So on opening the large box one is presented with some 18 large sprues brimming with parts. Also, the instruction sheet contains well over a hundred stages which means you know you have a big project ahead. That is daunting enough, but my customer had also opted for every additional detail set going, and so I also had to plan out the incorporation of the Eduard "Big Ed" detail set which incorporates internal and external details plus a full bomb bay replacement, along with undercarriage enhancements and, mercifully, a pre cut canopy mask set. Without that latter item building this monster could tip one over the edge of sanity. So with this build, planning is more important than ever to identify the deviations from the manual I will need to do to incorporate the extra detailing parts.
Let me get my only major gripe about the kit out of the way first. The parts are numbered in a totally random fashion across the sprues, there are no sprue level labels to help. There is no particular logic to the parts placement at all and so every part number you are pointed to involves a scan across all 18 sprues because it could be anywhere. With this number of parts and complexity, (and also given that in true Revell style the parts don't always look exactly like they do in the instructions), this is a serious mistake on the part of the designers and adds a significant degree of frustration to what should otherwise be a very enjoyable build. At least most other manufacturers point you to the specific sprue for each part - BIG black mark against Revell here. But that's it, pretty much everything else is first rate. I do get a little annoyed with Revell colour call outs generally however, and this kit is no exception. They assign random letters to colours that differ for every kit, and one of the things I like about being an experienced modeller is getting to learn various manufacturers colour codes (at least the common ones anyway) which means you don't have to look them up as you progress. But its not a deal breaker!
The bulkhead panels to the rear of the cockpit (and rear fuselage for that matter) need their doors removing to incorporate the etch details, but this is very worthwhile as it really adds a nice "corridor" through the plane that can be seen fairly well from the cockpit, and given the amount of interior detail this adds a lot to the model. If you are going to build a model of this size, it is really worth making the most of what is provided.
On to the fuselage halves next, and there is a lot of work to be done inside the body, including benches, ammunition clips, radio and navigation equipment and also a few extra panels and details from Eduard in my case. The side windows have to be installed at this point as well, and it is a sign of the excellent fit of this kit that they fitted in perfectly. This is an area that often suffers even with the best of kits but not here!
Before one can close up the fuselage the tail wheel gear must be installed. I never like doing this since it is my preference always to leave such things off until after the main painting and finishing to make the model easier and safer to handle. But there is not really any choice here so I put it together and carefully masked it off. Next I installed the cockpit assembly into the port fuselage half, not the starboard as indicated in the instructions. This is because only the port half contains locating grooves and even these are not particularly positive, so take a lot of care here if you build this. Line up everything to make sure it really is in the right place before committing to glue because the instructions are a little misleading here.
The next step is to put the wings together including the flaps and ailerons but these were no more difficult than most other kits, just a lot bigger. A bit of sanding down and these were done with no problems. Likewise the tail section and fin, all very straightforward and fitted well, just a lot of glue. The wings and tail were now attached and left to set overnight. For the first time now you get to appreciate the sheer size of this model, smothering my entire work bench, and I was already trying to devise a strategy as to how I was going to get this inside my spray booth for painting.
But before that, there are still a few bits and pieces to install. The underside gondola is next. And here is probably the only area of the whole kit where I had some fit issues. Made up from a combination of clear parts with normal plastic, it simply would not sit correctly, and each section displayed a noticeable step where it butted up to the others. But with a little packing, filling and sanding I managed to get it settled down to an acceptable level. I left the gun window out for now and masked it off to avoid damage and tricky masking.
The cockpit glazing is one of the last items to go in place, and this is a very different prospect to your normal "drop on" cockpit canopy. There are six main glazed parts that need to be fitted together, not forgetting as you go, to install the main instrument panel (which is attached to the ceiling) and the bomb sight. The canopy parts are formed from two main "rings" of glass and a nose bubble fits on the very front at the end. I opted, unusually, not to apply the canopy masks until the glazing was installed as I had a suspicion that the masks might hinder my ability to get everything lined up correctly. The parts all fit together very well considering these are clear plastic. Usually, clear plastic, being very brittle, is very had to line up correctly because it has no play in it (or not that you can effect without cracking). However because of the sheer size of these parts there was a little flexibility that enables me to get a really good snug fit to the front of the fuselage with the help of some tape and clamps. The second "ring" was a little more problematic, leaving a distinct ridge at the join that there was no obvious way to get rid of by positioning. So in the end I sanded down the edges of both parts and with a little (very carefully applied) filler I had things looking a lot better. The nose bubble I installed but left unglued so that I could install the nose gun later, and also to allow me to get into the cockpit to deal with any post painting problems. I also left loose the slide hatch on the upper left part of the fuselage for the same reason. I then applied the masks to all the glazing, which took a fair while but was nothing compared to what I would have to do if it was not for the Eduard masking set!
The next painting stage was a thorough coat overall of Tamiya fine grey primer. This smoothed out the surface beautifully. Pretty much a whole pot of RLM76 was then used to cover the underside. Masking off the edges of the underside suffices in a model of this size, before spraying the whole topside RLM71. Once dried, I used a number of rolls of Tamiya tape masking the splinter pattern before applying the RLM70 on top. After removing the masks, I then went around the border with the underside colour carefully with a close spray to soften up the join. A hard edge on a model this big would be just too clinical. That essentially concluded the primary painting stage other than to mask and spray the white fuselage band for the particular markings I had selected (5./KG54). A decal is provided for this, but again in this scale it would always look like a decal so I opted to spray it on. A thorough coating of Klear finished at which point I left things overnight to ensure a good cure.
In conclusion, this kit ranks right up there with the best I have ever built. It has one or two foibles, notably the maddeningly random parts arrangement on the sprues and the fact that the instructions are a little misleading in places. There are also one or two incorrect numberings as well - watch out. But the fit is as good as anything from TamiGawa (sic), better in many ways. This is astonishing considering the size of this model. The level of detail (with the possible exception of the lack of complete rivets) is similarly excellent. But that said, hats off also to Eduard who have done a fantastic job on the available etched details. They do add a lot of work, but they are more than worth it. In this scale, you really want to make the best detailed model you can and I do recommend you consider the Eduard sets if you ever take on this challenge. But if you can't stretch to the extra cost you will still be rewarded with a stunning model. Nothing less than modelling heaven.