1. Gotha G.V - 1916
Bogohl 3 - Aurora
One of the first strategic bombers used successfully and in significant numbers, the German Gotha series of bombers gained notoriety for bombing London during World War I. The bombers helped usher in a new, more terrifying era of warfare - no longer were civilian populations well behind the lines safe.
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Kit: 1/48 Aurora Gotha G.V
Decals: Provided by Hippo/Aires
Date: Feb 2012
History: Why on earth would you build the old Aurora Gotha, you might ask? Why spend months of your all-too-brief modeling life building this fifty year old (I’m being kind) relic when there are so many beautiful Tamiya, Eduard, Hasegawa, and other kits out there, waiting to be built? How can you stare into that old, mildew-ridden box of ancient parts and say “Yes, this will be my next model” when opening the box of say, Tamiya’s new 1/32 P-51 Mustang is the modeler’s equivalent of - well, I’ll let you fill in the blank of whatever highly pleasurable activity you daydream about. This is a family website after all.
The truth is I when look at my collection of 1/48 scale bombers, I have to have a Gotha in it. I’m no expert on World War 1, but the name Gotha appears frequently in even the briefest of WW1 air war references. One could argue that it was the first strategic bomber to be used in significant numbers, and it definitely made an impression that went far beyond its actual impact on the war. It remains a mystery then as to why no mainstream manufacturers have released a new model of the Gotha in 1/48 scale. There have been several limited run kits, but I’ve found those to be either unavailable or unaffordable. With all due respect to WW1 modeling enthusiasts, I’m not going to pay upwards of $100 for something that has rigging holding the wings together. I love history – but I love things born around World War 2 and beyond even more.
So Aurora’s old fossil is the only reasonable game in town, but beware – when you open that decrepit old box…who knows what’s inside…
The Kit: Maligned – badly - in just about every review or blog I could find, the kit may have been state of the art in its day but in today’s day it’s sorely lacking. The shape of the wings is off. The shape of the fuselage is off. The engine nacelles are the wrong shape and size, and the engines have only rudimentary detail. The cockpit interior is as basic as basic can be, meaning that the whole thing has to scratch-built. The windows on either side of the nose are missing, a rather noticeable omission. The one pleasant surprise is that the famous Gotha “tunnel” was molded into the fuselage, a detail that I would have bet a small fortune wouldn’t have existed in the kit before I opened the box. It’s not accurately shaped mind you – but it’s there.
On top of the dimensional shortcomings are the technological shortcomings, unavoidable given the kit’s age but still items that have to be dealt with. There are obvious knock-out pin marks on most of the parts, molded-on part numbers on several of the parts, large sink-holes and even the old Aurora company name and address molded into the fuselage interior.
So you have to look at the kit as the basis upon which you’re going to have to perform a lot of modifications and add a lot of scratch-built details. Or you could pitch the whole thing in the trash. For reasons I can only blame on some sort of deep-rooted psychological trauma, I jumped in head first, sort of like those divers in shark shows that willingly get in the water with Great Whites.
There are some excellent references for this kit, without which I would have gone the aforementioned trash route. The first is the book “Gotha!” from Windsock Publications. It is very thorough, with some excellent detail shots, line drawings, and fold-out 1/48 scale drawings of each Gotha variant. It is absolutely indispensable if you’re going to wander down the lonely 1/48 scale Gotha highway.
The second reference is an article by Mr. Carl Park in the July 1995 issue of “Fine Scale Modeler” magazine. In that issue Mr. Park provides a step-by-step account about how he modernized the kit, and it is therefore a perfect reference for this project.
Another reference is the Wingnut Wings website. They have recently released a 1/32 scale Gotha G.IV kit that I can only imagine builds into a huge and gorgeous model. On their website you can download the instructions for that kit, and those instructions contain very nice, full color views of the cockpit interior with paint color call-outs. I found those very helpful while scratch-building my own interior.
I used three aftermarket kits for this project, the first being a pair of resin Mercedes engines from CMK. The two Parabellum machine guns were built from a Tom’s Modelworks photo etch set, and the bombs came from Mirage’s German/Polish bomb set. I was also the beneficiary of an act of kindness from the Aires aftermarket company. They have marketed a limited run 1/48 kit of the Gotha G.V (through their Hippo brand) and I contacted them to see if I could purchase the decal sheet for that kit from them. They responded by sending me the decal sheet and the kit’s photo etch fret for free! My thanks go out to them – those two items really helped with this build.
Construction: My first move was to clean up the fuselage halves and cut in the missing windows using my Dremel. Using the 1/48 drawings in the Windsock reference, I was able to mark off the window locations and then cut them out with a small milling-type bit. I also cut out the small window just above the instrument panel. Aurora chose not to model the open passageway on the starboard side of the passageway, so I used the Dremel to remove the offending part of the fuselage. After cleaning up those openings with my knife, I began scratch-building the interior.
