by: Ben Micklem [ ]
IntroductionThe Bristol Blenheim Mk. I was a revolutionary type when introduced into service with the RAF in 1937. It had an all-metal stressed skin, small frontal area, flaps and a retractable undercarriage. Ordered by the Air Ministry after the demonstration of the speed of the Bristol Type 142 prototype 'Britain First', which reached a top speed of 281 mph, the production Blenheim's never reached this speed. Over 1,300 Mk.Is were produced in Britain, with Finland making nearly a hundred aircraft under licence, and more made in Yugoslavia.
The rate of improvements in aircraft design meant that by 1939 the Blenheim Mk.I was out of date, and very venerable to modern fighters. The Blenheim's defenses consisted of a single 7.7mm machine gun mounted in the port wing, and another in the retractable turret that could only cover the 180 degrees behind the aircraft. Its bombing accuracy was poor, due in part to the design of the bomb bay doors - they required the weight of the released bombs to force them to open. During WWII most Mk.Is were stationed abroad in the Middle and Far East, or converted into Mk.IF fighters (four additional machine guns under the fuselage).
First ImpressionsThe kit comes in a conventional box, with a strong corrugated card lower portion. MPM should be praised for shipping this kit in a much nicer box than their usual end-openers.
The main bag contains two large grey polystyrene sprues, and a smaller radial sprue. In separate bags are the injection-molded clear parts and resin components. The transfer bag contained a pleasant surprise- a small metal photo etch fret and a clear film for the instruments.
-76 grey polystyrene parts
- 4 clear polystyrene parts
-14 resin parts
- 11 photo etch parts
- 1 clear film
- 1 decal sheet
- 8 sides of A5 of instructions, 1 side history and specifications, printed in black and white
Polystyrene PartsTaking a closer look at the sprues betrays the kit to be from a short run - some panel lines are partially filled with moulding artifacts. Flash is present to some degree on most parts. The two large sprues have a noticeable covering of release agent. The smaller radial sprue is made from a harder plastic, and has the worst flash problems - a pain as these are the smallest, most fragile parts. There are no alignment pins or slots on any parts.
On the up side, the surface detail is a big step up from the only other 1/72 Mk.I Blenheim, the old Frog release (later re-released by Revell). The panel lines are recessed, and the fabric-covered control surfaces are restrained. The blisters around the circumference of the engine nacelles are too pronounced - obvious when comparing them with the very nice photograph on the box cover. The airscrew blades are supplied separately from the hubs, which are amongst the resin parts, which poses the challenge of alignment for less experienced modellers.
One very noticeable feature of the Blenheim is a large light on the port wing. This is represented in this kit as a square engraved into the wing parts. I would have liked an additional clear part to represent this.
The Mk.I has a large glass nose, so the clear parts are important for the model. Overall, the clear parts are not bad - quite thin with reasonable clarity. The framing could be crisper, and my parts have a couple of long, fine scratches (only noticeable on close inspection).
Resin PartsWhile some short-run kits contain resin parts simply for reproducing the small parts, MPM has really used the crispness of this media to produce some wonderfully detailed engines for this model. The two types of machine gun supplied for the turret are also superbly detailed, although they appear very fragile, and the barrels slightly curved.
The cockpit floor supplied in resin is a short version of the polystyrene part supplied- a left-over from the Mk.VI. My resin part was not flat, so I will be shortening the plastic part.
Photo Etched MetalThe photo etch fret is made by Eduard, and consists of the main instrument panel, and a smaller set of instruments for the side of cockpit, two sets of harnesses, rudder pedals, and a structural support that goes in the very front of the glass nose. The quality is excellent, as would be expected, but with the quality of the clear parts not being first-class, they may not be seen to best advantage. I would have liked to have seen some exterior parts - details for the front of the engines, to perfect the already excellent resin parts, and grilles for the engine intakes below the nacelles. They would have only be very small additions to the size of the fret, but would have given that extra little bit of detail in the finished model.
Markings and TransfersThe instructions give three marking options:
-Finnish BL-143, 3rd Flight/Bomber Sdn 42, Värtsila AFB, Sept 1941
- RAF K7059/TW, 90 Sqn, Bicester, 1938
- Royal Yugoslav Army Air Force, 1938
The paint codes given are for Humbrol, with some also having FS codes stated.
The Finnish Swastikas require the centres to be overlaid.
The transfers are printed in good register by Aviprint. The Yugoslav markings consist of just a single upper wing, and a single lower wing insignia - no serials or any other markings are included.
ConclusionsI am very happy that MPM produced the Blenheim in 1/72 for all the major marks - I, IV, V, with a Special Hobby release for the IVF. The older Frog/Revell offering of the Mk. I is hard to get hold of, and clearly outdated in both interior and surface detailing.
As this model is clearly marketed as offering a Finnish version, I would have liked to have seen some additional resin bomb bay doors to reflect the modified Finnish versions that enabled a greater variety of payload. These are available after-market from Galdecal. To make it really special, parts could have been included to make an aircraft with snow skid undercarriage.
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