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Airfix 1/76 WWI Male Tank Mk.I (A01315V) In-Box Review and History

It’s time to travel back in time to 1967. The Dirty Dozen was entertaining moviegoers, The Prisoner was baffling TV viewers, the Monkees had a maddeningly catchy hit with I’m a believer and AIrfix were working on expanding their growing range of 1/76 AFVs.

New additions in 1967 included the German 88mm gun and the subject of this kit, the iconic British Mk I tank from World War One. Or at least, that’s what it said on the packaging, but back in 1967 accuracy was an optional extra in model kits. Is this really a Mk I tank, is it a Mk II or is it neither?

I found this kit on Amazon for just €6. That’s really not a lot of cash, in fact, I think this is the least amount of money I have paid for any model kit since I got back into model-making a few years back. But is this fifty-five year old kit, now sold as part of the Vintage Classics series, any good? Can we even figure out what it’s supposed to be? Before we look at this kit, let’s first take a brief look at the AFV that first introduced the word “tank” into the military lexicon…


The need for some form of armed, armoured vehicle capable of crossing trenches and broken ground became apparent almost as soon as World War One descended into bloody stalemate on the Western Front. Britain became one of the first nations to attempt to create such a machine, but perhaps surprisingly, this effort was led not by the British Army but by the Royal Navy.

Little Willie” was the first British attempt to create a tracked, armoured vehicle.

It was the Admiralty that, under the guidance of the First Sea Lord, Winston Churchill, first created the Landship Committee in early 1915, a group staffed by naval officers, politicians and engineers. Later, the Army finally became interested, the Landship Committee was reformed as the Tank Supply Committee and its naval members transferred to the Army. However, the tank they finally approved owed as much to naval design as to any contribution from the army.

Mother” (which is, a little ironically, a Male tank) the first prototype British tank. It was initially going to be called “Big Willie” which might have been much more appropriate… It was constructed from mild steel boilerplate, but it’s otherwise very close in appearance to the production MK I.

A rhomboidal armoured hull allowed the tank, which had tracks running all round its outer surface, to climb obstacles up to 5 feet high and cross trenches up to 5 feet wide as well as crossing ground churned-up by shell fire. The army lacked suitable guns, so these vehicles were armed with naval 6pdr (57mm) guns in sponsons similar to those used to mount secondary armament on warships. The 6pdr gun became the standard British tank weapon during World War One and tanks armed with these became known as “Male.” Tanks that were otherwise identical but provided with redesigned sponsons mounting machine guns were defined as “Female.

A MK I Male tank at the front in 1916. As you can see, it’s fitted with steering wheels at the rear and a wood and mesh grenade shield on the top of the hull. The rear steering wheels were found to be completely ineffective and were dropped on all subsequent marks.

Over one hundred and fifty examples of the original tank, which would later be identified as the MK I, were produced and used in combat for the first time in the battle of Flers-Courcellette, part of the Somme offensive in September 1916. Performance of the tanks was less impressive than expected, with many suffering mechanical breakdowns that prevented them from even taking part in the attack.

A MK II tank. No steering wheels at the rear and this one has been fitted with “spuds,” track extensions fitted on the outboard side of every sixth track plate.   

Subsequent versions included the MK II and MK III, primarily intended as training tanks and only manufactured in relatively small numbers, though examples of the MK II ended up being used in combat in 1917. The most produced version was the MK IV which looked externally similar but featured a number of improvements in armour, engine and transmission. Over 1,200 MK IVs were produced and these tanks took part in a number of major battles including Messines Ridge, Third Ypres and Cambrai.

A ditched MK II tank. No spuds on the tracks but this image gives a good view of the exhausts: there is no silencer, the three exhaust tubes simply vented through holes in the hull top and were covered by angled metal plates to prevent water ingress. You can also see the rectangular hatch in the hull roof used on the MK II – this replaced a smaller circular hatch on the MK I. The raised driver’s compartment is also stepped in horizontally a few inches back from the tracks – on the MK I this compartment extended almost to the inside edges of the tracks.

The term “tank” was used as a code name for these new vehicles at an early stage, apparently because some suppliers were told that they were producing parts to be used in water tanks. Initially these vehicles were to be referred to a Water Carriers, but that was considered to involve potentially embarrassing initials that might lead to ribald humour in the ranks. Early British tank crews seem to have referred to their mounts as “Willies” (after the prototype “Little Wille”) but that term received surprisingly little official backing either. Instead “tank”, originally used informally, became the accepted term used to describe a whole new class of fighting vehicles.    

What’s in the Box?

Inside the end-opening box you’ll find just two sprues moulded in rather brittle green plastic, a set of rubber-band style tracks, a tiny decal sheet and a set of instructions.

The biggest surprise for me was that the mouldings here are fairly crisp and surface detail looks sharp.

I have seen it said that the bolt/rivet head detail on this kit is overdone, but to me it looks perfectly acceptable.

Even the vinyl tracks are reasonably detailed on the outside. There is no detail at all on the inside, but given that you won’t be able to see the inside of the tracks on the finished model, this shouldn’t be a problem. In some reviews, I have seen it suggested that these are rather inflexible, with some even noting that you’ll need heat to bend them to shape. In my example, these are typical, bendy vinyl tracks. It may be hard to find a glue that sticks to them, but I certainly don’t anticipate any problems getting them to conform to the shape of the hull.

The tiny decal sheet just includes just the name of the tank shown on the colour scheme, HMS Dragonfly.

The back of the box provides a suitably dramatic suggested colour scheme. Early tanks British tanks used a camouflage scheme designed by a well-known society artist who was also an officer in the Royal Engineers, Solomon J. Solomon. We don’t know a great deal about this scheme other than it probably involved four colours. Tanks were delivered painted in grey and their crews were expected to paint them in the field in something resembling the Solomon scheme. Photographs show tanks finished in a variety of multi-colour schemes, and in some the main colours are separated by wide black lines. Later, British tanks were simply painted brown – all became so quickly covered in mud that there seemed no point in applying colourful schemes.  

The instructions seem simple and adequate and include a brief history of this tank.

So, What’s Wrong with This Kit (and why)?

Back in the 1960s, Airfix did most of their research on AFV kits at the Tank Museum in the village of Bovington in Dorset. At some point and for unknown reasons, the Tank Museum received a sort of Frankenstein tank that was a MK II tank mated with the rear steering wheels from a MK I (though the MK II was never fitted with these wheels). This may have been used for a display at Chertsey during World War Two but when it was placed on display in the Tank Museum, it was mistakenly identified as a MK I tank, though it clearly wasn’t (the Tank Museum didn’t obtain a genuine MK I tank until 1969, after this kit was created).

The nice people from Airfix then turned up at the Tank Museum and climbed all over the display tank to create their kit of what they believed was a MK I. The instructions actually note that this kit is based on the tank on display at Bovington (though that Frankenstein tank has long since removed from display).

Stepped-in sides on the driver’s cab. Fine for a MK II, wrong for a MK I.

Airfix created a faithful recreation of the tank in the museum but this led to a number of problems with this kit. Notably, the driver’s/commander’s position on the MK I ran the full width of the gap between the inner running gear plates, where this position in the MK II was made a few inches narrower, stepping-in at the level of the vision ports. This was done to accommodate wider tracks, though these were never fitted. The Airfix kit has the stepped-in driver’s position from the MK II, not the correct full-width position from the MK I.

Rectangular hatch in hull top. OK for a MK II, wrong for a MKI.

The tank used in the display at Bovington had the rectangular upper hull hatch from the MK II, not the smaller circular hatch from the MK I. AIrfix included this rectangular hatch in their kit.

Part 47 in this kit is an exhaust silencer, and the instructions show this being mounted on the hull top. That’s wrong for both a MK I and a MK II.

The tank in the display was fitted with an exhaust silencer on the upper hull. However, this must have been added later because neither the MK I or the MK II had silencers – these were added to later marks but on the MK I and MK II the exhaust tubing simply exited through three holes in the hull top which were covered with angled plates to stop rainwater entering the exhaust system.

So, if you choose to build this kit, you have three options:

  1. You can have some cheap fun by building this straight out of the box and just ignoring these pesky accuracy issues.
  2. You can build it as a MK I, using the rear steering wheels, but you’ll have to extend the driver’s position to full width, delete the rectangular hatch on the upper hull, leave off the exhaust and add a smaller circular hatch on the hull top. At least if you do this you can use the supplied decal and the suggested colour scheme.
  3. You can build it as a MK II. To do this, you just need to leave off the exhaust (and possibly add the plates above the exhaust vents on the hull top), leave out the rear steering wheels and fill the mounting holes. You’ll have to come up with your own colour scheme though. The MK II was used in action in 1917, so you could either paint it in overall brown (which was first used in that year) or something colourful using the Solomon scheme as these tanks first entered service in 1916. The MK II was actually taken to France for “advanced training” before a handful were rushed into combat, so, who knows precisely what colours they were painted in?

