Wingnut Wings 1/32 Fokker D.VII
KIT #: 32011
PRICE: $79.00 including shipping
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: 'Fokker Built' boxing


            By the fall of 1917, the German Air Force had fallen behind the developmental curve of fighter aircraft.  The two best fighters, the Fokker Dr.I and the Albatros D.V suffered from structural failures.  The Dr.I was actually passe by this time though it had only just begun to appear in the Jastas, being based in a 1916 idea for a supreme dogfighter at the point in time when the close-in high-g maneuvering of a “dogfight” was seen as largely the tactic of the past.  The Dr.I was not fast enough to get away from its enemies or to catch them.  The Albatros was a development of a 1916 design and had the built-in failure of a single-spar lower wing since the Germans had decided to copy the sesquiplane design of the now-obsolete Nieuport 11-17 fighters; doing so with a heavy design like the Albatros was the opposite of what a sesquiplane design required, and the result was a fighter its pilots were afraid to throw around the sky with abandon, since it had the nasty habit of shedding one or both of the lower wings when so doing.  The Pfalz D.III suffered from none of these problems but it was not as maneuverable as its opponents.

             Something had to be done to regain the technological edge as had happened in the fall of 1916 with the introduction of the Albatros D.II and D.III fighters which were superior to the D.H.2, Sopwith Pup and Nieuport 17 used by the Allies.

             The result was the First Fighter Competition, held in January 1918.  The clear winner of this was the Fokker V.11 prototype, which was revolutionary with its internally-braced cantilever wings that dispensed altogether with bracing wires.  Initially flown without wing struts, Fokker had to put an “N” strut between each wing to satisfy pilots that the wing was suitably braced; in fact, the outer interplane struts had no structural value at all, and were merely decoration for the conservative pilots.  The airplane was fast and supremely maneuverable, while offering no difficulties in landing or take-off that would make it difficult for an inexperienced pilot.  Manfred von Richtofen flew it and declared it the best fighter he had ever flown.

             Once Anthony Fokker won the competition, the Fokker factory received an immediate order for 200 D.VIIs.  As production of these aircraft began, the demand was so great to replace the obsolescent Albatros D.Vs, Pfalz D.IIIs and the Fokker Dr.I with this excellent new fighter that Fokker was directed by the Fliegerabteilung to license production of the airplane by Albatros.  For Fokker, whose products had been so often beaten by Albatros over the two previous years, such an arrangement was the best kind of revenge, the kind that makes money. Albatros obtained a license in February 1918 for both the original factory and the Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW)factory in Schneidenmuehl in the state of Silesia. Over half of all production of the D.VII between March 1918 and the end of the war came from these factories.

       Originally, the Mercedes D.IIIa engine was closely‑cowled with the exhaust inside the cowling, which led to overheating that could be so severe as to “cook off” the ammunition in the tanks immediately to the rear of the engine firewall; the first solution was to remove the upper sections of cowling, while the final solution in later‑production D.VIIs was louvers in the cowling to aid cooling.  The first 200 Fokker‑built D.VIIs were visually distinguishable by their fuselage, which was painted in the traditional Fokker “streaky” camouflage, while the wings and tail surfaces were covered with a 5‑color lozenge fabric only used by the Fokker factory with the rib tapes also done with strips of lozenge fabric.

             The Fokker D.VII, with its high-lift airfoils, excelled in high-altitude combat between 16,000-20,000 feet, which is where 1918 air combat took place.  It was supremely maneuverable and able to “hang on its prop, shooting all day” in the words of its RAF opponents.  It was said that the D.VII made the average pilot look good, the good pilot look great, and the great pilot a legend. 

            The airplane was so advanced in construction, with a  steel-tube fuselage and internally-braced wings, that it was the only weapon used during the war specifically mentioned in the Versailles Treaty as having to be turned over to the Allies.   Following the Armistice the Fokker D.VII found its way into numerous air forces including Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union, Sweden, Switzerland and the American U.S. Air Service and USMC. The D.VIIs brought to the United States revolutionized aircraft design.  Boeing’s F.B.5 would have been a D.VII clone had not the Navy required interplane bracing wires, and Boeing used many of the design elements of the D.VII in their F2B/F3B and P-12/F4B series of fighters, while Curtiss adopted them for their P-1/F6C Hawk series of fighters. Aerodynamically the D.VII would not be bettered until the appearance of cantilever, monocoque monoplanes in the 1930s.   

