Heller were/are great! During the 1970s and into the 1980s, Heller released some terrific model aircraft, ships and armor. Their 1/72 aircraft in particular, are noteworthy. First and foremost, they produced a nice line of aircraft of the 1920s ans 1930s, and planes of the Polish, French, and Swedish airforces. All of which I find fascinating. This particular model lives up to the Heller hype. Its a simple kit, but captures the lines of the Tempest quite well.
There is not much to say about the build, as it was fairly simple. I quickly assembled and painted the rather spartan cockpit, not worrying much about the lack of detail, as the opening is quite small. I then slapped together the fuselage and really well moulded chin radiator elements. Next I glued the upper wings to the wing roots (I do this, as it is a great way of avoiding poorly fitting wings), and then glued on the lower wing. There were a few gaps to fill between the lower wing and the fuselage and back of the chin. Nothing complicated though. The tail planes went on, and that was it for the main components. At that point I decided to remove the moulded in cannons and replace them with short lengths of styrene rods with the ends drilled hollow. They’re a wee bit over scale, but they still look better than the plastic nubs in the kit.
At this stage I masked off the canopy in preparation for painting. The windscreen needed some sanding around its bottom to fit properly. Things need to be carefully aligned, as it is easy to get the canopy off-center. I did that once or twice, and ended up losing the gun sight in the cleaning up process. Once masked, I painted the model using Polly Scale paints. I tried something new with the leading edge stripes. In order to achieve a warmer tone on the yellow, I undercoated them with red (rather than my usual white). I must say, it worked better than expected, and I’ll be doing this henceforth.
Following painting I applied a coat of Future, and then the kit supplied decals for a machine flown by Wing Commander Evan Mackie (RNZAF) at the end of the war. The decals went on fine, and settled down with some Micro Sol and Micro Set. Do note however, that while the instructions do not mention it, there is a score-board decal (#30 I believe) which should go in front of the cockpit. Mackie had over a dozen victories, five of them in the Tempest. I only learned this after finishing the model, and throwing the “extra” decals away.
Initially I planned on building this kit with its gear down, but this is where I ran into trouble. When Heller first released this kit, they did not engineer the gear support trusses particularly well. When installing them, you end up with two butt-joints and in my attempt, I had the trusses at very peculiar and jaunty angles that just looked wrong. In my attempt to fix things, I somehow managed to squeeze one of the parts with my tweezers in such a way that it shot across the room, and into the small part vortex which exists someplace between my work desk, and the star Wolf-359. I couldn’t be arsed to monkey around with fashioning a new one, so I just closed up the gear doors. They fit surprisingly well in this configuration, and only needed some minor sanding to sit flush with the curve of the wing.
A quick repaint did the trick. I press-ganged a pilot from Airfix’s Mig-15 into the roll of WC Mackie by shaving down his upper arms so he would fit into the tight cockpit. His addition further masked the lack of details inside. The prop, exhausts, stirrup, and pitot were added at this stage, and a gash was cut into the belly of the plane with a hot knife. This so it could be positioned on a clear stand of dubious origin.
The final step was the painting of the wing tip formation lights, and the replacement of the aerial mast with a whip antenna which was a feature of Mackie’s aircraft. The formation lights are poorly moulded in one of the wings, so they need to be masked off prior to painting. Otherwise, no sweat.
And thats all there was to it. A simple, relatively pain free build. The kit is no doubt less detailed than the Academy offering, but it looks nice nevertheless. I’m excited to say that Heller are beginning a program of rereleasing some of their classics this year. I don’t know what is slated for reissue first, but I really hope to see some of those French and Polish aircraft on the shelves again.
Viva La Heller!!