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Tom Rodgers
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Me 163B V41…

August 8, 2020 · in Aviation · · 41 · 1.7K

The Red Baron meets the Twilight Zone...Not really the Twilight Zone, but sort of…

I had noticed for a while that my very close-in depth perception had been bothering me. Even with my Opti-Visor, I had been having trouble working on fine details. Long story…short, I decided to have cataract surgery to fix the problem. While recovering, I still wanted to work on models but knew I had to keep things simple. So, I picked this little kit without any fiddly bits to mess with…that is until couldn't control myself and I scratch built a few extra needed details.

This is the old scale Me-163 kit. I used the kit markings to replicate the Me 163B V41, PK+QL. Major Wolfgang Späte, commander of E.K.16, flew this aircraft on the first operational test flight against U.S. bombers on Saturday, May 13, 1944. Before that flight, his ground crew had repainted the aircraft bright red to replicate Baron Manfred von Richthofen's famous red triplane. Späte wasn't happy with the paint job because he felt it might attract unwanted allied fighter attention, but he let it stand when he saw how much it boosted the morale with his troops. The mission that day was a success in that Späte was able to intercept two P-47's, although he scored no kills. Just as he was closing at high speed and was getting ready to fire, the little rocket plane hit compressibility…at the time a little understood aerodynamic phenomenon…and went momentarily out of control. By the time Späte recovered control, his target was nowhere to be found.
As stated, this is a very simple kit and it went together easily with no real problems. Like I said, my plan was to “keep it simple' and just build it out of the box…but I couldn't help myself. I scratch built the rocket nozzle and fuel vent tube to fill the hole in the tail and used Albion Alloys tubing to fashion MG 151/20 cannon barrels and the pitot tube. I used Vallejo Air paints throughout with RLM 23 as the primary color. I should have used gray for pre-shading instead of black. It took over eight thin coats of red to get a passable look…and at that, the shading was still a bit harsh. Like I said, I used the kit decals. Because the decals were so old, I didn't want to take any chances with them being brittle and falling apart so I gave them a coat of microscale decal film as a precaution. They were still very thin and went on well. A thin black oil pin wash was added to show detail. Lastly, the model was finished with a coat of Vallejo Satin Varnish.

I hope you like my little red rocket plane. OBTW, my eyes are coming along nicely. I can see MUCH better and I wish I had done this sooner. Now on to more FIDDLY BITS…

Reader reactions:
6  Awesome

9 additional images. Click to enlarge.

41 responses

  1. Hi Tom. This is a wonderful build. The red Komet is a favourite, as it was one of my first "serious" modelling attempts, using the 1/72 Heller kit back then. Together with the supplied tractor and platform, it looked seriously busy and diorama style.
    The Komet was such an extraordinary machine in many respects.
    Thanks for the info about the red colour and first mission details.
    Also, wishing you good eye recovery and even greater modelling successes!

  2. Wish you a good recovery, Tom.
    For this Red Devil, you made a very good job out of it.
    Paint job and weathering is great.

  3. Great red rocket. It should really stand out in the display case. I hope your eyes recover soon. Eye problems are a real pain in the opposite end of ones anatomy. I kept missing with the glue brush by 3-5 mm and was diagnosed with a dud macular in one eye which has stuffed my short distance depth perception. I am learning to compensate.

  4. Tom. Simple build, yes, but "looks much bigger" results! Nice job.
    I have two of these Testor's kits on my shelf waiting to be built. I hope mine look as nice as this one.
    Good luck with your recovery.

  5. Well done Tom, always wondered why this one was painted red. Unusual and dangerous A/C which I believe killed more pilots than actual allied A/C shot down. Wish you speedy recover on the eye surgery, and as Snoopy often stated "Curse you Red Baron".

    • I was going to paint it the "standard Luftwaffe" camo because the red seemed boring when I opened the kit. While doing my research in my old "Aircraft in Profile" books I saw that the red scheme was the author's main profile and the article had the whole story behind the paint job. I was sold. Word was that it had a bad habit of blowing up on landing if there was any fuel left in the tanks...not good. OBTW, my eyes are really doing good. The while surgery thing seems anti-climatic now.

  6. That looks super cool! This plane is an odd one to me. I'm not sure why, but the overall design reminds me of a dorito. But the history of this specific model is pretty awesome. If it boosted morale, I would let my men paint my plane however they saw fit.

  7. Very attractive 163. Good luck on your recovery.

  8. I had both of my eyes done 17 years ago and everything turned out ok. I got 3 new pair of glasses, one for regular viewing and the other two for model building.

    You have a nice model, but what the heck did you do to the canopy as its' a total mess?
    Other's must have bad eye sight as none of them mention your canopy screw-up.

    This leaves the new modeler with the idea that he can make a mess of his/her model and still get nice reviews.

    I'm sorry, but we are leaving the wrong message!

    Rodney J. Williams
    Retired Master Modeler
    35 year's as a professional scratch builder.
    Airplanes, Armor, Auto's, Ship's & Submarines.

    • Um, Rodney Williams, the guy with the $10,000 dollar Corsair crashed in the snow diorama? I kept quiet about that one, you can keep quiet about a little glue smear when the guy is recovering from eye surgery. This is not Hyperscale, here on the iMod folks are much more civilized and if they feel like giving someone a "nice review" then what's the problem?
      Get over yourself, Mr. Master Modeler.

