Review: Toko's 1/72-scale Siemens Schuckert D-III/IV

Siemens Schuckert D-III/IV, Toko, 1/72 scale, injection-molded plastic, 36 pieces, decals.

Appearing at the very end of WW1, the Siemens Schuckert D-III and D-IV fighters threatened to regain air superiority for the German air service. However, problems with powerplant reliability and Germany's deteriorating situation at the end of the conflict limited production to a very small number of airframes. It saw very limited service use. Yet, its negligible contribution to the German war effort not withstanding, this aircraft has long been a popular subject with modelers. A number of Siemens Schuckert kits were produced over the years, nearly all of them from low-volume and sometimes low-quality, cottage-industry enterprises.

A fine new kit from the Ukranian manufacturing concern Toko thus fills a long-felt void. It is simply the finest kit yet made of a Siemens Schuckert in 1/72 scale. The pieces are crisply and delicately molded in a hard, light-grey styrene. The wings and tail surfaces are remarkably thin with very subtley molded ribs. Some very fine texturing is meant to simulate fabric, but a coat of paint or layer of lozenge decals will completely obscure this feature.

While Toko have supplied a beautifully executed piece of injection molding, there are accuracy problems. The kit's rendition of the Siemens-Halske engine features anemic cylinders, a poorly shaped crankcase, and crude cooling fin detail on its cylinders. Most modellers will want to substitute an Aeroclub white-metal version. The kit includes two full sets of wings, one for the D-III and one for the D-IV. The ailerons of the D-III version have undersized balance surfaces. The D-III's upper and the lower wing spans are both nearly 2 millimeters too long, and the upper wing chord is nearly 1.5 millimeters too narrow. Happily, the D-IV wings are dimensionally correct, at least when compared with Dick Bennett's drawings, though the wing cut out over the cockpit is slightly oversized. For a D-IV, the tailplane is correct in all dimensions. The elevator chord is about 2.5 mm too narrow for a D-III. While these outages do not sound terribly large, you have to remember that they represent nearly 25% of the D-III elevator chord. Alternate fin and rudder assemblies are provided for the two versions, and some minor outline adjustments may be necessary depending on the aircraft you are modeling. The propeller blades look overly delicate and overly slender. The separate, vented spinner is only about 2/3s the diameter it should be and projects too far in front of the prop hub. The vents are merely scribed nubs. An alternate, plain spinner is suitable for some D-IVs. It is roughly correct dimensionally but should probably be sanded slightly to reduce its depth. The spinners fit quite snugly on the prop hub, attesting to the excellent engineering of the model. The Spandau guns are decidedly undernourished abd will need replacement.

The lozenge decals that are included are quite another matter. Panels of lozenge pattern are provided which are meant to cover the fabric surfaces of specific particular parts (such as the lower wing) with a single decal piece. There are two problems with how Toko's decal printer executed this decal. First, the colors used are the same in the lozenge pattern for both top and bottom surfaces, the printer did not account for the fact that four different colors are found in the polygons between the top and bottom surface fabrics. The decals show 4-color lozenge fabric in panels laid chordwise across the wing. This is incorrect in two respects, photos show that all SSW D-IIIs and IVs were covered with 5-color fabric and that on the wings, this fabric was laid span wise across the wings. Also, the pattern on the ailerons should not be continuous with the wing fabric pattern, as the decals are rendered. The ailerons were covered separately and definite disruptions in the camouflage pattern are always evident. Having such a comprehensive set of lozenge decals is a nice inclusion for this kit, it is truly unfortunate that they are such a disaster and are best placed in the circular file.

The kit also includes some very nice touches. A nicely molded seat, rudder bar and control stick are provided. The fuselage is cleanly molded with delicately scribed panel lines. The pilot's headrest is molded in place (you will have to remove it to model some airplanesócheck your references). The lower wings ae molded as a single piece, together with part of the fuselage. This necessitates careful assembly but ensures that the lower wing is well aligned. The lower wing fairing for the D-III is molded on the fuselage halves, by the way. To build a D-IV, you have to remove said fairing. The interplane and cabane struts are well-molded and quite useable(the landing gear struts may have to be replaced as they appear a little spindly, even in 1/72 scale). The wheels are beautiful, though their inner surfaces are marred by a thick flange around the hole for the axel. Careful sanding is required to produce an accurate looking wheel. The cowling is finely executed and incorporates the distinctive, engine bearing supports. These will need to be thinned a bit to give a better scale appearance. The two, non-lozenge decal sheets provided are splendidly printed and in excellent register. The national insignia and stencils are particularly crisply rendered.

Overall, the Toko kit has the potential for making a splendid model of both the D-III and D-IV fighters. Given the dimensional discrepancies in this kit, modeling the D-IV is easier since the parts for this version require the fewest corrections. But there is nothing insurmountable about the D-III, even so. A modeler with average skills will enjoy constructing this kit, but perhaps better than average skills will be required to fully rig it on completion. It is wonderful to see such a well-engineered model of a WW I fighter, and this reviewer hopes that future WW1 kits are soon forthcoming from Toko.

Highly recommended.

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Text © 1998 by Charles Hart. Used by permission.