Roden 1/72 Gotha G.II/III

KIT #: Ro-002
PRICE: €19,95 @ www.plasticmodelbouw.nl
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Jeroen Koen
NOTES:  

HISTORY

 The Gotha has to be ranked among one of classic aircraft to emerge from the first world war. A lot of research has gone into the actual impact of this twin-engined strategic bomber on the war effort, and the general idea one gets from reading a few books and websites, is that the best effect these bombers had, was keeping a rather large amount of airplanes, squadrons and AA-guns busy for home defence duties of the British islands.

The Gotha G-series were designed by Hans Burkhard. Gotha acquired a license to build the rather ungainly looking Friedel-Ursinus “Battle plane” as the Gotha G.I. The G.I had the fuselage on top of both wings. With it's high and forward centre of gravity, nose-overs were common and only a few were built. Hans Burkhard was able to rebuild a crashed G.I to a more conventional layout, with the fuselage mounted on a wooden centre section of the lower wing, and the Mercedes DIV straight-eight engines providing 220hp, being fitting with the oil- and fuel tanks in large, tightly cowled nacelles.  Because, even though it was redesigned from a design prone to nosing-over on landing, the G.II prototype inherited the same unpleasant characteristic, a four-wheeled undercarriage was attached to the nacelles, a tail skid only being fitted 'just in case'. This also had the advantage of the nacelles being separate units that could be rolled from and to the air plane. The whole plane was designed to fit on three flatbed railroad cars.

The design looked very promising, as the Zeppelin losses began to mount and cost in both material and human lives began to rise. Something new had to be tried. 

However, while promising, all was not well. The undercarriage, while preventing nose-overs, of course had no brakes, and, without a tail skid acting as one, the landing runs were too long and, worse, could not be controlled.

The biggest problem was that it did not meet the required bomb load. This was solved by stretching the wings from 2 to 3 bays. The fuselage, which was fabric with a plywood nose and tail part, was also altered. Now the required strength and bomb load capacities were met, and among other smaller design changes such as a different fin and horn-balanced ailerons, the design was accepted by IDFLIEG and went into production as Gotha G.II in April 1916.

Eventually, 8 of the 10 G.IIs built went to war Staffel 20, Kagohl 4, on the Balkan front. Not much is known about their war careers, let alone markings or feats that make history. What is known, is that by early 1917 most were gone from the inventory. It is known that the straight-eight geared Mercedes DIV was prone to crankshaft fractures due to the flexing of the long unit. That could have cut short it's career, as the newer and more reliable G.IIIs were by now arriving with Kagohl 4 on the Balkan front. The G.II was early enough to pre-date the camouflage requirements and on most photo's appear to be in clear doped linen over varnished wood.

The G.III was essentially the forerunner to the more famous G.IV. It was the first to employ the reliable Mercedes DIVa straight six engines, that also provided 260hp instead of the earlier 220. This increased the maximum weight, meaning bomb load, so in addition to the internal bomb racks, external racks were fitted to allow it to carry larger bombs. This also gave some extra stability in flight, although it was still a handful once the bombs were dropped. The G.III was also fitted with an opening in the lower fuselage that allowed the rear gunner to aim down; the predecessor of the famous Gotha-tunnel. 25 G.IIIs were built and most served with BOGHOL 2 on the Balkan front, although they were seen on the Western front as well. The markings of the G.III differed: early air planes were unpainted as the G.II, others had the entire topsides painted green, and late examples could be found in the bluish-white of most G.IVs and some early G.Vs.

The G.IVs main differences from the G.III were the introduction of the infamous Gotha tunnel, and the addition of ailerons in the bottom wings. The lower wing was also faired into the fuselage, through the use of a false floor in the cabin. The Gotha tunnel required the fuselage to be made entirely of plywood. As I intend to finish the G.IV kit I also have in my stash someday I'll keep at this for history, as both the G.IV and V deserve their own sections of history!

(if I ever get to building a box-tailed lozenge-covered G.Va or b, that is...)

THE KIT

Roden has to be commended for bringing out this kit. It definitely looks impressive in the box... lots of struts, a three part top and bottom wing that has both dihedral and sweep and to top it off a daunting rigging diagram... most of the plastic is actually the same as in Scott's preview here:

http://www.modelingmadness.com/scotts/w1/g5preview.htm

The main differences are the plywood/fabric fuselage and lower wings without ailerons. There is quite some flash on several parts, especially on the wings and rudder, the latter seems to have grown twice as big as a result! It's not too difficult to clean up, though, and fortunately the 4 sprues with the really small, fragile stuff are mostly looking good, only one suffering from a very slight mould shift.

