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KIT REVIEW


Zoukei Mura Super Wings Series # 10
Do 335 A-0 Pfeil
1:32 Scale

 

During World War II, German aircraft manufacturers developed a number of groundbreaking aircraft designs particularly towards the end of the war, from exotic flying wings to rocket planes, high-altitude interceptors, and jet aircraft.  Among this group of innovative airplanes was Germany’s fastest piston-engine aircraft, the Dornier Do 335 Pfeil.  In May 2016, Japanese kit manufacturer Zoukei-mura released their long awaited Do 335 A-0, which has been more than three years in the making.  Zoukei-mura is renowned for producing highly accurate and super-detailed injection molded kits in their Super Wings Series, and in this review, we’ll take a close look at their kit of this German heavy fighter-bomber.

Since the early days of flight, aircraft designer Claude Dornier held a clear fascination with the engineering concept of “push-pull” aircraft propulsion, whereby a two engine airplane had both its engines placed in an inline configuration, with one motor in the front (pulling) and the other in the back (pushing) in what was called a luftschraube, or “air screw” form of propulsion.  The “pull-push” configuration was an unconventional concept, but it significantly reduced drag, conferred more power, and allowed for a greater roll rate.  After developing variations of this concept on a number of flying boats between the wars, the push-pull design emerged in Dornier’s P.59 high-speed bomber project in 1939.  The Luftwaffe never ordered that aircraft, but much of its pedigree was present in the later Dornier P.231.  This design was submitted to meet a 1942 Luftwaffe proposal for a fast, high-altitude Schnellbomber.  Almost as soon as Dornier won the contact, the Luftwaffe changed the contract specifications from a bomber to a multi-role fighter, and Dornier Flugzeugwerke engineers successfully reworked various design elements of the P.231 into a heavy fighter-bomber now designated as the Do 335.

The first Do 335 V1 prototype flew on 26 October 1943.  By all accounts, it was a unique airplane, indeed.  For a twin piston-engine fighter, it was big (45 feet long with a wingspan of 45 feet) and sat 15 feet off the ground on tricycle landing gear so as to accommodate the rear propeller.  It was also fitted with an early pneumatically-actuated ejection seat, and to further allow safe egress, part of the ejection sequence involved setting off explosive bolts in the tail to sever the tail and rear propeller, thus ensuring that the pilot would clear them.  The Pfeil sported the most powerful operational inline aircraft engines ever produced by the Germans, and during flight tests, it reached 474 mph in level flight.  Armament consisted of one 30 mm MK-103 autocannon firing through the propeller hub and two 15 mm MG-151/20 machine guns firing from the top of the forward engine’s cowling.  The aircraft was also capable of carrying an internal bomb load of 1,100 pounds.

Named the Pfeil, or Arrow, its long nose and high spine garnered the unofficial nickname of ‘Anteater.’  The prototype revealed various design flaws, including rear engine overheating issues and weak landing gear.  Fixes were implemented in the Do 335 V2 which featured yet more powerful Daimler Benz engines, and by early 1944, the Do 335 V3 was powered by the new DB 603G-0 engines and also sported a refined canopy to improve the fairly lackluster visibility.  The next five prototypes were to be built as night fighters.  Full production soon began to ramp up with an initial order of 2,120 Pfeils to be delivered by March of 1946.

An Allied bombing raid in March 1944 destroyed the tooling for the Do 335 and forced Dornier to set up a new production line.  This delay, along with the competition with the He 219 for DB 603 powerplants and the overall stress placed on the German aircraft industry by war’s end were all factors that hindered Pfeil production, even though Hitler personally ordered that full priority be given to Do 335 full-scale production.

The Do 335 technically never saw combat, though RAF Tempests did make contact with a Do 335 in April 1945, and when spotted, the Pfeil driver descended to treetop level and almost effortlessly outran his pursuers.  Historical records are unclear, but at least 16 prototype Pfeils appear to have flown.  The first of somewhere between 10 and 20 pre-production A-0 airframes were delivered beginning in July 1944.  Today, only a single Do 335 exists anywhere in the world.  The second A-0 airframe produced is preserved at the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  This airplane first flew on 30 September 1944, was acquired by Operation LUSTY in June 1945.  In the U.S., it was extensively test flown at NAS Patuxent River until 1948.  Acquired by the Smithsonian in the 1960s, the No. 2 Do 335 A-0 remained in storage at NAS Norfolk until 1974 when it was returned to Germany.  Dornier restored the Second A-0 with the assistance of a number of original Pfeil workers, who were no doubt alarmed when they discovered the explosives in the tail were still live.  On display in Munich until 1986, it was returned to the Smithsonian collection and today resides just outside of Washington, D.C.

The Zoukei-mura Do 335 A-0 comes in a large and sturdy box, with the colorful boxtop itself covering an inner box that hinges open to reveal 12 injection molded sprues containing 353 parts.  Five of these sprues feature the major airframe components (fuselage halves, wing halves, and so forth), and as with other Zoukei-mura kits, are cast in a slightly foggy or grainy clear plastic.  A single decal sheet is packaged together with pre-cut vinyl masks for the windscreen and canopy.  Clocking in at 55 pages, the instruction book is printed in color and its cover emulates the appearance of the front page of an original Pfeil flight manual.  Decals cover just one airplane, VG+PH (Dornier shop number 240102, or the second A-0 airframe), which is the same airplane on display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

Strengths:  In a word, this kit is stunning.  Zoukei-mura already has set the bar very high for the quality of their kits in past releases, and their Do 335 A-0 does not disappoint.  It is truly a “complete kit” with highly detailed parts that provide outstanding detail in the cockpit, landing gear wells, bomb bay, engines, radiator ducts, and oil cooler assemblies.  Bulkheads in the fuselage and spars in the wings are also represented in this kit.  All that remarkably detailed internal structure can be displayed, if the scale modeler should wish, thanks to the clear fuselage and wings (or, alternatively, one can just paint over it, as most of us will probably do, but the choice is yours!).

