Wednesday, February 19

Read n' Reviewed: BMW R75: Escaping from the Falaise Pocket by Robert Doepp

Robert Doepp has made some of the most beautiful military motorcycle kits in the hobby. It stands to reason then, that someone would take down the details of his labours into a book. We revived this book from AFV Modeller Publishing that details Robert's work, inspiration & execution of this scene in our latest review...

Read n' Reviewed: BMW R75: Escaping from the Falaise Pocket
Author: Robert Doepp
Publisher: AFV Modeller, 2020
A4 Softcover, Portrait Format
113 Pages
ISBN: 0993564666
Price: £25.00
Product Link on the AFV Modeller Website

I have seen Robert Doepp's excellent modelling work on WWII motorcycles previously, so when I heard that AFV Magazine was publishing a new book on an all-new work I was interested to say the least. For those who are not familiar with Robert's work, he has published articles with several models and bikes most notably in publications like AFV Modeller, Dioramag, Landscapes of War and others - all great articles in their own right, but this time he deservedly has a book all to himself. It is called "BMW R75: Escaping from the Falaise Pocket".

This book is set up as a showcase for Robert Doepp's recreation of a WWII scene he found in a photograph taken by an official German war correspondent. The scene: a fully laden BMW R75 & side car, packed with four Germans and everything they can carry is captured on film in a French town trying to escape the gauntlet of the Allied pincers surrounding that territory.

The book in its physical form:
Weighing in at one hundred and thirteen pages, bound in a matte, softcover A4 Portrait format, this book serves as a mirror to Robert's process as he not only build, paints, scratch builds and weathers the bike, but also the materials on the bike and its four occupants to match the scene that he is trying to recreate. The book is very clearly laid out I can see straight away, with that very clean AFV Modeller style to it with clear images and well thought out writing. The book looks very "schmick" (schmick (adjective) can mean "cool", stylish or nicely customized) - if I can say that word, but what is it like inside?
Page by Page:
Before Robert starts the build, he takes us on a journey through his own thoughts in the introduction chapter. He gives us his ideas about the project and a little of the preparations he made on carefully scrutinizing this scene before he cut plastic. The differences in this bike from a normal machine, a little on the soldier's attire and how he came about looking for references on the bike. Robert also details his obvious love for motorcycles in pictures, we also see just some of his previous work on German military motorbikes.

The introduction also serves as a window into his melding of the finished bike and figures into the background of the picture to make an almost photo-realistic version of his reference shot. The shot is also shown on page 74 in the "References" chapter" I almost did not notice it when reading the block text in the introduction but it is most important when looking at the rest of the book.

Placing this recreated shot of the kit before the photo background at the start of the book is kind of putting the horse before the cart if you get my meaning. I do think this whole impressive scene would have been best served at the end of the book, with the original reference photo sections and bike refferences at the very start in the intro of the book.

We go straight into the making of the actual bike in the "Construction" chapter. This encapsulates every part of the bike and all of the extra work that has gone into improving the kit. From the first part of the spokes, hubs, wheels and frame. What was a Revell 1/9th scale BMW kit soon turns into something more as we see all of the white scratch-built extras throughout these pages that make it visually easy to see what has been added. You can see the bolts and linkages added to the transmission, the hooks and handles that were added to the panniers on the sides of the bike, the improvements to the exhaust and fenders, the support work added to the seats and the extra fuel lines and structure added to the fuel tank. As we progress from page to page all of these extras are carefully explained to the reader, with the aid of the pictures fright next to them it gives a two-pronged guide on hoe Robert made such an impressive end result.

If I was impressed by what I had seen already I had only to look at the scratch-building of the engine cylinders to see what Robert was really capable of. Each part of the engine cooling veins were individually made from plasticard and added one by one to make a photo-realistic 9th scale powerplant to go into the frame. The carburettor, spark plugs, front forks and headlight was added with that same attention to minute detail.

The sidecar was now shown during alteration with even the leaf shock absorbers and frame made from plasticard to sit on the kit part of the sidecar. This was garnished further with the heating system and internal structure of the compartment. At the end of this chapter we have a walk around the completed bike and sidecar. This in itself is a massive achievement and for may people would make a show winner. However, the next part of the book concerns painting the bike.