A decal sheet is included for three options, one G.II and two G.IIIs, both come straight from from the Windsock Datafile, that is a must have weapon when attacking this kit. The decals are mostly serials and crosses; but for one option a nice death's head is included.

Speaking of the Datafile, the kit matches the outlines of Ian Stair's drawings in that book quite perfectly as I found out during construction, if you're into these sort of accuracy-things. (which I'm not)

I got mine as a result of a group-build of the Dutch Modelbrouwers-forum that I tend to hang out. This gave me not only the kit, but also the motivation and support from more experienced modellers to tackle what was essentially my second biplane kit! If you're interested in viewing the other builds there, look here: http://forum.modelbrouwers.nl/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=103

CONSTRUCTION

Construction started with... well, thinking how to sub-assemble this beast so that I could do painting and rigging at the proper stages. Planning ahead is the key with this thing.  What very few on-line reviews I could find pointed out the main area of concern was the fit of the engines inside the nacelles. Well, they were right, that's for sure! So I removed the attachment points inside the nacelles, thinned the Panzer steel thickness nacelle insides and left off the intake manifolds. Not much can be seen in there anyway. For the G.II you need to do some surgery, as the G.II had the eight-cylinder engines with a different exhaust from the later six-cylinder types. The proper eight-cylinder engines are not provided, but I could live with that. With some careful scribing and   sanding, fitting the insert is not too difficult. At  that time I also drilled out the exhaust pipes. Before glueing it all together I also scraped off the louvres that were not needed for the G.II. Of course I was too eager and had to fill and rescribe my mess-ups.

Note that Roden will tell you to leave only the forward four louvres, but the G.II reference photo in the Datafile shows five. Of course I found out after I did one side, so now I have 2 different nacelles. Well, they were easily changeable, remember?

All these louvres seem different and Roden provide you as many as possible so check your references. This is quite smart of them, as you simply sand away the ones you don't need. It appears there were no louvres on the insides of the nacelles, but it's difficult to tell. I left them only on the outsides. At this point I also should have test-fitted the radiators but I didn't and came to regret that later, as the fit is horrible. Finally I brush-painted the engines and nacelle insides Revell Aqua Steel and glued the engine to one nacelle half. Before doing this, check the horizontal position to make sure the propeller does not stick out too much. When I had 2 completed nacelles there was the inevitable sanding and filling, and rescribing lost screw and panel detail. For the G.II the top cover should be cut in half as well, since the side photo in the Datafile shows an opening and glueing as-is will result in an completely enclosed engine.

Finally I fitted the radiators, they leave rather large gaps and should be flush with the nacelle. By default they are too far forward so I just glued them in and filed them flush. Gave a nice texture as well, since that is quite faint on the original parts.

With the nacelles primed and out of the way, the fuselage was attacked. It'd be quicker to name the parts that DID fit, than those that did not. The rudder pedals fit quite good!

The dial faces of the instrument panel are on the wrong side, as from the box the panel is on the wrong side of the window above it. This was designed to allow light to fall on the panel. So I trimmed a bit off one side and glued it so you can see it trough the top window. I also filled a nasty sink mark near the window on the top of the coaming. The floor bit on which the rudder bar goes should be trimmed according to Roden, but a dry-fit showed the control column bar which runs from left to right trough the fuselage will be blocked. So I sanded both parts down to make them fit.

The bulkheads all need to be trimmed to fit, and be careful with the one on which the gunners seat goes. The instructions are very unclear as to where that bulkhead goes, but the fuselage drawing on the next page shows where it should be. There are also a few nasty ejector towers on the fuselage inside, but thanks to the soft plastic these were easily removed. Then the whole inside was sprayed wood,wood grained with oil paints and then hand-painted with Tamiya clear orange. When doing a G.II or III, do not do this as well! Remember my introduction? Only the nose and floor were wood, so paint accordingly. I only found out when painting the outsides, so unable to do something about it.

As I felt like I had nothing to do, I added tape seatbelts with thin metal buckles and made the internal fuselage bracing from thin copper wire stripped from a computer power cord.

I also noticed from the Datafile  that the bottom opening for the gunner was only on the G.III so I made a new bulkhead aft of the gunners position and closed up the opening with styrene sheet.

Then I glued the fuselage halves together -one of them was not 90° at the bottom so they curved inward. I tried a few gentle ways, but eventually thought the plastic thick enough and sanded everything flush on P180 grid sandpaper taped to a glass plate. I didn't really get it 90° so was rewarded with a mis-aligned centre section of the lower wing. This was corrected with some 0,3mm styrene strips and filler, then measured to be 90° in relation to the fuselage sides. The last thing you want on this sort of plane is mis-alignment.

