A Brief History
The Fw-190 Würger (Butcher Bird) is considered by many to have been the workhorse of the Luftwaffe. As WWII progressed the Fw-190 was continually modified in an attempt to keep pace with the increasingly superior performance of new Allied aircraft. The initial Fw-190A series gave way to the fighter-bomber F series, followed by the stop-gap D series, with the design culminating in one of the most beautiful and lethal fighters of WWII, the Ta-152H series. This functionally lethal stable of single seat fighters began life as a small innovative design from the relatively small company Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG.
In 1937 Luftwaffe fighter squadrons were being outfitted with one of the best fighters in the world at the time; the Bf-109. To ensure that future designs from other countries wouldn’t outclass the 109, the RLM requested the German aircraft industry to submit proposals for an additional high performance fighter. In response, Dr. Kurt Tank, Focke-Wulf’s chief designer (and part-time test pilot), submitted a proposal for a design incorporating the BMW-139 air-cooled, 14- cylinder radial engine. Since liquid-cooled, in-line engines produced by Junkers Motoren (Jumo-210) and Daimler Benz (DB-600 series) were slated for use in the 109, the suggestion of using the BMW radial intrigued the RLM, as it would not disrupt 109 production. However, the use of a radial engine with its large frontal area for a single seat fighter ran counter to current thinking as most European designs incorporated slimmer in-line engines allowing for more streamlined airframes such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, and Dewoitine D-520. Kurt Tank had watched the successful development of fighters with radial engines by the US Navy, (ex, Brewster F2A Buffalo) and was convinced that the increased drag of a radial engine could be compensated with a tightly fitted, streamlined cowling. To that end, Tank designed a cowl that tightly encased the BMW-139 with a spinner protruding through a small opening at the front giving the nose of the V1 its characteristic bullet shape. In addition to the novel cowl design, the 190 V1 incorporated additional features that were not the norm of the day. These included the use of push tubes to actuate all flight control surfaces (instead of cable-pulley systems) and a stout, wide-tracked undercarriage easing ground handling and decreasing the propensity to ground loop. Focke-Wulf’s chief test pilot Hans Sander flew the 190 V1 (civil registration D-OPZE) for the first time on June 1st 1939 and reported favorably on the overall handling of the aircraft most notably its speed (600km/hr), sprightly performance, and good visibility due to the tear drop canopy with minimal framing. However, exhaust gasses and excessive heat from the overheated engine had leaked into the cockpit, prompting Sander to say “It was like sitting with both feet in the fireplace.” The results of additional testing indicated the novel cowl design provided insufficient cooling air and a more conventional cowling with an internal cooling fan was fitted to the V1, first flying on January 25th 1940. The second prototype (FL+OZ) flew for the first time on October 31st 1940 and incorporated the larger cowling with internal cooling fan and armament in the form of one 7.92 MG17 and one 13mm MG 131 in each wing. Twenty-eight pre-production Fw-190 A-0 aircraft were ordered in November 1940. The 10th A-0 airframe was fitted with a larger wing of 10.5m (Versus 9.5m on the V1 and V2) to compensate for the increased weight of the new fighter. Interestingly, production 190’s incorporated electric motors to raise/lower the landing gear (the V1 and V2 had were hydraulically actuated). Thus from the outset, Kurt Tank’s Fw-190 incorporated multiple novel and innovative design features making it one of the most robust and versatile single seat fighters of WWII.
The kit (#72032) was produced by MPM in the mid 90’s and represents the Fw-190 V1 prototype with the small wing and distinctive bullet shaped cowling. It is molded in soft grey plastic with a vacu-formed canopy. The instrument panel, cockpit side panels, rudder pedals, seat harness, and boarding step are supplied on a small photo etch fret by Eduard. Instrument panel dials are on a clear acetate photonegative and the small decal sheet is produced by Propagteam. The inscribed panel lines were heavy on my sample and un-even in depth. The landing gear, gear doors, propeller blades, and cowl are rather crude requiring a lot of work to make useable (more on this later). The instructions are typical early MPM with the paint colors provided using Humbrol numbers.
