Dragon (DML) 1/72 Ar 234B


Now and then I get the irresistible urge to buy a new model that I can build straight out of the box. Almost always these plans fail, because I get too interested in the subject, or the model has faults that I cannot ignore. Here is one of these projects, and so far, things are going pretty much according to plan (amazingly). Maybe it helps that I have close to no references on the subject. But I really like the concept, a fairly small single-seat jet bomber. And it being a contemporary to the Me 163B (see my Komet web site) probably helps too.



The model

I researched the Dragon model a little before I bought one at an IPMS meeting. Generally the reports were very favourable. However, knowing Dragon aircraft models, I also expected fit problems, unnecessary part breakdowns, a slightly pebbly surface, and useless photo-etch. Most of this turned out to be true for the Arado. It looked very pretty on the sprues (and very small!), but the building process revealed some problems. I saw these problems as challenges though, and this approach made the building process enjoyable.

I did not check the accuracy of the model. None of the reviews I read reported any problems, and I wasn't too interested in correcting errors anyway. When I first had the model on its wheels, I thought it sat way too high, but it turned out the model was correct in that respect. One part that doesn't compare well with photos is the bomb recess under the fuselage. Since I planned to use the 1000 kg bomb on the centerline, there was no need to improve this area.



Accessories

There are only a few accessories on the market for this model. I found an Airwaves photo-etch set (2078), an Eduard photo-etch set (72-182), a resin Junkers Jumo 004 from Engine & Things (72-129), and lastly a 'flattened & bulged' wheel set by True Details (72042). I decided against buying any of these, considering the straight out of the box character of this project.

One aftermarket part that sounds intriguing is a replacement vacform canopy. Falcon Clear-Vax canopy set 29 contains one for the Arado Ar 234B, and is listed as made for the Dragon kit (see instruction sheet).



Construction

Construction started with an annoying break in the front fuselage. It's probably required for commonality with the Ar 234C model. I glued the parts together very carefully, doing my utmost best to avoid a step. The edges of the parts were quite rounded, and a very deep 'panel line' remained after the operation. It fell very out of tune with the rest of the panel lines. Therefore I filled it completely with CA glue, and scribed a new panel line. Since the CA is transparent, the result is difficult to judge, and a coat of paint is needed to see the quality.
For the cockpit, I decided to deviate from Dragon's construction sequence. It seemed better to fit the cockpit tub after assembly of the fuselage halves: it would allow progress with the overall assembly while I could work on cockpit detailing. I had to check whether the tub could be inserted with the rear cockpit bulkhead in place. This turned out to be possible, and therefore I glued the bulkhead in place. It had quite a gap all around, and I hid this by gluing a piece of plastic strip around the joint. In the photo the tub is fitted to the fuselage. The detailing of the tub is nice, and I will not replace it with photo-etch details.
The fit of the canopy on the fuselage is pretty bad: it seems the clear parts are smaller than the fuselage, and the rear part of the canopy sits too high. Since the clear parts cannot be modified, the fuselage has to give way. To check the fit, you first must assemble the two main parts of the canopy. More problems: the front part is wider than the rear part. The only solution I saw was a risky one. I glued a piece of 1mm plastic card on a metal block. I cut the card to a width that was slightly larger than the internal dimensions of the rear canopy part. I then spread the clear part slightly and pushed it over the card. It now had the same width as the front part, and I used CA glue to bond them together. I risked CA fogging, but by using only small amounts, this did not happen fortunately. I now had the basic canopy to check for fit on the fuselage. Because of their clarity, it is difficult to judge how well the clear parts fitted on the fuselage. I covered them with Cheap Chocolate Foil to make things easier. Lots of fuselage sanding later, the fit was acceptable.
Another item to deal with before the fuselage could be closed, was the main landing gear. First I filled the oversized cut-outs for the door hinges. Later I sawed new ones at the outboard edges of the wheel bay. Then I mounted the main landing gear legs on their bases. This seemed like a very fragile joint, so I reinforced it with pieces of plastic. These reinforcements, deep inside the wheel bay, aren't visible from the outside. Another problem with the fragile mounting of the main landing gear legs is that they also allow one to install the legs at a wrong angle, making the wheels toe in or out. That happened to one leg. I will have to fiddle with the wheel a bit to solve that. I painted the legs and wheel bays with a RLM02 look-alike color.

