Copper State Models Gotha G.III
Model, Text and Photos by: Brent Theobald
CANNED HISTORY (i.e. stolen from the kit's instructions):
Of all the twin-engined bombers of World War One, the most famous were those manufactured by Gotha. So famous was this series of aircraft that the name came to be used by the public when referring to all large German aircraft.
Although Gotha did produce a variety of single engine aircraft in the early years of the war, and except for the smaller and rather unusual G.I they did not produce large bombing aircraft until the G.II arrived in 1916.
Even with the success of the G.II a number of improvements were deemed necessary. Foremost in the improvements was the increase in engine size from a 220 hp Mercedes to a 260 hp Mercedes. Armament was also increased from two machine guns to three. The third gun being mounted on the floor of the rear cockpit allowing it to fire downward through a large opening in the fuselage. With these modifications, the G.III was born.
The G.III like the G.II had a three man crew. Bombardier-gunner in the front turret, a pilot in the central cockpit and a gunner in the rear. Bomb loads were carried beneath the fuselage and wings mounted to interchangeable clips. These clips allowed the number and size of the bomb load to be customized to fit the specific requirements of the mission at hand.
G.III's performed well on the Balkan Front in Kagohl 1 and on the Western Front in Kagohl2 through late 1916. But by September of 1917 the G.III had been retired from the front lines being replaced by the G.IV. These G.IV's were later to make history in the first daylight bombing of England. In total, 34 G.III's were produced with only 24 of these in service before the more improved G.IV showed up at the front.
This kit is a big deal to World War One modelers. The only other 1/48 Gotha is the old Aurora kit which is inaccurate and poorly detailed. The Copper State Models Gotha beats the pants off the old Aurora kit in terms of quality, accuracy and detail. Many of us have been anticipating this kit since we first heard of it. I think it was well worth the wait.
The kit had finally arrived. I couldn't wait to open the package and fondle the contents. All the parts were safely packed in a sturdy box. Extra special care was taken with the wings to keep them flat. My first impression of this kit was that it is HUGE! There are a ton of parts in this box. It seems like I kept pulling resin parts, white metal, photo etch and decals out of the box. The instructions are a big thick packet including scale drawings. It is an expensive kit but it is a good value.
HOW THE RESIN LOOKS:
The overall quality of the resin is among the best I have seen. Many of the parts are extremely thin, almost translucent. I found the detail to be crisp without being overstated. I would call it "just right". Copper State uses the casting plugs to reinforce the fragile resin parts. That way they won't warp during shipping or storage. The idea works very well because none of my parts were warped when they arrived. I only found one pin hole in a wing as well. The attachment points of the casting plugs to the parts are admirably thin. No need for the razor saw here. Just a few swipes with an X-Acto knife ought to separate the parts from the casting plugs.
Fuselage: The detail on the fuselage parts, as mentioned, is crisp, yet light. The interior stringers are well represented. The lacing between fabric and wooden parts also looks well done. The feature that impressed me the most was the delicate treatment the exterior surface received. The surface looks like slightly wrinkled fabric with bracing wires pushing through. It is done very subtly and is most impressive. However, the bracing wires are not shown in the interior. They will need to be added with fly tying thread, hot stretched sprue or a fine diameter wire. That isn't a problem either. It would be a complete pain to try and paint those fine wires. I would much rather add them in myself.
There are eight major parts the make up the fuselage. They will need to be assembled in order to make a box. At first I was concerned about lining all these up accurately. Researching the kit showed some photo etched bulkheads will make assembling these parts easier. The photo etched bulkheads will fit into grooves in the resin parts. That will align the resin bits along their length as well as the 90 degree angle between surfaces. The most challenging aspects of the main pieces of the fuselage is going to be cutting the windows out of the forward areas and forming the resin nose to conform the floor. After that everything ought to be a cake walk.
Wings: These look great. They are nice and thin. There is no evidence of the very thick trailing edges that are commonly found on resin kits. The scallops between the wing ribs are very understated. Copper State avoided the "starved cow" syndrome that is sometimes seen on other W.W.I kits. The rib stations themselves are set off with finely scribed lines. Thankfully there is no fabric texture added to the model. The wings truly are an impressive bit of casting. The only thing that bugs me is the strut locations are not marked. That's not really a big deal. Those will have to be transferred from the Gotha Datafile.
The casting plugs run the length of the wings as well as along the wing tip. This is to provide rigidity to these pieces during shipping or during storage. It seems like a novel idea. Of course, mine won't be stored too long. The attachment point of the casting plug to the wings looks nice and thin. Almost thin enough to just crack off. Tempting as that may be I think I'll use the X-Acto knife just to be safe.
