Hobbycraft Dornier Do-17E/F

Kit #1604                MSRP $24.98

Images and text Copyright © 2006/2014 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background

        Dornier constructed a number of aircraft that were later to be dubbed the "Flying Pencils" due mainly to the long thin outline of the fuselage. Probably the most famous and the one that was to take part in the 'Battle of Britain' was the Do-17. Developed in the early 1930s this aircraft was quite advanced for its time and was also the predecessor of the Do-217 series of bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. The first flight of the Do-17 was on November 23rd 1934 as a passenger/courier aircraft but Lufthansa rejected it and the prototypes were left in a hangar, only to be discovered a few years later by Robert Untucht who was the air ministry liaison officer, and a test pilot with Lufthansa.
        The original Do-17E and F series were powered by the BMW V-12 V1 engine which was the only upright V-12 used by the Germans then shifted to the more advanced Daimler Benz DB.600G inverted V motors producing about 1050 horsepower each but the severe shortage of Daimler Benz motors cause a shift to the BMW radial engine before too much longer. In truth most of the Do-17s to receive the Daimler-Benz engines were the L and M variants as a parallel development to the E and F. Some of these early DB powered 17's were placed in service with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil war and operated alongside BMW powered units. It is not uncommon to see pictures of the Dornier bombers on Spanish airfields with both types in evidence. Other versions of the Do-17 to sport the DB-600G engine were the Do-17S reconnaissance and the Do-17U pathfinder aircraft. By the end of the production run we were seeing Z variants with not only the BMW radial but 9 cylinder Bramo 323s and Gnome-Rhone 14-NO radials. These were considered export aircraft and re-designated Do-215.
        The Do-17 series of bombers themselves never were that important to the Luftwaffe but did take a notable position in history as the first aircraft shot down by an RAF single-seat fighter during the war on October 30, 1939. Its vulnerability was heralded during the action against Poland where four Do-17's were lost and again against France where French fighters achieved several victories against Do-17 bombers. By 1940 production of the Do-17 had ceased and remaining units were handed off to co-belligerent air forces or regulated to glider towing duties. The basic airframe was a success however and saw development into the Do-215 and Do-217 and several variants within those designations. With increased defensive armament, increased bomb load through wider and thicker fuselages and electronics upgrades the basic design idea soldered on for several years.

The Kit
        I think Hobbycraft must have gotten a deal on some really big boxes because these kits don't need this much space. Inside this huge box are two poly bags containing the four trees of light gray high pressure injection molded pieces and single clear sprue. Basically this is the same kit as the Do-17M/P by Hobbycraft with a single sprue replaced to reflect the changed engines. One important fact to note is this kit represents the very early Do-17E/F with the upright BMW V-12 engines. This is distinguishable by the raised humps along the tops of the engine nacelles. If we were talking about a slightly later version with the DB-600 or 601 engines the nacelles would look more like those found on the He-111 with a rounded top and exhaust stubs exiting below the leading edge of the wing. As with the other kit we have consistent engraved panel lines, no flash, sink holes or noticeable injector pin markings. The cockpit and bombardier's area are totally devoid of any accurate detail and I have to wonder what the original designers were thinking when they did this. The parts do fit together well with panel lines matching up well and little or no filler needed. Overall we have seventy five gray pieces to work with here.
        The single small sprue of nine clear parts covers the main cockpit, nose section, dorsal gunners station (two choices here), landing light lenses and fuselage view ports. This particular boxing I am looking at is an older production and from everything I'm hearing about the current 2006 reissue of the Do-17 series is that the clear parts are seriously fogged. To be perfectly honest this does not matter as the modeler should dump the kit clear parts immediately (you will want to save the lenses and side windows) and acquire the Squadron aftermarket sets (yes, I said sets - buy both of them). This is not simply because the current issue has fogging problems but because there are other issues with all the Hobbycraft Do-17 kits that seem to be centered around the clear parts. If you hang around with other modelers it should not take long before someone tells you that the Hobbycraft Do-17 has a banana bow to the fuselage. Once you build one of these and look at it you might be inclined to agree but there is a fix, more on that in a moment.
        The real problem with the Hobbycraft kit is in the clear parts and a poorly designed nose accentuating the banana bow, I've put a ruler down the spine of this kit and it is indeed very straight however the canopy sits too high adding to the banana impression. The 'Banana Bow' is from a poorly designed lower fuselage half and can be fixed following Gary Buchanan's fix. Squadron produces two sets of replacement canopies for the kit and both are required to fix the issue. First, the Squadron sets have corrected pane sizes in the cockpit area and includes a new nose top piece (molded into the clear section) to correct the fit to the nose glazing which is the second Squadron set. Squadron even gives instructions with one of the replacement clear sets on how to cut wedges out of the fuselage then bend the lower section and fill the resulting seams. Wow, that sure is a lot of work. In the future I'll be putting this kit together and we'll address this entire issue in more detail then - lets get back to the basic kit review for now.
        Other detail on the kit like the landing gear is adequate and can be enhanced easily with some wire brake lines. One thing that is often picked on is the large dual loop directional antenna and believe it or not, it is fairly accurate - the real thing was big and awkward looking. The box art shows the aircraft with partially exposed landing gear when retracted which is correct, however the kit has fully enclosed gear when retracted so the modeler will have to modify the gear doors to reflect the correct profile. Later models with the radial engines had enlarged engine nacelles that did fully enclose the gear when retracted. The tail wheel structure is too tall for the M/P but looks about right for the E/F. One other minor inaccuracy I found was that on the E and F versions there should be a small hatch in the lower front section beneath the pilot for a machine gun - this was not always protruding from the aircraft, in fact usually it was stowed but the hatch and clear window are not present, just one more minor item to fix but not outside the skills of the average modeler. Last deficiency I see right away is the tail end of the fuselage, here we have the sort M/P stub rather than the longer E/F appendage. Total kit inventory consists of seventy five gray pieces and nine clear pieces for a total of eighty four pieces in the box.