And if this all seems like a lot of mucking about to produce a very small scale kit well, as I said at the beginning of this article, back in 1967, accuracy was optional.

Would You Want One?

That depends on whether you are willing to accept the accuracy issues here and/or to attempt some modification to make this more closely resemble either a MK I or MK II tank. If you are, then this actually isn’t bad. Out of the box (and leaving out the rear steering gear) this isn’t a bad representation of a MK II tank and the sharpness, detail and quality of the mouldings is much better than some other Airfix tank kits from the 1960s. Airfix also released a 1/76 “WW1 Female Tank” in 2009, but this is identical to this offering other than for the addition of a new sprue with different sponsons and armament, and it therefore has all the same original accuracy issues.

If you don’t fancy this one, I’m afraid that there are few alternatives in small scale.  Several kits of this tank are produced in 1/72 by Emhar, first released in 1996. They produced three versions of this tank, the MK IV Male and Female and the MK IV “Tadpole” with an extended rear hull and rear-mounted mortar. However, all have problems. Armour is missing from all versions, the unditching rail is really from a MK V, the sponsons on the male tank are the wrong shape and the female version is armed with poorly detailed  Hotchkiss machine guns rather than the Lewis guns actually fitted. OK, these are less fundamental that the problems afflicting the Airfix kit, but these Emhar kits are not entirely accurate either.

The best currently available small-scale kits of this tank are the offerings from Ukrainian manufacturer MasterBox, first released in 2013. These 1/72 kits cover both Male and Female MK I and MK II versions and all seem accurate and nicely detailed, though they do use rubber-band style tracks. And that’s your lot. It does seem odd that the AFV that first introduced the word “tank” into the English language isn’t more represented in small scale, but at the moment and as far as I know, only these three manufacturers cover this tank in small scale.   

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Airfix 1/76 WWI Male Tank Mk.I (A01315V) Build Review – coming soon

Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) Build Review

I start with lower hull construction, and it isn’t too tricky, though you do have to be careful to get the sloped sides at the right angle – checking the fit with the upper hull is a good idea. There is a small gap where the front armour plate attaches to the lower hull, but this will be filled and won’t be visible on the finished model.

I’m planning to build this by assembling and painting the running gear and lower hull and then adding the tracks before I attach and paint the upper hull, so I start by test-assembling the running gear, and that wasn’t a great deal of fun. Spindles on the suspension assemblies locate into holes in the roads wheels and spindles on the idlers and sprockets locate into holes on the hull. The problem is that all the spindles are a very tight fit in the locating holes, so much so that I was concerned that I’d snap something, so I drilled out the holes.

At that point I discovered that the sprockets, idlers and roadwheels just don’t line up – the roadwheels and idlers are closer to the hull than the sprockets. That’s going to be a major problem when trying to assemble the link-and-length tracks, so I installed plastic-card spacers to move these around 1mm further from the hull. It looks messy here, but hopefully all of this will be hidden by the roadwheels and idlers.

Then, I painted the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets and glued them in place. Normally, I leave the sprockets loose when I’m doing this type of track, but before drilling, they were too tight and now they’re a little loose, so I get everything in place, lined up and painted before I begin work on the tracks. I have decided that I want to model this as a beaten-up and well-used Hetzer finished only in dunklegelb, so no camo colours are added. There are just four fairly large roadwheels per side here, and you’d imagine that getting these, the sprockets and idlers aligned would be simple, but you’d be mistaken. The suspension units on to which the roadwheels fit aren’t perfectly straight and it takes a lot of fiddling on both sides to get running gear that looks even close to straight and aligned. Painting the roadwheel tyres is also a challenge because they are very thin and there isn’t a clearly defined lip between the wheels and tyres. That’s accurate, but it does cause some frustration while painting.

The tracks themselves are fairly standard link-and-length type, and the only issues are the tiny size of the individual links and the fact that there is no positive engagement between links or sections of track – all are simply butt-jointed to the next piece, making it challenging to get straight runs and giving a very fragile end result. I started with assembling and fixing in place the top run of three sections, then I added the nine single links to the sprocket and nine links on the idler (though the instructions say eleven).

Finally, I added the lower run comprising three sections and three individual links. A few spare individual links are provided, which is a good thing because these are fairly brittle and I lost two or three that cracked in half as I was cutting them off the sprue. By the time I had finished, I had just one spare link left over…

It takes way longer than you’d expect to get the running gear and tracks completed, and the finished result is pretty rough – the problem is getting those tiny individual links lined up and with regular spacing. Then, when it’s finally complete, it’s time to start work on the other side…

With both sets of tracks finally done apart from touching-up the paint, it’s time to move on to the rest of construction. I begin with joining the muzzle to the barrel of the main gun. At least that’s bound to be easy, after all, it just involves joining two bits of plastic. Well… The muzzle section seems to be of a slightly larger diameter than the barrel, which means it’s tricky to get it on straight and that sanding and filling is needed to smooth everything out. It was only when I looked closely at the image below that I spotted that there is still a gap on the underside at the join and that the top of the muzzle needs more sanding. I swear that if my eyes were capable of the same resolution as my camera, I’d probably just pack in model building altogether..

After more filling sanding and squinting, I get something approaching a barrel of uniform diameter and install it and the mantlet in the upper hull.

Then I join the upper and lower hull. Happily, fit is pretty good and only a tiny amount of filler is required on the join of the front and rear hull plates.

As you can see, I’m building this with hatches closed, mainly because I don’t care for the supplied crew figures. I add most of the bits and pieces to the upper and rear hull, leaving off the exhaust, machine gun, tools and spare track links which will be painted separately and added later. The side armour plates are rather thick, and this might look better with these replaced by thinner parts, but I want to see how this will look built out of the box so I leave them as they are.

It’s time to begin painting the hull. First it gets a coat of Vallejo Dark Yellow, then some dry-brushed highlights and areas of paint chipping are added.

Then I add the decals. Given that there are just three, it doesn’t take long. I have also added the spare track links, exhaust, shovel and machine gun. I also added one part that isn’t provided here – the radio antenna base. A mounting hole is provided on the right rear hull in the correct place, just above the blade of the shovel and this part is shown on the box art and on the colour scheme views, but for some reason, it isn’t included in the kit. The instructions simply suggest placing a “stripped sprue” antenna into the hole in the hull. Instead, I add an antenna base from the spares box.

Next I add a brown oil wash to dirty everything up and deepen shadows and then add a stretched sprue antenna, that’s this tiny Hetzer done.

After Action Report

This isn’t a straightforward kit to recommend. There are certainly a number of problems. The running gear and tracks are really, really fiddly to do, fit isn’t always great and there are things missing including the radio antenna base and ammunition drums for the MG 34. The side armour is too thick, the shovel handle is too fat, the decals are printed slightly out of register and getting the muzzle on to the main gun barrel without a visible join takes way more time and effort than you’d expect.

But, there’s the thing: despite these issues, this does build up into a pretty reasonable small-scale representation of the Hetzer. It captures perfectly the squat, purposeful look of the original and, if you don’t look too closely, the finished tracks look OK and probably better than rubber-band style tracks. The main surprise here is just how tiny the completed kit is. Here it is next to a 1/72 Jagdpanther and as you can see, it’s barely as tall as the engine deck on the Jagdpanther!.

If you’re willing to put in the effort and to accept the limitations of a 1974 kit, you may enjoy this a great deal and you should end up with a reasonable representation of the Hetzer in 1/72. Just make sure you adopt the correct Zen mindset before tackling those tracks!

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Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) In-Box Review and History

Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) In-Box Review and History

After building a couple of aircraft kits, I’m really looking forward to a small-scale AFV. The nice thing about these is that they generally involve a fairly low parts count and require no masking during painting. Let me just repeat that – NO MASKING!  That’s a joyful thing if you struggle with masking the way that I do.

The kit I have chosen is the Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38 (t), a successful late-war German tank destroyer based on the chassis, engine and running gear of  an improved version of the  Panzer 38(t). To me at least, the Hetzer is a great looking AFV – squat, angular and purposeful. Which makes me wonder if something is wrong with the box art for this kit. In a previous life, I was a technical illustrator and I can’t help but think that something isn’t quite right with the perspective in  this image – it makes the Hetzer look as if it tapers to the rear, which isn’t correct. Let’s hope that the plastic is closer to the original… 

This Italeri Hetzer was released in 2014, but don’t be fooled – this is a re-box of an original Esci kit first released in 1974. Can a kit that’s getting on for 50 years old be any good? Let’s take a look, but first, we’ll have a brief look at the history of the Jagdpanzer 38 (t).