My strategy here was to add just enough detail to make the interior look reasonably busy without driving myself insane. Buying a couple packages of Evergreen rod stock in .020” and .035” diameters helped, as did one of their packages of plastic sheet in different thicknesses. My first move was to cut out a piece of Evergreen sheet to create a floor and then glue that into the left fuselage half. I then added pieces of .020” rod stock evenly along the fuselage walls as vertical braces.
There are three bulkheads to come up with – one between the nose gunner’s position and the pilot, one behind the pilot’s seat, and one just forward of the rear gunner’s seat. I modeled those from plastic stock, using the Wingnut Wings instructions as a reference. I then used plastic card to replicate the fuel tank (confession – I have no idea what the actual fuel tank looked like, only that it was unique to the G.V variant) between the pilot’s station and the rear gunner’s station. I used more plastic card and rod stock to create the three seats for the crew. They came out a little crude, but they’ll have to do.
Before adding more detail I wanted to paint the interior. On the real Gotha G.V the fuselage was made of plywood, so I first painted all of the surfaces Testors Acrylic US Marines Sand (a suitable beige color I had on hand) and then used an old, stiff brush to drag Vallejo Saddle Brown across the various panels to form a wood-grain look. I then sprayed Testors Clear Orange over that and then followed that step with Testors Flat Coat. I painted the large fuel tank Testors Camouflage Gray and dirtied it up with some paint chips and washes.
Next I began adding some details to the inside. From my spares box I fashioned three oxygen tanks (one for each station), some spare machine gun ammunition, and the rudder pedals. The photo etch fret from Aires/Hippo contained an instrument panel, so I painted that up and glued it in place. Some photo etch seatbelts were sourced from my spares box, and with that I closed up the fuselage halves. The fuselage seams actually weren’t too bad, but there were some large sink-marks that had to be taken care of. While I was addressing those I sliced off the overly large rigging brackets molded onto the sides of the fuselage halves and replaced them with the photo etch parts from Aires/Hippo.
Setting aside the fuselage, I moved onto the tail-plane assembly. The Aurora part had some knock-out pin marks that had to be addressed, and I also separated the elevators from the piece. I glued in some very small plastic card tabs to replicate hinges and then glued the elevators to those, giving the area a more detailed look. I also replaced the molded-on control wire horns with thinner versions. I then glued the assembly to the fuselage. I attached the fin next, followed by the fin braces and the rudder.
Next I moved on to the wings. Each wing had some knock-out pin marks to take care of and then, as I had done with the tail-plane, I separated all four ailerons and modeled small hinges out of plastic card before reattaching them. I then glued the lower wings to the fuselage and took care of its seams, which were minor.
With the lower wings in place it was time to figure out a strategy for attaching the upper wings, connecting struts, and all that rigging. My first step was to glue the kit-provided center struts that support the upper wings to the fuselage, which are thankfully very sturdy. I next glued the upper wings together, but I left the seam in the center intact as on the real McCoy there was actually a small gap between the upper wings. Once the glue cured I temporarily taped the upper wing in place, using those center struts to support it. Here I received a bit of gratitude for all of my work – with the upper wing in place it becomes very apparent that this is one large biplane! I next glued the vertical struts, one by one, to the lower wing, but not to the upper wing. The kit’s struts fit fine in the forward positions but were too short in the rear positions, so those had to be made from scratch from plastic card. Once the struts had cured, I removed the upper wing and then added the rigging to all of those struts using stretched sprue and EZ Line. I had to be ultra-careful not to knock any of the struts off during this process!
Up next were the landing gear, which I assembled using the kit’s parts and then attached to the underside of the lower wings. The kit’s parts are a bit chunky and out of scale, and a better man might want to scratch-build them.
With the tasks of constructing the engine nacelles, attaching the upper wing, and adding roughly six miles of rigging still to come, I masked off any openings and headed to the paint booth.
Painting & Markings: The decals I received from Aires/Hippo provided markings for Gotha G.V 670/16, a very early G.V bomber. Sources differ on how that aircraft was finished. The Windsock reference states that the aircraft was painted the same overall light blue as the G.IV series, but that the upper surfaces of the upper wings and elevators were covered with five-color day lozenge fabric. The Squadron/Signal reference meanwhile shows a profile that indicates the bomber was entirely light blue, with none of the lozenge fabric. Without knowing which is correct, I opted for the latter approach. It seems probable to me that the first G.V’s coming off the line would have carried the same paint scheme as the G.IV’s. One thing both schemes have in common is that the engine nacelles and wing struts were painted light gray.
My first step was to wipe down the model with Polly S’s “Plastic Prep” and then airbrush a primer coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 onto the model. After touching up some seams I pre-shaded the model with some Testors Enamel True Blue. I then made a mix of roughly 50/50 Testors Acrylic White and Testors Acrylic RLM 65 Hellblau and airbrushed that all over the aircraft. To provide a faded paint effect I added some white to the mix and applied it to the model in random splotches. I then hand-painted the struts Testors Acrylic Gull Gray.
