by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Roden are steadily establishing a dominating position in the world of large-scale WW1 kits, but their highly detailed models are understandably reasonably costly. That's no problem for dedicated WW1 modellers, but it's worth remembering that there are cheaper kits available that, while not matching Roden's in sophistication and accuracy, offer a great opportunity for newcomers to the genre who might otherwise be deterred. One such kit is Academy's Nieuport 17 (ex-Hobbycraft) which I found in my local hobby shop the other day selling for under £8 - perfect for an impulse-buy.
The kit is attractively packed in a conventional box, with the sprues and decals bagged separately for protection. The kit comprises:
56 x grey styrene parts
1 x clear injected windscreen
A spool of thread for rigging
Decals for 2 colour schemes
Academy's version of the kit seems to date back to 2000, but I think the original Hobbycraft kit pre-dates that by some years. Despite this, the moulds are still in excellent condition with the parts cleanly moulded with no flash or sink marks. The fly in an otherwise pristine pot of ointment comes in the form of ejector-pin marks; the kit is plagued by the pesky little blighters, both raised and embossed, and a large number will be visible on the finished model unless they are taken care of.
Other than that, the surface finish is nice and smooth, with simple raised lines representing the ribs and tapes on the flying surfaces, and there are a few raised panels and lines of stitching on the fuselage.
The basic construction is quite simple and the main parts fit together very positively. The relatively large size and simple interplane struts makes this an excellent choice for anyone tackling a biplane for the first time. From the point of view of accuracy, it's been pointed out that the fuselage cross-section at firewall is a bit too wide, with the cowling consequently also too great in diameter - and looking at the parts, Academy's Nieuport does look a bit big in the nose and there's also no exhaust channel on the underside.
The box claims a "detailed cockpit & engine compartment". That may be stretching things a little, but the cockpit does comprise a (rather simplified) seat, control column, rudder bar and heelboards, plus a throttle quadrant and framework. No instruments are included in the kit and the detail can certainly be beefed up a little with some simple additions, but the basics are there and aftermarket sets for instruments and seat belts are available if you desire. The inside of the fuselage halves is marked with light raised lines to indicate the internal structure and bracing. The engine is constructed from four parts and includes exhausts and push-rods.
Turning to the exterior, the propeller is neatly moulded with good detail on the hub, while the wheels have nicely depicted laced-on covers. The fuselage- and wing-mounted guns are fair enough and actuator horns are provided for the tail control surfaces.
Although it's quite a simple kit, it's nice to see that Academy have included rigging and control cables. I wouldn't use the thread supplied, but the instructions are helpful in giving the length of each cable and show clearly where they attach. As depicted, threads are anchored and fed through holes in the fuselage prior to closing everything up - this makes the rigging easier, but painting more awkward, so some modellers may prefer to add them after painting.
Staying with the instructions, the assembly diagrams are very clear and include generic painting notes keyed to each stage. Apart from the rigging/control cables, the construction sequence is very logical and straightforward.
Decals are provided for a pair of machines:
1. Nieuport 17, s/n N1895, flown by Lieutenant Charles Nungesser, Escadrille N.65, 1916.
2. Nieuport 17, s/n N1550, flown by Capitaine Georges Guynemer, 1917.
The decals are beautifully printed in perfect register, but (and it's a big "but") Academy's decals are notoriously hard to apply, being prone to breaking up and almost impervious to decal solutions. I haven't had a chance to test the Nieuport's decals, but another point to watch out for is that the white used looks very translucent. On the plus side, the sheet includes separate centres for the cockades to ensure perfect alignment and three styles of stork insignia for Guyneymer's aircraft.
ConclusionDespite the simplified details and over-large cowling, Academy's Nieuport 17 looks a surprisingly neat kit. It obviously can't compete with Roden's specialist output, but the thing to remember is the price; £7.99 for a 1/32 scale kit represents almost absurdly good value for money. Straight out of the box it's an ideal kit for newcomers or anyone looking for a simple first WW1 project. It also represents an excellent basis for superdetailers to go to town on, and with some work the result should be quite impressive.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.