by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The D.H.85 was designed as a luxury 3-seater, a more powerful and longer range successor to the Puss Moth, first flying in May 1933. Just six weeks later it won the Kings Cup Race, averaging 139.51 m.p.h. The aircraft soon established a good reputation both at home and abroad, selling worldwide to wealthy owners.
132 Leopard Moths were built before production ceased in 1936. 44 of them were impressed into service during WW2, serving as communications aircraft, and at the war's end the few survivors returned to private ownership, where a few still fly to this day.
Planet Models' D.H.85 arrives in quite a sturdy end-opening box, with all the parts and decals sealed into a series of pouches. It's an unusual style of packaging, which I've only ever come across in Eastern European short-run kits, but it certainly seems to work well enough, and the Leopard Moth arrived with all the pieces and present and correct, with no breakages in transit.
The kit comprises:
25 x standard beige resin parts
2 x denser cream resin parts
2 x vacuformed canopies (one is a spare)
2 x sheets of clear styrene for the cabin windows
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The casting throughout is very nice indeed. There's a little wispy flash to take care of but, other than that, no sign of blemishes or bubbles, so clean-up should be pretty quick and painless. The surface finish consists of finely scribed panel lines with a few raised details, and a beautifully subtle fabric effect on the fuselage sides and flying surfaces.
Test Fit & DetailsThe fuselage halves are joined by a pour stub at the tail, so it's only a moment's work to separate them, and the wings and tail planes arrived already removed from their casting blocks. A quick test fit is very encouraging, with the fuselage halves lining up neatly, while the flying surfaces are also a good fit. The tailing edge of the wings lack a small curved fillet at the wing root that's visible in photos of the aircraft, but that should be quite straight forward to add.
The cabin interior is simple but adequate. The one-piece floor / passenger seat is a good fit and there are a neat pilot's seat, control column and front bulkhead to add. The latter has rudder pedals and the instrument panel cast integrally. The instrument panel looks nice, but doesn't match either the shape or layout in a photo I found on airliners.net. The inside faces of the cabin sides are detailed with pouches and a throttle quadrant.
The cabin windows must be cut from the sheet supplied, while the vacuformed windscreen and roof glazing is nice and clear, with well defined frames. An engine blank for the Gypsy Major will avoid a see-through cowling, and there's a well shaped propeller.
So far, everything's looking deceptively simple, but it's when you start considering how to attach the wings that worries begin to creep in... The wings are intended to fit as a simple butt-joint, but they are relatively heavy for the small gluing surface that there is. The struts provided are cast in normal resin without strengthening wires and I seriously doubt that they are up to the task of supporting the wings for any length of time.
The full-sized aircraft has folding wings, so you can't run a "spar" across the cabin because it will be visible through the roof glazing. I think it might just be possible to add one behind the rear bulkhead, but the wing roots are pretty thin at that point, so it won't be all that easy. The other thing I'd seriously consider is replacing the struts with scratchbuilt metal ones - I think the extra effort will pay dividends in the long run.
The same could also be true for the undercarriage. Despite the high density resin V-struts, the main gear legs do look flimsy. Really, they'd have been better cast in the denser resin too, or maybe even white metal. As it is, if you do use the undercarriage as supplied, I think it could be wise to rest the model on a little support stand of some kind to take the weight when it's not on display.
Instructions and DecalsThe assembly diagrams are neatly drawn and include generic colours keyed to most details. There's no overall colour for the cockpit interior stated, but the boxtop shows red, which is correct for G-ACUS as currently restored. Others seem to be a plainer grey in the many photos available on the Internet.
Decals are provided for a pair of Leopard Moths, with Gunze Sangyo paints recommended for the exterior colours:
1. G-ACUS in a striking Blue and Silver scheme
2. s/n BD148 impressed into service during WW2. This is very unusually painted, as it's shown in the same Blue and Silver, but with a single patch of Dark Green across the fuselage for the roundels, while the blue of the fin flash is formed by the overall Bright Blue. It's a great "conversation piece" scheme if accurate - but I'd definitely want to find some references to confirm it.
The decals are beautifully printed, with excellent register and really thin glossy items on a crystal clear carrier film. The wing lettering for G-ACUS is printed on large patches of carrier film, which obviously helps with alignment, but risks showing up on the silver finish, so you may want to cut out the letters and apply them individually. The decals include de Havilland crests for the tail and initials for the wheel hubs, but the latter are missed in the decal guide (they are shown on the boxtop though).
ConclusionPlanet Models' Leopard Moth is very nicely cast and is simple in terms of the number of parts, but it looks like it will be quite a challenging build, largely on account of the awkwardness of attaching the wings securely. It's certainly not a beginner's kit, but in experienced hands it should build into a delightful model that really captures the spirit of Golden Age flying.
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