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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Roden 1/72 Opel bus Strassenzepp Essen 1935

 (The completed model is here:)

Why a bus if this a -predominantly- airplane blog?
Well, it is very handsome, fits in the time period, and, after all, it has a tail fin!

Finally! Attractive, streamlined, detailed, Golden Age, 1/72 vehicles of civil use!!
Modeling Happiness. After building some excellent cars, fire engines and trucks from Jordan Highway Miniatures, I was longing for some good kits in 1/72 scale, because you can use the 1/87 Jordan models to enhance your photos of 1/72 airplane models if cleverly posed, but can’t display them together on your shelf because the difference in scale shows:
In that vein, I have built the cute 1/72 Tatra car with its nice fin:
and this Roden endeavor is in a similar line.
Whatever you are a car buff or an airplane modeler, this handsome kit could be of your interest. 
Where to begin...I am so glad Roden chose to launch this beautiful kit, and, if I compare the Opel bus to many of the airplane kits that are around and/or I have built, I would say it is nice and highly detailed. But if I compare it to the above-mentioned Jordan Highway Miniatures 1/87 vehicle kits, it starts to feel rather coarse and chunky. If you look at the accompanying images you will see some amount of flash, somewhat thick parts, a certain amount of welcome detail but not really that crisp, the presence of ejector towers, and furthermore, as you do some dry-fitting you soon discover that many parts will need adjustment. Well, nothing really insurmountable, but not Jordan Highway Miniatures quality. On the other hand, the subject is tremendously appealing, civil in nature, has nice decals and clearer (than Jordan’s) building instructions.
The transparencies are rendered as a thin printed clear film that you have to cut and glue from the inside. We’ll see how it works. As the building advances, the quality and clarity of the instructions will be evaluated too.
The kit comes in the typical, highly despised, universally hated by modelers cheapo and of course pre-crushed end-opening box. 
The firm NH Details makes an after-market photoetched detail set for this kit, but it is kind of complicated to purchase (abroad) and the price seem stiff compared with that of the kit.
Roden has also released another similar beauty, the Opel Blitz bus "Aero".
That second kit will have a separate dedicated posting, although a few images are included here for illustration purposes.

 Look at those eyelashes!:
 Smart colors:
 The two-page instructions and the windows' printed clear film:
The smallish decal sheet including some detail in silver:
General view of the sprues:
 A number of parts are shaded in the instructions and should not be used for this version:
 Some nice detail:

As said some roughness is evident:
 more flash:

 Ejector pins in some of the parts that will have to be dealt with (not a terrible inconvenience anyway):

At this point I'd like to compare the kit reviewed with its sorta twin, the Ludewig Aero (which I will also eventually build) and a Jordan kit, for purposes of illustration.

The kit has a lot of sprue commonality (sprues A, G (2), P and I (2)) with the other Opel Blitzbus Roden release, the Ludewig Aero:
 The remaining sprues differ, though, as it should be expected:
 The body parts of the Aero are more refined and better molded than its Strassenzepp Essen counterpart, who knows why:
 A closer look at the Aero sprue, again, much cleaner:
The other side:
 A comparison between the kit reviewed parts (to the right) and Jordan Highway Miniatures couple sprues.
Again, the coarseness of the Opel Strassenzepp body parts becomes evident, even if the Jordan parts are smaller (and of a smaller scale):
This criticism (well deserved) does not detract nevertheless from the overall appreciation of the fact that Roden chose to release these two beautiful Golden Age civil buses, but aims to understand why a "big player" like Roden, with more industrial and technical capacity (you think) can't match a small company like Jordan Highway Miniatures which products present an extremely refined, well detailed and well molded product for a price that is more than convenient. Mysteries of the kit industry.