Dragon modeled the recess for the centerline bomb rather strangely. After this photo was made, I applied Milliput all around the inside of the edge, and used a small ball to create a nice curvature from the edge to the centerline. This approximates the shape of the real thing a lot better.
Over to the wings and engines. The wings couldn't be assembled straight from the box. All along the flap's leading edge, the lower half of the wing didn't make contact with the upper half, it floated free so to speak. I had to pack the upper half with strips of card, and then I could glue the halves together. Next were the engine nacelles. The front part (that included the compressor face) didn't fit too well, but some sanding solved that. The glue line had to be scribed to make it a neat panel line again. By the way, the starter motor 'bullet' inside the intake has a pretty bad lean to one side, but there is almost nothing that can be done about it, except drilling it out and replacing it.
To make painting of the turbine end of the engine possible, I cut off the 'onion' before I assembled the nacelle. A piece of rod and a hole in the turbine face (inside) allows assembly afterwards. Later I filled the cavity inside the exhaust's top side with Milliput. The photo shows another small problem, that is easily solved. As you can see, the flap seems to continue over the nacelle. The flap panel line has to be filled about 1 millimeter on either side. Strangely there are raised panel lines on the flap that need rescribing. Lastly I used Milliput to fill all the gaps along the leading edges of the flaps and ailerons on the lower side. The fit of the wing's lower sides against the fuselage was pretty bad, and as you can see I used a lot of Milliput there. All in all, the wings required quite a bit of work.
The flaps are moulded with the upper wing surface, which makes for a nice, sharp trailing edge. But the large volume of the flaps also means mould shrinkage problems. Just behind the flap hinge line, a shrink area has formed on the upper wing surface. It is most notable in the nacelle area. I used CA and Milliput to fill these spots. The fit of the wings to the fuselage is very loose, they can flap about 20 degrees! I glued several pieces of thin plastic card on the mounting tabs, and this took out most of the play. The 234 had zero degrees dihidral. I calculated that, due to the taper, the upper surface of the wing tip should be 1.5 mm below the upper surface of the wing's center section. I built a simple jig from a square wooden stick, with 1.5 mm thick card at the appropriate places, and glued the wings to the fuselage. The fairly rough joint was then filled with more CA glue. I rescribed the center section according to a drawing in the Monogram book. It appears that Dragon forgot the rear spar panel line, so I added that too.
The result so far, with some parts temporarily fitted. At this point of every straight-from-the-box build that I attempt, I start to regret the rather static pose of the aircraft, with all control surfaces undeflected. The next step is a base coat of light gray paint, to see whether the build quality is consistent. And then it should be ready for camouflage paint.


Colors and markings

The Dragon decal sheet is not very good. The printing looks childish in a way, perhaps because the items are printed rather 'fat', and because the white parts are cream instead of white. I will definitely not use them. I found four aftermarket decals sheets for the Dragon Arado 234B: Aeromaster 72-085 and 72-087, 'Arado 234 Blitz bombers part 1 and 2', Ventura V7263 'US and UK captured Ar 234', and a very nice set by Tally Ho (the Canadian Tally Ho, not the Czech one). All of these are discontinued as far as I know. I found Aeromaster sheet 72-087 and bought it, mainly to serve as a reference, and maybe for some stencils.
Most likely I will do prototype V10, the second B model, WNr 130010, using Alps decals. Shown here is the artwork, consisting of (top to bottom): two sets of fuselage codes, right lower wing code, left lower wing codes, upper wing crosses and WNr sets. The characters in the codes are made from the 'Blockschrift für Flugzeuge' font (thanks Ronnie Olsthoorn for making the set!), but I made the characters some 15-20% fatter, and changed the height-width ratio slightly, to make them 60% high and 40% wide, using the cross size as reference. The size and spacing of the letter was done according to Luftwaffe instructions as reprinted in books by Merrick and Ullman. Underwing codes are not common on Ar 234's, but a photo of V9 shows that they were carried on the prototypes. The font 'Placard Condensed' looked a lot like the WNr I found in a photo of WNr 130022, after widening it some 20-25%. But the WNr sets are probably not needed, I just can't see them on V9 and V10. Swastikas will be taken from an Xtradecal sheet. Possibly I will also design decals for the canopy rivetting, but this will require some delicate measurements, to establish the correct curves for those on the front part of the canopy. In once tried fitting a straight narrow decal on a curved canopy frame, and concluded that such attempts are futile.

I will paint my Arado in RLM 70, 71 and 65. The latest references are very clear about the use of these early war colors on the late war Ar 234B, which makes sense since they were prescribed for bombers and destroyers during the whole war. Still, most modelers use late war colors RLM 81, 82 and 76 on their Ar 234B models. I get the impression that they want their model in late-war colors, ignoring evidence to the contrary. Or they follow the stupid NASM over-restoration paint scheme. There, I said it: NASM, over-restoration and stupid in one sentence! For masking the camouflage, I might try LF Models mask M7226.

Having decided on the colors, the next problem is which paint to use. I may try the new Humbrol RLM colors. The thread New Humbrol RLM 70 & 71 - NICE! on the LSP forum compares Humbrol samples against reference paint chips, and they look very good. Humbrol 65 with some gray added might do for RLM65.



Weapons

In case I decide to display typical Arado 234 weapons, here's what is available:



References



Modeling links

I found only very few built Dragon 1/72 Arado 234Bs on the internet - most are 234Cs or what-ifs.





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