extension to the bomb bay at the aft end. This was important, because the aircraft was often used in the anti-shipping role. Alternatively, the bomb bay could hold eight 551-pound bombs, four 1,102-pound bombs, or two 2,205-pound bombs. Originally a single 15-mm MG151 cannon was mounted in the nose and five 7.9-mm machine guns provided defensive armament. These proved to be less effective than might be imagined, because four of them had to be manned by the radio operator. The Do 217E-1s were followed by the Do 217E-2, the first version to have a gun turret in the aft cockpit. The similar Do 217E-3 and E-4 subsequently replaced the Do 217E-2 on the production lines.
The Do-217's continued to evolve during World War II. The Dornier 217E-5 was adapted from the Dornier 217E-2/A-4 torpedo plane. Some Dornier 217E-5's were modified to launch two early prototypes of specially designed anti-shipping secret weapons. In later versions, the Dornier Do-217K's, N's, and M's were not only developed as bombers, but were modified to be night fighters. For better self-protection, the Do-217K's were equipped with two additional machine guns making a total of eight. During 1942 157 Do-217E-2 bombers were modified to the nightfighter variation by replacing the glazed nose with a solid nose that featured 4 20mm MG-FF cannons and four 7.9mm MG-17 machine guns. This version was equipped with the Fug 202 Lichtenstein radar and the bomb bay was covered.
In 1943 another version of the nightfighter was built from the Do-217M bomber. This version, designated the Do-217N-1, differed from the J version only with the addition of new motors. Dornier had replaced the radial BMW 801A engines with the Daimler-Benz DB603A inline engines. These aircraft were fitted with either the Fug 202 Lichtenstein radar or the Fug 101 radar and the bomb bays were covered on all examples. Production of the Dornier Do 217 continued until June 1944. A total of 1905 Dornier Do 217 (all variants) were produced however the Do-217 night fighters were retired by late 1943.
The Do-217N-1 featured a maximum speed of 320mph, a range of 1090 miles. The overall aircraft dimensions were; wingspan 62 feet 4 inches, length 59 feet, height 16 feet 4 inches with a wing area of 613.56 square feet. One odd feature of the aircraft (for the period) was a braking parachute attached to the rear of the fuselage.
Just in case you have not figured it out yet, this is a vacuformed kit. As a modeler of aircraft you should not be afraid of vacuform kits, they offer many unusual subjects that are not available in the mainstream injection-molded market. And, like injection-molded kits, not all vacuform kits are created equal. MPM vacuform kits are a great place to start if you are a beginner in this medium. You can click on the parts layout pictures for larger images.
This kit has long been out of production and can only be found on the internet auctions or at trade shows where dealers in rare and collectable kits are found. The kit is a solid multi-media kit that features five sheets of white vacuformed parts done in .04 (1mm) styrene stock material totaling 33 primary pieces. There are two small sheets of clear vacuformed parts giving us nine pieces there. All of the vacuformed pieces display crisply engraved panel lines that look like they will take a wash or preshading very well. There are a lot of vac marks on the parts (little dimples) that will need to be shaved off and sanded before painting. There are engine nacelles included for two variants of the Do-217, the J or the N.
From the looks of the injection molded pieces it seems that MPM or the producer of the kit did not have a large injection molding machine available. The sprues are all small in physical design and the main set is done in a circular fashion. The parts are done in a dark brown plastic that is slightly brittle and has a lot of flash. The injection molded pieces cover the interior details, landing gear and engines including two different sets of propellers. The J models uses a three blade prop while the N utilizes a four blade prop. Overall there are 106 injection molded pieces on four different sprues. The injection parts have a fair amount of detail present but are not up to today’s standards of fine detail.
Something that is unusual for a kit of this time period but is common for all the MPM vacuforms of the period as well as today’s upper level kits is a set of brass and photo-etched parts and an acetate sheet for the instrument panel. There are 23 photo-etched and brass parts included with the kit. All together there is a grand total of 172 pieces and parts in the box.
The kit includes two sheets of water slide decals that allow the modeler to choose from three different aircraft, two “N” and one “J”. The markings provided are just the basics, there are no stencils included and the modeler will most likely have to cannibalize stencils from other decal sets or the spares box to dress up any of the three aircraft.
The instructions that are given are only of limited help. There is a detailed exploded view of the cockpit assembly and an overall view of all the parts. It takes some serious study to figure out just how everything is going to go together. There is a full size three view that gives the modeler a pretty good idea of landing gear alignment and gear door alignment as well as proper placement of the aerials. One page is devoted to decal placement and exterior color codes as well as camouflage patterns. The color call outs for the interior is limited to “Black Gray RLM66” – going to need to work on that. The cover sheet includes a brief history of the aircraft that is done in slightly broken English and makes for an amusing read. There are also instructions in German and Czech.
This is a good kit overall, especially considering it’s age. It includes lots of parts that the competent modeler should be able to assemble into a very interesting aircraft. If you are new to Vacuform kits this would be a good place to start as it is formed out of heavy sheet styrene and will need little or no additional interior bracing. The decals and instructions leave something to be desired but are workable. The addition of aftermarket decals (to the best of my knowledge there are none specifically for this aircraft) would be helpful but will have to be scavenged from other sources. The injection-molded pieces will require a great deal of care when being cleaned of flash so as to not cause damage. While there are conventional injection molded 1/48 kits available of the Do-217E series from Revell and Pro-Modeler this is the only representation of this variant in this scale. Koster Aero Enterprises makes a complete kit and a conversion kit to produce the “K” and “M” variants of the 217 also and these are designed to work with the Revell kit. Koster also produces a conversion kit to take the Revell kit to a “J” or an “N” variant.
Considering the related cost of acquiring those kits and conversions, this MPM kit presents a great package for the price, even at collectors prices. I recommend the kit for building and collecting.