As usual with a limited run kit all the molded parts required a good going over with files and sanding sticks to remove flash and achieve proper shape. Construction begins with “the office” comprised of a molded cockpit floor, seat, and stick with PE instrument panel, harness, side panels, and pedals. The level detail here is sufficient but I decided to replace the whole affair with the True Details Fw-190 resin cockpit set (#72454). This required thinning of the fuselage sidewalls and extensive reworking of the resin cockpit tub (read big Dremel grinding drum and lots of dust). The rear cockpit bulkhead was made from sheet styrene while the decking behind the pilots head (part #13) was used with some modification. The cockpit was painted Model Master (MM) acrylic RLM-02 lightened with about 10% white and details picked out in black, white, yellow, and red. The seat harness was painted off-white with silver buckles. A light paste made of dark brown pastel chalk and water was then brushed onto the completed cockpit tub and seat. Once dry, a quick wipe with a slightly damp cotton swab left the pastel chalk in the recesses of the tub simulating shadows and bringing out the details. The instrument panel combing (part #15) was thinned to fit over the TD resin panel and attached. The fuselage was then assembled and after sanding all panel lines were re-scribed to a uniform width and depth using the UMM scriber. The cockpit tub was glued into the fuselage from the bottom through the opening where the wings attach and the internal canopy support was fashioned using fine diameter solder. To prevent plastic dust (produced during later stages of the build) from entering the cockpit area and sticking to the inside of the canopy, blue tack poster adhesive was hand rolled into a tube and used to seal the cockpit tub to the inside of the fuselage. I then turned my attention to the vacuform canopy. When dealing with vac canopies I try to sequence the build so I have good access to the canopy-fuselage join (i.e. prior to attaching the wings). This facilitates the sanding required for a good fit. Using iris scissors the canopy was cut from the vacuform backing and with much test fitting and careful sanding an acceptable fit was achieved. After polishing with Tamiya fine polishing compound and cotton swabs the canopy was dipped in Future floor wax. To dip a canopy I hold it at the very edge with a pair of fine forceps and while immersed in Future gently rub the inside and outside surfaces with a cotton swab. This removes finger oil and plastic polish from the canopy and allows the Future to evenly coat the part. I then carefully touch the edges of the coated canopy to a piece of paper towel allowing the excess Future to wick off. The canopy is then placed on a piece of paper towel inside a sealable container to prevent dust from ruining the finish and allowed to dry for 24 hours. I will repeat this sequence (minus the rubbing with a cotton swab) until the canopy is sufficiently clear. After two additional treatments with Future, the V1 canopy was attached using odorless Super-Gold CA glue (UMM-USA). After blending the front windscreen-fuselage join with a little Tamiya white surface primer and careful sanding, the finished canopy was taped off with Tamiya tape. With the fuselage assembled, I turned my attention to the most interesting characteristic of the 190 V1, the bullet shaped cowling.
To achieve the bullet shaped nose of the 190 V1 Kurt Tank designed a large rotating cowling with the same diameter as the fuselage that enclosed a small conventional spinner. The kit duplicates this design with plastic parts that suffer from bad molding. None of the holes in the cowling were large enough to permit the propeller blades to pass through (see Figure 1). On my sample, one of the holes was present only as a plastic-filled outline. To remedy this, the cowling holes were opened up with an X-acto blade and shaped with mini files. Photos and technical drawings of the V1 show that the propeller blades projected through mechanisms resembling a propeller hub that were integral parts of the cowl. These rotated as the blades moved between coarse and smooth pitch. Unfortunately, this mechanism is not molded into the kit cowl but could be represented by simply scribing circles around the cowl propeller holes. Of course this occurred to me only after I completed the build. Test fitting revealed that the fuselage was about 1mm larger in diameter than the cowl requiring blending with sanding sticks to achieve a passable fit. The propeller blades on my sample required thinning as they were thick and badly molded. Once re-shaped the blades were painted MM RLM-70 and set aside to dry. The spinner and cowling were then painted black lightened with a few drops of white (more on this choice of color below). Once dry the cowling was assembled by passing the propeller blades through the openings in the cowl and gluing them to the internal spinner.
Wings and Wheel Wells
The fit of the upper wing panels to the one-piece lower wing is good however the trailing edges are thick. The wheel wells are devoid of any detail and given the steep stance of the V1 the wells are quite visible. To address this, the wheel wells were boxed-in using sheet styrene and details added with Evergreen strip. Using photos of the wheel wells of a Focke Wulf 190A model as a loose guide, lightening holes were drilled out and access panels added from sheet styrene circles made with a small punch. The trailing edges of the upper and lower wings were thinned by scraping with a rounded #12 X-acto blade followed by smoothing with sanding sticks. Once thinned, the wings were glued together and offered up to the fuselage where a nice wing-fuselage join was obtained with little effort. A step where the rear portion of the lower wing met the fuselage required blending with Mr. Surfacer 500 and sanding. The horizontal stabilizers are well molded and only required a little bit of clean up before being attached. There are no tabs so care must be taken during placement. With the airframe completed I next dealt with the landing gear and wheel well doors.