 Willi Gabriel:

       Willi Gabriel and his twin brother Walter were both interested in aviation as youths.  They built their own airplane in 1912 at the age of 19 and managed to fly it.  Both joined the Army shortly after the outbreak of war and received flight training in 1915, and both became observation pilots, rising to the rank of Obergefreiter, or Master Sergeant. Walter managed a short career as a fighter pilot in early 1917, though he transferred back to observation flying and was shot down on August 19, 1917, becoming a POW.  Willi had transferred to ground attack, flying the Halberstadt Cl.II with Schlact Staffel 15, where he established a reputation for being cool under fire. He and his gunner shot down a SPAD XIII in March, 1918, and he took the opportunity to personally ask Manfred von Richtofen for a transfer to JG 1.  His commander in Schlasta 15 blocked it, but Gabriel was persistent. On May 19, 1918, Gabriel walked across the field from his unit to the elite Jasta 11, formerly commanded by Manfred von Richtofen.  Upon arrival, Geschwader commander Wilhelm Reinhard informed him that “If within four weeks you do not obtain an aerial victory, you will be shipped back to your original unit.”

       Later that same day, Gabriel talked himself onto the evening patrol and scored his first victory, a de Havilland D.H.9 bomber from 49 Squadron.  By the end of June Gabriel had destroyed two balloons and shot down 2 fighters to bring his score to 8, developing a reputation as a lone wolf.

       Reinhard was killed in a flying accident at Adlershof on June 3, 1918, while test‑flying the Zeppelin‑Landau D.I. Reinhard had allowed experienced pilots in the unit to make lone patrols, but his replacement was Oberleutnant Hermann Goering from Jasta 27, who (rightly) insisted that air combat in the summer of 1918 had no place for the lone wolf fighter pilot.  Gabriel already had a reputation as a “troublemaker” for not allowing Reinhard to claim a SPAD both had shot at on June 12. This would have been Reinhard’s 20th victory, which would have meant the award of the Pour le Merite.  Karl Bodenschatz managed to convince Gabriel that the next two “shared” victories would be given him if he gave in on this, which he did reluctantly just before Reinhard left for Adlershof, where he was killed. 

       While returning from a morning patrol led by Goering on July 18, Gabriel left the flight and after spotting a formation of French SPADs, attacking and shooting down two of them.  Returning home, he came across a formation of three Breguet XIVs and shot down one a kilometer from his base. When he landed, Goering ordered him to confirm his kill of a SPAD.  Having not seen this, Gabriel refused and Goering gave him a direct order not to fly alone again.  That afternoon, Gabriel again left his flight and shot down a French 2‑seater SPAD XII.  Upon his return, Goering sent him on a 4‑week leave. When he returned on August 20, Goering sent him as a test pilot to an air park. Gabriel did not fly combat again during the war.

       Gabriel continued flying after the war, and rejoined the new Luftwaffe in 1935.  In 1938 flew a Fokker Dr.I and a D.VII in two movies about World War I aviation. During the Second World War he rose to the rank of Hauptmann, flying Ju‑88s and Me‑410s.

       Gabriel’s D.VII became famous in the 1960s due to his willingness to provide photographs and descriptions of the markings to World War I aviation historian Alex Imrie. His account of his difficulties as an NCO pilot in JG 1 formed the basis for the character played by George Peppard in the movie “The Blue Max.”


             This series of kits by Wingnut Wings presents Mercedes-powered D.VIIs as produced by Fokker, Albatros and OAW, with appropriate parts in each kit for the distinguishing items.  These are the first mainstream injection-molded kits of the D.VII in 1/32.  Some 15 years ago, Battle-Axe released a 1/32 D.VII.  I bought one and discovered that the company’s name referred to the tool a modeler would be most in need of to finish the project (taking the battle axe and smashing the kit into its component atoms); the less said about this abomination the better - there was certainly nothing good to say about it.

            That is not the case with these kits.  They are “definitive.”  Wingnut Wings kits have been progressively getting better and better, having started from excellent and proceeding from there.  The struts and cowling panels are close to scale thickness, yet they are not fragile.    

            The Wingnut Wings kits include 210 parts, including 19 parts specific to the early Fokker-built D.VII, including optional propellers and early, mid and late-production cowlings.  A similar situation exists with the other two kits. 

            Decals are provided for five different airplanes.  Two of these are early Fokkers with the “streaky” camouflage, and this is done with decals.  The four and five-color lozenge comes pre-fitted, with the rib tapes printed in the sheet; it is thus pretty close to impossible to screw up what to me has always been the most difficult part of a Fokker D.VII project - the lozenge.  All the rest of the individual markings for each different option are also provided in decals. 

