Often credited as the most famous World War I warplane, the Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker became renowned as the aircraft of German fighter ace Freiherr Manfred von Richthofen, in which he made his last twenty kills. The triplane was introduced in 1917 in response to the Allied Sopwith triplanes which were proving superior to the German fighters; triplanes have increased lift and a narrower wingspan, making them more manouevrable than biplanes, but were slower in level flight. The Dr.I itself was dogged with problems, including directional instability and wing failures, and with only 320 ever built (compared to over 5000 Sopwith Camels) its fame is perhaps a little surprising.
Review: 10024 Red Baron
Lego released their version of the Dreidecker in 2002, a year after the 3451 Sopwith Camel, which is perhaps its natural enemy. Although named 'Red Baron', it is worth noting that 'Red Baron' is the nickname of 'Baron' (a rough translation of Freiherr) von Richthofen, who used to paint his aircraft red, rather than the aircraft itself.
Foreword All through this review, I will make reference to the 3451 Sopwith Camel. It would probably be better to read that review first:
Official pic courtesy of Peeron
Name: Red Baron
Price: Originally £39.99 | US $50 Now Used $90 | MISB $225
Links Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron
Swooping through the fluffy clouds, the Red Baron plane dives to attack its enemies. Other than the name, number, and set itself, the box art is identical to that of the Camel; there is however a small 'choking hazard' warning - unusual in the UK - which makes me wonder whether this particular example was intended for the US. Considering I bought it from Shop@Home at the same time as the Camel, which doesn't feature the choking warning, this is a little odd.
Note the piece count - nearly 100 pieces more than the Camel, for the same price - and the set number 10024. I presume the Camel (3451) preceded the introduction of 10000 'exclusive' sets, which also appeared in 2001.
Some close-up shots of the set's various features grace the back. It's an improvement over the Camel here, but I still get the feeling Lego weren't going to go to town on this box as most purchases would have been online and by AFOLs of TFOLs.
The cover matches the box art. The instructions are easy to follow, with piece call-outs but no inventory, adverts or Win Gagne Gewinne. The final step is on the back page. Neither are we patronised with warnings not to sort the pieces on the back lawn.
The right-hand page steps are pictured against an artified photograph of the Dr.I in silhouette, with a backgound that might be meant to be sepia but looks kinda pinkish.
The left-hand page features a similar picture of a landed plane:
Sadly, we are not given the plane's performance specifications like we were in the Camel's instructions, so I have done a bit of research and posted the same information here:
Wing Area: 201 sq ft
Empty weight: 895 lb
Max weight: 1292 lb
Engine Power: 110 hp
Maximum speed: 115 mph at sea level
Service ceiling: 20000 ft
Endurance: 1 hr 30 mins
The Sticker Sheet
This decal sheet is mostly black and white; the smaller black and white Luftstreitkräfte crosses are intended to go over white areas on the fuselage and tail; for the latter this requires placing over multiple pieces. The larger crosses are placed onto tiled areas on the upper wings; they are the right size to match with white pieces at the front and rear. You might just be able to make out in the picture above (click for a high-res picture) that the larger crosses are split to allow placing over the step in the upper wing.
There's a whole heap of red plates in this set, although there aren't so many unique pieces. The six red 'Tiles 6 x 16 with Studs on 3 Edges' are unique to this set in this colour; the many red and brown wishbone arms appear in one other set each.
The smaller pieces aren't too exciting:
There are a large number of technic pins, but their use isn't too taxing on the thumbs. Note the four printed tiles (one is spare) - we'll see their use later.
We start with the engine block. The build process is rather similar to that of the Camel, at least initially. Half-pins and ball joints are placed strategically into Technic beams; these will secure the undercarriage. The block is built up with bricks ...
... and the engine core is added via a Technic axle. Some 2x4x2 grey blocks with side studs hint at some SNOT technique to come.
The engine core is identical to that of the Camel:
Megaphones are placed in a sandwich of brown belt wheels; secured at the bottom with stud pins.
Now, the undercarriage is attached, in a manner identical to the Camel's. This is the fiddliest part of the build on this set: it's a squeeze to place the steering arms onto the ball joints at either end.
It is, however, a very effective technique, and surprisingly rigid with the cross-beams. I also like the use of steering wheels with radar dishes to recreate the solid wheels on these early aircraft. You can see also the series of three mini-radar dishes that represent the cylinders of the rotary engine. True to life, the whole engine spins on the crankshaft.