Access panels for the front and rear engine bays, MG 151/20 machine gun bay access panels can be all be hinged open or closed.  The cowl flaps and the bomb bay doors can be positioned open or closed and the crew access ladder can be displayed deployed or stowed.  All the flight control surfaces are separate pieces and can be positioned as the builder wishes.  If you want to build your Pfeil with an open canopy, you’ve got parts for a separate windscreen and canopy, or if your model is going to be all buttoned-up, a single piece closed windscreen and canopy is also included.

I went up the road to visit the Do 335 A-0 on display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center as part of this review with a keen eye to compare the real thing to the Zoukei-mura kit.  Indeed, I had known previously that Zoukei-mura had traveled from Japan to northern Virginia to study this airplane in the design phase of the model.  Still, that doesn’t mean that up-close documentation by a kit maker automatically translates into an accurate kit.  But here, my observations indicate that Zoukei-mura did not miss a beat.  I cannot discern any external differences in overall shape and configuration right down to the smallest details on the inboard sides of the main wheel hubs, for example.  Zoukei-mura nailed it.

It’s hard to say what features or qualities of this kit are its single high point since there are so many.  The cockpit is outstanding, from the ejection seat (with its separate injection molded shoulder harnesses and lap belts) to the instrument panel.  There, instrument dial faces can be represented by either: (1) a single decal overlaying the entire panel; (2) individual decals for each gauge, or; (3) just paint it yourself.  The interior fuselage details are also really great, from detailed parts for the oil tanks and fuel tanks to the pneumatic mechanisms that actuated the ejection seat and the bomb bay.

The Daimler-Benz 603 engines are as detailed as they are complex, yet are quite buildable thanks to a very well conceived and clear building sequence that’s outlined in the instructions.  This is true with all of this kit’s subassemblies, which is to say that the DB 603s are models in and of themselves – they’re fairly amazing.  There’s even parts included to assemble a ground stand to mount the engines by themselves.  The quality of injection molding in this kit, especially as seen on engine parts and bomb bay bulkheads, approach the fidelity of detail seen in some aftermarket resin products.

A special nod must be given to the people at Zoukei-mura who worked on the instruction manual.  Not only is it beautifully illustrated, but it breaks down the process of building a fairly complex kit into a very clear and manageable work flow.  The instructions are also exceptionally detailed, identifying each part, from the propeller pitch mechanism control to the flywheel starter or supercharger gearbox on the engines to the accumulators in the wings or the cowl flap actuating arms.  In the process, you learn a lot about the Do 335’s structure, engineering, and design.  The instructions are also filled with multiple technical notes about the real airplane on every page, and underscore the depth of research and subject matter expertise that Zoukei-mura developed in the process of making this kit.  To me, this represents the gold standard for instruction manuals in scale modeling.

Weaknesses:  For this kit, there are just a few minor critiques that border on ‘just an observation’ that may be considered for this kit.  There are no bombs included for heavy fighter-bomber, but Zoukei-mura does produce an aftermarket SC-500 bomb for their Pfeil (and see more below).  The back of the instrument panel should be visible when construction is complete, but it is simplified with instruments just ending in low relief, flat-faced cylinders.  Though I’ve not been up inside the cockpit of the real thing, I can only infer that there’s likely lots of wiring behind the instrument panel, and here’s a rare opportunity for the builder to add more detail if they want.

Also note that the instructions describe the need to add a 50-gram nose weight so that the big Pfeil won’t sit on its tail.  Yet, with the front engine installed, it is not at all clear to me where that ballast can be placed - except perhaps under the cockpit side consoles and on the outboard sides of the nose gear wheel well.  There’s a ton of ejection pin marks that are visible on the inside of the clear fuselage and wings.  It’s an inevitable byproduct of the manufacturing process, and will necessitate a fair amount of cleanup (really, flush sanding and polishing) if the builder is truly serious about the see-through construction option

                            

Zoukei-mura’s Do 335 A-0 Pfeil is an outstanding plastic model kit.  It is clearly a contender for “kit of the year” and the precision, detail, and thoughtful engineering is to be commended.  For even more detail, Zoukei-mura produces a pair of pilot figures, metal landing gear, resin tires, a set of turned brass machine guns and pitot tubes, the aforementioned resin/photoetch metal SC-500 bomb, a pre-painted photoetch cockpit detail set, and all the colors you’ll need to paint the airplane in a set of eight Vallejo paint bottles.  To check out these extras, scroll down to the bottom of this page: http://www.zoukeimura.co.jp/en/products/sws10_do335a0pfeil.html

The Zoukei-mura Do 335 A-0 receives my highest praise.  For me, I would say that kits such as this are why we build – it taps into our varied sources of inspiration, imagination, and passion for this hobby.

Sincere thanks are owed to Hideyuki Shigeta, the president of Zoukei-mura, and Carmine Napolitano also of Zoukei-mura, for providing this sample. You can find out more about them at http://www.zoukeimura.co.jp/en/ and follow Mr. Shigeta’s blog at http://www.zoukeimura.co.jp/en/sentiment/oyajiblog_083.html, which is a good way to follow development of their kits and other activities of interest which currently include a 1:48 scale F-4J Phantom II that is currently under development.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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