As I was getting rather fed-up with with the fuselage due to the centre seam cracking open 2 times, I turned my attention to the wings. The datafile was useful so far, but really shines when assembling the 3 piece top wing. The centre section has the correct dihedral so I figured by taping that and one outer end to a glass plate, the dihedral would be OK. The sweep would not, so it was really nice to be able to look through the glass and check that against the drawings. After taping everything to the glass, I shifted the centre part a bit and glued one side using Humbrol tube glue for extra strength. I left that to dry for a few days and repeated for the other side. The wing is quite large and flimsy. It appeared I had done this quite nice for a change, as I only needed a few swipes with sandpaper to get rid of the seams.

At this point I also cleaned up the lower wings and tail parts, and started a job that is quite think-and-plan-intensive as you start, but is just simple later on. I pre-drilled all the rigging holes. I also deepened the holes for the struts and landing gear, as these are quite shallow. At this stage I also removed the appropriate lugs that are moulded on the fuselage for all versions, on which the control wires run. Like the louvres, Roden smartly gives you all options and you simply remove the ones you don't need.

COLORS & MARKINGS

After restoring the seams on the fuselage again, I stuffed the interior with wet tissue and foam. I downloaded the instructions from the RoG Sopwith Camel for their clear doped linen recipe (CDL) and mixed up Revell Aqua Skin tone with White in an now unknown ratio. I did make sure I had enough! After priming the whole thing with Humbrol no 1 and fixing a few small errors, I painted the fuselage, bottoms of the top wings, the tops of the bottom wings and tail surfaces CDL. Next I painted the nacelles. These could be grey or natural metal, although NM would have looked better they seemed grey to me in most photo's. And with all that filling and sanding, NMF would pop out everything... including my little louvre-errors. So grey it was. I took the first Acrylic light grey I could get my hands on, in this case Polly S (the really old one) Light Gull Grey. After that had dried I masked off the fuselage and painted the appropriate areas Polly S Tan. After that had thoroughly dried I wood-grained these areas and finished them by brush-painting Tamiya clear orange. Then it was time for disaster, errr, decals.

These are the old Roden type: brittle and cracked upon contact with water. I won't waste too many words about them, but I got them on by brushing Future on and plunging them on top of that. At least it made sure they could be moved very carefully and they would stick as well. I had to touch up a few with black and white paint. One of the (unique) serial numbers was forever lost, but thanks to a very helpful fellow group-build member I was given a Techmod serial number that had the missing digits. Thanks again Nico!

I have heard people getting better replacement sheets from Roden, so I could have gone that route too.

After that, I post-shaded the ribs with heavily diluted Revell Aqua red-brown, still a bit shaky in some areas, but I'm still learning to control my Badger 150. I didn't do any further weathering as the plane I was building looked nice and clean on the photo. I only did a wash with Payne's Gray oil paint on the nacelles that virtually disappeared after flat coating with Revell Aqua flat varnish.

 
CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES

After everything was thoroughly dry and flat-coated, I assembled the tail and attached the external elevator controls. The horizontal tailplanes look as if there should be a gap between the fuselage and tailplane, but there should not be any. I noticed this too late. This also resulted in the bottom support strut not matching the holes, though the top one somehow fitted OK. The attachment points for the tailplanes are just blobs of plastic, so I reinforced them with a brass 0,5mm pin.

Then it was time for the most feared part: assembling 2 bottom wing outer ends, 2 nacelles, 12 + 12 struts (12 interplane, 12 cabane/nacelle), a fuselage and a few other assorted bits. I had seen a few built-up Gotha's and noticed the top wing was usually warped. I tried to avoid that 

Here's how I did it, a bit unconventional as far as biplanes go, but it worked for me!

1)      glue nacelles to wing stubs at the proper position (check with datafile drawings, they should be very slightly tilted forwards when viewed from the side) I risked not using reinforcing pins so as to be able to make some small adjustments.

2)      Superglue all interplane struts to the bottom wing at a slight outward angle when viewed from the front -again, use the datafile. Also make sure you have the wing at the proper angle when viewed from the side, fit against the nacelle to check! If you don't do this properly you'll end up with a small backwards stagger like I did.

3)      If needed (I did); sand a bit off the bottom wings to make sure it's a drop-fit with the fuselage with nacelles, then align, checking both dihedral and sweep, use tube-glue and let it dry very well!