If you look closely at the right-hand picture above, you'll notice the axles at the base of the undercarriage protrude from the rear half-bushes. This is to allow the attachment of a 'table' onto the undercarriage:
The engine cowling is wider than that of the Camel, enclosed at the top but not the bottom. This is attached, SNOT, to grey stud-pins on the engine block; the two grey stud-pins on top of the cowling connect with a 4x4 mostly-tile plate at the top:
Some SNOT wedges bulk out the sides of the engine, and the propeller is added, and the engine section is complete.
Base & Tail
Next we build the base of the aircraft. This is mostly brick-on-brick. The blue cylinders you see will be hidden in the final model; note the Technic angle at the rear, the use of which we'll see in due course.
At the rear is a cone piece attached via an axle to a 1x2 axle-hole brick. I'm not quite sure why it's there; perhaps to hold the fuselage sides apart, though I'm not sure it's entirely necessary.
You can also see the seat base, made from window panes on jumper plates, and the 1x8 plates with side ridge that will slide into the engine block.
The fuselage sides are walls of brick and plate angled with hinge bricks. Two strings with stud ends will attach to the rear elevators, and represent control cables.
At the rear, there is a 2x2 studded area, and a 1x2 Technic brick for attaching the tailplane ...
... which are built thus:
You can see some hinges there. We'll revisit them later. The tail fin is attached solely via the black hinge pin into the 1x2 Technic brick mentioned above. It's not nearly as flimsy as you might think.
Now the plane starts to take shape. The tail and base are joined, and the lowest wing completed. The last is embellished with ridges consisting of 1x6 tiles and 1x4 plates; the plates aren't connected underneath, sitting only on the tiled area of one of the large 'mostly tile' plates.
If you compare this to a similar stage on the Camel build, you might agree with me that the Baron looks a little stubby and toyish at this juncture. It's got a wider body, and a shorter wingspan. Things will improve.
Cockpit & Wings
Now follows my favourite part of the build. The cockpit front is a vey well-designed subsection, with macaroni pieces providing a nice curve, and rounded parts adding a smooth contour to the front of the fuselage.
These pieces are an imaginative way of recreating the gun barrels. The Technic beams at the sides will secure the centre wings ...
... which, like the bottom and top wings, are nicely shaped and have the brick and plate ridges at regular intervals:
Note the 1x2 holes toward the outboard edge of the wings. These will accommodate the brown struts (right-hand picture) that interconnect the wings. This is a lovely use of wishbone pieces; the brown is a great surrogate for wood. I could imagine these might be useful in shipbuilding or steampunk MOCs. It's a bit of a struggle to thread them through!
You can see why they're called wishbone pieces in this picture of the underside of the top wing:
The rearward panels are hinged; these, true to the real plane, are the ailerons, which are only present on the top wing.
Putting the sections together
It's all done bar the shouting. The wings are attached to the fuselage; the top wing is only connected via the wishbone pieces, but it's very strong.
We just have to slide on the engine block. The grey 1x8 plates with ridges ...
... slide into the grey grooved bricks visible here.
If you've read the Camel review, you may be struck by the similarity in the build order and details, even down to the sliding mechanism for the engine blocks. It's as if the designer was so happy with his blueprint for the Camel, he thought he'd apply it again. I'm sure, if allowed to continue, we'd have a whole squadron of propeller fighters!
The Complete Set
Here's the complete beauty in all her scarletty goodness:
She's more curvaceous than sleek, and quite tall with that third wing.
From this front view, you can see how the wings differ in length: shortest at the bottom, widest at the top, true to the real thing. As I mentioned above, the top wing is secured only with the four pylons of wishbone pieces.
I'm not so sure about those 'eyes' at the front; they look a little cartoony, but they are indeed authentic - at least on this replica.
From the side, her chunkiness is very obvious - the taper towards the rear is far more pronounced than on the sleeker Camel.
Also from the side, you can see the footplate which is a little 'stuck on', being attached only with one of these, and the minifig shovel that the tail drags on.
She looks particularly imposing from this rear-oblique view:
The wings look huge! Overall, I'd say this plane is built on a slightly larger scale than Camel; you can see on the reference picture below how the real thing is actually quite slight and delicate:
Ok, this is a replica: unfortunately, no original Dr.Is survive.
The decals, however, are accurate, as you can see in this photoshopped version:
Only the tail stickers here are STAMPs (STickers Across Multiple Pieces), but I still couldn't bring myself to apply them.
From beneath, the grey hinges that hold the rear elevators are apparent. The underside is a little flat and uninteresting.
