Aurora’s 1/48 Fokker DR-1 Triplane Kit Review and Release History

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By Frederick Boucher with kit history by Alan Bussie Google+ profile

Kit History 

Released in 1956 the FOKKER DR-I [sic] was the fifth model of Aurora‘s original six “Famous Fighters” 1/48 World War One aircraft.  This example is kit number 105-69.

freds-aurora-105-69-dr1.JPG

In order, the 5 predecessors (using Aurora punctuation and spelling) were the French Nieuport 11, Sopwith Camel, SE-5 Scout and German Albatross D-3.  (Curiously, although the Sopwith Tripe was one of their final WWI models, it was originally numbered 100.)  In the early 1970s Aurora reworked many of the molds by adding fabric texture and removing raised insignia and data markings, issuing the models as the 700 kit series.  The Dr.I was kit 750.  The triplane was not one of the kits eventually issued by Aurora subsidiary K&B.

Release History

In 1955 Aurora began actively planning and cutting molds for a constant scale World War I aircraft series.  The prototype of kit #101, the Nieuport II (and possibly others) were produced that year and Jim Cox made sketches and final box art for a 1955 release under the old Aurora Line logo.  For some reason, the kits were not released until 1956.

Jim Cox did the box artwork and instructions for the DR-I.  The kit sold so well that Aurora did not change the artwork until the 700 series, which used photos of built up models.  The known variations of boxes for the DR-I are shown below in order of issue.  Click on any thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

 freds-aurora-105-69-dr1.JPG   aurora-105-69-dr1-tag.JPG  aur-sb-dr1-105-69.JPG   aur-o-dr1-triplane-79-105-79.JPG   aurora-105-100-dr-1-np-sld.JPG

       105-69 (1956)        105-69 (@1957-58)    105-79 (@1958-59)   105-79 (@1960-63) 105-100 (@1964 -75)   

7series-dr-1.JPG

750 (1976)

The original issue was molded in the beautiful, deep gloss maroon plastic (that Fred notes below) and black.  The kit continued to be molded in this color through the 1950s.  In the mid 1960s the plastic was changed to a medium red (without the high gloss) and black.   Through all these issues, the decals remained the same as did the instructions except for minor changes such as the Aurora logo.  In the 1970s most of the WWI line was improved, as was the DR-1 for the 1976 issue.  This final issue is normally found molded in all medium low-gloss red with revised instructions and decals.

In The Box

This review is of the 1956 original vividly decorated ‘long box’ model.  Aurora changed their logo, box design and decoration many times.  One version included a superimposed faux newspaper clipping of Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen.  To the chagrin of retailers Aurora, like many model makers then and now, printed their suggested retail price (79₵!) on the box.

Inside are instructions, decals, and 33 parts injection molded in two colors, black and a peculiar metallic burgundy color.  One oddity is a streamlined ‘air scoop’ shown to attach between the machine guns.   One black piece is an identification button imprinted with “FOKKER DRI GERMANY.”  The plastic is also peculiar in that, while it is not scratched or nicked, it produces a glassy ‘tink’ when parts strike each other!  It is so smooth that it looks as if the factory coated it with a hard high gloss polished finish.  It reminds me of the plastic used to make ‘glass’ bottles and drinkware.  Later editions were molded with common red.

fok-parts-d-800×600.jpg

Parts Overview (click photo to enlarge) 

None of the parts are attached to a sprue in my sample.  Aurora originally boxed them on sprues, so these had been removed or fell off.  Molding is impressive for the era with no airframe flash (A wisp of flash on the seat, and moderate flash on several manifold induction pipes of the Oberursel UR-2 rotary engine.), minor mold seam lines limited to struts, and almost no sinks.  Typical of the era, there are visible ejector circles.  Most are on the underside of parts except for those on the top of the bottom and middle wings and wing struts.  The worst sink I found is a shallow dogbone shaped depression on the fuselage portion of the middle wing.  Perhaps it is to mount the guns in?