            Wingnut Wings has also released a separate decal sheet with five more options for each of these kits, and I know Pheon Decals is doing some sheets.  Thus, the modeler will be confronted with the problem of deciding which of many interesting markings options will be used on the project.  We should be so fortunate to have this problem with all our projects.


            The major item to point out regarding this kit is the fact that the struts and the internal structure are very close to “scale thickness.”  This means they are fragile during construction, though the completed sub-assembly of the interior is as solid as any of their other kits, and the completed model is substantially strong.  However, during assembly, it is possible to harm the outcome by using force anywhere along the process.

            I bring this up because Wingnut Wings kits are very precisely designed, so as to insure that when parts are in place, they are in the right configuration and alignment.  However, with these parts extra care needs to be taken.  I strongly recommend on the basis of my experience that before you glue the wing parts together, you test-fit all the interplane and cabane struts to the wing surfaces, and that you slightly widen the holes in the wings where these parts attach, so that there is a smooth, easy fit without any stress involved in positioning them.  If you do this so you enlarge the holes from the inside of the wing, you will get the hole just large enough to accomplish this, while still insuring a solid fit.  Once the struts are painted, I would also advise that you scrape the paint off the attachment tabs, because this fit is so precise that even a coat of paint can affect them.

            Take your time in assembling the interior and handle the framing carefully, and all will work easily with a beautiful result.

            For a change, I started the model by gluing the wings together and setting them aside.  I then went to my usual start point and painted everything according to the instructions in the Erection Manual (calling what Wingnut gives you “the instructions” as if they were a variation of the nearly-useless crap one gets from Revell or Dragon is an insult to what you get here).  Painting while everything is on the sprue is really the easiest way to go with the many small detail parts and eases assembly when you are ready to proceed.

            While that was all setting up, I painted the wings with Future, and when it was dry I applied the lozenge decals.  These are a pure joy as compared with the tedium of cutting strips of lozenge to fit, laying them down, allowing them to set up, then laying down rib tape decals and allowing them to set up, then turning the wing over and doing the same on the other side.  That process used to take a few days and I dreaded it more than doing rigging, but the Wingnut lozenge was all applied within about half an hour and the wings were set aside to allow the decals to set.  These decals are thin and should be allowed to get to the point of just starting to float off the backing sheet before you apply them over a wet surface.  Then use a damp paper towel to take up excess, followed by an application of decal solvent to make them set down fully.  The result looks great.

            I then returned to assembly, following the Erection Manual step for step.  As with all other Wingnut kits, if you commit this radical act of following the instructions, construction is easy and the result looks good, as you can see from the photos here of the completed interior.

            The fuselage was then glued together, and after it had set up and the engine was installed on its bearers, the process of assembling the cowling began.  This is very fiddly, for the same reason the cowling on the Tamiya Spitfire series is fiddly: it is thin, and has to fit precisely.  I started by assembling the radiator and gluing it to the lower forward cowling piece and then attaching that, followed by the rear lower cowling piece.  I then attached the rear side pieces.  Be very certain while you are doing this to get the fit right, so that the attachment points for the cabane struts and the landing gear remain in the clear for the later assembly of those parts.  I then attached the forward side panels.  Test fitting the upper panels made me realize all that prior assembly needed to set up before proceeding.  When all was set, I assembled first the left, then the right upper parts.  You need to do it in this order so they fit around the radiator.  At this point you may need to squeeze each to hold them in proper alignment until the glue sets.  Those of you doing this particular kit who choose to do the Sachsenberg airplane will be spared this problem, since those upper parts aren’t used.

            With the fuselage assembled, it was time to proceed to painting and decals.


            You may notice in the pictures that the red cowling on this model looks “rough.”  That was intentional.  The original came out of the factory with the cowling painted dark green.  The red paint was applied over that without any primer, and so the dark surface “shows through” given that the red paint was thin.  I used Xtracrylix “Red 23" and applied it by brush over the grey parts.  This paint doesn’t leave brush strokes when you apply it by brush, and it dried leaving some “holidays” of a darker color coming through, which is a good approximation of what the original was.  Had I airbrushed this, I would have  had to apply the dark green (a color I suspect was close to RLM 71 if not that color actually), then apply thinned Red to get the same effect.