The first thing to note about this AFV is that it was never officially known as the Hetzer during the war. That’s one of those German words that doesn’t really have a direct English equivalent. It means something like Hunter, but also Chaser and possibly Baiter. It does seem that this vehicle may have been known unofficially as Hetzer by some of its crews, but officially, it was the Jagdpanzer 38 (t), with the “t” standing for tschechisch (Czech). It was only after the end of the war that this AFV became universally known as the Hetzer.

A PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf. A in German service during the invasion of Poland in 1939.

After the occupation of Czechesolakia in 1938, Nazi Germany inherited that country’s considerable arms industry including the ability to manufacture tanks. The existing Czech LT vz. 38 light tank was adopted for German service as the PzKpfw 38(t) and these tanks served with German units during the invasion of Poland and subsequent operations in western Europe. In those early campaigns, this tank proved useful, but after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and when faced with Russian T-34s and KV-1s, the PzKpfw 38(t) was completely outclassed and largely retired from front-line service.

A PzKpfw 38(t) neue Ausführung prototype. Externally, the main difference in the running gear from the previous version are larger roadwheels and a single return roller.

The chassis, engine and running gear from the PzKpfw 38(t) were used as the basis for the successful Marder III tank destroyer and the Hummel self-propelled gun, but both featured open fighting compartments and both were relatively tall, making them easy targets. The PzKpfw 38(t) was also redesigned with a new engine and running gear as the neue Ausführung (NA – new model), a light reconnaissance tank, but this was never produced in quantity.

A very early Hetzer without side armour. The armoured superstructure is simply built on top of the PzKpfw 38(t) NA chassis.

However, in late 1943, production of the StuG III was severely disrupted by Allied bombing. Germany urgently needed a new tank destroyer. The PzKpfw 38(t) NA chassis, running gear and engine were mated with a sloped, armoured superstructure housing a crew of four and armed with a 75mm Pak 39 L/48 main gun and a remotely operated 7.92mm M.G.34 machine gun on the hull top. The new model was given the designation Jagdpanzer 38 (t) and rushed into production.

A production Jagdpanzer 38 (t) in ambush camouflage.

Although the interior was cramped, the new AFV was lightweight (16 tons), low (under 7 feet tall)  and ideal for ambush tactics. The lightly armoured Hetzer was never intended to slug it out with enemy tanks, but to fire from concealment (and a hit from its main gun could disable or destroy most enemy tanks) and then withdraw to safety. The Hetzer proved to be an effective and low-cost tank destroyer and almost 3,000 were manufactured before the war ended. These AFVs were used on both Eastern and Western fronts and in Italy and remained in German service up to the end of the war. The Swiss army also used a modified version of this tank destroyer, identified as the G13. The last of the Swiss G13s were finally retired in 1970.

What’s in the Box?

Inside the side-opening box you’ll find just three sprues, two moulded in brown plastic and one (for the link-and-length tracks) in grey/silver. This kit depicts a late model Hetzer with a wider mantlet, a vertical exhaust at the rear and a hood over the driver’s visor.

Surface detail looks reasonable, but this really is a tiny AFV – the hull here is just 2½” long.

Detail on most parts is adequate (though there is some flash), and probably what you’d expect from a 1970s kit. No slide moulding is used but the main gun is provided with a separate muzzle so at least you won’t have to drill out the barrel. Mind you, previous experience suggests that you may struggle to get an undetectable join between barrel and muzzle!

Two crew figures are provided, but neither looks particularly impressive.

This kit also betrays its age in the way in which parts are attached to the sprues. Getting these sprockets off while leaving something resembling a full set of teeth will be a challenge!

The link-and-length tracks look adequately detailed and fairly accurate but man, those individual links are tiny! At least the links are joined to the sprue at their edges, which should make joining them together simpler and more accurate.

Decals are provided for Hetzers from four units, including a captured Hetzer used by Polish insurgents during the Warsaw uprising in 1944. It’s not obvious from the image below, but the decals aren’t, quite, printed in-register, which is disappointing.

Four colour schemes are suggested, all using a standard base of dunklegelb (dark yellow) overlaid with a camo scheme of olive green and dark brown. Three of these schemes are depicted on the back of the box in colour.

The fourth scheme is shown in the instructions in black and white.

The instructions themselves seem straightforward and include a brief history of the Hetzer.   

Would You Want One?

Probably. Considering how old this kit is, detail seems pretty reasonable. Look, this just isn’t up to the standard of more modern kits, but it isn’t terrible either and it does have things like hatches and tools moulded as separate parts. The biggest surprise here is the tracks. I had expected nasty, 70s rubber-band style tracks (and I know that some versions of the original Esci kit were provided with rather nasty vinyl tracks) but instead, you get here what look like decent link-and-length tracks. Mind you, those individual links are very small so some care will be needed to avoid wonky tracks.

This certainly isn’t perfect – things like grab-handles are moulded integrally with the hull and those side armour plates look way too thick but overall, there is nothing in the box that should particularly make you wince. It’s said that the hull here is a little narrow, and that may be true, but overall, the proportions look plausible to me. And if you don’t fancy this one, I’m afraid there just aren’t many alternatives in 1/72. Ukrainian manufacturer UniModels (UM) released a series of Hetzer kits starting in 2004. These include both early and late variants and all versions have link-and-length tracks and a PE fret that includes the side armour. Overall, the UM Hetzer kits seem to be accurate and nicely done.

Czech manufacturer Attack Hobby released a 1/72 Hetzer in 1998 and offer several variants including early and late versions. These appear to be accurate and include link-and-length tracks though they do not appear to be easy to find. Revell and Hasegawa did offer 1/72 Hetzers in the 1970s and 1980s though, like this Italeri offering, these were just re-boxes of the original Esci kit. Oddly, it doesn’t seem that Dragon, Trumpeter or any other major kit manufacturers have covered  the Hetzer in recent small-scale kits, though there are plenty of versions available in 1/48 and 1/35.

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Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) Build Review

Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) Build Review

I start with the cockpit, and that’s a little different, mainly because the Typhoon cockpit didn’t have a cockpit floor. What you have here is a combination of detail inside the fuselage halves, the seat and rear armour plate section, the instrument panel, footboards, control stick and rudder pedals on the floor above the upper side of the wheel wells.

I paint everything in something resembling RAF interior green (a sort of green-grey), add a wash in dark green oil and some masking tape harness straps and the instrument panel decal. I haven’t spent a great deal of time on the cockpit because the opening in the fuselage is very small and at this scale, you will be able to see very little of the interior on the finished model.

 I next join the fuselage halves, being careful to get all the internal parts aligned. Fit is good and no filler is needed.

I then add the lower wings and drill these out to accept the rocket rails. Again, fit is fine and no filler is needed.

However, a quick dry fit of the upper wings shows that there are pronounced gaps at the wing  roots.

I add the cannon and bays (though I have decided to show these closed) and the tailplanes and rudder. There  are also gaps where the tailplanes meet the vertical stabiliser.

Then I add the upper wings and use some filler to fill the gaps at the wing roots and on the tailplanes. I also add the rocket rails at this stage.

That’s main construction of this Typhoon pretty much done, and there really aren’t any major problems – everything goes together nicely and reasonably accurately. Now it’s time to begin painting. I start with Vallejo Light Sea Grey for the underside. And I have to say that I really appreciate the use of light grey plastic here – it makes painting the light underside colour much less of a chore than it might have been if this was moulded in a darker plastic. It only takes a couple of thin coats to get a reasonable finish. You’ll also see that I have painted the wheel-wells in interior green. I’m not certain this is correct – some sources suggest that they should be aluminium, but I don’t think green would have been impossible and I like the contrast between the light grey and dark green.

Then, I mask that off and add the camo scheme of Ocean Grey and Dark Green on the upper surfaces.

Next, decals. I have decided to go for an aircraft in the markings of 245 Squadron, mainly because every other build review I have seen of this kit has used the markings for 121 Wing which include invasion stripes and I’d like to try something different. I was concerned about fitting the chequered band on the tail, which comes in four pieces, but it fits perfectly and with no problems. Almost all of the other decals, including the shark’s teeth also fit nicely and easily. All the decals are dense but not too thick. The only real problem was the four yellow strips that go on the leading edges of the wings. I found these fiendishly, horribly difficult to bend over the leading edges while keeping them lined up, despite copious use of decal softener. I did finally get them on, but it certainly wasn’t fun and the process involved a measure of cat-startling.

Then, I add the gear, gear doors, retractable pilot step and rockets.

Then, the whole thing gets a coat of matt varnish followed by a wash in dark grey oil to bring out the panel lines. This works well where you have deeply engraved panel lines like these and it’s particularly noticeable on the light grey undersides.