fok-d-800×450.jpg   fok-eng-l-2-800×601.jpg   fok-wing-l-4-800×450.jpg  fok-wing-6-800×600.jpg  fok-d-4-600×800.jpg 

Part detail (click on any image to enlarge) 

Accuracy

Aurora was one of – if not the – first to make models to a standard size.  This quarter-scale model averages out to 1/50 scale.  With a top wing span of 25½ feet their Dr.I is too wide by 23 inches.  The middle wing is 22½ feet wide while the prototype’s was 20½.  I measured the fuselage from cowl face to trailing edge of the rudder at 19 feet 9 inches, 10 inches too long.

The cowl is wrong as the lower cut out is too shallow.  Part thickness is out of scale for struts yet impressively thin for trailing edges, the horizontal stabilizer and the rudder. Certainly not what I expected!  Test fitting reveals good fit. A pass of sandpaper along the fuselage should allow your glue to seal the slight gaps.  Where the cabanes and interstruts mate into wing surfaces would require filler.

As was the fashion of the era, all insignia and data is molded onto the airframe.  Removing it is a horrible exercise at best even on flat surfaces!

fok-d-2-800×600.jpg  fok-cowl-d-800×599.jpg  fok-tail-d-800×558.jpg  fok-tail-d-2-800×600.jpg  fok-d-1-800×600.jpg  fok-wing-l-2-800×600.jpg 

DR-1 Part Detail (click any image to enlarge)

 Detail

Not much!  The Oberursel is a suggestion at best, with undersized cylinders and valve rocker shafts molded to the front of each cylinder.  It lacks the prominent valve rockers, valve rocker shafts and pins.

Each 7.92mm Spandau LMG 08/15 machine gun would be unrecognizable if you didn’t know what they were supposed to be.

The cockpit is token: floor, seat, stick, instrument panel.  Fortunately the pilot blocks seeing any of it.

Surface detail includes some raised lines representing access hatches, control horns, and control wire ports.  Aurora included a pilot and mechanic.  The mechanic is reasonably well detailed although the detail is soft.  Aurora also included a small base of rough ground with chocks molded on.

fok-eng-l-800×600.jpg    fok-d-3-800×449.jpg  fok-base-2-800×450.jpg  fok-crew-d-800×601.jpg  fok-crew-gc-d-600×800.jpg

DR-1 Part Detail (click any image to enlarge)

 Instructions, Decals and Paint Guide

Aurora did a good job with the instructions, a labeled exploded view of the model and a detailed 24-step assembly sequence for the 33 parts!  The only painting guidance is mention that the Red Baron’s triplane should be red except the wheels, guns, engine and propeller.

Decals include eight Balkenkreuz and the fuselage serial “FDRI.2009/17” with “DR” and “/17” smaller than the rest of the printing.  Like the identical raised markings on the fuselage, this data is incorrectly produced from the correct “Fok.Dr.I 425/17.”

 instructions-front.jpg   decals.jpg   instructions-back.jpg

Instructions (front), decals and instructions (rear) (click any image to enlarge) 

Conclusion

Another great trip down memory taxilane!  Even today this kit is sought for building and collecting.  Some collectors enjoy building the kit as they did in the 1960s – straight from the box.  Those who wish to build it to current standards will find it ripe for detailing and in need of serious surface sanding.  One could by several accurate modern kits for the price of one of these.  No doubt you can make a respectable model with it, as evidenced by the many examples online.  However, I would only buy and build one for nostalgia.

As such it will look striking in your display case.  That ‘electric cardinal’ burgundy is beautiful!

*Highs*: Clean molding. Impressively molded.  Vignette display base and ground crewman.

*Lows*: Much of the detail is soft and simplified, ejector marks and some seam lines abound, and there are those unfortunate raised areas for the inaccurate decals.  Only basic interior detail occupies the small cockpit, the machine guns are toy-like.

