Italeri 1/72 Me 323D-1 Gigant Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||July 2008||Manufacturer||Italeri|
|Subject||Me 323D-1 Gigant||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||0104||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Neat kit of giant German aircraft||Cons||No location holes in wings for mounting the 6 engines. No location holes in fuselage for wheeled undercarriage|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$57.00|
Soon after the huge Me321 German gliders (Italeri kit no 115) were constructed in 1941, it became clear that the main problems existed in the fact that no adequate towing planes were available to tow the fully loaded glider. While the 5-engined Heinkel He111Z “Zwilling” (“Twin”) – (Italeri kit no. 119) was improvised, it was the only aircraft that could tow the Me321 without difficulties. The thought came up to change this glider into a propeller-driven version.
The aircraft was eventually equipped with 6 engines, after initial tests with only 4 units proved to be insufficient. In order to avoid production capacity problems for the output of other German aircraft, French engines of the Gnome-Rhone type were used. This same engine was used for the French Bloch 174 aircraft.
Mounting these engines made reinforcement of the wing structure necessary. A further change was the application of a multiple wheeled landing gear (vs. the skids used on the earlier Me321 glider), improvement of the rear wheel assembly and the fitting of two small fully enclosed cockpits in the wings for the flight mechanics.
Furthermore, two rear machine guns were mounted and the number of windows was reduced. Aside from solving the take-off problems, the Me323 confirmed the advantages and disadvantages of it’s cousin Me321: large cargo space and simple construction versus the necessity of large and especially equipped landing strips, as well as limited maneuverability.
Disadvantages, together with slow speed made the Me323 easy pray for Allied fighter planes, if the aircraft did not have some top cover. Sometimes, attempts were made to eliminate this problem by mounting machine guns through side windows. In later planes, additional wing and tail guns were mounted.
The first Me323 ready for use were supplied at the end of 1942. In 1943, the aircraft was used for supply missions at the Tunis Bridgehead at high losses. The aircraft was successfully used between 1943 and 1944 on the Baltic and southern sector of the Eastern Front. A single squadron (the 1/TG5) made more than 2,000 sorties in one month.
Since large troop movements became less and less necessary for the Germans, the production of the aircraft was suspended after the 198th unit. The few remaining aircraft were destroyed on the ground by the advancing Allied troops.
Italeri is a model company based in Italy. Periodically, it is imported and sold under the Testor label. This kit is in the straight Italeri box.
The kit comes in a sturdy tray and lid type box. The boxart shows a Me323D-1 flying over a coast-line somewhere. It is in a camouflage scheme of dark green upper surfaces with blotches of sand yellow. The underside is pale blue with blotches of sand yellow also. The bottom of the wings at the wingtips is yellow and there is a yellow fuselage band just in front of the tail. The fuselage code is RW + 1J. The RW and 1 are black and the J is a stylized shape and shown in yellow. There is a white code on the tail of “X 1” (the X being twice the size of the 1) with the stylized shaped letter “J” below that (in white this time). On the side of the nose of the aircraft is the nickname “Mucke” in white. The propeller spinners have white tips. This scheme is offered on the decal sheet in the kit.
A side panel has 4 walk-around type color photos of the model made up, but it is the other scheme provided on the decal sheet. This one is dark green and black green splinter pattern on upper surfaces and light blue below. It carries the fuselage code of C8 +FM and has yellow wingtips underneath and a yellow fuselage band also. The propeller spinners have been completely painted white. It is mounting the 8 take-off rockets and their recovery parachutes on their fronts are also white.
The other side panel has color illustrations of two other kits in the Italeri line: a German Gotha Go242/244 glider (kit no. 111) and the Heinkel He111Z “Zwilling” (kit no. 119). Next to these is a one paragraph history of the Me323 in 3 languages (including English) marked with the full color illustrations of the flags of the countries that speak those languages.
Inside the box is a single sealed cello bag that contains 5 dark gray trees of parts, 2 clear trees, the decal and the instructions.
The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 8 pages of 12 ¾” x 6 ¾” format.
Page 1 begins with a black and white photo of the model made up in the markings of the boxart. This is followed by the history of the Me323D-1 in 3 languages, including English.
Page 2 begins with “Attention – useful advice” in 4 languages, including English. This is followed by parts tree illustrations of two of the parts trees.
Page 3 shows the illustrations of the rest of the parts trees.
Page 4 through 6 gives a total of 10 assembly steps.
Page 7 has illustrations for the painting and marking schemes for 2 aircraft. These have already been described above. Unfortunately, we are not told what units these aircraft were with. At the bottom of this page is a head on illustration, with measurements as to where to place the 6 engines on the wings. This is all in millimeters, so you are going to need a ruler with that scale on it. The wings have no holes or location marks on them for where to place the engines, so this drawing will be invaluable when you get to those assemblies. The same holds true – no location holes or marks on the underside of the wings for the take off rockets. This same drawing shows them, head on, but gives no measurements…so you will have to eyeball it. Italeri should have made some location holes in the wings and pins on the engines to ease these mountings.
Like Italeri’s kit of the Me321, the assembly steps are not all that clear where things wind up in the exploded drawings. So, care must be taken in that respect. Dry fitting is a must. This holds true for the wheeled landing gear units. Again, no location holes.
Page 8 begins with decaling instructions in the four languages, followed by 3 black and white wartime photos of the Me323 being loaded and unloaded. The bottom of the page has the history of the Me323 again in (I believe) French.
This kit share common trees with Italeri’s Me321 glider version kit (reviewed elsewhere here). Like the 321 kit, the trees are labeled with geometric symbols – rather than the alphabetic labels we usually see in kits.
The first large dark gray parts tree is the same as the one in the 321 kit. It has no geometric symbol assigned to it, but the parts cannot be miss-identified. It holds: the upper and lower halves of the outer wing sections and the flaps, the loading ramps, a cabin floor piece and the take-off rockets (27 parts)
The second large dark gray parts tree also has no geometric symbol assigned to it. It holds the inner wing upper and lower halves and flaps (10 parts) It too is common to Italeri’s Me321 kit.
The third large dark gray parts tree is labeled with an outlined square on the parts tree illustrations. It is common with the Me321 kit. It holds: another cabin floor section, wing braces, wing flap balances and hinges, horizontal tail parts etc. (88 parts)
The third large dark gray parts tree is labeled with a outlined circle. It is NEW to this kit. It holds: the propellers, engine cylinders, cowlings, main wheels and their struts etc. (128 parts)
The fourth large dark gray parts tree is labeled with an outlined triangle. The center of it is common to the Me321 kit, but it now sports new fuselage halves with different windows arrangements. It holds: clam-shell nose doors and their framing, interior cabin frames, the pilot and co-pilot figures, the cockpit floor and side panels etc. Italeri removed the glider version fuselage halves from this tree and put 2 new fuselage halves in the kit loose. (54 parts).
The first of the small clear parts trees has no geometric symbol assigned to it. It holds the cockpit windows. It is common with the same tree in the Me321 kit.. (5 parts)
The second of the small clear parts trees has no geometric symbol assigned to it either. It is different than the cabin windows in the 321 kit. It holds all the fuselage cabin windows. (32 parts)
In addition to the 2 schemes, already described above, the decal sheet also has a dashboard instrument on it.
I recommend this kit only to those modelers that have a few other aircraft kits under their belts, as it is complex, the instructions are sometimes not all that clear and it has tons of parts (340 of them). It is definitely not a weekend project and will be a real shelf-eater after it is built.