Koster 1/48 Do-217 J-2/N-1 Night Fighter Conversion
For Pro-Modeler Kit
Kit #31 Collector's Market Value $24.95
Images and text Copyright 2005 by Matt Swan
There is not much more that I can say about the Dornier 217 series of aircraft that has not been said in all the previous reviews. One thing is for certain; the Germans knew how to squeeze every possible ounce of usefulness out of a design. The aircraft was used for reconnaissance, shipping interdiction, conventional bombing, and test platform for early cruise missiles and as a night fighter. As a result of these multiple roles the aircraft saw a wide variety of armament configurations and electronics packages. Not only were these operational systems varied but also wing configuration and power plant changes were experimented with. With each variation the aircraft received a new code letter and number to identify the modification.
The Do-217 J-2 designated a night fighter powered by two 1,580 hp BMW 801A or 801M 18-cylinder two row radials with a solid nose sporting four 20 mm MG FF cannon and four 7.92 mm MG 17 firing forward and one MG 131 for lower rear defense. Three pairs of MG 81 for defense and two 1,102 lbs (500 kg) bombs on underwing racks. The J-2 carried the FuG 212 Lichtenstein C1 Radar. The Do-217 N-1 performed the same function as the J-2 but was powered by two 1,750 hp Daimler-Benz DB 603A 12-cylinder inverted V piston engines. Armament was basically the same but the avionics package replaced the FuG 212 with the FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC Radar. The N-2 often had later guns such as MG 151/20 in the nose and MG 151/20 or MK 108 30 mm in a Schrage Musik upward firing installation.
During the period between 1942 and 1943 when all Do-217 production ended 157 aircraft were manufactured in the various J configurations and only a handful of N variants were made as the Ju-88 night fighter was then in production and was more adequate for the role.
As is often the case with most aircraft modelers and probably one of the primary causes of 'stash building' we see a particular aircraft and decide that it must be built. Problem is that the time to build it may not exist at the moment. No reason for that to stand in the way, we can buy the kit now! But wait. There is no kit of this aircraft but there is one that's close and thanks to Bill Koster there is a conversion so let's buy that! I'm already getting into trouble here, can you see it coming? Since I'm going to the trouble of making this conversion maybe I should get some little extra details, just to make it a little better - you know what I mean, right? Let me correct myself here, there actually is a kit of this aircraft in 1/48 but it is the old MPM Vac kit, the Koster/Revell package is vastly superior. And so it goes, the stash grows.
This is my plan, I will build a Do-217 J-2 Koster conversion using the Revell 1/48 Do-217 E-5 but I want to really dress this bird up with some dropped flaps, open hatches and open engine. This requires that I buy the Verlinden resin and PE detail set for the E-5 along with an Aires DB-603 engine. When will I have the time to build this? God only knows but in the stash it will be. They're coming to take me away he, he, they're coming to take me away, ho, ho.
I have already reviewed the Revell Do-217 E-5 and you can read that review here. The key component to this conversion is the Koster set which begins with a small sheet of vacuformed parts done in heavy white polystyrene. Here we have a well done pair of replacement pieces for the solid gun nose, new engine nacelles for the DB-603 engines, a replacement pilot's seat and some interior detail panels including a new forward floor pan. Most of these pieces display well formed recessed panel lines and generally good detail. The sidewall panel is not so good and should be incorporated with pieces from the Revell kit for best results. Most of these vacuform pieces are the same as those found in Koster's Do-217 K-2/M-11 conversion.
Koster provides us with a sheet of clear parts done in heavy acetate that covers the main canopy, some armor plate for the front windscreen, lower gondola and upper turret. Oddly the instructions direct the modeler to use the Revell clear turret piece. Unlike standard vacuform canopies these parts are very sturdy with well defined frame lines yet retain a very good clarity. Also in the box are three small bags of metal parts. In the past kits from Koster usually include the propellers as resin accessories but in this example they are cast in white metal. This follows with the spinner back plates and supercharger intakes. The second bag includes all the gun barrels and radar masts for the nose and the third bag contains four well cast exhaust shrouds for night operations. All the metal parts show good detail and little flash. In the pictures above (you can click on them to view larger images) I have not cleaned the metal parts up in any way. In addition to all these plastic and white metal goodies we also get a little fret of photo etched parts that's just packed with stuff. On this fret there are no less than 109 detail pieces. Get out the Omni-visor baby because you are going to need it.
So far we have fourteen white vacuform pieces, ten clear parts, twenty-two white metal pieces and 109 photo etched pieces for a total count of 155 pieces in the Koster conversion package, a tidy little sum indeed.
Decals and Instructions
The Koster conversion instructions consist of a single legal size sheet of paper printed on both sides. It includes eleven exploded view conversion steps that are clear and to the point. The pictures and print are fine so the modeler must study these step carefully before attempting the conversion. I've done a few of Bill's conversion kits now and I can tell you with certainty that if you pay careful attention to the information he is giving you, you will end up with a good build. Each area that needs to have original kit plastic removed is clearly mapped out and all parts are clearly marked for both KAE and Revell pieces. Also included here are three small reproduction photos of actual aircraft interiors as reference material. Lastly there are painting and decal placement guides for two aircraft, a J-2 and an N-1.
