Monday, 3 December 2012

Build Review - AeroClub 1/144 DeHavilland Mosquito

If you want to build a Mosquito in 1/144 scale, this is currently your only option. And it's hard to track down, having been out of production for some years. But they do crop up on the second hand market from time to time, so I was lucky to get my hands on one when a customer asked me for a replica of Guy Gibson's famous mount, in which he tragically lost his life in 1944 over the Netherlands.

Gibson's plane was an BXX, and this kit represents a B35, although after extensive research I could not find any visible difference except the engines used, which is not of great concern in this project! So what have I got myself into this time?

Emptying the box out on to the workbench does not create a particularly favourable impression. A single injection moulded sprue accompanied by a fair number of white metal parts, and duplicated vacuform canopies and bomb windows. The metal parts look perfectly passable, but the plastic is horrifying. It's moulded without any significant detail and is only just identifiable as the main pieces of a Mosquito with a fair bit of imagination. The plastic itself is incredibly thick and brittle, reminding me somewhat of bacolite. Interestingly, a pair of finely moulded metal pilots and seats is included which look pretty good all things considered, but the instructions point out that if you want to install them, you will need to dig some plastic out of the fuselage sides. Oh well, this is going to be a fun build. Not.

Measuring up the pilots against the fuselage proved the instructions right, some plastic was going to have to come out. So I scraped and ground away at the sidewall (such as it is in the scale) praying that the fuselage would not shatter into tiny pieces, it was that brittle. Fortunately I got away with it and finally managed to get the fit right. So I proceeded to paint up the seats and pilots. Ever tried painting a 1/144 scale pilot figure? It's certainly a challenge.

After much trial and error I finally got the fuselage halves together with the seats and pilots inside. Of course, the two fuselage halves are different lengths, just to add to the fun, and I needed to do a lot of shaving and sanding to get everything together right.

The next stage is to attach the engine nacelles to the wing parts. The appalling quality of the moulding means that this took much effort to get anything resembling a good fit but I got there eventually. The exhausts are provided as a one piece metal moulding that is supposed to slide in to the slot in the nacelles at a later stage. I know this was going to be problematic but decided to cross that bridge later.

Next on went the wings and tail to the fuselage, and suffice to say that the again the fit is absolutely dreadful and some surgery was needed to get flush fitting parts, essential to provide strength in these areas. I then had a lot of filling to do, and I am convinced that the end result contained more filler than plastic. But at least she was now starting to look like a Mosquito!

And now for the main painting. With all that filler, priming was essential. This was followed by light sea grey on the underside. This was masked off and the topside sprayed with dark sea grey. Then the old favourite Blu Tack masking technique gave me the camouflage pattern. It's very hard to get this convincing in 1/144 as however thin you roll it, Blu Tack seems to have a minimum bend angle that works great in larger scales, but makes it tricky to get a convincing pattern in the small scale. But I think it turned out OK. A coat of gloss later and she was set aside to dry.

To turn this into Guy Gibson's plane, I would need to print my own decals. Decals for military planes in this scale are like hens teeth and there was no hope of getting any in. So I designed up the necessary AZ-E scheme. Fortunately, I was able to use roundels from an existing sheet but the lettering and codes had to be scratch printed. I also generated my own "keep off" boxes for the top front of the wings as the ones on the kit sheet were ridiculously thick and bright. Decals done, another coat of gloss sealed them in.

While that was drying, I painted up the remaining metal parts which basically represented the exhausts, undercarriage, props and tail wheel. I also could not face the prospect of masking up a 1/144 vacuform Mosquito canopy and so printed off some decals strips and used these to represent the frames.

Once the gloss was dry, I scribed some panel detail on to the body of the plane (fortunately the "Mossie" has very little) and used black oil paint to highlight them. A final coat of matt varnish followed.

It only remained to attach the metal parts, which generally fit very well, unlike the majority of the rest of the kit. The undercarriage slotted in perfectly. But as anticipated, fitting the one piece metal exhaust stacks by sliding them through the engine nacelles proved impossible. So in the end I cut them in half and did it the "old fashioned" way as two pieces.

The last task was to put the vacuform items in place. I have to confess that I do not like vacuform canopies one bit. Sure, they are usually a better scale representation of the canopy, but they are a nightmare to cut out of their sheet and to sand/trim to shape to get them fitting snugly. And there is no positive surface to glue either! I did my best.

So, this kit is a perfect representation of how you can get away with murder if you are the only choice. A strategy adopted with relish by the likes of Fonderie Miniature (1/48 Halifax, anyone?) but for an ever popular plane like the Mossie it is high time that a mainstream manufacturer came to our aid, especially now that this scale is increasing in popularity. The metal parts are actually quite good - after all, this is what AeroClub are best known for, but the plastic is awful. Despite all the issues, however, I have to say that there is an immense satisfaction to be had from creating a respectable model from such an unpromising start.

Now the customer wants another one, so I guess at least I know what I am in for!

No comments:

Post a Comment