Assembly commences with the very nice engine:
 Still missing a couple more dteail parts, it already looks good:
I lost a part that I had to reproduce looking at its twin from the other bus kit:
 The bigger parts are de-flashed and generally cleaned up and sanded, a few hours spent there. After that the fit on the main body parts did not improve much, though. Why the engine parts, tiny and fiddly, fit very well, whilst these other big, more comfortable to mold parts do not, is another Modeling Mystery for me:
 Unnecessary parts that belong to another version (the ugly military bus) are separated from the sprues and put apart to avoid confusion:
The differential, fuel tank and other parts that come in halves are glued:
 One side of the body is glued to the roof. As said, not the cleanest of the fits:
 Since you are provided with a beautiful engine, I don't see the point in then forever enclose it. So I decided I would separate the hood from the window frame to which it comes unified:
 The frame is now separated, allowing the hood to be displayed, if wanted, open, or making it removable:
The other side of the body is now glued to the roof. Have at hand the floor, so you can "square" the whole assembly. In all the online builds of this kit I have seen, modelers had to use putty to improve the joins. And so will I, as it seems unavoidable:
 The floor (NOT glued) is used as said to align the parts while they dry:
 The windshield lower frame (previously sawn-off from the hood) is glued to the other parts:
It seems that Roden messed-up with the chassis/floor fit. I thought this was the product of the chassis being a carry-over from the first military bus release, but it is not. Photos of in-progress models on the Net show that a 2mm gap exists between the chassis cross-members and the floor, where in fact they should meet (the cross-members are there to support the floor):
 These group of photos illustrates the point, showing the problem from different angles:

 You can clearly see the parts' "anchor" sections (wheel wells)  in contact, thus preventing as said the rest of the chassis to fit properly:
 Same at the front. This is not an issue of sanding or deepening the areas where the chassis go, it is plain wrong, therefore, styrene stick sections will have to be added to fill the gap (please see further bellow for another, more correct solution I found later). Again, as many times before during my modeling life, I ask myself: Do kit manufacturers build their own products? the answer in this case is clear:
The axles' assembly instructions have some mix-up. Where you read "21" is actually 2 "I" (i.e. sprue "I"). 4B is a total fantasy, the part is actually 3"I". Bellow, 7B, 11B, etc, are actually all "I" sprue too, not "B". Go figure:
 Here with the original sprue for verification. You may notice a light housing, a Jerrycan and a towing hook, all -although not greyed-out in the instructions- are not used in this version :
 The front axle has a provision for the wheels to turn right-left and roll. Although clever, the two minute parts (attached to the axle in the photo) should be very carefully glued to each other and not to the pins or axle, which is...rather hard and a fuss. I managed to do it, but the result is also a very weak mechanism. Your choice. Likewise, the rear axle allows the wheels to roll. I once had a model plane rolling off the building board to the floor. So I am not so sure about it in this case. We'll see. If you lose one of those minute parts, you are done. One of mine went -yet again!- to the floor, and I was really lucky to find it. Not so lucky with other small part that went to parts' heaven:
The front axle assembly as it should be before gluing the loose discs to the wheels (to allow for rotation and steering):
 The back springs have only one "good" face, the other has to be cleaned up:
 Comparison with a Jordan Highway Miniatures spring...
 ...that has TWO good faces:
 Still puzzled about the chassis/floor gap, I took a scientific approach and mounted the springs and differential to the chassis to be able to measure where the axle center is en relation to the body. It was a good thing to do, since the kit's arrangement (very confusedly displayed in the instructions, actually the differential has no "arrows" showing where it goes) situate the axle leveled with the body bottom, which is not correct according to photos, which show it further up (i.e. the wheel is more "hidden" in the wheel well). Now I can cut/sand/saw with confidence the protruding part of the chassis (at the wheel well location) to allow the rest of it to be in touch with the floor, as it should bloody well be. Roden's box back color plan shows the same mistake, while the sister kit (the Ludewing Aero) shows the correct position (again, further "in" or "up" the wheel well). I am almost sure that some clipping is due at the front of the chassis, since built models show the bus with a "prancing" attitude, where again actual photos show the wheel centers to be more inside the mudguards:
The necessary surgery to correct the gap involves a lot of steps. If you feel not inclined, you can always pack some styrene strips between the cross members and the floor. But if you chose the harder way, you may have to start by removing some floor stiffeners:

 Then the "bump" is removed. This creates a very weak point:

Then the "hump" in the cross member is also removed:
 And the same treatment for the front of the chassis and the front of the floor has to be trimmed back too to allow for the engine now:
 The engine transmission box has to be chopped at the top now in order to be squeezed-in:
 Transmission in place. The exhaust parts had a mold mismatch, and when trying to clean it I broke the very fragile parts in two places:
The parts re-glued. But you can save the silencer and made the plumbing with brass wire or fine solder:
A word regarding the differential and rear axle: as said, Roden's instructions in this regard are frankly awful. In this section you can see -as said before- that there are actually no indications for the rear axle itself (the front axle is clearly shown on top of the springs):
 In this other view, the axle is shown clearly (from this angle) passing ABOVE the springs:
 And so I mounted them, thinking that the modification of the original chassis required it, even knowing that all Opel Blitz buses had it on the other side (again looking at this photos on top of the springs). I really, really hope that Roden had it right, otherwise this is a really sad mistake on their part:
 More parts are glued on the floor before airbrushing. The shift stick and the hand brake are not numbered in the instructions diagram, but they are in the parts' map at the beginning of them. Have no idea what part 21 A may be, it is in the sprue (not shaded) but not in the instructions:
Where we are so far:
 The back of the body (trunk) is glued in place, so is the exhaust/silencer piping. Roden shows on the instructions that this connects on one side to the engine exhaust and on the other end to the chassis. The notch for the pipe end is in the wrong side of the chassis, so you will have to carve another notch on the correct side. Not shown in the instructions are two little square dots on the chassis that indicate were both ends of the silencer should be glued, this is very useful to figure out the piping route (that's may be why Roden omitted to show this in the diagram :-) :
Some reinforcement strips are added just in case, although they are not really needed:
  The strip at the front is to fill a slight difference in depth:
 The system devised by Roden to allow for steering and turning does work if you are careful with the glue and adjust with care the parts, although again a warning regarding its delicacy and fragility should be stated:
Mr. Surfacer is applied to the joins:
 Light housings are made (the kit only provides a round domed piece that won't fit as it should):
 The housings are glued in place:
 MV lenses as headlamps are selected and set apart:
 Some parts are prepared for airbrushing:
The body joins filled and sanded:
 A neutral grey color is applied to the interior, floor and seat backs:
Whilst black is airbrushed on engine, chassis and wheels:
Some detail painting begins:
 As you can see, the Roden kit looks very nice:

Engine glued in place:
The seats are now in place. One is a spare. Notice the particular seating arrangement, called "herringbone". If this sounds fishy to you, it also does to me, since I think it is here where the airlines got inspired to pack us like sardines:
One more color is airbrushed. This in turn once dry will be masked to apply the other two:

 Home made decals for the dashboard. The kit does not include them in the decal sheet, although it would have been easy:
 The somewhat difficult, slow and fuzzy process of masking begins:
 The metal color is applied, also on the hood -in a chrome hue variation-:
 More masking and now the leather covering of the luggage top compartment is airbrushed:
 The bodies will be reading after some more drying for the tricky window application with Roden's system of choice of printed acetate that you have to cut and glue from inside:
Small parts are painted:
 The MV lenses are glued in position replacing both kit's plastic headlights. The hood had been previously masked with Bob Dively masking fluid (which was fortunately recommended by Lars Opland of Kehhe-Kha Art Products) -after the burgundy color was airbrushed- and then Alclad chrome was applied:
 And now for the dreaded moment: trying out Roden's approach to the transparencies, in the form of a thin printed plastic sheet.
First of all: scan or photocopy the clear printed patterns. Then if you mess up you can cut new ones from another clear sheet (or the same one, using the leftovers if big enough).
I starting by cutting and gluing the back window, which had to be rolled a bit on a wood dowel to adopt the necessary curvature. Some plastics "whiten" when stressed, but fortunately not this one. Then I tried to position (dry-fit, fortunately) the side windows. In spite of "curling" the upper small windows which are part of the whole, they won't really fit properly, so I cut them out and without  too much problem (and very carefully) glued the strip of side windows, leaving the two small upper ones for later. I used Testor's clear parts cement and window maker. The small windows proved trickier, but were laid in place after a few trials each, having each time to remove them, clean up the glue on the body, clean the clear plastic, etc. I rolled them on toothpicks to give them some curvature to follow the body. The results are convincing, the clarity is of course superior to injected plastic and perhaps most vacs, but it ain't easy, pals. The printed patterns are accurate enough, but all of mine had to be trimmed down -just a tad- for a good fit. This is something that you should do with care and patience. And not in a single session (or you will push back in -or get loose- the ones that were already done while trying to add the other ones:
The glazing of both models is accomplished, again, not without some degree of struggle and re-doing. It consumed several long hours:
 Even if it does not seem like, still lots of things to do and add (license plates, decals, windshield framing, "nav" lights, mirrors, etc):