The decal sheet in this package is repeated in the Do-217 M-11 conversion package. The difference is that that with the M-11 conversion you only use the national markings and unit markings are provided in a secondary sheet. You need to keep the evolutionary time table in mind here that the J-2/N-1 conversion was made just prior to the M-11 conversion. Regardless, this sheet covers marking for two aircraft. There are no service stencils or generic markings included here rather making the modeler rely on the Pro Modeler sheet for these items. I've used Koster decals before and they have always behaved nicely and responded well to setting solutions, I see no reason why these would not behave in a similar manner.
Aires DB-603 engine MSRP $14.99
Let's take a look at an engine option next. I want to build this (eventually) with one engine nacelle open and being serviced. Cutting open the Vac panels on the nacelle should not present a problem, I just need to pack an appropriate piece inside for effect. I selected the Aires resin DB-603 kit #4004. This is not the only DB-603 engine kit on the market but I like the level of detail that Aires provides.
This kit includes not only a well detailed engine but a full set of photo etched details as well. For resin piece we have the main engine block with reduction gear housing cast in place, the supercharger assembly, rear engine block and four small detail pieces. Aires includes a length of copper wire to make oil tubing out of and this is detailed in the instructions. You can click here for a profile of the DB-603 engine.
For the most part the pour blocks on the Aires parts are small and easy to deal with. The exception is the large pour block on the back of the main engine. This is going to need to have some Dremel work to remove it. Flash is minimal and there are no apparent micro bubbles in the resin. The sheet of photo etch contains approximately forty detail pieces ranging from inlet screens to crank case bolt heads and access panel release latches. The two pieces that this kit does not include that could be a problem for some modelers are the engine mounting arms. For my purposes this is not a problem as I know I have several spare mounting arms in the resin spares box. If not for these I would have to build my own arms and that could be difficult. The instructions that come with this are very brief and deal with the assembly of the engine only ' there is no advice given for installation into a craft.
Taking a quick inventory here we have seven resin pieces, one length of wire that will make at least two oil lines and forty photo etched pieces for a total of forty-seven. This gets added to the 155 pieces in the Koster package and now the conversion list is up to 202 pieces. Remember, this does not include any parts from the base Revell kit.
Verlinden Do-217 E-5 Detail Package MSRP $30.98
This particular package would be useful with just about any version of a Do-217 you would care to build. Some of the more prominent features are obviously the flaps. These can be used on the E-5, the entire J series, the K and the M as well as the N series. Another good multi-kit feature are the interior parts such as optional pilot's seat, replacement gunners seat, defensive weapons and positionable flight control surfaces around the tail. In truth there are very few parts in this package that are specific to the E-5 version.
This comes in a good size box wrapped with bubble wrap to protect the resin pieces. We get a medium sized bag of dark tan resin pieces that include beyond those pieces already mentioned, optional head rests for the crew seats, pilot's gun sight, interior engine panel for the BMW engines, several ammo shoot and spent shell ejection shoots, a variety of ammo containers and a replacement for the bottom half of the bombardier's sight. As with the Aires pieces the pour stubs are not large, there is very little flash and no evident micro bubbles in the resin. From a cursory inspection all pieces seem to be free of warpage as well. So far we have a selection of several different seats to work with on this kit; you can opt for the Revell seats or step up the the Koster replacements but I think these from Verlinden are definitley the best pieces I have seen yet. You can click here for a close up picture of the Verlinden seats.
The last item to talk about here is the large sheet of brass photo etched pieces for the flap assemblies. This sheet of brass is very solid which seems to imply that it will give some good structural strength to the flap assembly. We get both inner and outer flap panels along with lots of stiffeners to go along both. Also here is a piece dedicated to any Do-217 using the BMW radial - that being the engine access door. The remaining pieces are multi-kit pieces for the lower crew access door and access ladder.
The instruction sheet for this package consists of a standard A4 sheet of paper printed on both sides. The front side provides a parts map of the resin pieces and a long installation narrative. The flip side is a pictorial diagram showing what to remove from the Revell wings and how to assemble the Brass pieces. Since the Koster conversion does not impact the wings in any way there is no conflict between the two conversion packages.
Taking a look at the parts count this package contains forty-nine brass pieces and fifty-one resin pieces for a total count of one hundred pieces. Lets add this to the previous parts total and we are now up to three hundred and two pieces for the conversion side of this kit. The Revell kit contains one hundred forty five pieces so with everything together we now have four hundred forty seven pieces to work with. Now admittedly not every piece will be used and many will in fact end up in the spares box but no matter how you cut it this makes for a very intricate build.
Well, we certainly did look at a lot of cool model pieces today. Ever since my first experience with Koster Aero Enterprises on the PB4Y-1 conversion I have been impressed with the quality of his work. The kits are well engineered, parts fit together well and are made from sturdy material. The directions will get you to a finished product and the inclusion of all the nifty photo etched pieces is a nice plus. With just the Revell kit and the Koster conversion you can build a fine model but why stop there - I'm going all-out with the addition of the very nice Aires and Verlinden detail packages. Both of these packages offer high quality, well made pieces with good directions. Will I build this conversion this year? Probably not but it's in the stash so it's as good as on the build list - right? Oh yeah, you might want to pull out your calculator and add up all those MSRP numbers, stash building can get expensive.
From Lawrence Nonis, images of his Koster Do-217J2/N1
You may click on these small images to view larger pictures