I'm not sure what the little brown minifig spears are doing there, and I couldn't find a reference picture, but given the attention to detail in this set, I'm sure they're not put there wantonly.
The enormity of the upper wing, and the huge expanse of red (which I agree is crying out for the decals to applied!) dominates this view from above ...
... but I'd like to draw your attention to the neat lines of the fuselage and tail, and the smooth curves of the wing edges.
Unlike the Camel, the Baron is packed with little working features. The ailerons - located on the upper wing only, true to the real thing - both tilt on hinges beneath.
A nice design feature is that the little black pronged sticks also move with the ailerons. Sadly, they only tilt downwards.
Likewise, the rear elevators tilt, but only downwards. Doing so slackens the control cables (the black strings) in the reverse of what you'd expect. The black prongs here are for decoration only.
The whole tailfin moves from side to side, to act as a rudder. Overall, these features are a lovely touch.
As I've mentioned, the whole tail rests on a single brown minifig spade:
I'm a little worried about this. Though the feature is correct - taildraggers in those days didn't have a tailwheel - there is a lot of weight resting on the spade, and mine has already bent somewhat. If the model is displayed for a time, I'd recommend removing the spade: the clearance behind is small, and it doesn't much change the angle the plane rests at.
The Baron's cockpit is beautifully laid out:
The control stick and seat have the same design as the Camel's; however, the shape of the cockpit opening is nicer; the inside is roomier; and if you look closely you can see two dark grey slopes either side of the yellow brick that represent rudder pedels.
There are also a number of gauges:
I'm amused to see that you apparently need a Citroen car key to start this plane!
Enfin, another shot of the engine and undercarriage. Note again that, true to life, the whole rotary engine spins - cylinders and all.
On the right is another look at the smoothly curved engine canopy, with its realistic machine guns, and the attachment points for the wishbone struts.
Conclusion & Scores
Engine starts, propeller spins, and the German equivalent of 'Chocks away!' Off to shoot down those pesky Brits!
Again, the surprising thing about these wonderful WWI replicas is not their incredible beauty and accuracy, but that they were made at all. Lego has traditionally shied away from the machinery and personnel of real war, but perhaps WWI is long enough ago that these are unlikely to cause much upset. Alternatively, perhaps we should view these as a tribute to the brave airmen and their aircraft, pioneering man's venture into the skies in the uncharted frontierland of the early days of flight - a view that is upheld by Lego's release in 2003 - the centenary of powered flight - of the first one to go there, the Wright Flyer.
On the Baron itself: she's a beautifully crafted rendition of what some say is the most famous fighter of WWI. Lego have built upon the fantastic blueprint of the Camel, and now included some nice working features which make this a useful educational tool as well as an attractive display set. She's fun and interesting to put together, though if you've built the Camel first you might find the process a little too similar. I've you've strong arms you can even reenact countless dogfights over the scarred and debris-strewn landscape of the
Design: 10 Superbly recreated. I cannot think of anything I would have done differently.
Build: 8 Some great SNOTwork, and despite the large amount of RED, the piece shapes are varied enough to keep it interesting. I would recommend sorting first, however! There are a few tricky bits and it's worth taking your time over this one.
Parts: 7 This isn't quite the treasure-trove of rare parts that is the Camel, and there certainly isn't the colour variety. There probably won't be much call for large mostly-tiled plates for MOCcing.
Playability: 9 It's meant for display, but you can swoosh it around (though it's a little more nose-heavy than the Camel, which is nicely balanced) and move the control surfaces (if only down!)
Price: 10 This seems like a bargain looking back - nearly a hundred pieces more than the Camel, for the same price (if I remember correctly). If you're a plane fan like me, it's well worth getting hold of a set.
Overall: 88%. I give it 10/10. A wonderful tribute to a pioneering WWI fighter, superbly recreated in Lego, and a great talking point for the shelf.
I hope you enjoyed the review! Please leave your thoughts and comments
My Brickshelf Folder
AcePilots.com for general information about the Fokker Dr.I
Wikipedia for general information
FokkerDrI.com for Specifications
Bonus! - Which is your favourite of between the Baron and the Camel?
Vote for your favourite of the two sets. Both are realistic sets of a similar size, though the Baron has slightly more pieces. The Baron is curvier where the Camel is sleek, and has working control surfaces; the Camel is more colourful and has nicer balance for swooshing; in addition it has a much more interesting parts selection.
If you haven't read the Camel review yet, now's a good time!
Edited by WhiteFang, 30 September 2010 - 05:07 AM.