RS Models 1/48 Fokker D-XXIII
Kit #48001 MSRP $68.95 $54.75 from Roll Models
Images and text Copyright © 2014 by Matt Swan
On May 30, 1939 Marius Beeling's twin engine concept fighter took flight in the Netherlands for the first time. Built by Fokker this unusual push/pull configuration was an attempt to overcome the problems of asymmetric flight commonly found in twin engine aircraft. It was powered by two Walter Sagitta I-SR air cooled inverted V piston engines producing 530 hp each mounted front and rear of a central gondola which would result in an estimated 326 MPH maximum speed. These were only test bed engines, it was hoped that production models might use either Rolls-Royce or Daimler-Benz engines. Several issues were beginning to be addressed with the design though its short test life such as severe rear engine cooling problems and concerns about the rear propeller in the event of a pilot bail-out. Plans were made but never implemented to design an ejection seat to push the pilot clear of the propeller. Armament was envisioned as two 7.9mm machine guns and possibly two 13.2mm cannons mounted in the leading edges of the tail booms but these were never installed. After eleven flights totaling about four hours of flight time the landing gear was damaged during a rough landing and the project was shelved. Shortly thereafter Germany invaded the Netherlands and the project was forgotten.
When I first saw this as a new release I was ecstatic, I mean not only was it an oddball kind of aircraft and if you know me at all you know I'm a sucker for the esoteric but was also Dutch and offered a nifty change of color scheme for my display shelves. Mostly I was excited about the oddball aspect. My ears had also perked up when I found the kit included a small photo etched fret.
The kit arrived in a medium size, medium duty top-opening cardboard box with all plastic parts bagged. The clear parts and PE parts were bagged separately. Cover artwork was nice giving a good action view of the aircraft. Inside the box we have a classic short run kit reminiscent of the early Classic Airframes kits. Two large sprues contain all the medium gray parts. We have good surface detail with finely engraved panel lines and good surface texture. There is very minimal flash however the front engine cowling was short-shot around the air intake. After talking to several other owners of this kit this issue seems to be consistent in all examples. There is a most definite mold separation seam on each and every part along with some pretty heavy injector pin studs on interior surfaces. Some of these will have to be removed prior to assembly. Fortunately none of these created dimples on the exterior surface. Like most short run kits there are no locator pins on any of the large parts, nothing the experienced model is unable to deal with. The clear parts sprue offers a closed canopy only and a selection of marker light lenses. The plastic is relatively thin and clear with well defined frames. The photo etched fret provides seat-belts and bracing structure that fits over-top the aft fuel tank which sits directly behind the pilot seat and is very visible.
Kit decals provide markings for two aircraft, the original prototype aircraft and a single proposed production aircraft. Print registry is good and color density looks adequate however there are white bands which will overlay orange markings on the fins and most likely the orange will transmit through the white so think about this before applying decals. Instructions are a single fold-out sheet and can be viewed here.
As usual construction begins with the cockpit and very quickly some fit issues become apparent. I am finding minor fit issues with just about every part. The most glaring in the cockpit is the control yoke, it is too long and had to be cut down about 2mm to fit. At every step of construction, inside and out, each piece needs to be test fit and sanded to fit. While this may sound like a huge PIA it's not really that bad and with proper care construction is not that difficult, just time consuming. For the instrument panel I added Mike Grant instrument decals with a spot of Pledge (Future) floor polish on each face as a lens. So now I have this great looking instrument panel but the mounting point inside the pit is so far back that you'll never be able to see it when things are closed up. Oh well, I know it's there and I have a picture.
The next area I turned my attention to was the exhaust shrouds. These need to be installed prior to closing the fuselage up. The shrouds have the same nasty mold separation seams that all the other pieces have, what makes them even tougher is the parts are fairly small and have lots of little areas that need to be cleaned up. I use my Xacto blade as a scraper to clean off the seams. I also opened the end of each exhaust port using the tip of my razor knife to make a pilot hole then a very fine welder's tip drill to deepen it. Once these were all ready and installed I test fit everything one more time, made a few minor sanding adjustments and was ready to close up the main fuselage.
Remember earlier when I said the engine cowling was short-shot? Well, it is time to deal with that little problem. I started by trimming the damaged area with a razor knife then sorting through my plastic sheet stock until I found a piece that was approximately the same thickness as the existing piece on the cowl. Next I carefully cut the length until it fit into the damaged area. The addition of some liquid glue softened the plastic so it could conform to the cowl face. I let the glue dry completely before carefully trimming away the excess to match the opposite face. I also thinned the inside mating surface a little. Next some liquid putty was added to fill the little gaps then wet sanded to give me a fully repaired cowl face. With dry time included I spread this little repair over two evenings of modeling. This is also why I have more than one kit building at any given time.