And finally, the canopy, windscreen, spinner and propellor are added. The windscreen fits well into the socket in the fuselage and the framing on this and the canopy are simple, so I freehand painted all the framing. On reflection, the blue that I used for the spinner and the inside of the outer gear doors is perhaps a little dark (it should be a closer match for the blue on the chequered tail band), but I’m not going to re-do it at this stage so I’ll just have to live with it.  And that’s it finished.

After Action Report

Like most new-tool Airfix kits, this was an entirely straightforward build. Fit is generally pretty good, construction was simple and filler was only needed at the wing roots and where the horizontal stabilisers join the tail. In terms of construction there is nothing here that would challenge even an inexperienced kit-builder and the finished result looks to me to be a pretty good small-scale representation of the chunky Typhoon. And for what it’s worth, I don’t feel that the panel lines look too obtrusive on the finished model.

If I was being picky, I’d mention that the main gear legs are a little flimsy and aren’t an especially good fit in the sockets in the gear bays – you’ll want to let these set completely before risking standing the model upright. And I really didn’t enjoy applying those yellow leading edge decals, but when they’re on, they look OK and they do save some awkward masking which has to be a good thing.

Given the small cockpit opening in the fuselage, you can really see very little of the interior, so I’m not certain it’s worth spending a great deal of time on adding detail there. I do appreciate having the option of showing the cannon bay doors on the upper wings open, though I chose not to do that. Overall, and apart from those irritating leading-edge decals, this was a stress-free and enjoyable build. If you want to model a 1/72 Typhoon, I feel that you could do a lot worse than this inexpensive Airix offering.

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Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) In-Box Review and History

I recall building an Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon when I was a kid (the original Airfix Typhoon was released the same year that I was, 1959!). I thought it was pretty good at the time and that kit was still being produced all the way up to 2009 but in 2013 Airfix released a new-tool kit of the same aircraft. The version I’m reviewing here is a re-box released in 2019.

The release of this kit followed the buy-out of Airfix by Hornby Hobbies, and it was created, like most of the other new kits during that period, in India. The new kits were certainly a long way ahead of the originals in terms of accuracy, fit and detail, but some modellers didn’t care for what they saw as over-emphasised surface detail, particularly heavily engraved panel lines.

I brush paint all my kits and I have just completed an Eduard kit that features exquisitely subtle surface detail (you’ll find a link at the end of this review). That was a little frustrating, because my brush-painting covered up some of that detail. So, I’m keen to try one of these Airfix new-tool kits to find out whether it really does feature “trenches,” or if this approach might actually work better for those of us using a hairy stick to apply paint. But before we take a look at the kit, let’s take a brief look at the history of the “Tiffy.”  Or as it was in the early days, the “Terrible Tiffy…”  


Some aircraft are clearly wonderful from the moment the first prototype leaves the ground. Some have such dreadful flaws that you have to wonder how they ever remained in service. The Hawker Typhoon belongs firmly in the latter category. It was designed in the late 1930s as a replacement for the Hawker Hurricane. The new fighter was intended to have superior performance in every respect, but when the first prototypes were tested, while they proved to have great speed at low level,  performance at higher altitude was disappointing.

Early Typhoons had a complex canopy with “car door” access. The first versions also had a solid rear fuselage behind the cockpit which reduced rearward visibility. This image shows the second version of the canopy, with a glazed rear section. Early versions also had a three-blade propellor, changed in later models to a four-blade design.

At the heart of the Typhoon was the Napier Sabre, a new water-cooled engine with 24 cylinders arranged in an “H” pattern. This was found to be capable of producing almost 2,000 hp compared to around 1,100 hp from the Merlin used in the Hurricane. The engines used in the prototypes performed well, but they were hand-built by Napier craftsmen. Mass produced examples had a range of problems including faulty sleeve vales and inaccurately cast components.

Napier Sabre engine in a Typhoon. Lots of power but lots of problems…

When operational RAF squadrons received Typhoons for the first time in September 1941, these engines proved catastrophically unreliable, with an average of one aircraft being lost on every single mission not to enemy action but to engine fires and failures. The engine also made the Typhoon cockpit stiflingly hot whatever the weather and leaking exhausts let fumes into the cockpit – some unexplained early losses were probably due to pilots being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from the exhaust. It became mandatory for Typhoon pilots to use oxygen at all times as soon as the engine was started.

The Typhoon Ia was armed with 12 machine guns in the wings, but relatively few were built. This aircraft has the first version of the canopy with solid fuselage behind.

Engine failures weren’t always a problem because in cold weather the Sabre simply wouldn’t start. In winter, mechanics had to stay up all night, starting the engine every two hours to ensure that it would fire-up in the morning, and in a failed attempt to start, it was common for unburned fuel in the air intake to catch fire. Even if a pilot did get a Typhoon into the air and avoided engine fire, failure or asphyxiation, there were other major worries.

The more common Typhoon Ib was armed with four 20mm cannon in the wings.

A number of Typhoons suffered from catastrophic structural failure in flight, often involving the complete tail section breaking away. At low level, this was invariably fatal for the pilot. In one early mission, a flight of Typhoons dived on a flight of Fw 190s over France. Three of the German aircraft were badly damaged but two of the Typhoons suffered structural failures and crashed. It is believed that during its first year of service, the Typhoon may have accounted for the loss of more RAF pilots than enemy personnel and it was very nearly withdrawn from service.

Later versions of the Mk Ib featured the “clear-view” canopy, one of the first bubble canopies fitted to any Allied aircraft in World War Two.

Instead, gradually, the Typhoon was improved. Better quality control in engine manufacturing made the Sabre more reliable. A redesign of the elevator trim tabs and strengthening of the rear fuselage reduced (but never completely eliminated) the structural problems. A new bubble canopy gave outstanding situational awareness. The Mk Ib, armed with four 20mm cannon (there was also a Mk Ia, armed with 12 machine guns, but it was produced only in limited numbers) was also modified to carry eight 3-inch rockets or two, 1,000lb bombs, and finally the Typhoon found its niche as a superlative ground-attack aircraft.  

The subject of this kit, a Typhoon Ib of 245 Squadron RAF with bubble canopy and four-blade propellor. Even while carrying rockets or bombs, the Typhoon was capable of over 400mph at low level!

Over 3,000 Typhoons were produced in total and these aircraft remained in service with the RAF until the end of the war. There were plans for an improved Mk II, but this proved to be so different that instead it became the excellent Hawker Tempest, introduced into RAF service in early 1944.

What’s in the Box?

This kit depicts a late model Typhoon Ib with bubble canopy, four-blade propellor and strengthened rear fuselage. The top-opening box contains four sprues moulded in light grey plastic, one clear sprue, decals and instructions.

The mouldings look sharp, clean (there isn’t much flash at all) and reasonably detailed, though perhaps the detail isn’t as fine as you’ll find on some kits – “chunky” is the word that springs to mind and the connections to the sprues look very thick in places. Underwing racks and eight 3-inch rockets are provided as well as a pair of 1,000lb bombs, but you’ll have to drill out mounting holes if you want to use these. At least that gives the option of modelling this Typhoon “clean” without the need to fill mounting holes. But what about the surface detail, something that I have seen criticized in other reviews?

All I can say is that to me, it looks perfectly acceptable. Is it overdone? Perhaps a little. But then, I brush paint my kits, and that always involves the filling-in of surface detail to a degree. So, I’m happy to see fairly deep panel lines. If you use an air brush, I suppose you may feel differently. Incidentally, those rhomboidal plates just ahead of the horizontal stabilizer mounting on the image above are the strengthening fishplates added to the Typhoon to stop the tail separating in-flight at the transport joint.

Internal detail is provided for the 20mm cannon and bays and there are separate armament bay doors which can be shown open though if you decide to use these you’ll have to cut out part of the upper wing mouldings.

Internal cockpit detail looks adequate and includes some detail on the inside of the fuselage halves.

One nice touch is that the mainwheel tyres are moulded with bulges and flat spots to make them look right with the gear down. I assume they’ll also fit in the bays if you choose to show the gear up?

The decal sheet looks fairly comprehensive, though it doesn’t include harness straps. It does include an instrument panel, a few stencil markings, the black anti-slip panels for the top of the wings and the yellow markings for the wing leading edges. It also provides markings for two aircraft: one from 245 Squadron (shown on the box-art) and an aircraft of 121 Wing which includes invasion stripes, though if you don’t fancy these I suppose you can always leave them off to show the aircraft in pre-D-Day markings.

The colour schemes are clear though, as seems standard for newer Airfix kits, the colours noted are only for Humbrol paints.

The instructions use standard Airfix 3-D views and appear to be easy to follow.

Would You Want One?

