The Stuka is one of those planes that is so ugly its beautiful and I am really looking forward to putting this one together.
The kit starts, as ever, with the cockpit and overall this is of exceptional quality. The Stuka has a large and very visible "office" and so this is important. The kit includes etched parts for the instrument panel and (God bless them) seat belts but the plastic is also very finely moulded. I gave the whole interior a coat of RLM02 grey before picking out the details with other colours. There is some controversy over the interior colours of Stukas since so few examples remain but RLM02 is a good bet for any WWII Luftwaffe plane and looks right to me.
The instructions also make the perennial mistake with the cartridge basket calling for it to be grey but these things were made of fabric and were usually cream or yellow in colour. Otherwise, I painted some detail onto the radio consoles and also the kit includes a lovely etched coping for the instrument panel that adds a great element of realism. Once put together, the whole cockpit basin fitted pretty seamlessly into the fuselage halves. Once the fuselage was together I spent a relatively small amount of time smoothing out the seams since the fit is pretty good overall.
The wings go on next, and they consist of a single underwing part and two over wing parts (similar to most Spitfire kits) which is great since it helps avoid seams and dihedral problems - the only issue I had was that there is very little purchase area when attaching to the fuselage to get glue onto but I did my best and it seemed to be secure once set.
Next the engine goes together. Italeri have really done themselves proud here, it is very finely tooled representation of the Jumo and is virtually a model in itself. The kit also includes some flexible plastic hosing for the pipes that it fits and looks so much better than the usual rather suspect moulded plastic efforts. I painted the engine black and used gun metal on the grills, before picking out the wires and leads in silver and brown. A burnt umber oil wash then gave it a "used" look.
The engine housing is made up of separate mouldings that need to be fixed around the engine and attached to the front of the fuselage. Also, and mercifully, the top cowling is designed to actually fit seamlessly with the full engine installed so that your model can be displayed with or without the engine visible. So many manufacturers so not bother with this and expect you to take one option of the other, so well done Italeri! However, this is the one area of the kit where I ran into some problems. It may have been my fault, but once the engine housing was fixed to the front of the fuselage, the top cowling was a couple of millimetres too short and left a noticeable gap in front of the canopy. My solution was to perform a little surgery on the cowling so that it would move back to fill this gap, but of course that then leaves an equivalent gap between the front of the cowling and the spinner. So I used some spare plastic and filler to extend the cowling by a couple of millimetres so that everything lined up. I'm pretty sure this a fault with the kit, so watch out.
Tail elevators and rudder went on with no problems, and I also put the undercarriage together (but did not attach) at this stage since unlike most planes the fixed wheels and large spats would need to be included in the spraying session. Needless to say, the canopy masking was a long, tedious and frustrating task - next time I shall invest in the Eduard pre cut masks which I only found on line after I had started.
So now for painting. I had chosen the StG77 scheme that demanded a yellow nose and tail so these got a coat of yellow first since generally I find it much easier to mask off the extremities and then paint the main colours. So this duly done, the underside was sprayed with RLM65 lightened with grey - all existing RLM65 paints are ridiculously bright blue and do not match reference photos. So I tone it down and it is probably closer to RLM76 but it looks much closer to the original sources to my eye. After masking the underside I sprayed the top surface RLM71 (dark green) and then masked out the splinter pattern which is done with RLM70 (black green). Once the masks were removed I had the usual reaction to the 70/71 splinter scheme, which is "why did they bother?" the colours are so similar it can be very hard to see the demarcation, but there we must go. A couple of coats of Kleer and she was set aside to cure.
After decaling and another coat of Klear, I used a black oil wash all over. The panel lines on this kit are "just right" and give just enough detail without being overbearing. A final coat of matt varnish finished things off nicely.
This is a fantastic kit despite those couple of niggles. I particularly like the placeable engine cowling so you can show off that engine, and the canopy is fully positionable as well, allowing a good look at the excellent cockpit interior.
Well done, Italeri - a desert version would be nice next!