You may click on the small images above to view larger pictures.

Decals and Instructions
        Directions for the model come as a single large A-2 sized folded panel starting with a brief historical background on the aircraft type. We get six exploded view construction steps that cover all the basic information needed to put this together but nowhere are any interior painting instructions provided. I have examined the original field manuals for this aircraft and it does specify the interior to be RLM-66 black-gray. Two full panels are reserved for exterior painting schemes and decal placement instructions. We do get some color codes for the exterior schemes and these are given by RLM numbers only.
        The kit includes a large sheet of decals that are supposed to cover two Spanish Civil War aircraft associated with the Condor Legion. You may click on the image to the right to view a full sized scan of the decals. The first set is fairly standard with the black circles and white crosses while the second set is somewhat more unusual with German crosses being over painted with red circles. If you are not familiar with the details of early German aircraft operating in Spain you might think these are Japanese markings or just outright incorrect but no, they actually did this. Unfortunately I have studied images of these aircraft with the red circles and I cannot see any evidence of the German cross showing through. The decals in general are not very impressive with poor color density and look somewhat brittle. No service markings or warning stencils are included either. I would replace these decals with aftermarket sheets from Xtradecal, AeroMaster or Two Bobs, all of which cover this aircraft in much better detail.

        Hobbycraft was the only company producing model kits of the Do-17 family in 1/48 scale. The kits are okay on a general level but do indeed have some issues. As I've already discussed you should replace the kit clear parts with the Squadron replacement canopies and the decals are basically crap and should also be replaced. The kit does go together without much trouble but the entire cockpit/bombardier area is garbage and at this time there is no accurate aftermarket set to fill this void. The modeler will have to resort to scratch building a correct interior. To make matters even worse - little good and readily available reference material exists for the interior. To assist those that care to attempt the scratch build at the end of this review are several thumbnails leading to some reference material. One other aftermarket item exists at the moment and that is a nice set of wheels from True Details. Classic Airframes began production in 2008 of the Do-17 with the Z version which was the most produced subtype made and it appeared there was every intent to push that set of molds through the entire spectrum of Do-17s however with the downturn in the economy in 2009 Classic Airframes made the decision to suspend operations until some future date. Their Z variant was a great improvement over the HC kit with a much better interior but these parts are not suited for transplant into the Do-17E/F or M/P kits as the internal layout was considerably different.
        It may seem like I've pointed out a lot of deficiencies with this kit but regardless it is worth having and will help you improve your modeling skills, hopefully with the reissue of the series of kits the aftermarket industry will quickly catch up to our needs. I give this kit a fair recommendation.

Edit 3-05-2014
       Several years have gone by since the kit has been re-popped and still there are no suitable fixes from the aftermarket community. I guess I'm going to have to do it myself. Stay tuned!

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