On the Go at the Mo’

Hey gang,

In the interest of increasing audience participation I want to open up another poll of sorts on the site. I currently have to classic kits on the go; Tamiya’s 1970s era A6M2 Zero, in 1/48, and Smer’s Mig-17, also in 1/48.

The Zero may be done as soon as this coming weekend and a build review will follow, but I wanted to open up the vote to ask what you, the readers would like to see a reviewed next. In the poll is a list of classic kits in my stash. If there is something you would like to see that is not in the list, than make a suggestion in the comments. I’ll take a look for said kit next time I visit a hobby shop.

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Messerschmitt Madness

Perhaps it is serendipitous that I completed both my new Airfix Messerschmitts within days of one another. I certainly didn’t plan on it. The builds began about two months apart from one another; the 109 featured yesterday, on about the second or third of January, and the BF-110 discussed below, sometime in November of 2010. Why did this seemingly smaller and simpler kit take so much longer?

Lets call it user error 🙂

Airfix’s new mould 1/72 BF-110 C/D (and E) isn’t a bad kit. It isn’t a great kit (like the 1/48 BF-109), but it is miles ahead of their old 110, and in some ways it is better than the Fujimi BF-110 kits in the same scale. It is moulded in a light gray, soapy semi-soft plastic, with a slightly rough texture on the exterior which helps in paint adhesion I guess. There are some pretty egregiously heavily engraved panel lines which aren’t so much too deep as they are too wide. Some panel lines are missing, especially around the nose section.

Details are simplified in some cases, and finer elements, such as the aileron counter balances, and ventral antenna array are absent, as are the wingtip nav lights. The nose guns are a bit chunky, and the cockpit is far too spartan for a kit with such a large canopy. Inaccuracies also include misshapen rudders, engine nacelles which are too long, and though I can’t put my finger on it, something about the nose looks off to me.

On the positive side, Airfix gives you some very nice landing gear, with properly canted and weighted tires, good gear bays, a very nice rear gun, and a variety of external stores. Construction is relatively straight forward, and the lack of small fragile details makes the kit particularly robust. So once again, why did it take so long to build?

To begin with, I rushed the initial stages of construction. This led to some gluey fingerprints, and poorly masked clear parts. After a few days of slapping the main components together, I was not pleased with the model so I set it aside for a few weeks. I returned to the model this January, and successfully sanded and smoothed the sloppy pieces and began painting. I initially chose the Wespen nosed scheme provided in the box, but felt that Airfix erred in their color callouts and began to repaint the aircraft. I grew impatient and ended up with a true mess on my hands (see photos in an earlier posting on this blog).

Long story short, I purchased a nice set of Eagle Strike decals, stripped the paint, got a new canopy, and took another shot at finishing this thing. The new paint scheme turned out beautifully, but in the process I ended up breaking off two of the nose guns. This discouraged me and I set the model aside once again.

A week or two later I replaced the guns with brass rods. Not perfect, but it will do. The process was messy and required repainting of the yellow nose. Anybody who has painted yellow, knows how fussy of a process this can be. During the repaint, I managed to break off the left landing gear, and three of the four gear doors (don’t ask how). I glued them back on, but two of the four fell off once again, as did one of the bombs. At this point I was determined to finish so I endeavored to persevere (how Victorian, eh?). Finally, after a few nights of touchups and weathering, I had a completed BF-110.

The kit won’t win me any contests, but then again, I don’t really participate in any. It is not entirely accurate, as I built it generally out of the box, adding only one belly aerial, but it looks close enough. I should mention that the version I have built is not the 110C described in the Airfix instructions. In fact this is a very early -D with an extended duck-tail which contained an inflatable dinghy for water landings. The particular aircraft also had enlarged rudder trim tabs, but with all of the rudder shape issues already present, I didn’t bother with this minor detail.