As refreshing it was to see the complete build of a kit in a book for a change, it was just as nice to see that Robert does not stick to one brand to paint his kits. A mixture of several types is used to recreate the bright, polished metal of the engine, the dunkelgelb of the frame and bike, the oils used for the rust effects and all of the other types of paints used to shade the rest of the kit. I was pleased to see Robert talking through his reasons for choosing colours for the kit, and his disregard of strict rules in recreating something that is being so well detailed in construction. A very realistic view I think to matching history with common sense.

The author tells us of the ways he perceived the look of the bike and their painting processes at this latter stage of the war on how the bike would look completed. He shows and tells how to achieve these looks in the use of oils and dirtying of the bike with, rust, wear and tear a large part of the final look. All of the painting and weathering processes are explained in this chapter, from tyres, to engines to seats to MG mounts. Nothing is left untouched.

Again, we are afforded at the end of this chapter a walk around the completed kit, with notes on why and how his approach made the bike look the way it does. This is most helpful, as Robert seems to be the type to think of how and why the project should look the way it does and not just to follow convention. A brilliant result ensues and is in eveidence on these pages...

Next, we logically have the construction of the four figures of the bike as our subject. First, Robert shows us the composition and body language of each of the figures and how they relate to the bike and each other while piled on there. Using armatures that he has made, he then fleshes out the bodies, with the faces carefully sculpted and explained in a SBS (step by Step) photo series with each part explained carefully along the way. this also applies to the bodies and uniforms as well as the equipment of the soldiers. This is repeated for the driver and other passengers also, giving individual traits, fixes and his methods for making and being able to adapt each one of these figures to the scene.

A gallery showing these figures completed and in position on the bike follows at the end of the chapter. the modeller takes time to explain some more thoughts about them and this is a great way to see the work before it is all painted, with improvements added to the weapons and equipment easy to see on these very well constructed four soldiers.

Not satisfied in stopping there, Robert brings these soldiers to life with a full step by step (SBS) painting guide for each f the parts of the figures. Starting at the face of the driver, the modeller describes his work with oils from the eyes, to then working from dark to light on the face showing how he achieves his results you can see so clearly in photographs here.

Uniforms and equipment are next to be given the same treatment, with the modeller explaining how and why he recreated them in the patterns and shades the he used. The resulting weather beaten faces, crumpled and dirty uniforms and beaten equipment are painted, beaten up a bit, dulled down, and shown in a clear manner to give the reader a good understanding of how he gets the results shown on these pages.

The groundwork is always an important part of a believable diorama, especially one like this that is trying to represent a historical picture. The modeller gives us a few pages of how he achieved his simple but effective section of roadwork underneath the bike. The round base and glass cover of the bike is a pretty neat idea, and it is all conveyed in a simple and easy to follow manner for the rest of us to try and replicate or just wallow in for just a moment.

I mentioned earlier the picture that the model was based on, and even though it is briefly shown in the introduction, it only really sinks in how much this picture has influenced this work when you see the photo, along with others that the modeller has gathered for us in this short wartime references section. All of these shots influenced the work in some way, be it the bike or equipment, the soldiers and their body language or the general feel of the scene. As I said earlier I think that this chapter and the one following , on references for the BMW R75 could be better positioned at the start of the book, however that is just my personal preference in layout.

A very detailed walk around of a restored R75 is next, with all of the parts of the bike shown in high resolution pictures, each with notation of what we are looking at, and the notable points of the bike in real life that reflect the mix of scratch-build and kit parts that Robert made such a great result out of. This is a great resource, the only way to improve on this is to maybe have more than one machine as reference, but there is more than enough here to satisfy this reader.

A gallery of the completed bike is next. From several angles we see the machine, its riders and the groundwork and base this sits on. A few notes here and there accompany the walk around gallery, but the whole scene is shown over several pages for you to drink it all in.

That is all he wrote!

Now by looking at the pictures and reading this review I think you could glean that I was impressed, not only with the model and figures, but with the way that it has been captured, explained and compiled in the book before me. It is an easy to read book with just enough for most readers to be inspired by or daunted by in equal numbers I would think.

The writing I found to be well thought out, and the images left you in no way confused about what the author/ modeller is trying to convey. More modelling books could do from reading this and following suit in style and composition.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to the publishers AFV Modeller for sending this book to us to read and review - it is available now directly from their website or distributors worldwide.