*Verdict*: I would only buy and build one for nostalgia.  As such it will look striking in your display case. That ‘electric cardinal’ burgundy is beautiful!

 

“HISTORY OF THE FOKKER DR-1 TRIPLANE”

(Using Aurora punctuation and spelling.)

 

“When the FOKKER TRIPLANE was first introduced it was regarded with skepticism on three counts; the fact that it was a triplane as opposed to the standard biplane; its peculiar cantilever wing spar construction without the usual wire bracing; and its thick “anti-high” speed airfoil section.  However, in September, 1917, the German ace, Baron von Richthoffen, who had been wounded several months before, returned to his squadron, Jagdstaffel II, bringing with him the first DR-1 to appear on the Western Front and on his first time out in the new plane shot down a British R.E. 8 for his 60th victory.  The next day a Sopwith Pup fell under his guns and as a final stamp of approval, the Baron said that he liked the Tripe, the only time he openly expressed a liking for any particular type plane.”

 

“The FOKKER DR-1 was an attempt of the master fighter designer, Anthony Fokker, to produce a ship that would be invincible in the five or ten minutes of dogfighting that determined the outcome of a W.W.I air battle.  He theorized that it did not matter how long it took a plane to get to a fight or to get back home; what it could do in battle was the important thing, so that the DR-1 was small, light, highly maneuverable and with an intentionally short range.  With a 110 h.p. Oberursel rotary engine the Tripe was credited with a top speed of only 115 mph, but its outstanding rate of climb, 16,500 ft. in 14 minutes, was one of its greatest assets.  Its ability to literally turn on a dime and to maintain its extreme maneuverability at high altitudes made it a favorite with German pilots and a respected adversary of Allied airmen.  The armament consisted of twin Spandau 8 mm machine guns synchronized to fire singly or together through the prop.  The total production of 150 Fokker Triplanes accounted for approximately 320 Allied planes, with the “Red Baron” Richthoffen scoring the last 20 of his 80 victories in this type plane.”

 

“The DR-1 was primarily an excellent defensive aircraft and its use as an offensive weapon was the mistake that cost the German Air Service the lives of several of their most out¬standing aces.  On September 23rd, Lt. Werner Voss was shot down after he had put on what is considered the greatest Fokker DR-1 fight on record.  Flying alone, he ran into three flights of British planes; Bristol fighters on top, S.E. 5’s of the famous High Hat squadron in the middle and Camels on the bottom.  Voss lunged into the middle flight which contained such noted British aces as McCudden, Maxwell, Bowman and Rhys-Davids and passed through without a hit.  Doubling back, Voss made a head-on pass at the High Hats, who broke formation and went after him.  For nearly ten minutes, Voss bounced around like a rubber ball, finally pulled off and put his Tripe through a series of stunts as though taunting his opponents for their inability to corner him.  Then once again he attacked and went to his death with 48 victories to his credit, but it took the best of the British pilots to beat him.  Werner Voss’ confidence in his DR-1 is understandable; he had scored one victory a day for 21 consecutive days with it.  Seven months after this tremendous feat, the German Air Service and the Tripe suffered their greatest defeat when on April 21st, von Richthoffen, breaking his own strict rules on fighting, broke formation to follow his latest victim almost to ground level and was caught under the guns of Capt. A. Roy Brown of the 209th Squadron, R. A. F. Shortly after the Red Baron’s death, the DR-1 was put on the retired list; the famed FOKKER D-7 was coming up to replace it.  Together with the Camel the DR-1 was considered the supreme “dogfighter” of W.W.I, in addition to proving what has become universally accepted in aviation design—the cantilever wing.”

 Aurora

 _________________

Sources: Oberursel

 http://thevintageaviator.co.nz/projects/oberursel-engine/oberursel-ur-ii-rotary-engine-build-history

 http://www.ursella.info/obu_in_han/MO-und_Fremdfirmen/2012_12_RR_themagazine135_OUat120.pdf 

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