    • Thanks for the reminder of how everyone breathed a big sigh of relief when you moved out of the Bay Area, Rodney. If you're going to criticize something here, present the solution, so the guy can apply it to the next project. There's also a private message system here. My experience is everyone I have sent a private message to was happy to find out how to solve the problem for the next time. And please cut those "prices" for your wonderful models. I have done models on commission, and you have to be living on what the Germans call "cloud cuckoo land" to expect anyone is going to cross your palm with those sums.

      • The price I wrote on each model was for my insurance company back in 2010(?) and it did nor represent what I though the model was worth and/or what I could sell it for.

        I go overboard sometime's about my accomplishments and I guess I should keep that to myself, so I'll make a "BIG APOLOGY" to everyone on this one. Then change some things on telling others how to fix something on their model.

        I screwed up royal! I'll do better next time by just looking at the models.

  9. Thanks for your kind words, Bill Koppos. As to your comments Rodney J. Williams, I will be polite in my reply to you. I know that the canopy is a mess. You should have seen it BEFORE I cleaned it up. There were “wiggles” and distortions throughout the whole piece of plastic. I tried to smooth it out as much as I could. I sanded and buffed all the way from 3000 to 12000 grit sandpaper and polishing cloths. What you see is as good as it got. Maybe I could have used a vacform canopy...but I didn’t have one. As stated before, I was building this little rocket plane for FUN while going through my eye surgery and I’m sorry it doesn’t meet with your approval. But then again I didn’t build it to get YOUR approval. I build for the joy of the research and the work. If I ever get to to point where I am doing it for money, I would hope someone would shoot me. And yes, I have models that are on display elsewhere besides my display cabinet...but I built them for special people as GIFTS. I’ve got pretty thick skin...after all I flew fighters for twenty years and airliners for your comments don’t really bother me. Maybe you are just having a bad day or too much caffeine. That said, I don’t build to get “good reviews” and your comments are what discourage newcomers and drive them away from this hobby. You are REALLY giving the IPMS “Rivet Counters” a bad name. Cheers.

  10. Great 163 Tom, don't bother the cockpit canopy, looks very good IMHO after the surgery!

  11. There is something to say about every model I ever made. I learned most from mishaps and while trying not to make the same mistake twice in modeling.

    No model is ever perfect but there lies no beauty whatsoever in a big stash owned by a modeler too afraid to build because of the risk of making errors when building... Catch 22 IMHO.

    • Like you said, it is a process and my goal is to learn, progress, and not make the same mistake twice, haha. And no matter how hard you try, at some point you reach the place where it may not be perfect, but it is good enough.

    • The only thing anyone ever learns from success is that it's nice and they like it. Nobody ever learns how to be better other than by making a mistake and discovering how to solve it.

  12. I to be Frank was not familiar with Mr. Roger's work, but took a look at his blog and Damn, this guy can build just fine. He made an ommision perhaps on this one, but he does have a 'splanation, (not that he needs one).

  13. I love this build! Love that scheme! I had this kit for awhile, I wish that I kept it. i think that it came with that Japanese manned suicide bomb . All I knows is that the warranty is running out on some of my bodily systems and I'm just happy that I can get a kit done to my liking.@trod348.

  14. Tom, Awesome job on the 163 (love the chosen red color). I'm sure it was an incredible sigh of relief anytime a Luftwaffe pilot safely landed a 163. Was it known by the nickname "Komet"? Anyway, kudos to your great build on the 163. Anyway, whenever I finish a model, I ALWAYS find a mistake or something that I wish I'd done differently, but once it's finished, "it is was it is". As for the "Retired Master Modeler Rodney", who 'T-F' is he to say "what's good and what's not"? I have a worsening cataract in my right eye (from the explosion of my M-2 BFV "Delta Two-Six" in Iraq). I didn't even notice any "glue issue" on your 163 as I wasn't laser-focused on 1 micro-portion and instead admired the entire good job you did on the 163. "Retired Master Modeler Rodney", needs to seriously get over himself. His comments about other's hard work is as weak as his fragile ego must also be. Keep up the good work Tom.

    • Thanks. Yup, it was called the “Komet” and had a very bad habit of exploding on landing if all of the rocket fuel wasn’t gone…one bounce and BOOM! I try my best to to do good work, but to quote one of Tom Clancey’s characters, “Sometimes perfect is a pain in the a* those times, close is good enough”. Anyway this was just meant to be a fun exercise while my eyes healed. Stay safe.

    • Another thank you...I'll get it together when I make new comments.
      When I was posting stories on "Large Scale Planes" long ago, I tried to relate to the viewer how I was making certain things, which was also another learning experience for me.

      Again...sorry about the negative comment.

      • No blood, no foul, Rodney. We all try our best and try to learn from our mistakes. I've learned several neat tricks from you posts. Stay safe during all this stuff.

  15. I love this paint scheme, Tom (@trod348). I have always wanted to do this paint scheme, but single color schemes like this (or all-white, or all-black), can be deceptively difficult. You have done credit to this really cool, all-red plane.

    • Like I said, I should have used a medium or dark gray for the pre-shading. The black was way to dark for the red paint and even with eight coats of red, it was still too stark. I adjusted the lighting to try to get my photos to show the issue...not hide it...but It doesn't really show too bad in the photos. Lesson learned...adjust the color of the pre-shading to take into account the final base color.

  16. 🙂 ... Greetings ... 🙂 :
    Wishing you a speedy recovery and a whole lot of health.
    That Comet build looks fine as is Tom. As for me, the use of the black for the panel shading seems ok. A medium or dark gray will make the shading look kind of off place and kind of cartoony ( for lack of better word ). But then again, that is just my personal opinion. Nice weathering, very nice work over all.

  17. Brings new meaning to my mental framework for The Red Baron! Nicely done!

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