Some aircraft are so well-designed and well-received that they become legendary. Most people who have even a casual interest in aviation immediately recognize the names of the P-51 Mustang, the C-47/DC-3, SR-71 and Boeing 747, among others. However, there’s one aircraft that truly belongs with these immortals that many do NOT know the name of: the Grunau Baby.
The Grunau Baby (now often referred to as the Schneider Grunau Baby) was designed by Schneider, Hirth and Kromer back in 1931. Since then, this very successful glider has been produced in numerous countries the world over, and over 6000 have been produced. Many pilots from many nations have first gotten their “air legs” (if you will) on the Baby, and it has proven to be a favourite with military and civilian air schools and glider clubs for 70+ years. The name of the glider came from Grunau, the eastern German mountain town where Schneider’s factory was located; this part of Germany was unilaterally annexed by the USSR after the war, and is now part of Poland. This area, with its many mountains and thermals was a perfect place for gliding, and a natural birthplace for such an esteemed aircraft.
Given the importance of the aircraft to the sport of gliding and the role it has played in getting so many generations airborne, it is somewhat surprising that there hasn’t been an injection moulded kit of this plane before now. However, since it’s one of those “behind the scenes” aircraft, perhaps it isn’t so odd after all. Regardless, it is high-time that someone finally made a nice replica of this graceful and important aircraft, and thankfully, the folks at AZ Models have stepped up to the plate.
Because the Baby was used in so many countries at so many times, it has worn a lot of different colour schemes. It would be impossible for AZ to issue a kit with the decals to cover all the options; heck, even to cover the most important options would require a huge number of liveries. To make matters a bit simpler (and to sell a few more kits, likely) AZ actually sells multiple versions of this kit, each one coming with markings and painting guides for 4 different machines. This also means there are different boxes for each of these variant sets.
All the boxes are very similar: They are red-framed and have a nice illustration of the Baby on the front. On the back, there is a colour breakdown of the four machines that the model can be built into. Looking at a couple different variants highlights the vast number of schemes available on these gliders. It also means you get some cool spare decals! The drawings are simple but instructive as to colour and placement of decals, and give some information as to the “where and when” of the gliders depicted.
One thing about this kit: the box is SMALL. This makes sense; after all, it’s the Grunau BABY, not the Grunau “Gigantic Plane” or even “Baby Huey”. (For those not familiar with Baby Huey, it’s not a small UH-1, but a giant duckling. Just Google it…) The box is smaller than most 1/72 WWII planes, and is only slightly larger in surface area than the Matchbox Wellesley. This shows just how well packed the Wellesley was, I guess!
Overall, the box isn’t going to grab your attention if you’re not looking for it, but it’s a nice affair overall. Unfortunately, it’s an end-opening affair, so you’re going to have to find some other box to store your pieces in. Mind you, there aren’t that many, so it shouldn’t be a big hardship.
First thing’s first: the title here is a bit misleading, because it should say “Kits”. Yes, there are actually two (2!) full Babys in the box! I guess that means each one is a set of twins! They are identical twins, too; there is two of the exact same sprue in the box. There are only two sprues, and they contain everything you need to build a complete plane, except for a windscreen. The planes in my box were a medium beige colour, somewhat wood-like, but not entirely. The detail is minimal, because, let’s face it, this IS a glider, and they tend to be clean and simple machines. Still, there is fabric detail and it is nicely and finely done.
Some Babys (sp?) had a windscreen, while others didn’t. The windscreen was very small; it seems that back in the day it was thought to be important for pilots to be able to feel the wind in their faces. Indeed, even on the real Baby, the windscreen is little more than a curved piece of plastic. To replicate this, the AZ kit comes with four windscreens printed onto a thin acetate sheet. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to glue something this small and thin in place! I guess they give you a few extras in case you mess up. Sounds like a good plan to me!
This is a very, very simple kit, so the part count is low. That’s not a detractor in any way, shape or form, but it’s just something of which to be aware. If you’re looking for gobs of photoetch and a bucket of plastic, this isn’t going to be your thing. However, there is a little bit of detail on the inside of the cockpit, mostly to crudely duplicate the wooden framing. Its’ not super-convincing, but it’s better than a Matchbox cockpit, that’s for sure!
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are very simple. There isn’t much to building this thing; glue the fuselage together, glue the wings and tails on, and you’re done. The instructions are clear, though, and they can be followed by anyone who can build a simple Lego set. It is interesting to note that there are options, though. The full colour (!) instructions show different colours in the cockpit for Luftwaffe machines vs. those of other nations. I don’t know why this would be, or if it applies to civilian German machines, but it’s an interesting difference. There’s also an optional tail called out. One tail is square, the other rounded. The round callout is only for a specific kit, and the part isn’t included in my boxing.
The decal sheet is very nice. In this case, the model has markings for Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Spain. The decals look nice, are printed by Eduard and the colouring looks good. There shouldn’t be any problems, I wouldn’t think, so long as the decals don’t break up in the water. I’ve never used AZ models’/Eduard’s decals before, but looking at them they seem to be professionally done, and that’s encouraging! Granted, there aren’t a tonne of stencils or additional markings, but then again, this is a glider, and there weren’t many other markings besides national markings and insignia.
The AZ Grunau Baby IIb looks like a nice little kit. Kits. Box of Kits. Whatever. The end result will be two very small aircraft with a nice balance of detail and fineness, without being bogged down in useless minute details and complications. These little kits look like a lot of fun, and given the wide service distribution of these planes in real life, the opportunities for customization are nearly endless. They also like will make neat little diorama fodder.
They kit is perfect for junior modellers too, since there’s not a lot fiddly, besides the windscreen, and you don’t even need one of those on a lot of versions. Heck, if you have two junior modellers in your family, you only need to buy a box between them, and they can build with each other. It’s the perfect family project!