by: Matthew Robeson [ ]
This is a kit I would have never expected to see a kit of, let alone so many of them. A-Model has also produced this version, the TB-7, and Zvezda has released 3 kits of the inline engined Pe-8. This was the Soviet Union's premier strategic bomber in World War 2, and one of the first planes to carry out bomb raids on Berlin. The plane could carry up to 5,000 kg of standard bombs, or one huge 4,000 kg bomb, which the TB-7 usually carried. The radial engine version was created because of reliability problems from the inline engines, and the radial engines were much more reliable in the long run.
I was presented this kit by Jim Starkweather to review, since he knows I have an affinity for different and off the beaten path aircraft, and Soviet strategic bombers seem to fit that bill very well, even though I'm not often a 1/72 builder. I have also never built a Zvezda kit before, but I had looked at the Pe-8 after seeing a great build of it in Model Airplane International (Issue #41).
The first thing you see is the very large box, but once you open it, you can see why the box needs to be so big. The plane inside is massive! The box is one of the best I've ever seen actually, opening via a very secure flap in front, and hinging open from the top. it is a very strong and heavy box, and should never show any signs of shelf wear or shipping damage, as some other company's boxes do with very weak boxes. There is a great scene of a TB-7 bomber over Germany, dropping the one, huge 4,000 kg bomb. The sides and bottom of the box show pictures of an assembled and un-painted model, which is a very nice touch I think. it also explains that the box contains 317 parts, and comes out to about 12 inches long, with a 21.4 inch wingspan, so very large model. The Pe-8 is even larger than the B-17 and Lancaster for those that need a comparison to its closest relatives.
Upon opening the box, you're presented with a multitude of medium grey plastic parts, all bagged in their own individual bags, with the exception of the wing halves and two small sprues. It's always good to see companies take the step to protect their parts. The clear parts came in a nice Zip-Lock bag, which means no chance of damage there. There is also a 12 page instruction manual and a tiny sheet of decals, more on those later.
The first thing you pull out of the box is the instruction manual, and this is very well done. It comes on 12 pages, and contains around 40 construction steps (there are some sub-sets scattered through). The manual is all in black and white, but is very well laid out, and very clear as to where everything goes and when it does. This looks to be a kit to follow the instructions, instead of trying to build without them. The construction actually begins with the wing assembly, instead of the cockpit which has become the custom. There are also some windows that need to be opened up in the fuselage halves, but these are clearly shown in the instructions and inside the fuselage. There is also an option to open the lower nose hatch and install the boarding ladder, this is clearly depicted in the instructions for anyone looking to add this detail
There is only one color scheme offered, and is on the back of the instruction guide. This is also in black and white, although I would have preferred color. This is more of a minor gripe on my part though, the black and white features enough contrast so as to not cause any confusion on colors. The one scheme is in the standard Soviet GPW three tone scheme of dark tan/olive green/and black. Being a night bomber, the underside is also black, so that should be fun to paint.
Moving onto the actual plastic bits, the first thing to strike you is the quality of the parts. I've never built a Zvezda kit, or ever seen one, but if this is par for the course, then I will have to buy some more from them. The plastic is very high quality, I would place it between modern MPM and Eduard in terms of quality. There is a very, very light texture on the parts that I would relate to the most recent Revell Germany kits, but if it bothers you, I'm sure you can Micro-Mesh the parts to the glossy finish you desire. The scribing is some of the best I've ever seen in 1/72 scale, very crisp and clean, while staying in scale. I think that the panel lines should take the decals and wash very well in the actual build. The fabric detail is also top-notch, at least to my eyes. There are some who will say that it's too much, but a little light sanding will knock it back, and then paint will tone it down even more. There was a short shot on the lower left wing aileron on my example, but it seems to be just on the one kit, since no one else has reported a problem with that part.
On a big bomber kit, the interior is always the most important part, and this kit does not disappoint at all. Each station has its own detail, with the exception of the engineer's station, but it's hidden inside of the fuselage, between the two wing spar/bulkheads, so completely invisible. Each station features a well done floor, seat, figure, linkages, and other fittings. There are figures included for each position, and they all have separate arms and heads so they can be placed however you would like. The only downside is that the panels are all represented with decals, and no raised detail is provided. I personally like to paint my own panels, but the decals should work out fine under the canopies. The bottom of the cockpit floor also forms the basis for the bomb bay, which is just as nicely detailed as the interior. As I have no references on the Pe-8, nor know of any, I think it's accurate, but I can not know for sure. It also gives you a place to mount the huge 4,000 kg bomb, of which only one could be fitted. An option for open or closed bomb bay doors are offered on the sprue, so no cutting is required.
Looking at the many turrets around the plane, they are all well appointed. Each station gives you the gunner, his seat, a well-molded gun, and an ammo feed belt. The only thing is that the gun barrel is not drilled out, so you'd have to do that for yourself if you so desire.
Looking at the wings, the wheel bays are very, very well done for this scale. Instead of just giving you a large, empty hole to look in, Zvezda provided some ribs and other structural detail to provide some nice looking wheel bays. The landing gear door interiors are bare, but I have no idea how busy they were in real life, so I'm not planning to worry about it. The engine nacelles look nice, although the radiator detail on the front is a little bit underwhelming, but we'll see how it looks under a coat of paint. One nice touch is a spacer installed in the nacelle halves so that they will line right up to the wing halves when it's time to assemble everything.
The next thing pulled out of the box are the clear parts, and these are just as nice as the grey parts. They are very clear, with nicely defined frame lines, which is essential on a big bomber with all of the glass like this one. Eduard does do a mask set for those who do not feel like masking their own parts, but it will not fit the nose section of this kit, as it is meant for the turret-nosed Pe-8 kit. Just a fair warning, I would say get out the Tamiya tape and the sharp no.11 blades. I think the parts could use a dip in Future to really make them shine, but that's a personal preference call for the builder. I would also watch out for the lower nose clear piece, since it is in two halves. I think that it all falls on a frame line, but be very careful with any gluing and sanding, so as to not harm the clear windows. The pilot's canopy is provided in two pieces, a windscreen and canopy part. If you wish to open the sliding section, you'll have to cut it yourself, but the part does seem clear enough to not need to be cut open.
The final piece of the puzzle is the decal sheet at the bottom of the box, and it is tiny in comparison to everything else in the kit. It is only for one marking option, and Russian planes weren't known for excessive markings on them. The decals do have a very matte appearance, like the recent Revell decals, so we will have to see how they behave on the kit. My example was a tiny bit yellowed, so they will go up in the window to bleach so they can be used.
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