Monday, 27 August 2012

Build Review - Italeri 1/48 Panavia Tornado IDS

I love the Tornado, and if you want to build one in 1/48 this is arguably the best choice of kit. The Airfix offering is showing some age and the HobbyBoss one, although a great piece of engineering, is just too inaccurate to be fixed easily. I'll resist the temptation to do the "Black Panthers" scheme on the cover of the box, and go for a more traditional RAF offering, but it will still look fantastic. These planes always do!

The cockpit tub is quite nicely detailed and goes together with no fuss, only consisting of six pieces if you don't include the seats. I didn't include the seats since I had a couple of Pavla resin Martin Baker Mk 10 seats in my draw that would do nicely. The kit seats offer as reasonable a representation as you could expect from injection moulding, but the resins seats will, as ever, look so much better. I painted the cockpit light grey and blacked over the instrument panels and side consoles. I had resisted the temptation to spend a not inconsiderable sum on pre painted etch for the cockpit, and opted instead to crack out the fine brushes. I actually enjoy painting up cockpits and while it is unlikely to rival the pre painted etch for finesse and accuracy, I think I did a reasonable job - I hope you agree. I have to say that sometimes a hand painted cockpit actually looks better overall. It may not stand the scrutiny of the photographic close up, but in the flesh it looks as good, and arguably better in the sense the pre painted etch can look just TOO clean compared with the rest of one's handiwork.

As is usual with Tornado kits, the nose section is completely separate from the body and the cockpit fits nicely into the two halves of the front section. I jumped ahead of the instructions at this point and also fitted the nose cone, after pumping it full of lead shot, without which this model would be sure to squat on its tail.

Next is the lower part of the main body, which involves painting up the undercarriage bays and inserting them into place. The kit also thoughtfully provides a couple of strengthening and locating plates that get slapped into the side walls at this point. I did not realise what they were at first and was baffled by the lack of location marks or lugs, but once clear it merely requires them to be sufficiently proud of the side wall to help locate the top half when it is attached.

I put the wings together next, since they would need to be inserted before the fuselage top was closed up. Anyone who has built a Tornado kit will be aware of the various attempts the kit designers make to provide for swivelling under wing pylons to allow you to sweep the wings back or forward and line up the ordnance. I have not ever come across a serious modeller who has bothered. It is just too much hassle and risk. Choose the position you want your model to display the wings in and glue it up. Trust me, it's not worth it. So I left the pylons off altogether in the knowledge that I would hard wire them in later and I'd rather not have them on during painting. I decided to go with the wings fully forward, because I think it makes for a much more imposing model. However unlike most of you, I have a factor I have to bear in mind. This model will eventually be sold and shipped and so I decided to leave the wings swinging even though the pylons would be in "forward" position to aid in keeping the package size down.

Anyway, back to the plot. The wings are linked internally to ensure synchronised movement (not all kits do this, surprisingly) and they are placed on the body underside and locked in place with plastic plugs on the pivot points. The tail plane is also designed to be movable, but again, PLEASE do not be tempted. So I glued them in flat. There are also some internal plastic struts to be placed at this stage to keep the body the correct height and rigid. I wish more manufacturers were this thoughtful - it probably saved me a lot of trouble when lining up the front and rear sections of the model. The top of the fuselage then went on with no real problem, in fact the customised locating lugs worked a treat and very little seam was left to deal with.

So the front and back sections of the plane were now glued together and thanks to the thoughtful kit engineering, this was remarkably easy. Very little filler was needed to make it seamless. The tailplane also went on easily at this stage, with a little filler along the root where it joins the fuselage being required. The option is also given to model the air brakes open. I was tempted, but the detail inside the brake housing is woeful, so I closed them up.

Next came the only real problematic area of the main build. The air intakes. These are separately built out of three main parts, fixed to the side of the fuselage, and then a rather fiddly two part piece constituting the front of each wing fairing has to be glued around it. Just looking at the instructions told me this would be problematic and indeed it was. The air intakes do not line up very well at all with the main body, and once I had finally got this right, the wing fairing piece refused to sit squarely on either side of the plane. It needed some good whittling with the knife and a serious amount of filler to get things looking reasonable. But I got there.

I masked off the cockpit canopy using my favourite "trapezoid" method (I'll do an article on this soon!) and stuffed wet tissue into the pre painted undercarriage bays and air intakes. A final once over with the sanding sponges and she was ready for painting.

I gave the whole plane a quick blast with Tamiya primer then painted the nose black and the tail fin white (as per my chosen 9 squadron scheme) and these were masked off before a complete dark sea grey coat over the whole model. I then used Blu Tack masking to prepare for the camouflage pattern. Of course, being an "all over" camouflage this took some time. But once done a good blast of RAF green finished the painting. I then gave the whole model two coats of Klear and set aside to cure.

Meanwhile, I made up the undercarriage parts (which are surprisingly simple but no less detailed for it) and the ordnance, including the external fuel tanks. The tanks also needed a camouflage pattern so I sprayed them dark sea grey, masked up with Blu Tack and then applied the green.

Before decaling, I turned my attention to the Tornado's, ahem, rear end. The reversers needed to be sprayed with Alclad steel and the exhausts are quite nicely moulded. These got sprayed with Alclad exhaust manifold, which is one of my favourites for this kind of thing. So far so good. But then we come to one of the major weak points of this Italeri kit. The Tornado has a complex and very visible gearing mechanism between the exhausts and this is represented by a completely shapeless bump on a blank backplate. This is a real let down as it is completely unconvincing. I built the Hobby Boss kit a while back, and despite many other problems with that particular kit, this part they got very nicely using a combination of moulding and etched details. But this Italeri kit makes no effort, almost as if the kit designers got bored at this point and went home. I am not normally a compulsive super detailer, but this got me angry and had to be dealt with. So I cut some plasticard to shape and punched it with the appropriate holes to provide the back plate detail, and used some left over etch to make a rough impression of the gearing mechanism. Far from perfect, but a massive improvement on the basic kit.

The other bit of scratch building was to fashion some flex strips for the rear of the wing slots to cover the gap when the wings are swept forward. As is usually the case with swing wing planes, no attempt is made to do this in the kit so one's ingenuity must come into play to avoid an unsightly gap in the side of the plane.

Back to good news, the decals are really excellent. They went on very well and settled beautifully with just a little assistance from Micro Sol. After another coat of Klear, I applied a black oil paint wash to bring out the panels and then covered with two coats of matt varnish. Finally, a little panel bleaching with light grey gave it an air of authenticity. The next stage was to attach the undercarriage and ordnance, none of which presented any major problems. My final task was to paint up and install the resin seats, which came up really nicely and added a really nice finishing tough to the model.

So in summary, this is still (in my opinion) the premier choice kit for a 1/48 Tornado. It has a few faults but they can be dealt with and builds into something that looks very much like a Tornado to me, and that is always something worth looking at!

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