Sunday, February 16

Comparison review: Barracuda studios Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet Mainwheels

We were recently very glad to see the new MENG Me-163 Komet rocket fighter in 32nd scale hit our workbench. Firstly as it was a marked upgrade on our older Hasegawa kit and secondly we knew we would be getting a lot of aftermarket stuff to match it. Well that has happened for both of these kits with new mainwheels from Barracuda Studios that claim to improve on both the Hasegawa AND the MENG offering – but are they indeed an improvement? Read on to see…

Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet Mainwheels
Kit No: BR32148           
1:32nd Scale
Designed by Gunnar Jansson
US$ 7.95
Order These directly from the Barracuda Studios website..     
Most people who model aircraft in 1/32nd scale have the Hasegawa Me-163 in their stash. It is an ok kit for it’s age but it needs some improvements in the cockpit and mainwheels. Many of the same people dived in recently when the small, easy to build and accurate MENG Komet hit our hobby shops. Again a great kit but needing a few extra enhancements - The mainwheels being very chunky again to most people’s thoughts.

Notice a gap in the (after)market?

Barracuda studios have as well – they employed Gunnar Jansson to design this set of two new resin mainwheels that would fit both the Hasegawa and MENG kits. These are made of a non-smelly type of cream resin.
Let’s look at the real things now though…

Studies suggest these tires below are uncommon for WWII examples of the Me-163. These from the Komet at Cosford in the UK are the ones replicated on the MENG kit, and they left us feeling pretty hollow to be honest. They are the only ones we have seen of this type and don't match the research we have on this kite for wartime use.
The Me-163 Komet was a rocket propelled fighter used by the Luftwaffe of the Third Reich. Used sparingly with only a few confirmed victories this ingenious fighter used some cutting edge technology for it’s time like swept wings and rocket propulsion, while it used some decidedly old-fashioned tech like running out of fuel and gliding back to earth after the rocket fuel ran out! It landed on a skid which extended from the lower fuselage. The wheels it used to take off with were jettisoned at take-off. They were attached to each other thru a dolly.
Here are some of the wheels of the Komet on reconstructed museum pieces - firstly on the dolly and skid

Then in isolation

And here on the most natural Komet we can find - left in original state
Barracuda’s wheels come complete in one part for each wheel so there is no cutting and digging around and placing and gluing hoping that you have carved enough out of the insides. They simply need to be removed from the casting blocks.
You need to be a little careful when removing them to not get a flat spot on the bottom of the tyre. This can be useful for the bottom of the tyre but they weren’t THAT flat so just take care and you can get two perfectly rounded tyres.
These wheels show the very identifiable “tread” makes which are more like tyre beads than tread as they are thin lines. You can see the “Continental” maker’s mark in raised detail as well as the tyre data “700x 175.” The tyres feature eight tiny, and I mean very small hexagonal bolts like the real thing as well as lock nut in the central hub. Very convincing and a real step up from the alternatives below
As you can see these are a lot better than the kit version. MENG’s version seem to be copied from one museum version to all reports I have seen are not the wheels used in service.The Hasegawa ones are actually second  place but do not have the ribbing detail or hubcap or raised numbers and letters for that matter.
SO there you have it – pretty clear from the pictures who win here – Easy to prepare with no bubbles or defects. No real assembly accept for cutting off the pouring blocks and detailed more than their contemporaries if you have a measly $7.95US to spend on improving this kit then these are what I would get.

Adam Norenberg

This item is now in stock and you can order it directly from the Barracuda Studios website.. Thanks to Roy for sending these wheels for our next Komet build.