The next step was a coat of Future sprayed onto the entire model. I let the Future cure for two days and then applied the decals, which performed perfectly with Walthers Solvaset. Once they set I sealed them with another coat of Future, and then I began the weathering process.
I wanted to break up the monotony of the light blue surfaces, so I started by applying small dabs of raw umber, medium gray, and black oil paint onto each surface. I then loaded a brush with thinner and spread the various dabs around to create streaks, smudges, and other such discolorations. This is a fun technique since you can control how much pigment you’re applying and where by varying how much thinner you apply. Once that was set I airbrushed on a coat of Testors Model Master Flat Finish, and then it was time to tackle the remaining construction issues.
Construction, Part Deux: There were some big construction jobs yet to tackle including attaching the upper wing, adding more rigging, and building and painting the engines and their nacelles. My plan was to add the rigging to the fuselage first, glue the upper wing into position, and then fit the finished and painted engine nacelles into place.
On the Gotha all of the cables that control the elevators and the rudder run outside the fuselage, so I added those first using EZ-Line. Once that was done I glued the upper wing in position using CA glue, and then painstakingly glued the top of each vertical strut to the upper wing as well. Next I replaced any rigging that had been broken and then “bounced” the ones that were slack to tighten them up.
I tackled the engines next, assembling both of the CMK resin engines and then coating them with a layer of Mr. Surfacer 1000. I then painted them Vallejo Black Gray and gave them a light dry-brushing of Testors Steel. I used the kit’s exhaust pipes, but added some detail to the muffler parts. Those parts were then painted Tamiya Hull Red and lightly drybrushed Testors Steel before being treated to some rust-colored MIG pigments.
The kit’s engine nacelle parts had to be modified to accept the CMK engines. To do this I cut off the bottom of the nacelles and rebuilt them using plastic card. With the engines trapped inside I glued the nacelles together and painted them Testors Acrylic Gull Gray. I weathered them with a Raw Umber wash and some paint chipping using a Berol Silver pencil, and then airbrushed a very thin mix of 50/50 Tamiya XF1 Black and Tamiya XF64 Red Brown over all of the panel lines not only on the engine nacelles, but all over the rest of the model as well.
With the engines now complete it was time to mount them to the aircraft. I had to scratch-build the four struts that support each one of them and the four struts above them as well. Once they had dried I painted them Testors Flat Gull Gray and then added the rigging that goes around that area. One thing was for sure – the Gotha did not lack for rigging!
I was finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. All that was left to do was to paint and attach the wheels, props, machine guns, and bombs. I painted the wheels Testors Gunship Gray and the tires Testors Neutral Gray, and then weathered them with a Raw Umber wash and some MIG pigments.
The props were first painted Testors Acrylic US Marines Sand, and then some thin lines were masked off on them lengthwise. I next sprayed some Testors Leather over them to create the look of layers of wood laminated together. This step was followed by a Raw Umber wash, a layer of Testors Clear Orange, and finally a layer of Testors Flat Finish.
I assembled the photo etch machine guns from the Toms Modelworks set, brush-painted a primer coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000, and then painted them Vallejo Black Gray. I lightly drybrushed them Testors Steel, and then painted the wooden stock and grip using my usual wood-painting procedure.
Finally I assembled six 100kg bombs from the Mirage set and finished them in varying shades of light blue to make them look like they came from different “batches”. I weathered them with a dark wash and some paint chipping. I created six scratch-built bomb racks out of 0.020” plastic rod and glued them and four of the bombs to the Gotha. The other two bombs were left loose to display in a diorama setting someday.
Conclusions: And with that, my three and a half month-long journey into modeling hell was over. Okay, I’m being dramatic, it wasn’t hell. No modeling project is ever hell; otherwise we modelers wouldn’t do it. But it was a long project, and was not without its frustrations. Ultimately I could have scratch-built many more items to make the finished product look more refined, but life is short and spare time is even shorter, and I’m the type who’s always looking forward to the next model.
Now that it’s done, a couple of things bug me about it. I wasn’t able to create the very noticeable dihedral the upper and lower wings of the real thing had. The chunkiness of the landing gear, scarf ring, and other detail items stick out to me eye. The really cool open compartments beg for more detail to busy them up. Compared to my other models the whole thing looks a bit too toy-like for my liking. Perhaps after all of the time and money I spent on it, I should have just saved up a few more dollars and sprung for the Hippo kit.
I don’t mean to slag Aurora – heaven knows I’ve loved their products over the years more than any grown man should. If you’re itching for a 1/48 Gotha you can certainly go this route and create something reasonable. But now that I’ve gone to all this trouble you need not worry – the cynic in me knows that Eduard, Roden, or someone else will announce a brand new 1/48 Gotha any day now. And when they do, those screams of agony you hear from over the horizon will be coming from me!
- Albatros Productions Ltd, Windsock Special, Gotha!
- Finescale Modeler, July 1995, “Detailing Aurora’s 1/48 scale Gotha Bomber”, Carl D. Park
- Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft in Action #173, “German Bombers of WWI in Action”
- Wingnut Wings website