Looking inside the box, I don’t see anything that should put you off this kit. Considering that this is a fairly low-cost kit, detail looks adequate and all the mouldings look reasonably sharp. To me, the surface detail looks fine, especially given that I’ll be brush-painting which will inevitably fill-in the panel lines. However, if you do fancy something different, there isn’t as much choice in 1/72 as you might expect.

There’s the old Airfix kit (A01027), but trust me, you probably don’t want to spend time on a kit that’s as old as I am! Frog released a couple of versions of the Typhoon Ib in the 1960s, including one with the car door canopy, but even if you can find one, these aren’t great by current standards. Academy released a 1/72 Typhoon Ib in 1998. This models a late Ib with bubble canopy but a three-blade propellor. This kit is OK, but the fuselage shape doesn’t look quite right and it has raised panel-lines which will put many people off. 

Czech manufacturer Brengun released several kits of the Typhoon Ia and Ib in 2013 covering versions with bubble and car door canopies and three and four-blade “proppelers.” These all appear to be outstanding kits in terms of detail and accuracy, if not spelling, and all versions include a small PE fret. Some reviews suggest that these kit are a little tricky to build, they’re not as widely available as the Airfix version and they cost around twice as much. The only other current alternative I’m aware of is a kit by Pavia Models, another Czech manufacturer. This was released in 2003 and it’s a short-run kit that includes plastic, resin and vacuum-form parts. It said to be very accurate and nicely detailed, but it may not be easy to find and if you do locate one, expect to pay anything from two to three times the price of the Airfix kit.

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Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), Build Review

Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), Build Review

The build starts, as with most aircraft kits, with the cockpit. This isn’t particularly complex, comprising just eight parts, and I chose to use the flat instrument panel with decals rather than trying to paint the 3-D panel. When assembled, painted and with the decals for harness straps and instruments in place, it looks pretty good.

The fuselage halves join cleanly and with no fit issues. No filler is required, just some gentle work with wet-and-dry paper to smooth the seam.

The engine and cowl also fit together very nicely and again, no filler is needed. The engine isn’t as detailed as you’ll find on some F6F kits, but IMHO, it’s perfectly satisfactory given that it’s mostly hidden by the cowl. A quick dry-fit of the cowl shows that this also fits very nicely indeed on to the fuselage.

I’m leaving off the wings and tailplanes at this point to make painting simpler and to reduce the need for masking. Of course, you can only use this approach where you don’t need filler on the join between wings and fuselage. A quick dry-fit show that the fit of the wings and tailplanes into the sockets in the fuselage is pretty close to perfect. No filler will be needed – you’ll barely need glue here! Top marks Eduard.

However, while dry-fitting the tailplanes, I did notice a something that initially puzzled me. The tailplanes have a series of four circular panels on one side. The instructions show that these should be fitted with the circular panels facing down. But both supplied tailplanes are identical.

So, when you put them in place, they look like this.

That looks wrong and it certainly isn’t what the instructions show. I contacted Eduard support (who, incidentally, answered my questions promptly and were very polite and extremely helpful) who explained that the instructions are wrong but the kit parts are correct – they even provided a wartime image of an F6F that clearly shows those four circular plates only on the top of the left-hand tailplane. With that clarified, I go on to paint the interior of the cowl and intakes in medium grey while the engine cylinders are finished in a darker grey with gunmetal highlights.

I then add the cowl to the fuselage. Fit is very good.

One nice touch is that the exhausts are moulded as part of the fuselage, and these are visible once the cowl is fitted.

I’m now ready to begin painting the three-colour scheme. I have decided to leave off the large under-fuselage fuel tank, as many wartime images show F6F-3s without this tank, and I like the clean look without it. The first challenge is the Ensign White used on the underside of the wings, tailplanes and fuselage. This is a very light grey, virtually an off-white, and the plastic used here is quite dark, so it takes several coats to get an even finish. I’m careful to use very thin coats in order not to fill in all the lovely surface detail. Here it is after three coats…

It finally takes seven coats (seven coats!) to get to a fairly streak-free finish. Look, I like brush painting, but I can’t help but feel that this might be one kit better tackled with an airbrush!

I also paint the undersides of the tailplanes wings, and wheel-bays in Ensign White. I have seen some kits of the F6F-3 with these finished in Interior Green, but my research seems to indicate that when the three-colour camo scheme was used, the gear bays, legs, doors (inside and out) and wheel centres were generally painted in the same Ensign White as the undersides of the wings.    

Next, it’s time to add the band of Intermediate Blue on the fuselage sides, vertical stabilizer and rudder. I purchased Vallejo paint “Azul Americano/Intermediate Blue” 70.903 specifically for this kit. It looked good in colour charts, but when it arrived, it’s a fairly dark grey without even a hint of blue, which is kind of frustrating. So, I have to mix up my own version of USN Intermediate Blue. I mask the edge where this colour adjoins the Ensign White. Wartime images seem to show that this was a soft edge, probably achieved through spraying. However, brush-painting makes this very difficult to achieve, so I have to settle for a hard edge.

Then, I add Sea Blue on the top of the fuselage, wings and tailplanes. And I am cheating a little here. The USN “tri-color scheme” is actually four colours because, while the most of the wings and tailplanes should be glossy Sea Blue, the fuselage and leading edges should be matte Sea Blue. But I’m just going to give the whole thing a coat of matte varnish.

Next, I add the undercarriage and the decals (though I’m afraid I don’t bother with the tiny stencil markings). And as you can see, there’s an odd problem – the Intermediate Blue paint that I mixed up changes colour to a darker blue in patches round the all decals.

This look pretty awful, but I have no idea what caused it – was it a reaction to the Vallejo Decal Fix, the Decal Softener or to the decals themselves? Whatever, some careful touching up is required to get to this point.

That just leaves the propellor, canopy, windscreen and radio mast to add. I freehand paint the canopy and windscreen framing, and it doesn’t look too bad – certainly no worse than I get when masking.

With those parts in place, it all gets a light wash of grey oil paint to highlight the surface detail. While that’s usually effective in highlighting panel lines, here the many coats of paint have filled these in to such an extent that they don’t really show much at all. But that’s it done!

After-Action Report

The construction of this kit was an absolute pleasure. Fit is close to perfect and no filler was required at all. And the completed model captures perfectly the squat, purposeful look of the F6F. This really is a cracking little kit and I certainly didn’t feel that a lack of PE parts from the Profipack Edition made it notably worse (though I would like to try the canopy masks). The decals are sharp, in-register and nicely dense and you do have the option to add all those stencil markings if you choose.

For a number of reasons, I didn’t enjoy painting this kit at all. Painting the undersides in Ensign White took far too many coats to get a consistent finish, and every coat covered up a little more of that lovely, subtle surface detail. The Vallejo Intermediate Blue that I bought specifically for this kit turned out to look nothing like the colour I was expecting, and the problems with the decals reacting with my mix for this colour required yet more coats, covering up even more surface detail.

Given my experience here, I’d have to say that this is one kit that might benefit from painting with an airbrush rather than a hairy stick. I don’t have an airbrush so I did my best with brush painting and I’m not too unhappy with the end result, though I can’t help feel that with better painting, you could end up with a superb result from what is an outstanding kit.  Overall, I’d heartily recommend this to anyone who fancies building a small-scale F6F and, for what it’s worth, I think that this Weekend Edition is a great kit in itself for very little cash. Now, if only Eduard would start a range of 1/72 AFVs… 

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Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), In-Box Review and History

Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), In-Box Review and History

Czech company Eduard began producing kits back in 1995, though they’re probably best-known for their photo-etch and detail add-ons for existing kits. They now offer a range of injection moulded 1/72 aircraft kits covering subjects from World War One and Two as well as post-war jets. Many of their kits come in two editions, Profipack and Weekend.

The Profipack Edition kits include lots of PE parts (often coloured) as well as cockpit masks. The Weekend Edition kits (which are notably cheaper) contain the same injection moulded parts but lack the PE and masks and often have more limited decal options. From the late 1990s, the company switched to using a computer controlled high pressure injection moulding approach called LTM which ensures that their kits have surface detail that’s said to be right up there with the best.

This kit was released in 2011 in both Weekend and Profipack editions (though even if you go for the Weekend Edition, you can still buy the PE and cockpit masks separately). As regular readers will know, I do like a bargain and when I saw the Weekend Edition of this kit on sale for just over €8, well, how could I resist?

But it wasn’t just my natural Scottish parsimony that prompted this purchase (well, not entirely…). I don’t really care for tiny PE parts and the F6F canopy looks pretty simple to paint, so I was very happy to go for this edition just to find out whether Eduard mouldings really are as good as people say. I’ll take a look at the kit in a moment, but first, let’s briefly remind ourselves of the history of the pretty wonderful F6F.


