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Kit Review: The Airfix Mosquito B. XIV/ PR XIV in 1/48

To many, classic kits are synonymous with 1/72 scale; however, there are a great many classics in the other major (and not so major) scales. In addition to their extensive line of 1/72 aircraft, Airfix has produced, and continues to produce, many airplanes in 1/48 scale; not to mention their 1/24 airplane superkits. The 1/48 series of Mosquitos dates back to, I believe, the late 1970s; and initially consisted of the FB VI and NF II variants. A late model nightfighter, and B IV version have also been released. The B/PR XVI version is a more recent release which combines elements from the classic FB VI mould, with new wings, fuselage, canopy, and engines.

When you open the large box, the first thing you will notice is that that there are enough parts to build almost two complete models. Most of the FB VI elements are included; and while I didn’t try it, I think a full FB VI can be built with the parts provided, if you decide you don’t want a late model Mosquito. The older sprues come in a crisp gray plastic with finely raised, and very well done surface detail, while the newer elements are done in a softer, almost soapy plastic with a lightly pebble textured surface. The few panel lines on the new parts are heavily engraved.

I won’t describe a blow-by-blow account of how the kit is built, instead focusing on the high and low points of the model, and the methods I came up with to address the problems I encountered along the way. First the highlights. Despite its age, the kit is pretty well detailed. The landing gear legs are nice, multi-part affairs, and the interior is as nice as what the Tamiya kit offers. The only things I added were harnasses made from masking tape, which were not necessary as it would be revealed later (see below).

cockpit
cockpit2

While the landing gear is quite nice, I ran into a snag when trying to affix the gear doors to the engines. The door hinges are separate elements which need to be glued into the interior of the nacelles and then the doors are attached to them. I assembled the engine nacelles before I inserted the hinges, and they proved overly difficult to do afterwards. After fidgeting with the assembly for a while, I decided to build the kit with its wheels up. As is often the case, the doors did not fit particularly well in the closed position, and required some filling and sanding. Nothing most modelers couldn’t handle.

Airfix gives you to nice figures to put into the cockpit. I painted them to the best of my ability and used the belts I made earlier to strap them into their seats. I wish other manufacturers would get in the habit of including pilots with their models. It really is a nice touch, and for those of us who like posing models in-flight, saves us a lot of running around looking for crew.

bogies 2 o'clock skippa'

The rest of the kit goes together pretty well, but I did run into trouble with the wing roots. The port wing just would not fit. I couldn’t quite figure out what the trouble was, but it seems that the wing glove in the fuselage isn’t the same shape as the wing contour. It may be due to the wing being a combination of the old mould wing bottom, and new mould wing top, with yet a different age mould of the fuselage halves and wing gloves. From what I’ve heard, the FB VI wings fit really well. After much shimmying, widening of the wing gloves, reshaping and other fuss, I got the wing to fit. This was really frustrating with patience it can be done, and is well worth the reward.

The tops of the engine nacelles also fit poorly and require plastic inserts and putty to fit correctly. This was an easy fix in comparison to the wing.

wingsfit after a little work, nacelles still need filling

I decided early on that I wanted to build one of the PR options in the kit. This required opening several holes in the fuselage and bomb bay doors. Airfix gives you plastic lenses to insert into them, but I prefer to use Micro’s Krystal Klear glue to fill the openings, as it dries crystal clear, as the name suggests, and saves me the step of having to mask little portholes, and then risk pushing them in once the fuselage is closed.

But I digress. The kit can also be built as a late model bomber version, the B XIV. This has a bulged bomb bay to accommodate the cookie bomb. Airfix gives you both, and you can pose the bomb bay open if you wish. The cookie looks good enough, but there is no other bomb bay detail, and the bulged bay should taper up at a more gradual slope in the front. The kit bay ends cuts up rather abruptly and hence looks too “puggish”.

The kit decals include three options; a gray/green over black RAF B XVI, and two overall PRU blue PR XVI machines; one South African and the other American. The SAAF airplane has the characteristic orange over blue roundels, yellow prop spinners, an a red and white striped tail. There are also invasion stripes around the fuselage, but these are not provided as a decal. The American version has a red tail, and invasion stripes around the wings and on the fuselage bottom. Again, these have to be painted by hand.

I don’t like the look of invasion stripes, and abhor masking and painting them, so I decided to build an American Redtail Snooper without the stripes. Its not as if the stripes were factory applied, so one may presume that any aircraft with stripes, existed at some point without them. Prior to decaling, I coated the model in Future Floor Polish, and the Airfix decals went on without any issue and without any decal softening solutions. I weathered the model with pastels, modified the spinners by filling the propeller holes and mounted the model on a clear acrylic rod which I inserted through one of the camera ports. The final step was to apply the clear navigation lights on the wingtips. These didn’t fit too well and needed some sanding. While I was at it, I drilled a small hole into the inside of each light, and jammed in some red and green paint onto the hole to simulate a bulb. An easy trick that looks better than just painting the inner surface of the clear part

In conclusion I have to say that this kit was worth all of the effort. I purchased it in the summer of 2008 and worked on it on and off again for the next two years. The fit problems were frustrating, and may put off an inexperienced or impatient modeler, but they’re not difficult to fix if approached systematically and done one bit at a time. The kit builds into a beautiful representation of a beautiful airplane, and at about half the price of a Tamiya mosquito, is a great alternative. Besides, you can’t build a later model PR or bomber from any of the Tamiya or Monogram offerings. I would not recommend this kit to somebody who has little experience in dealing with moderate fit problems, but all of you putty and sanding-stick slingers out there should have no problem at all with this. Minus a few setbacks, this was a fun kit to build and paint. I hope Hornby/Airfix keeps these moulds in good shape and releases more variants. A pantograph into 1/72 scale would be much appreciated as well.

Until next time, happy modeling.

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