The fuselage is together, the wings are assembled and then test fit to the fuselage. I have a lot of fine tuning to do before the wing assembly actually fits. Both front and back of the fuselage opening and the wing assembly are sanded in stages until I have a snug fit on the lower surface. It is quickly apparent that the lower radiator face is not going to fit in place so I leave it out to deal with later. On the top side I have a reasonably good fit on one side but a respectable gap on the other. Here I insert some plastic shims then fill with putty; lots of wet sanding here. On the lower surface I have a deep recess around the inboard flaps and have to fill this area with putty to even things out. I'll etch the flap lines back in place with a razor saw later. To fit the radiator face I used my saw to remove about a 5mm wide section of the lower fuselage then trimmed the interior to conform to the radiator piece. I also removed about 2mm from the aft side of that section before reinserting it. From here some careful carving with a razor knife followed by a couple of coats of liquid putty; lots more sanding.
Once the fuselage/wing assembly is finished I insert three large lead sinkers into the nose area and secure then with superglue. The tail booms are assembled, cleaned up and attached. I laid the model over the grid on my work table to make sure the booms were aligned correctly. The little tabs sticking out of the nose from the forward exhaust shrouds are meant to be alignment tabs for the cowling. Just cut those buggers off because they cause more trouble than good. Now for the canopy, this is pretty straight forward work masking with strips of masking tape after a dip in Pledge floor polish. I had to add a small shim to one side of the fuselage to fill a gap with the canopy and had to use a small bar clamp to hold things in place while the glue cured but overall no big problems. Some final details like cooling scoops and guns and this baby is ready for some paint.
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It is time to consider what colors to use on this build. The kit instructions offer little help in nailing down correct colors so the modeler's interpretation is key here. I have seen pictures of this aircraft modeled using several different shades and every example seems to miss the mark and leave an impression of 'just not right'. I spent considerable time lining up different shades of green, tan and brown until I found a selection that seemed a good fit. I ended up with Model Master Army Sand, White Ensign Mitsubishi Navy Green and Model Master Burnt Umber. An esoteric mix for an equally esoteric aircraft!
Painting begins with a preshade of thinned Testors Flat Black then the Burnt Umber is applied to the general areas indicated on the color print included with the kit and things are set aside for a day to cure. While this is going on I devote some attention to the landing gear. My initial impression of the landing gear was not especially good. It seemed the oleo struts were extended as if in-flight, there was a nasty mold separation seam down each side of each strut and the overall level of detail seemed lacking. One thing I thought to add were some oleo scissors but before doing any work I did some research and was glad I did. I found quite a few photographs of the test aircraft both in-flight with the gear in various stages of retraction and at rest on the tarmac. First thing I saw was the complete lack of oleo scissors on any of the struts. Next was that even at rest the struts showed a large degree of extension which indicated the model designers actually got it right. The only thing I saw lacking was brake lines on the main gear struts. With research complete I was ready to return to the modeling bench.
Using magnet wire I carefully bent brake lines to conform to the struts, added hold-down straps made from thin strips of masking tape and attached everything with a few fine spots of superglue. The gear doors were attached and some light weathering was applied using a dark gray sludge wash and some ground brown pastel chalks. No additions were needed to the nose gear; it was about as accurate as I was going to be able to make it. With the gear work complete these could be set aside and I could return to painting.
Before I could pick up my airbrush I had to do some mask work. First I laid out a wide strip of masking tape on a sheet of glass then started cutting approximate shapes into the tape while checking the painting guide. My free hand cutting is not that great so I worked in small, 1 inch, segments then pieced them together to achieve an approximately correct look. Now some Mitsubishi Navy Green is applied and we wait for paint to dry. A day later and another round of masking under the belt and the Army Sand can be applied. Once all was dry the masks were removed. Still have a few spots to touch up and some detail painting to complete but the project is rapidly approaching completion.
With a round spotting brush I smoothed out some of the camouflage demarcation lines then added color to the exhaust stubs. The landing gear was attached and the whole thing got two good coats of Future floor polish (now Pledge). From here a basic sludge wash highlighted the panel lines and the decals were placed. The white bands do not have as good a color density as I had hoped and there was some slight color read-through with the orange on the rudders. All the white bands are much longer than needed and the trick here is to not let them wrap around the edge of the wing or fin while they dry. Once dry they can easily be trimmed with a razor and the edges touched up with white or black paint as needed. Once the decals were finished and dry the model was sealed with Squadron Micro-Flat. Some exhaust staining was added from ground pastel chalks using a make-up swab. I took it real easy in the weathering department looking for a nearly factory fresh appearance to this build. The last detail is the six marker lights. I painted the inside surface red or green then used a toothpick with a dab of Blu-Tac to dip them first in super glue then position on the model. Propeller assembly is pretty straight-forward however the aft spinner hub is too thick inside and I had to open it up with a burr bit on my Dremel. All the weight I added in the nose (3 large lead sinkers) was just barely enough to keep the nose on the ground. If I start to tip this backwards it very quickly passes the center of balance and sits on the tail booms. Take my advice and stuff as much weight as possible in the nose if you build this kit. Also you might consider doing a white base over the orange where the strips overlay the rudders to kill some of that read-through.
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