When the United States found itself at war with the Japanese Empire in December 1941, it’s main navy fighter was the Grumman F4F Wildcat. The F4F was pretty good, but it had a major problem: the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. The A6M proved to be a better aircraft than the Americans (or anyone else) had anticipated, and it was clear that US Navy pilots would need something faster, able to climb more quickly and more manouvrable if they were to be able to fight the Zero on equal terms.

F4F-4 Wildcats on Guadalcanal in 1942.

Chance Vought were already working on just such a fighter, the mighty F4U Corsair. But development of the F4U was taking longer than expected due to a number of issues including limited visibility and awkward spin recovery. Grumman were also already working on a successor to the Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat. This was similar to the Wildcat in general appearance, but replaced that aircraft’s narrow, hand-cranked undercarriage with wider, twin-leg hydraulically operated gear that rotated through 90˚ before retracting to the rear.

A rather battered F6F-3 in an unusual variant of the three-colour scheme on the Solomon Islands in 1943.

In the first prototype, the F6F-1, this aircraft was fitted with the 1,700hp Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone 14-cylinder radial engine. It wasn’t bad, but then someone had the bright idea of installing the 2,000hp, 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine that was also used in the F4U and the P-47 Thunderbolt. In this form, as the F6F-3, the Hellcat had the performance and the manouvrability to take on the Zero.

A colour wartime image showing a pair of F6F-3s in the three-colour scheme introduced in 1943.

The F6F-3 was formally adopted by the US Navy in 1942, though it was still regarded as an interim solution only to be used until the F4U was available in numbers. It entered service with the USN in early 1943 and over 12,000 were built. In total, F6Fs destroyed over 5,000 enemy aircraft, achieving a 19:1 kill ratio and accounting for 75% of all enemy aircraft destroyed by the USN in World War Two – not bad for an interim design! Late model F6F-3s were adapted to carry rockets and bombs and the only major variant, the F6F-5, differed only in having a slightly more powerful engine, more armour and a strengthened airframe. This was truly the fighter that won the Pacific Air War. 

What’s in the Box?

In the top-opening box, you’ll find three spues moulded in fairly dark grey plastic, one transparent sprue, two decal sheets and a full-colour booklet with instructions and painting guides.

On  examining the main sprues, one thing that stands out is the sheer quality of the surface detail. The outer skin of the F6F fuselage was constructed from lapped panels, and these are very nicely replicated here.

The engraved panel lines and rivets are also beautifully done without being overdone. My only concern is that brush painting may tend to fill this detail in – very thin coats will be required.

Cockpit interior detail also looks very nicely done. The instrument panel is supplied in two versions – one with flat surfaces for use with the supplied decals and one in 3-D if you prefer to paint the panels.

Even the mainwheel tyres come in two versions – one with tread and one without.

The single, circular transparent sprue also looks good.

Two alternate windscreens are provided (though I believe the one on the right is probably appropriate for an F6F-3).

There are also two versions of the separate sliding portion of the canopy, with a thinner alternate that can be shown in the open position.

There are two decal sheets. One includes national markings, other main external markings, harnesses and instrument panel decals. The anti-slip panels used on the wings on two of the colour schemes are also included.

The other decal sheet includes a plethora of tiny stencils.

The instructions seem very clear and include colour images showing four different schemes. All feature variations on the three-colour scheme with Sea Blue on the upper fuselage and the tops of the wings and tail planes and Ensign White (an off-white/very light grey) on the undersides. These are separated by a band of Intermediate Blue. All the colour scheme images are well done, detailed and each includes a short history of the particular aircraft depicted.

Would You Want One?

Yes. If you want to build an F6F in 1/72 scale, I’m really not sure you could do better. This doesn’t cost a great deal (even when it’s not on special offer, you can generally find this Weekend Edition for south of €12), the surface detail is exquisite and the detail in areas like the cockpit, engine and undercarriage looks very good. I’m not aware of any accuracy issues (for example, the distinctive cowl and chin intake of the F6F, a problem in many other kits of this aircraft, is done very nicely here) and the decals and painting guides look very detailed. I’m not sure what else you could ask for from any aircraft kit in this scale. And, IMHO, don’t think that the Weekend Edition is somehow second-best – you still get the same outstanding moulding, I really don’t feel that cockpit masks are essential here and you don’t have to faff about with tiny bits of PE.

Is this the perfect F6F in 1/72? Well, you can’t show the wings folded as you can on some other F6F kits and the engine cowling cooling gills, flaps and all control surfaces are integral parts and can’t be shown deflected, so perhaps not. But what you do get looks very good indeed.    

If for some reason you don’t fancy this F6F kit (and honestly, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t choose this one…) there are, as you’d guess, plenty of 1/72 alternatives. Oldest of them all is the Airfix F6F-3/5, first released all the way back in 1967. It isn’t terrible but, unsurprisingly, it just isn’t up the standard of more recent kits in terms of detail. Matchbox released a 1/72 Hellcat in 1973, but I don’t know much about this kit and, as far as I’m aware, it’s no longer available and hasn’t been re-boxed by any other company. Hasegawa released a 1/72 F6F-3/5 back in 1980, and it’s a pretty decent kit though the cockpit is fairly simple and the Academy F6F-3/5 released in 1992 is either a re-box of or at least very similar to this Hasegawa offering.

Italeri released a 1/72 F6F-3 in 2001, and this has also been re-boxed by both Revell and Tamiya. This isn’t a bad kit, but it is said to have some minor accuracy issues. Cyber Hobby also released a 1/72 F6F-3 in 2011 and it seems to be a very nice and well-detailed kit and probably the closest in terms of detail and accuracy to this Eduard offering (and it has the option to show the wings folded and separate control surfaces). But it does generally cost more than twice as much as this Weekend Edition…

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Takom 1/72 Chieftain Mk 5 and FV 432 2/1 (5008) – FV 432 Build Review

Because this kit includes two separate models, I’ll be covering each in its own build review. And I’m going to start with the tiny FV 432 personnel carrier.

I begin by constructing the lower hull, and it very quickly becomes obvious that this isn’t your average 1/72 kit. The lower hull assembly has generally taken just ten minutes or so to assemble in most of the small-scale armour kits I have built. Here, this step involves the assembly of around 50 parts, many of which are very tiny. Just getting to the point shown in the image below took me a couple of hours, some swearing and a fair amount of fighting with the carpet-monster.

Take, for example, the two small stowage boxes on either side of the rear hull door. Each comprises no less than five very small separate parts and getting them assembled and straight takes a bit of time. There is nothing intrinsically wrong here – fit is generally very good and the instructions do a reasonable job of showing where everything goes, but assembly here is notably more complex and fiddly than you’ll find on most small-scale armour kits. Overall, this feels like a scaled-down 1/35 kit rather than something purpose-designed for 1/72. That said, the end result does look nicely detailed!

Then, it’s on to the upper hull and more of the same. There are in excess of 40 parts, many of them very tiny. There are over 20 of those tiny cylinders at each corner and in the centre (I don’t know what they are), and each is a separate part, just 3mm long. I leave off the pintle-mounted machine gun and shovels for the moment, to make painting simpler. 

Next, I add the front hull panel, which includes lots more tiny parts, but at least the fit of the panel to the lower hull is very good.

Then I join the upper and lower hull, and fit is again very good indeed.

Then I work on the tracks. These are cleanly moulded and the top run has appropriate sag included. I fix the single links to the sprocket and idler and join the three bottom runs together. The main issue is the tiny size of the individual links and getting these even reasonably straight is a challenge, especially where the single links fit on the sprocket. I use the jig provided, and end up with a separate upper and lower run for each side.

Finally, I add the PE mudflaps and the PE shopping basket (though I’m sure that’s not what it’s really called…) on the upper hull, though I don’t glue this in place at the moment to make painting simpler.

And that, apart from adding the exhaust, tools and tow cables, is pretty much construction of this tiny FV 432 complete. Phew! If I’m honest, nothing is too horribly difficult and fit is generally very good, but there certainly are lots more tiny pieces here than you get on most 1/72 AFV kits! Generally, construction of an AFV kit is something I get out of the way fairly quickly so I can get started on painting, but here, construction takes a fair amount of time and effort. This isn’t an easy or quick build by any means but there is more crisp detail here than I have come across previously in this scale.

Anyway, now I can finally start painting. I have decided to finish this as a vehicle of the Royal Scots during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, so I begin with a coat of Vallejo Light Sand. It’s a little light (though the colour applied to British AFVs in that operation was fairly light, and it seemed to bleach quickly in the sun), but once it’s weathered with an oil wash, it should come closer to the look of the original.

Then I paint the small details and add dry-brushed highlights and add everything but the mesh basket on the upper hull. The tracks are quite fiddly to get in position and lined-up, but they look OK once they’re done.

