Saturday 8 August 2015

German WW2 helicopter kits in 1/72 scale and other esoteric Luftwaffe model kit ramblings by a HUMA nut! by Steve in Richmond

...esoteric Luftwaffe model kit ramblings by a HUMA nut!

By Steve 'Kolibri 282' (from Richmond)

 " ...Ever since I bought a model of the Focke-Achgelis FA 223 'Drache' German WW2 helicopter in 1/72 scale from Hannants in Lowestoft (East Anglia, UK ) in the late 1970's I've been a fan of Huma kits. It always amazed me that such obscure subjects could be made in a limited run model series. So it was thanks to Hannants in the UK that I came in contact with Huma models years ago and the Fa 223 was the first kit I bought from them. I had reservations because it was a limited run kit from a little known manufacturer and it was not cheap. I took the chance and ordered the model. Two weeks later it turned up. When I saw the actually kit I was blown away. The quality of molding and the intricate tiny molded parts were unreal after building Airfix, Frog, Heller etc. However the first thing you would learn about Huma kits is that the instructions could be very vague. It took me some time to work out the rotor arm struts positioning; in fact some are missing from the kit altogether. This kit is a real tail sitter as well. I fashioned some cargo from lead, covered  and painted to resemble wood and metal boxes. As this helicopter was used for cargo at some point it didn't go against historic accuracy. It really is a lovely kit made up.

I really was blown away by the Drache kit.  The 'Drache' though was Huma's crowning glory in just about every way. I guess you could argue it could have been better, but even so it's totally unique in 1/72 scale and so different. The only 'kit-bash' I did was use guitar strings to represent the struts holding the rotor arms together. It looks better and more to scale. After finishing it I immediately set out to get as many Huma models as I could and on the whole (although some were incredibly basic) they are all pretty good kits.."

"...The other model Huma produced that really is unique is the Triebflügel. Although very basic with a little work it looks amazing. This genre of models was also of great interest to me as I am very interested in the German secret weapons programmes. Huma's Fl 282 Kolibri in 1/72 scale was never that great sadly, more flash than model on the sprue. RS Models re-released the kit with a photo-etch brass upgrade. It appears it is or is about to be discontinued as well by RS. I'd dealt with just about every central European model manufacturer in the 70's so I was a little dubious buying this model a) because I had doubts about the quality  and (b) because it cost so much. As far as I am aware Huma's first kits were the Me M35b, Kl 35 and the Fw 44, released around late 1982/ early 83..."

"...Huma kits changed considerably during the company's existence. These earlier kits such as the Klemm 35 were pretty basic whereas some of the later ones had incredibly fine moldings, while their Dornier Wal seaplane was also another substantial kit. The FA 223, as I've said, was a work of art. It was only released after Huma had gone from clear plastic bags to full-colour boxes, which may have been as a result of German company Kager taking over Huma's distribution. That must have been around 1990.  At that stage Huma were very much a one-man operation that was progressing quite happily in that format until the contract for larger production/promotion that apparently leached the fun from it all. There may have been other more personal issues, of the kind that one-man companies are prone to, but I don't know. On top of this Kager went bust in the mid 90s, and I think from then on everything became very sporadic for Huma. Sadly I notice that Huma no longer appear to be a going concern, they certainly are not  producing new kits and to get hold of them is becoming hard and expensive. I did ring Hannants a while back and asked them about their Huma stock. I was told due to delivery issues not being met and other issues they weren't going to stock Huma kits anymore. It was from Hannants that I learnt that the Flettner 282 Kolibri kit had a rather short life because the mold  was dropped and suffered so much damage it could no longer be used. As I said, I suspect RS Models used the old Huma molds for their Flettner 282 releases that had photo etch parts and a new molding part for a variant. I notice in the Hannants current list of Huma kits the FA 223 Drache is missing which is to my mind one of the most elegant and outstanding kits Huma produced. Sadly the FA 223 in 1/72 scale is not available anywhere else so the Huma kit is priceless for a German 1/72 Luftwaffe collection..."

 "...It would be great if someone could re-issue some of these Huma models as has been done with Dragon and even Hasegawa kits in Europe. The most obvious choice to reissue would be Revell to my mind as they are German and would most likely have the resources and money to produce them. It would be great if Revell took them on and built a Luftwaffe 46 collection with their own excellent models  i.e Flitzer, Arado E555 etc. Huma were really something special and incredibly unique. I really can't see anyone else producing the Fa 223 to such a fine standard if at all in 1/72 scale sadly.  I am unaware what material Huma used for their molds, but I'd consider it likely that one reason for Revell not taking those molds - if they ever had the opportunity in the first place- is that they were incompatible with Revell's molding equipment, and were thus unsuitable for Revell's (relative) mass production techniques. I can imagine that the molding of Huma kits required significantly more manual effort by workers than standard long run molds, making them more expensive, especially if not run by the entrepreneur himself..."