The top wings are cast in two parts. They are logically broken down into a left and right hand side. Dry fitting them together shows the proper amount of back sweep has been built in. Careful study of the plans and the Gotha Data File will be required to ensure the proper dihedral.
The lower wings have been broken down into three pieces. The two outer wing sections and the center fuselage/engine bearing section. This also makes good sense because the dihedral begins just outside of the engines. Which means the outer wing sections will have dihedral added from the center section. Once again the plans will have to be studied.
The wings have the same outstanding quality of the fuselage parts. They are flat, there are no pits, the detail is great, the casting plugs are well thought out and the assembly process makes sense. The wings are first rate!
Control Surfaces:The control surfaces look great too. They are extremely thin, almost translucent. Once again these pieces are protected by their casting plug. Mine arrived without a warp. The rib detail is handled in a similar manner as the wings: very subtle and delicate. It would have been nice if the horizontal and vertical stabilizers had been cast separate, but they can be cut off and repositioned. The control surfaces are of the same high quality as the rest of this kit.
Engines and Nacelles: The engines and nacelles look great as well. The nacelles have fine panel lines scribed into them. The louvres also are well done. They are cast in halves that will sandwich the engine. The engine is cleanly cast, but not very detailed. This makes good sense because the engines will be mostly hidden by the nacelles and exhaust pipes. Certainly, more detail could be added, but it it too will be hidden. Dry fitting the nacelles to the lower wing shows a good fit as well. These are more good pieces in this impressive kit.
METAL: The white metal parts in this kit are also of good quality. Copper State
supplies all the structural parts in white metal since resin could not support
all of the weight. There will be some clean-up required on them since they are
not as clean as the resin parts. All the struts look pretty good with
a nice airfoil section. The wheels, in particular, seemed a little pitted. Some
machine guns are included with these parts. This is interesting because three
Copper State Models Parabellum machine gun sets are also included in the box.
Copper State Models also includes a set of bombs cast in white metal. Everything
looked really good and is perfectly useable after a little effort with a sanding
stick. The white metal parts look fine to me. After all, this isn't a Tamiya
kit and a little more work is going to be required.
PHOTO ETCH: A very large phot-etched fret is included. Copper State Models uses a nickle-silver material instead of brass. This fret includes some structural parts to ease assembly of the fuselage. There are also some detail parts for the cockpit and gunner's positions. The sheet also contains detail parts for the engine nacelles and wings. There are no gauges on this fret because Copper State added their German Gauges detail set instead. It looks like there is plenty of photo etch here to really dress up the interior and exterior of the model. Just like the resin it looks to be first class.
DECALS: There are markings for three different Gotha G.III's in this kit. Gotha G.III's didn't vary too much when it came to markings. Mostly dark green tops sides with clear doped linen and varnished wood on the under surfaces. One of the markings included has a very nicely shaded skull on the nose. I'm sure this will be a favorite. (It's on the box art, see above). The decals I have look to be in perfect register. They appear very thin on the backing paper. Since they were printed by Microscale I'm sure they will work out fine.
INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions are a little
different than many modelers are used to getting in a kit. Normally the manufacturer
has an ordered instruction sheet telling the modeler what goes where and when
to install it. Copper State Models does not do this. They figure only advanced
modelers will be purchasing their models and as such don't really need step-by-step
instructions. Instead what is supplied is a large bundle of drawings showing
where all the parts go. When I say a large bundle I mean seven 8 1/2" x 11"
pages of written instructions, history, exploded diagrams and parts list. Also
included in this bundle are six 11" x 17" drawings showing the placement of
everything including rigging. So even though the instructions are not the traditional
step-by-step method there is still plenty of information included that will
help the model get built. Marty Digmayer did an excellent job of drawing the
plan views in these drawings.
CONCLUSION: This is an impressive kit. Copper State Models have gone to great lengths to provide a model that is buildable. Everything that comes in the box looks like it can be used with little difficulty. Bear in mind that this is a kit that will require more modeling skills than the average plastic model. However, the result will be a very impressive model of an important airplane.
This model is so impressive I have to wonder what Copper State Models is going to release next. I spoke to the owner about this and suggested a Staaken R.VI (a W.W.I bomber that is about the size of a B-29). He replied that he would release a 1/48 scale kit of the Staaken when heck froze over. I can't wait!
There are lots of books out there where you can find information about the Gotha.
If you are going to build this model you are absolutely going to need to get
your hands on a copy of the Gotha Datafile (ALBDS02) which is published by Albatros
Productions and is written by Peter M. Grosz. This is the foremost reference
on this aircraft and is recommended in the Copper State instructions. The older
Profile Publication isn't a bad reference either (it was also written by Mr.
Grosz). It has a few color profiles that do not appear in the Datafile but many
of the pictures are repeated there.