Then I add the decals and give it a coat of clear varnish.

Then, it gets a dark brown oil wash to bring out the shadows, tone down the base colour and make the whole thing look grubby and streaked.

The final job is to add and some dust and dirt to the lower hull, tracks and running gears using pastels. And with that, this tiny FV 432 is finally done.

After Action Report

This wasn’t a relaxing or simple build. Fit is generally very good, but there are an awful lot of very tiny parts here. The link and length tracks were a bit of a pain to build, mainly because the single links are so tiny. Getting the roadwheels even close to straight and level is also a problem because of very small, delicate mountings. This is a kit where I’d quite like to build a second example, just because I feel like through doing this first one, I have learned how to do it right the second time!

However, there are no problems in terms of overall accuracy as far as I can see and the final result looks OK. It’s certainly difficult to see how you could have a more detailed 1/72 AFV kit. All the mouldings are sharp and that leads to a finished model where the detail really pops.

This certainly isn’t a kit for a beginner, but if you’re confident of your building skills, it can end up as a really nice finished model. Overall, I’d recommend this if you are interested in modern British armour and if you’re a confident kit-builder. Next, I’ll be working on the other half of this kit – the Chieftain tank. I’m hoping that will be a little easier to build, if only because it is slightly bigger and that should make things like the tracks easier to work with. 

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Zen and the Art of Building Model Kits

Since I rediscovered the joys of building model kits a few years ago, I have wondered on more than one occasion why I find this hobby so absorbing? I don’t enter competitions, I certainly don’t try to sell the finished kits and I don’t even tend to show them to anyone other than my long-suffering wife who, I suspect, has come to dread hearing the words “Hey, look at this…” 

So, why do I do it? This ramble represents my thoughts about this hobby and what I like about it. You may agree. You may not. Either way, please do feel free to add your comments.

So, why do we do this?

On the face of it, the process of kit building is more than a little absurd. A manufacturer carefully produces a scale representation of a particular aircraft, vehicle or ship. Then, they spend a great deal of time, effort and money breaking this down into component pieces so that we can buy it and build it back up into something (hopefully) resembling what they started out with.

This is a perfectly reasonable 1/76 Churchill by Oxford Diecast. If you buy one of these, you won’t get glue on your fingers or paint on the carpet. But, IMHO, you won’t have nearly as much fun either.

Now, wouldn’t it cut out a great deal of mucking about if the manufacturer simply gave us a complete model instead of a box of parts? And if they’d paint it too, then I could avoid getting the marks on the carpet that cause my wife so much distress. But there’s the thing: the mucking about is what this hobby is really about. I don’t know about you, but I generally lose interest in a kit as soon as its finished. This is clearly about the process, not the product. But what is it about building and painting a kit that gives so much satisfaction. I suspect there are several parts to the answer.

Learning about what you’re building

I love learning new stuff, particularly on topics I’m already interested in. I suspect most people are the same. And if you’re building a kit of, for example, a Panzer III Ausf. L, well, you’re going to want to know what a Panzer III is and how an Ausf. L version is different. And how and where it was used and consequently, how it was painted and used.

That’s the Fleeting Cloud camouflage pattern. Not a lot of people know that.

That applies to any kit you’re building. One of the kits I have most enjoyed building in the last 12 months was the Tamiya Chi-Ha. Partly, that’s because it’s a decent kit but it’s also because, when I started out, I knew very little about Japanese tanks. Learning about this tank led me to discover, amongst many other things, something called the “Fleeting Cloud” camouflage pattern. I shared that particular interesting fact with my wife, though she seemed surprisingly ungrateful.

You’re an artist!

However much we might want to deny it, if you go past basic construction and painting, creating tiny versions of large aircraft, vehicles and ships is an art form. Unless you’re building in 1/1 scale, you can’t simply paint a kit in precisely the same way as the original and expect it to look right. Colours look different at small scale as do things like the effects of light and shadow.

Particularly if you’re working in a small scale, you have to consider these things. That’s why techniques like dry-brushed highlights and washes that emphasise shadows can make such a difference to how a finished kit looks. They aren’t there on the original, but once you have tried them, you won’t go back to flat painted kits.

Dry-brushed highlights and an oil wash to bring out the shadows. Does that make this Italeri Marder III a work of art? I’m not certain, but it’s about as close as I will come.

And while there are lots of guides available, the amount of this type of work (plus things like paint chipping and weathering) are entirely up to you. You’ll be working with acrylic and/or enamel paints as well as oils and pastels to achieve an effect that looks right to you. Face it, you’re an artist! And that’s hugely satisfying.

Making them better

Few kits are perfect out of the box, particularly if, like me, you have an interest in older kits. These often lack detail or sometimes they’re just plain wrong. I actually enjoy the process of researching how accurate and complete a particular kit is and in trying to improve it if I can. I’m not aiming for 100% accuracy, because I’m not even sure that’s attainable.

The Airfix 1/76 Tiger from 1964 is pretty crap by modern standards. Even with a few improvements, it’s only marginally less crap. But for reasons I can’t really explain, I enjoyed the process of trying to make it better.

But I do think there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had in attempting to improve a kit. And perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m less enthusiastic about some recent kits. They’re just so damn good that there is really very little you can do to make them better. I think that’s why I often find myself drawn to cheap-and-cheerful older kits that give me some scope for adding my own improvements and extra details.  

Be in the moment

Finally, we come to the Zen part of this article and what is, for me at least, one of the least recognised joys of model building. One of the concepts explored in Zen is mindfulness, sometimes called “being in the moment”. There have been whole books written about this topic, but the basic idea is simple: you give 100% of your attention to what you’re doing right now, without being distracted by thoughts of the past or future. And there’s actually good evidence that this is good for your brain, helping you to reduce stress, reducing the effects of depression and helping you to sleep.

In today’s hectic world, actually spending time wholly thinking about what you’re doing now is rare: we often do something while thinking about what we’re going to do tomorrow or worrying about what we should have done yesterday. Mindfulness is about escaping this. Of course, you can find mindfulness in lots of ways. I used to race and ride motorcycles, and those activities pretty much demand 100% concentration at all times. Because if you don’t you’ll end up bouncing down the road or track. A good ride on a fast bike can leave you feeling clear headed-and relaxed. But a failure to achieve that can lead to additions to my already extensive scar collection, so now, I get my mindfulness fix through model building.

This person is preparing to paint the roadwheel tyres on a 1/72 Panzer IV. Probably…

Whether you are painting the frame on a canopy of a small scale aircraft, or the roadwheel tyres on a small scale tank, or just about any other aspect of building a model, you are giving all your attention to what you’re doing. That’s why a good session of kit-bashing can leave you feeling relaxed, more positive and less stressed. And that’s why I believe that kit-building is a Zen activity.

What do you think?

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Revell 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb (03897) In-Box Review and History

I finished my first aircraft kit for a number of years recently (the 1/72 Airfix Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero, as you ask) and I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d try another small scale aircraft. Although Airfix was the mainstay of my childhood kit-building, Revell kits also featured widely. I have attempted a couple of Revell 1/72 tank kits in the last couple of years, and they were both pretty good. So when I noticed that Revell also do a budget range of 1/72 aircraft kits, I thought I’d take a look. Here in Spain, these sell for around €8, which is about as cheap as it gets for any plastic kit, but are these bargains or just cheap and nasty?

The answer seems to be that these kits are a mixed bag. All are the same price, but some are rather elderly: the Ta-152, for example, appears to be a re-box of a FROG kit initially released back in 1968 and the P-51D and Fokker D VII date all the way back to original Revell releases in 1963. As you’d expect, these older kits just aren’t up to modern standards but some of this budget line are more recent releases and seem to be well regarded. The P-47M Thunderbolt, for example, was released in 1999 and looks pretty good. If you’re going for one of this range, you do need to do a little research to understand what you’ll be getting.

Revell first released a 1/72 Spitfire kit (covering the Mk I) all the way back in 1963. Then, in 1996 they issued a new-tool Spitfire Mk Vb that was, to be honest, a bit crap with a number of notable accuracy issues. My choice here is yet another new-tool kit of the Spitfire Mk Vb released by Revell in 2018. Reviews suggest that this is much better than the 1996 version, though I believe both are still available so if you’re thinking of buying one, make sure you get the 2018 kit (03897) and not the version from 1996 (04109).

I’d guess that there can’t be many kit-builders who haven’t attempted a small-scale Spitfire at some point so I’ll be interested to see how this relatively recent Revell kit stacks up.


In 1930 the British Air Ministry issued Specification F.7/30 which called for designs for a new fighter capable of 250mph and armed with four machine guns. Several companies responded including Supermarine Aviation Works, a subsidiary of Vickers. The outcome was an entirely new monoplane, the Supermarine Type 224. Unusually, the company asked the Air Ministry to reserve a dramatic new name for the new aircraft (if it was accepted into service): Spitfire.