4)      Insert  the fuselage-to-wing struts, mine fit quite well

5)      Insert the nacelle-to-wing struts, these were a bit long so I had to trim a bit off to prevent the top wing from being pushed up and into a warp.

6)      You should now have a Gotha with zero stagger, 3° dihedral and a slight sweep!

With that done, it was time for rigging. Basically it's just pulling the 0,06mm wire through a black Edding marker, cutting it off, and pull it through 2 holes and secure with superglue. In theory, that is... my rigging somehow went slack, maybe I used a wrong type of marker, as I used this wire before and the marker was new? I managed to tighten most of the wires, only to see other ones loosen, so a few are still not very tight, but since the ends were cut off already there's no way to tighten them again. I drilled most holes all the way through both wings; next time I'll drill only the wires from nacelles and fuselage all the way trough. I'll drill the bottom wing all the way through to be able to tighten the wires. It saves a lot of clean-up work on rock-hard superglue on a very visible place. I did the best I could, but the model is very fragile so I couldn't get all remaining scars away. I simply could not sand all rock-hard superglue away, and when I tried to I only loosened more wires or sanded dents in the soft Roden plastic. Lesson learned for the next biplane!

Rigging itself took me about 2 evenings; just work symmetrically (if you do one wire on the left, repeat on the right) and work from the inside out. If you do get it to tighten properly, it really adds strength to a very flimsy plane.

With that done I masked off most areas and painted to top of the top, and bottom of the bottom wing CDL, and post-shaded the ribs with Polly S “Tan”. After that I wrestled the decals for the wings again, and lost again, requiring touch-ups and cutting for them to go into the aileron hinge lines. 

 
FINAL CONSTRUCTION

There weren't really a lot of final bits left: some guns, undercarriage, wheels and rigging for the undercarriage and a few small bits here and there, such as the hinging part for the forward gun ring, control hinges for the ailerons, the gun mount for the rear gunner and the prop guards. A quick note on the prop guards; these go over the fuselage control wires. There are small attachment pins but no holes in the fuselage. The transparencies look nice on the sprue but could have been designed for any other plane as well, the fit is bad. The windows were made with Humbrol Clearfix.

The undercarriage has a small mistake in it; Roden moulds a fairing on the axles, but as is visible on some photo's the forward part of the axle can be seen, and the rear part is hinged. This will make it level in flight, but it'll hang down on the ground. The drawings in the datafile don't show this either, by the way. I noticed it while everything was in place already. With the few errors already being in the build, I didn't really bother adding one more by removing the undercarriage so I left it as is.

The propellers were last, as they were more work. The G.II pictured in the datafile appeared to have four-bladed props which Roden do not supply. Neither do they supply the broad-chord propeller commonly coupled to the Mercedes DIV. Thanks to Paul Thompson, who was building a HP O/100 converted from an Airfix HP O/400, I got the four-bladed O/400 propellers he did not need. (Thanks again, Paul!) These are a bit too big, but the O/400 being a tractor plane with handed engines, they were reversed in two ways! I cut the blades from the hub, shortened them, and re-glued them in the proper way to the hubs. Not perfect, but it'll have to do, and looks quite different from the regular Gotha-norm. These were painted Humbrol Desert Sand, the laminations masked off, then painted Humbrol Wood and hand-painted Tamiya clear orange. They were slipped into the engines (yes, they do spin!), I took a beer, made some photo's and called her done!

CONCLUSIONS

Stock up on filler, superglue, nylon fishing wire and sandpaper: Roden's Gotha is here! Despite that it may seem like a pretty rough kit, with some proper planning, patience and references it is quite do-able. Besides, it's the only injected kit of this important kite. I wouldn't recommend it to a biplane-starter for obvious reasons, but anyone with a few (Roden) biplanes under their belt should be able to finish this into a good looking model. The decals are a hit and miss, but I'd advise you coat them with Microscale Decal stuff to prevent them from disintegrating in the water, just in case, as there's no more aftermarked for these early Gotha's.

Despite my own flaws, mostly the gaps between the nacelles and bottom wing resulting from trying to correct the backwards stagger and the superglue cleanup, I'm very happy with it, and it certainly draws attention, even from those who have zero interest in the hobby, with it's gazillion rigging wires, handsome color scheme and 34cm wingspan. I'll definitely do the G.IV using the lessons learned in the future, but use Techmod decals instead.

REFERENCES

Windsock Datafile “Gotha!” by P.M. Grosz

First Strategic Bombers group build on Modelbrouwers Forum (in Dutch, but lots of images): http://forum.modelbrouwers.nl/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=103

Jeroen Koen

March 2009

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page