The Grunau Baby was designed by Alexander Schneider in 1931 and went on to become one of the most famous gliders in history - and also the most numerous. Although the exact figure will probably never be known, it's estimated that at least 6,000 were built in Germany and several other countries. The Grunau Baby achieved early prominence as the backbone of the pre-war gliding movement in Nazi Germany and was the aircraft in which countless thousands of future Luftwaffe pilots got their first taste of flying.
The Baby IIb served throughout WW2, although the innocent thrill of pre-war days was long gone and the increasing danger of marauding Allied fighters in 1944/45 must have made glider flying a daunting experience. With the collapse of Germany, many Babys found their way into Allied hands and were adopted by gliding clubs. In 1951a third and final version was produced, proving immensely popular throughout the 1950s. Many Grunau Babys were built from kits and the glider can still be seen today, after over 70 years of faithful service.
I'd never had the chance to see an Ardpol resin kit, but I pounced at the opportunity to add this important aircraft to my collection and so fill a rather glaring gap in the ranks of my Luftwaffe kits. The kit arrives in a small top-opening box, which is very nicely printed with an eye-catching profile of the aircraft on the top. Despite the small size of the box, the parts are still dwarfed by it - and I must admit wondering for a moment whether this was really a 1/48 kit at all! Closer inspection shows looks are deceptive - it really is quarter scale and in fact has a surprise up its sleeve, of which more later...
Back to the kit. The parts are very neatly cast in white resin - something I've never come across before. The bulk of the smaller parts are in a zip-lock bag, while the wings are taped to a card backing to keep them straight. The fuselage is cast as separate hollow halves like a conventional plastic kit. It has very small pour stubs to deal with and, amazingly, even has a pair of locating pins - which, even more amazingly, line-up perfectly! The casting quality is very good, with just a couple of very small bubbles evident on my kit and very little flash. The small parts are extremely delicate and include some of the smallest and finest resin parts I've seen. The small parts are attached to thin casting plinths which are perforated, partly to make identifying the parts easier and partly to make their removal less tiresome than usual.
For me, the wings are the high point of the kit and they're really beautiful! They are cast perfectly straight with knife-sharp trailing edges and subtle fabric finish. The distinctive airfoil and the washout towards the tips are superbly done and the roots come with a pair of locating pins which match the fuselage precisely. Now for the Grunau Baby's surprise. Did I say it was tiny? Well, attach the graceful wings to the diminutive fuselage and suddenly everything's transformed - the wingspan is almost the same as a Ju 87 and not far short of a P-38! The original Grunau Baby won soaring championships in the 1930s, and looking at these slender elegant wings it's easy to see why!
Construction is very straightforward - the kit consists of just 20 resin parts, plus a sheet of clear plastic for the windshield which is illustrated in the instructions and on the boxtop. It looks a very straightforward shape, so it'll be easy to make.
The cockpit consists of a floor/seat-base and bulkhead, plus a joystick, instrument panel and a lever (presumably to release the tow-rope). There's no rudder-bar, but again that's easy to add - along with some simple harness. A couple of the exterior parts are a little ambitious for resin - I'll probably use the struts as templates for plastic replacements rather than bother cleaning them up.
Instructions and decals
The assembly instructions aren't bad - the illustrations are quite clear, but the diagrams are in a rather haphazard order. There's no parts list to help, but with so few parts you can't go too far wrong. The instructions include a neat set of 1/48 scale bottom and profile views, plus nicely drawn painting guides for 3 aircraft:
1. D-4-674, finished in varnished plywood and clear-doped linen. The white rudder carries the number 8 and pre-war Swastika in a white circle on a red band.
2. D-4-1766, painted in the standard Luftwaffe finish for sailplanes of RLM 05 Elfenbein, again with a Swastika on a tail band.
3. SP-485 - a postwar Polish aircraft, painted RLM 02 on the topsides and RLM 05 on the undersides.
The decal sheet is very nicely printed, with thin glossy designs. Registration is only really an issue with the Swastikas, which are printed as "tails" superimposed on the red and white band, with a separate central "cross" to complete the symbols. On my kit, the printing here is spot-on - although many modellers may still prefer to paint the tail band and apply a substitute Swastika in the normal way.
The instructions don't mention it, but it's clear from the painting diagrams that it's important to apply the wing registration decals before attaching the struts on the Polish aircraft.
Ardpol's Grunau Baby IIb is a delightful little kit of an aircraft whose place in history belies its harmless nature. No collection of Luftwaffe aircraft is really complete without the trainers and this simple resin kit would be an ideal starter for anyone looking for the next step up from conventional plastic kits - alternatively, experienced modellers will find it a satisfying "weekend build". Ardpol's kits are available in the UK from Aeroclub, but I obtained my Grunau Baby as part of an exchange with Vodnik (Pawel Krupowicz), who purchased it directly from Ardpol.
All in all highly recommended as real change from my usual diet of warplanes.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on Aeroscale
Sailplanes and gliders in general are sadly often overlooked in kit form, but they were a vital element in all the training of pilots of almost every WW2 air force, none more so than the Luftwaffe. Though they are a subject never likely to figure in the ranges of the major injected-kit manufacturers, Polish resin-kit manufacturer has come to the rescue with a lovely kit of perhaps the archetypal training glider - the Grunau Baby.
About Rowan Baylis (Merlin) FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM
I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...