Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Build Review - Tamiya 1/48 Mosquito FBVI

I absolutely love the Mosquito. It was one of the first kits I ever built as a kid (the old Airfix 1/72 mould) and undoubtedly not far off the Spitfire when it comes to recognisability by the man in the street.

Tamiya's kit is arguably the best offering in the quarter scale, I built one a year or so ago and my only complaint about it is that the paint colour specifications in the box are completely off. But anyhow, I shall ignore them and come up with what I already know will be a brilliant representation of this magnificent aircraft. The box art seems to have a bit of a perspective problem as well (as do many of these far east kits!) but fortunately the kit itself does not.

I had built one of these not so long ago in the "traditional" RAF camouflage markings and so this time I decided to ring the changes and go for the RS625 variant. Not at all because I didn't want the hassle of the camo masking, honest, but the yellow spinners and lettering seemed to add a little spice to things.

This is one of those rare kits where the instructions do not start with the cockpit, but instead with the engine nacelles and wings. So I dutifully put these together, ignoring the call out to paint the undercarriage wells in interior green, which is just plain wrong. So instead I gave them a more correct bare metal finish using metallic grey with a chrome highlight, which I find gives a great representation of metal structures.Works great on the undercarriage gear as well.

In typical Tamiya fashion, everything went together seamlessly (literally) the only thing needing a little filling was the junction between the rear of the nacelle pods and the top surface of the wing.

Then we finally get on to the cockpit. Well, actually this kit has you construct the cockpit, nose well and bomb bay in one long section before getting anywhere near the fuselage. But it all clicks together beautifully. I gave the whole piece a coat of interior green. There are many arguments about who's paint represents this colour best, with all the major manufacturers providing their own version. Tamiya recommends a three part mix in the kit, but you know what, you cannot beat the original Humbrol 78 offering. It is spot on, so that was used for this purpose.

The dashboard and other panels are very well represented. They got a coat of black, dry brushed with white and the dials filled in with a drop of clear varnish. Tamiya, in common with many other manufacturers, offer decals for the dashboard but I have never understood why they do that, having already provided you with a lovely detailed panel that you will never get decals to conform to. I have tried this in the past and it never really works. The only disadvantage of my method is there is no details within the dials themselves, but please, in this scale, and with a closed cockpit? You are wasting your time.

The instructions for some reason call for dark green seats. I don't think so. They got leather brown like pretty much all other wartime RAF seats. Tamiya provide seatbelts as decals, but these were discarded with a sneer and I raided my spares draw for a couple of sets of Eduard etch versions. Once in place, the cockpit was dirtied up a bit with some dry brushing and a black oil paint wash and it was ready.

The bomb bay is superbly represented and this received quite a lot of attention to make the most of the details. I left out the bombs for now, but these could go in later. Once glued to the cockpit section we were ready for the big moment in any build, putting the fuselage together.

Each fuselage half is in two pieces (presumably to allow for different versions) and the attachment lugs are very neatly hidden by the wings once on - nice engineering, Tamiya. So I put the pieces together and the cockpit/ bomb bay section slipped into the fuselage with no complaints. Once again, the quality of the kit engineering paying off in spades when the whole fuselage clipped together with no complaints at all.

Next on went the wings and tail plane. Again, there is a neat wing brace mechanism that removes any concerns about dihedral and the tails just slip in perfectly. There was a slight gap on one of the wing roots but I suspect that may have been more due to my over zealous sanding than to any fault with the kit. Nothing a smear of filler could not solve.

As per usual, I left off the gear, doors and bomb bay doors for later, and proceeded to prepare for painting. The fit was so good that other than as already mentioned, no major filling was required I just dribbled some primer in all the roots and around the nacelles for good measure. Other than that a good sanding with a fine grain was all that was needed to remove the last vestiges of the fuselage seams and wing edges.

Masking the cockpit canopy took a while, there are a lot of panes in there. Also Tamiya provide decals to represent the internal framing which is a good idea, but I am not sure how effective it is in practice. I went with them anyhow even if their colour is a bit bright and bold for the interior green required. The canopy appeared to fit perfectly and so I glued it in place with aplomb assuming Tamiya's engineering would not let me down. I was mistaken, however.

I first sprayed over the canopy with interior green to represent the insides of the struts, but this revealed some problems with the canopy fit. There was a major (relatively) gap at the back of the canopy. With a huge sigh, I had little choice but to prize it off very carefully and do a little re-shaping to fix this. That was the end of that, or so I thought.

So on to the main painting. I masked the wheel wells and bomb bay using the "wet tissue" method. The instructions call for the underside to be done in "Medium Sea Grey" but the Tamiya version of this paint that I had looked far to dark for my liking, so I used sky grey instead. Which is much nearer the historical colour, if truth be told. Once dry, and a relatively simple masking job later, the top half was then sprayed in Dark Sea Grey.

I next removed the masks, including the canopy and discovered to my horror a hugely obvious and unsightly smear on the inside of the canopy, which must have happened when I was messing about with it earlier. Every modellers nightmare on a kit where you have a completely sealed tub such as this. So there was no option but to remove it once again, clean the inside, re-attach it and spend a long time hiding the evidence on the newly sprayed bodywork.

The plane got a couple of coats of Klear and was set aside to cure. Meanwhile, I put together the remaining assemblies, i.e. the undercarriage, props and spinners, bombs and rockets. These all fell together beautifully although the cross members on the undercarriage are a little tricky to get in the right place.

After the gloss coat has cured, I started on my favourite stage, the decaling. This is not as tedious as on some planes as the Mossie has relatively few stencils to worry about. One tricky part however is that the letter coding I had selected is made up of decal overlays. A word of advice here, make sure the first decals are completely set in place before attempting to place the overlay decals, otherwise, as I found to my cost, they are very difficult to place on the tacky surface. So don't be impatient!

But I finally got everything in place. So after another coat of Klear and a curing, I washed thinned black oil paint into the panel lines, let it dry, and wiped the whole lot down with thinners. This is actually a long, tedious and dirty job but it pays off in the end with beautifully highlighted panel lines. Not that there are many of those on the topside of the Mosquito. It's plywood construction meant that there is not much detail at all even on the real aircraft. I left it to dry and then came two coats of my Klear/ Flat Base combination satin coat.

Highly pleased with the result, I finally placed all the furniture on to the plane. The undercarriage slipped in almost too well, and the rockets dropped in nicely. I pushed the props on and will finally a a completed aircraft.

But I was not done yet. I wanted a little grubbiness since the aircraft is otherwise really smooth and unrealistically perfect. So I dotted some thinned Burnt Umber oil paint randomly on some of the caps and joints on the top and the bottom. Dampened cotton buds were then used to smudge these in the direction of the airflow to give a subtle, but highly realistic, leak stains. I then used some weathering powder rubbed in to produced exhaust and gun staining and all was done.

I thoroughly enjoyed this build. This kit has been around a few years now, but is very near as good a kit as any you will find in the market today, relatively straightforward, clean and crisp parts and a perfect fit. No wonder this is the second one I have built within a few months. And I'm sure it won't be the last.

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