"...It would be a shame for such well produced and unique models to just disappear off the radar for good. While the Huma Ju 288 had the look of a hurried kit, some of the later models were incredible. It's hard to think such unusual and elegant subjects are just gone. The molds must still exist somewhere unless they were destroyed long ago. I heard the molds for the Kolibri 282 in 1/72 scale got dropped and broken years ago and that's why the model virtually disappeared. I do have a sneaking suspicion though that RS Models got hold of the molds and re-packaged them with photo etch upgrades and new parts tooled for a different version.. Huma's "special technique" small injection parts are incredible, and I don't know if anyone has tried something along those lines since.."

 "...after moving to the US a few years ago I set about tracking down the three big kits that Huma made, namely the Fl 282 in 48th scale, the Ju 287 and the Ju 288. Mustang Hobbies in New Jersey is an excellent source of discontinued models. Owner Jim will search for kits for you as well. He tracked down the  Fa 223 for me which as I mentioned is becoming highly sought after and expensive. Check him out if you want a particular model! The Fa 223 cost me $40.00 plus minimal postage charges. As an aside for Luft 46 fans I picked up two Dragon  Arado 234's in 1/72 scale for $15.00 and one for around $20.00. Two were in sealed boxes. These models can easily cost around $100 on Amazon and E-Bay nowadays!  I got more rare kits from Rareplane Detective in Las Vegas who located the Lippisch DM 1 for me, while Roll Models found the DFS 264 and Ju EF128. Elsewhere Model Hobbies in the UK had the Ju 287 and 1001 Hobby Kits had the Ju 288. Thankfully the internet made it extremely easy to get these models. I guess you have to be a serious fanatic of Luft 46 to go to such lengths though !..."

" ... a lot of the more easily found kits in Europe are extremely hard to find and expensive in the US as a lot of people here buy them for collections, to make a profit on selling them on. Most modelers are into 1/48th and larger, braille scale is looked down on a little here. Kits by companies like Special Hobby are as hard to find as  Huma..One look on E-Bay USA will tell you how much these models are being sold for, in US money it's eye watering! I got the FA 223 for $40.00 and that was cheap believe me! A Heinkel 177 by Revell is going for $150.00, even in UK money that's steep. I just tracked down the last piece of the collection I wanted to get together today for $25.00 which was the Special Hobby Heinkel 1078A. Modeling is a seriously expensive past time in the US ! I'm not at all sure how popular the Luft 46 model scene is or how popular any of the 1/72 scale Luft 46 models are, but I suspect it's quite alive and active around the world. I understand a lot of modellers feel the fact these crazy prototype machines never existed a good enough reason not to model them. It was a huge surprise to me to see the few Luft 46 models Revell released a few years ago. I suspected they wouldn't last long though ( although a couple were re-released I believe) I also noticed Revell reboxed a few Dragon kits as well with the photo etch parts reproduced in plastic. ( I have the Do335 they reboxed so I can say that with certainty) There were of course the excellent Dragon Golden Wings series incorporating a family of Arado 234's which were a joy to build. I have (at much expense and searching) tracked down the whole range thankfully. Then there was the Special Hobby group of seriously obscure Luft 46 subjects, they suffered from the usual terrible moldings, but at least they had photo etch parts and decent enough decals. With work and patience you can make some lovely models which mostly are extremely rare now and unique. The more esoteric are tucked away with such manufacturers as RS Models( who appear to be venturing into the Luft"46 scene slowly) They made the only Gottingen Go9, a rough kit in every way, but again a lot of work it turns out a nice model. Encore and Bronco have a couple of nice kits as well. Brengun are starting to make some oddities. I just bought their Zeppelin Rammer, Bachem Natter and the Blohm und Voss BV 40 glider. Extremely small with some even smaller photo etch parts! There was of course the excellent less obscure from Revell and Italeri: The Junkers 290's and the Blohm und Voss BV 222 designed for Revell by the man behind East German kit manufacturer VEB Plastikart. Revell of course produced their superb Heinkel 177's and reboxed rarities like the Heinkel 115 ( later remolded with photo etch upgrades) Blohm und Voss BV 138 ( originally from Supermodel/ Mach2, if I''m correct) from Italeri they had the Messerschmitt 323 glider and transport plane and the very unique Gotha glider/ transport plane. Of course there was the very basic PM collection with the unique Lippisch P13a, Me 1111 and the Horton Go229 V7( I have plans to rebuild it using spare parts from a Revell Go229 if possible, especially the undercarriages.) the one big surprise I found online was a Gotha P60 nightfighter by AZ models( which is now out of production sadly), but AZ are releasing a different version sometime soon with twin jets on top called the Raptor) not a great kit and will need work by the look of it, but it's unique in injection plastic 1/72 scale. It remains to be seen if AZ, Encore, Brengun, RS Models etc will continue building on their Luft 46 ranges, hopefully they will..."

HUMA Kolibri in 48th scale build on BM by Ragnar here