            As an aside, for all the other marking and painting options, I would suggest you apply the full lozenge to the fuselage and paint the cowling dark green before you paint the final color, since on all the originals that last paint was applied over lozenge and dark colors without an intervening primer, so the underlying surfaces should “make their presence known” under that color for an accurate look.  I first discovered this doing the all-red MvR Dr.I, which had that paint applied over the factory-applied streaky camo, which can be “seen” under the uneven final paint application, giving the model the “blood red” color witnesses all described seeing.  This would indeed be an extra step in your process, but I think the result is well worth the additional effort.

            The lower part of the fuselage was painted with Tamiya “Light Blue” (RLM 65), with the upper fuselage painted with Tamiya “Buff.”  The rear fuselage and the horizontal stabilizer and elevators were painted with a mixture of Tamiya “Sky Blue” and “White” to get a blue the same shade as the profile in the Erection Manual.  I then gave the fuselage and tail surfaces a coat of Future.

            I first applied the orange rear fuselage decals, so I would know where to cut the side panels of the “streaky” camouflage.  Again, with these fairly large pieces of thin decals, float them slightly off the backing sheet and apply them carefully to a wet surface, then “mop up” the excess water and then apply decal solvent.  The same goes for the orange stripes on the horizontal tail surfaces.  I also applied the orange area on the vertical fin. Let these set up thoroughly before proceeding.

            While the fuselage basic decals were setting up, I applied the national insignia decals to the wings and let that set up.

            When the fuselage was ready, I applied the national insignia, then applied the orange stripe on each side.  This insured I got the orientation and alignment right.  I set the horizontal stabilizer in position on the fuselage and then applied the orange stripe on the upper rear fuselage, to be sure it was correctly aligned with the stripes on the stabilizer.

            Wingnut Wings points out that the early Fokker-built D.VIIs had a thinned brown “glaze” applied overall to reduce the intensity of the colors.  The photos of Gabriel’s airplane are understandable for their “muddiness” if you realize that this “glaze” had been applied.  I made mine with a mixture of Tamiya X-9 “Brown” in a thinned mixture 1 part paint to about 6 parts rubbing alcohol, and applied it over all the parts with a half-inch sable brush, to get it “glopped” on right.  When that was set up, it was time to weather further.

            Everything I have read about the last year of the war mentions how wet 1918 was; in fact, it was the wettest year Europe had seen since the last year of the last great warm, 1815.  My great-grand-uncle’s diary of his time in the Meuse-Argonne offensive has a complaint about the rain (in colorful “Missouri-isms”) about every other entry.  So we can confirm the Western Front of 1918 was wet and muddy, a good thing to remember when finishing a model used in that period.  These airplanes were not washed off and polished by their crews every night.  The oil smears and mud stains remained. 

            I used thinned Tamiya “Smoke” applied with a 3/8" brush, for the oil stains on the fuselage sides and belly aft of the engine cowlings, then applied unthinned “Smoke” for the exhaust stain on the right side of the fuselage and the inner upper surface of the right lower wing.  I used Tamiya’s “mud” from their weathering set for the wheels, the wing axle, and for “mud spray” on the lower surfaces of the lower wings and the tail where it was probably “rooster tailed” by the tail skid. Photos of Gabriel’s airplane show the white rudder to be pretty dirty.


            I attached guns and windscreen to the fuselage, then the cabane struts were put in position and allowed to set up.  I then attached the upper wing, using cyanoacrylate glue to get it in position, then popped the outer “N” struts into position and glued them in. 

            I attached the horizontal stabilizer and elevators and the vertical fin and rudder.

            I then attached the landing gear.  Due to the scale thickness of the gear attachment points, I was glad to use .010 wire attached with cyanoacrylate glue for the one bit of “rigging” necessary, since this strengthened the landing gear and keeps the model from “rocking and rolling” as it would without supportive bracing.  I finished off by attaching the prop.


             Kit. Of. The. Year. (Maybe the decade) The very best World War I kit ever released by anyone anywhere.  The perfect model for the biplane-challenged to get into this genre of modeling since there isn’t any rigging.  Like the original, this kit is so good it will make the average modeler look advanced, the advanced modeler look like a master, and the master modeler will ascend to modeling legend.  One can build it straight out of the box and get a superb model, or put any amount of extra effort desired into the project and get anything from a stunner to a jaw-dropper.  I predict these kits will never be out of production, that they will be Wingnut Wings’ “tentpole” product, and that their success will finance any number of never-expected releases.

            Resistance. Is. Futile. You can’t build just one.

Tom Cleaver

December 2012

Review kit courtesy of Wingnut Wings. 

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

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page