Gear doors and landing gear: These parts are weak points of the kit as they are too thick and badly molded. The inner doors of the V1 were attached to the bottom of the outer doors by a hinge and projected at an angle of 90 degrees from the main doors when the gear was extended. Thinning of the outboard gear doors was straightforward however the small size and multiple angles of the inner doors posed a challenge. These were thinned using micro files, small pieces of folded sand paper, a lot of patience, and a glass (or two) of my favorite adult libation. The landing gear on my copy suffered from mold shift making them unusable without a lot of effort. Rather than clean these up I used the landing gear and tail wheel from the Fw-190 V1 kit produced by Esotric (#SLE1). When I first bought the all resin Esoteric kit I attached the fuselage to the wing with tape to assess the build and became convinced there was a 190 V1 in there somewhere but I didn’t have enough sand paper and patience to find it. Luckily, I saved the usable white metal parts in my spare parts bin. Likewise, wheels that closely matched the 190 V1 were found in the spares bin saving me the time of cleaning up the crude kit wheels. The landing gear was painted with MM RLM-02 and the wheels MM Metalizer non-buffing aluminum and set aside to dry.
Painting and Decaling
To prepare the model for painting, it was wiped down with Plastic prep and the vertical stabilizer and rudder airbrushed with MM gloss white. A disc of Tamiya tape was cut to the appropriate size and positioned where the swastika would later be placed. The airframe was then painted in the characteristic Luftwaffe splinter scheme of RLM-70/71/65 using MM acrylics lightened with 20% white by volume. These were shot using an H&S Infinity with a 0.15mm tip. For the demarcations of the 70/71 splinter scheme the kit instructions and color artwork of the V1 in a CMK publication (see below) were followed. Once dry, the vertical stabilizer and rudder were taped off with Tamiya tape and shot with MM red darkened with a few drops of blue. The wheel wells were then masked off and painted MM RLM-02. After removing the masking tape and doing a little touch up with a small trim brush the landing gear, gear doors, tail wheel, boarding step, and cowling/spinner assembly were glued in place. As mentioned earlier, the cowling and spinner were painted black based on a color profile of the 190 V1 in “Special Drawings: Fw-190 Part 1” published by CMK. This may not be correct. The CMK book contains nice technical and color renderings however, after completing the kit, I purchased Wolfgang Wagner’s excellent book on Kurt Tank (published by Schiffer Military History) wherein a nice photograph of the V1 clearly shows the cowl painted RLM 70. Moreover, while doing research for this article, I found an on-line video of a V1 test flight and although the exact color of the cowling isn’t entirely clear it is quite evidently not black. I prefer to use photographs (or video when available) as opposed to artwork to guide my choices of schemes and colors and were I to build another Fw-190 V1, I would paint the cowling RLM- 70. ‘Nuff said.
In preparation for decaling, the model was airbrushed with Future floor wax mixed 1:1 with MM acrylic thinner. This was applied at ~15psi with an H&S Evolution fitted with a 0.2mm tip. Having decided to use better swastika decals from my spares box I tested the kit decals to determine which solvents to use when applying decals to the model. To my surprise, the decals were completely unresponsive to Microset and Walthers Solvaset and mildly responsive to Microsol. In order to decrease the amount of the thick, unresponsive carrier film applied to the model, I carefully cut around the letters on each of the D-OPZE decals using a brand new scalpel blade. Since the decals were only mildly responsive to multiple applications of Microsol, the decaling process took a week of evenings to complete. Once done, the model was given another coat of Future/MM thinner and a final light coat of Microscale clear Satin diluted 1:1 with distilled water.
Being a largely hand built prototype, the 190 V1 was very clean with little wear and the photos references bear this out. Therefore, I kept weathering to a minimum adding light exhaust stains and a few streaks from panel lines under the nose using black and grey pastels applied with a brush. After sealing the pastels with a light coat of clear satin, the canopy tape was removed. The radio aerial was fashioned from a piece of black plastic sprue heated over a candle and pulled till a plastic thread of the appropriate scale diameter was obtained. To attach aerials, I cut the “thread” a bit longer than needed and glue each end in place with a small dab of CA glue applied with the tip of a toothpick. Attaching an aerial a bit longer than the required length is easier (no tension when gluing) however it produces an aerial with noticeable sag. No worries; pulled sprue threads become taught when exposed to heat. I have tried matches and butane lighters as heat sources and usually succeeded in burning though the plastic thread by placing the flame too close. I find that passing a lit stick of incense approximately 1 cm away from the thread works best as it is cooler than an open flame, easier to control, and covers the thinner fumes of the workshop rather nicely.
With the aerial attached, the completed model was placed alongside other 1/72 Fw-190’s in my collection where the bullet-shaped nose and small wingspan is very noticeable compared to the other members of the 190 stable. Although the kit is not without its vices, any modeler with experience building limited run, multi-media kits should have no problem. I recommend it highly.
Thanks for reading along 🙂
Now, I’ve gotta go paint something !
Special Drawings: Focke Wulf Fw-190 Part I, (#1501) by Radik Vavrina 2007 (translation Martin Velek). CMK Publications.
Kurt Tank: Focke-Wulfs Designer and Test Pilot by Wolfgang Wagner, 1998. Schiffer Publishing Limited 98-85862.