Supermarine Type 224. Horrible, isn’t it?

The outcome was a single prototype Type 224 built in 1933. It was a truly ugly monoplane with thick gull-wings, an open cockpit and fixed undercarriage provided with spats. It was powered by the unreliable Rolls-Royce Goshawk II engine (the thick wings and spats incorporated the complex cooling system for the engine) and was capable of no more than 235mph. Overall the Type 224 looked more like a Junkers Ju-87 Stuka than a sleek fighter and it never went into production (or received the name Spitfire). Even Supermarine’s chief engineer, Reginald Mitchell, was disappointed and he immediately began work on something radically different, a streamlined monoplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear. The outcome of this second design led to the incomparably better Supermarine Type 300.

Prototype of the Supermarine Type 300 preparing for its first test flight.

Powered by the new Rolls-Royce PV-12 engine (soon to be named the Merlin) the new aircraft made its first flight in March 1936. The thin wings were of a unique elliptical shape and featured a cantilevered main spar that gave immense strength while allowing internal space for the undercarriage, eight Browning machine guns and over 2,400 rounds of ammunition. The fuselage was of monocoque construction, with the thin outer skin giving added strength. It’s performance was simply outstanding, giving good speed and manoeuvrability while remaining relatively easy to fly.

An early Mk I Spitfire with two-blade propellor.

It would be 1938 before the first production aircraft finally left the Supermarine works in Southampton, now formally named as the Spitfire. Mitchell commented that this was a “bloody silly name.” Apparently, he wanted the new aircraft to be called the Supermarine Shrew! Over the next 15 years, the Spitfire would go through more than 20 variants and over 22,000 were built in total.

A rare colour wartime image from 1943 of the subject of this kit, the Spitfire Mk Vb flown by Squadron Leader Jan Zumbach of 303 Kosciuszko Polish Fighter Squadron.

The subject of this kit is the Spitfire Mk Vb. The Mk V was the first major upgrade to the Spitfire as a day fighter (the MK II was very similar to the original version, only a single Mk III prototype was produced and the Mk IV was produced only as an unarmed photo-reconnaissance version). The main difference in this version was the provision of a more powerful Merlin 45 engine fitted with a single-stage, single-speed supercharger for improved low altitude performance and a new carburettor capable of maintaining fuel flow to the engine under negative G.  There were three main versions of the Mk V: the Va, armed with eight Browning machine guns, the Vb, armed with four machine guns and two 20mm cannon and the Vc, provided with wings that could be armed with either eight machine guns, four machine guns and two 20mm cannon or four 20mm cannon.

Another colour wartime image showing Squadron Leader Jan Zumbach (wearing life-jacket) standing in front of his Spitfire Mk Vb.

This was the most produced of all Spitfire versions with more than 6,500 being produced from 1941. Mk V Spitfires were used by 140 RAF squadrons at various times and remained in front line service until almost the end of the war. This was also the first Spitfire to be able to carry both bombs and external fuel tanks and in addition to the RAF it was also used by the USAAF and the Soviet Red Air Force. Given how widely it was used and providing you are willing to source alternate decals, a kit of the Mk V provides a great deal of scope for producing a finished model depicting a number of different aircraft.

What’s in the Box?

The 42 parts that make up this kit are provided on four sprues moulded in light grey plastic and a single transparent sprue.

There is a little flash but the detail, and particularly the external surface detail, looks sharp but quite subtle and very nicely done.

The cockpit looks reasonably well detailed (though I’m not certain it’s entirely accurate – the cockpit floor in the original is curved, not flat as it is here, for example) and it includes interior detail inside the fuselage halves, though this isn’t particularly sharply moulded.

A single transparent sprue includes the sliding part of the canopy as a separate part and two alternate windscreens, one armoured and one unarmoured, though I believe that almost all Mk Vbs were fitted with the armoured version.

I have seen criticism of this kit elsewhere claiming that the moulding for the canopy, and particularly the sliding part, is much too thick. It may be a little thick, but I can’t say that it looks too bad to me and I certainly appreciate the option to be able to show the canopy in the open position.

I have also seen several other reviews that complain that the fuselage underside on this kit, where it joins the trailing edges of the wings, is moulded flat and lacks the distinctive “gull-wing” shape of the original. All I can say is that on the example I have, this area is not flat and appears to include the correct subtle curves.

The wingtips are provided as separate parts, and the instructions suggest that you can build this as either a standard or clipped-wing version. Clipped-wing Vbs were said to have better low-level performance, although this also degraded their climb ability. I appreciate having that option, though I believe that only the elliptical wing is correct if you’re going to use the supplied decals. Two under-fuselage slipper fuel tanks are also provided, one the 30 gallon version and the other the 80 gallon. The decal sheet is printed in-register and seems pretty comprehensive, including both the instrument panel and Sutton harnesses. The only things missing are the yellow patches for the leading edge of the wings which will need to be painted, which is a bit of a pain.

The instruments are also moulded into the panel, so you’ll probably want to sand this flat if you decide to use the supplied decal. The decals and suggested colour scheme only cover a single aircraft, flown by Squadron Leader Jan Zumbach of 303 Kosciuszko Polish Fighter Squadron (though there is no shortage of alternate aftermarket decals in 1/72 for the Mk Vb if you do want to depict a different aircraft). The colour scheme shown is correctly based on the RAF Temperate Day Fighter Scheme introduced in August 1941, comprising a camo scheme of Ocean Grey and Dark Green on top and Medium Sea Grey on the undersides. The suggested colours for the camo scheme (Dark Green and Blue-Gray) look just about OK though the colour suggested for the undersides, Medium Grey, looks a little dark.

The instructions seem to be up to Revell’s usual high standards and appear simple to follow.

Would You Want One?

I have seen a number of criticisms of this kit elsewhere. OK, I accept that it isn’t perfect, but I don’t think it’s terrible as a budget kit either. Many people mention the overly thick canopy, though it looks useable to me. One thing I would agree with is that the spinner looks a little short here and the propellor seems to be mounted too far to the rear, though I suspect it may be possible to address this. The exhausts also have round outlets rather than the more flattened openings found in the Vb. I think both these issues are because of the use of parts copied from the earlier Revell Spitfire Mk IIa kit from 2016 – I guess that this re-use of existing parts probably reflects the low price of this kit. Several people have also remarked in reviews that this kit lacks the distinctive “gull-wing” shape of the rear fuselage underside between wings, mentioning specifically that the fuselage underside between the trailing edges of the wings is shown flat in this kit. Mine certainly isn’t like that so I’m not sure if this kit has been revised since its first release? Overall and out-of-the-box I’m fairly happy with the level of detail and accuracy that I see on this budget kit.

If you don’t fancy this one, as you’d guess, there are lots of alternatives in 1/72, but few provide a really accurate kit of the Spitfire Mk Vb. Airfix do a Spitfire Mk Vb in 1/72, but it isn’t a new tool kit like their Spitfire Mk Ia from 2010: despite the new box-art it’s an original release from 1975. That said, it isn’t at all bad (the spinner and propellor, for example, are notably more accurate than on this Revell kit), though it does have some other accuracy issues. Tamiya also do a 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb that was first released back in 1993 and it’s a decent kit, though unusually for Tamiya it has a one-piece canopy moulding that can’t be shown open, the wings lack dihedral and the shape of the rear fuselage looks not quite right.

Heller released a 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb in 1978, and again it’s not bad (the cockpit is particularly good) but it has some problems with the wings which look really odd from the front. This kit has been also re-boxed by Aurora and Testors and is currently available from SMER Hi-Tech. Italeri also offer a Spitfire Mk Vb in 1/72. This was released in 2006, but it’s mainly based on a much earlier Spitfire kit from Italeri and it’s sort of OK, but not wonderful and the shape of the forward fuselage looks a little odd. HobbyBoss do a 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb/Trop in their “Easy Assembly” series, and it isn’t bad in terms of overall look, but it lacks detail: the cockpit is very basic and it lacks landing gear doors, for example.

I suppose you could combine the best elements from this Revell offering plus bits and pieces from the Airfix and Heller kits to produce something more accurate. Alternatively, AZ Model from the Czech Republic released a 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb in 2010 (though this seems also to be sold under the Kovozávody Prostejov logo), and reviews suggest it’s pretty good, though perhaps a little tricky to build. Overall, the AZ Model kit seems to be the most accurate Mk Vb currently available in 1/72 though as I haven’t seen this kit, I can’t say whether it is really the “definitive” Mk Vb as some people claim.

Related PostsRevell 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb (03897) Build Review – coming soon