I’m pleased with the overall appearance of the model, but it isn’t as nice as some of the other new Airfix releases. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest), I rate this kit a strong seven. The dimensional issues are not difficult to fix, should one choose to do so, and if I hadn’t of rushed things, I think my overall build experience would have been more enjoyable. Still, I can’t help but say that Airfix is capable of doing better.

A modern classic from Airfix

When Airfix first announced a new mould BF-109 E in 1/48 I wasn’t particularly taken by it. I thought, there are plenty of nice 109 kits out there already, what might Airfix provide that they don’t? The answer it turned out, is very simple. Options and a low price.

There are actually two kits available, and they differ only in decal options. I picked up the “Tropical” boxing, but as I understand, the parts in this, and the Battle of Britain boxing are identical. Here is a breif summary of what you get. Standard or tropical air filters, raised or lowered landing gear, a nice pilot figure, drop tank or three options of bombs (including a quad bomb rack), three propeller-spinner types (with or without cannon), the option to display the engine (which is admittedly waaaay under-scale), an auxiliary radio panel for the cockpit, the ability to pose the cockpit open or closed (easily), at least three canopy types, options to build the kit with or without wing guns, and my favorite; all control surfaces, including flaps, are positionable. Thank you Airfix!!! In a nutshell, from this kit you can build just about any of the 109E sub-variants from the E-1 to the E-4, and maybe even the E-7 with a bit more fuss. I chose to build mine as a Romanian E-4 from the Battle of Stalingrad

The kit is moulded in a somewhat chunky and semi-soft light gray plastic, which is easy to cut, shape, and takes well to Tamiya Extra-Thin cement. The surface is somewhat rough, which some folks cry foul about, but I find that it helps in paint adhesion, as it gives it some tooth. It is not at all visible once painted. The panel lines are recessed, and are not as heavy as on some of the other recent Airfix kits.

The build itself is very straight-forward, and there is little to say about it. The only changes I made was to drill out a small hole in the belly in order to mount the model on a clear acrylic rod. I also inserted a small brass tube behind the cockpit to act as a sleeve for the rod, and allow me to remove the model from the stand for transportation purposes.

I also drilled out the wing guns and exhausts. Once again, the soft plastic, made this a quick and painless process. The guns could probably even be hollowed with a pin if you do not own a small enough drill and pin-vice.

I positioned all of the control surfaces to reflect an aircraft that is climbing and banking. Flaps were lowered to combat level, and the pilot was positioned with one hand on the stick, and another reaching for the throttle. Though not much can be seen through the somewhat thick clear parts.

The last changes I made included rounding out the tail wheel and adding antenna wires. Airfix provides you with flattened, weighted tires, which look great, but are unrealistic in for an aircraft posed in flight. No problem, and easy to fix. The antenna wires are from elastic thread, which as far as I’m concerned, is the best modeling accessory since Future (Klear for you Brits) Floor polish.

I have read gripes about the decals, but I found them to be alright. They settled down well over a coat of Future, and once dry I cut them along each panel line and applied some MicroSet so they snugged down into the recesses nicely. Again, no big deal for any modeler worth his or her salt.

The decals were sealed with a second coat of Future, and the whole kit was given a raw-umber oil wash. A clear flat coat followed, and then final weathering was done with some pastel chalks. This is not a difficult kit to build. I only used a little bit of putty on the wing gun mount pieces, and just a smidge at the back of the lower wing. Airfix has really produced a classic with this model. I think I’ll purchase a second one just to build the Spanish Civil War E-1 version also on the decal sheet. This is an easy to build, very forgiving model, with tons of options. Sure, some of the details are simplified (and not much really), but thats what the aftermarket PE and resin sets are for. Beginner and expert alike, will have a good time with this kit, and with just a minimum of effort, a real gem of a model can be produced. I can see people 20, 30 years from now, spending silly money on the future version of e-bay, trying to track down this classic. Yes, it is that good.

Now go out and support your local hobby shop, and show Hornby/Airfix that you appreciate what they’re doing, and buy one or two of these. With the low low asking price, there is little reason to say no.

Thanks Airfix, more models like this please 🙂