Have I wanted to design models of WWII-era Nazi warplanes? No – this particular plane was created just by coincidence, and I tell more of the story later. For awhile now I have been motivated to see how many uniquely shaped LEGO elements I can use as windscreens for modeling real-world aircraft. I realized that creating this design would be another such opportunity to challenge both my imagination and modeling skills – so how well did I do? You decide! If you’re willing, share a suggestion about how the model could be improved.
A total of 864 of this aircraft was produced for the Luftwaffe between 1940 – 1944, serving in a reconnaissance and ground-support role. The plane’s length was 39 feet, its wingspan 60 feet. The three-man crew – two gunners and the pilot – worked from the central crew gondola sitting between the plane’s twin engines with extending twin tail booms. In its recon role, the German Army called it the “Flying Eye.” While slow, it was highly maneuverable, often turning very tight circles to evade attacking fighter planes. Only one plane is reported to have survived over the decades, having crashed in a remote part of Russia during WWII, not to be discovered for a full 48 years. The wreckage was transported to the UK where it was rebuilt, appearing in the 1996 Biggin Hill Airshow. This last surviving FW-189 was later sold and its current location is not known.
How did this design get started?
A parable about origins: Kohler, the kitchen and bath appliance manufacturer, ran a television commercial where a couple was consulting an architect about creating a unique design for their new home. They placed a stylish (Kohler) faucet on the table and said, “We want you to build it around THIS.” (BTW, in one of the photos I am about to present below, I gave homage to that TV commercial, as you can see if you look closely.) Well, my choice to design this model is due to LEGO elements shaped as cones.
My research on twin-boom aircraft led me to the FW-189, among others (including the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco, Kaman HH-43 Huskie, and Kamov Ka-26 Hoodlum – all of which I’ve modeled here on MOCPAGES). What caught my attention was the tail-gunner’s windscreen: it is not a half-sphere or an egg-shaped bubble, it’s a cone. Most unusual! A cone is not the kind of thing you want to try to mimic in little rectangular LEGO bricks and plates, so by necessity I used a pairing of two LEGO 8x4x6 half cones (part# 47543), with the tip provided by LEGO cone 4x4x3 (part# 272). It’s a transparent “rocket nose” but it’s pointing backwards (not forwards) from the crew cabin.
The cone then dictated scale: 1:20. To stay in correct proportion to the cones used, the length of the model has to be 74 studs, the wingspan has to be 114 studs. In real life, this constructed 1:20 scale LEGO model would be 22.5 inches long with a 35 inch wingspan – not exactly “swooshable,” is it?
Another curiosity: The geometric forms at the front and back of the FW-189 fuselage could not be more different; a “rocket nose” in back but a “greenhouse” in the front. In front there are many flat panes of glass offset at various angles wrapping all around, even under the pilot’s legs. (Another aircraft with wrap-around glass windscreen panes is the Piasecki YH-16 Transporter, which I have also modeled here on MOC PAGES.) Fortunately a critical design need for the front windscreen was met with the 5x8x2 part 62576 which in normal (studs up) and inverted (studs down) position mimics the forward cockpit front edge. In the picture below, the studs-up piece is clear-transparent while the studs-down piece is light-bluish-transparent. They are set one atop the other, mirror-imaged.
But having windscreens part 62576 sit atop each other posed a challenge: one is studs-up atop the other that is studs-down. Have you noticed that LEGO makes no plates with studs on both sides? (In a pinch I have improvised, using a hook with towball part 30395 having one stud on each side.) Here I used the technique of two brackets connected; in the picture just shown above, two different brackets (orange, yellow) make the conversion along the same geometric plane. The long clear-transparent 1x8 tiles connected to the yellow bracket are face-down, so the studs on the light-bluish (inverted) windscreen connect into them, holding the windscreen in place. The tiles and windscreen are not much weight – I have to trust that the stud connections in the brackets would not shear away.
As I did with my P-38 Lightning design, I wanted to have retractable landing gear. But in addition, I wanted to have operating wheel well doors. My solution is illustrated in the cutaway view below. The front tires are part 30391 (30.4 x 14, so that is about 4 studs in diameter, roughly 2 studs wide) – here again, the 1:20 scale dictated wheel size. The wheel well walls are hinge vehicle roof 4x4 (part 4213) using a pair of hinge vehicle roof holder 1x4 (part 4215) to serve as hinges onto a pair of 2x12 plates that serve as doors. With hinges, axles, tire holders and various connecters to manage for both landing gear and wheel well doors, creating enough wheel well space is always difficult. This here is a snug fit! In the rendering below, the orange plate is the top wall of the wheel well; the door opposite you the viewer is closed but I removed the near-side door and walls to give you a view inside.
The rear tricycle wheel swings up into a cubbyhole in the stabilizer on the tail.
I did not find a way to build the model with crew hatches that open, but the hatches to the engine compartments do so. Here’s an opportunity for you to suggest in comments below some engine-like details to add.
The wheel wells for the front landing gear, while as minimal as can be, take up space that would be used to reinforce the wings across their span of 57 studs each. The wings have typical stud/stud-holder connections at the back edge, with a one-stud connection at the front edge. It’s the middle area of the wing where I could not laterally interlock any plates or bricks. Part of my solution was to rest the edges of some of the plates used as wing surfaces atop the angular surface of a bracket, as shown below.
I use spars (technic bricks and long plates) crossing underneath the cabin gondola to take the weight of the long wings. Having cantilevered twin tail booms also calls for technic bricks (1x16) as spars, adding rigidity and preventing the tail shearing off from its unsupported weight. Mimicking how the tail booms tapers off nearing the tail is a further challenge. Stepping down layers of plates (top, bottom, and sides) is the approach used here.
To transition boom width from 2 studs to 1, I used a bracket 2x5x1 & 1/3 (shown below in yellow) and jumpers (shown in red) to effect the change. The plate modified 3x2 with hole (part 3176, shown in blue) locks into the 1x1 plate (blue) atop the end-stud on the technic brick as spar. These connections are intended to prevent the tail shearing off from the force put upon the stud connections.
Adding the camouflage appearance was a last-minute decision. (If I had a lifetime limit for virtual gray bricks, I would have exhausted my inventory many models ago.) For a bit of realism I added the German cross on the wingtips, but I have no stomach for adding any swastikas. Truth is, most of what I want to model will have no armament, and this one already features two machine guns, so there you have it.
My design uses 1900 LEGO elements. Despite my comments above on mechanical engineering issues, I have not built it to test in the real world whether it shows structural integrity.
Thanks for looking! Please rate and leave comments!
Quoting john lamarck
Sure. I meant without clicking of course.
John, thanks for the hint. I had to learn a little HTML to get that effect but the result is here now. I will go back to all my other MOCs to get rid of the thumbnail pics - it certainly does improve the viewer's experience of the pages!