by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
backgroundThe Vickers Vildebeest first flew in 1928 and entered RAF service in 1931 as a light bomber and torpedo bomber. The aircraft proved both popular and capable, and remarkably was still in service at the outbreak of WW2, despite its clear obsolescence, seeing action in the Middle East and Far East campaigns before being retired to continue second-line duties until as late as 1944.
Spain showed early interest in the Vildebeest, negotiating a contract to build the aircraft under license. 25 machines were built by CASA, the Spanish version being re-engined with an inline Hispano-Suiza, and seeing action as light bombers on the Republican side during the Civil War.
the kitAmong the latest releases from Azur is a very interesting kit of the Spanish-built version of the Vickers Vildebeest.
The kit is packed in an attractive and tough top-opening box. Just how solid it is was proved by the fact that the sample kit arrived with only a jiffy-bag for protection, but the box had done its job and the parts arrived safe and sound despite some clearly severe knocks in transit.
Azur's Spanish Vildebeest comprises:
74 x grey styrene parts
7 x clear styrene parts
9 x resin parts
71 x etched parts
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
Azur models are produced by MPM Production and rate among the "first division" of current limited-run injected kits. So, while you can expect to have to do a little extra clean-up compared with a mainstream model, you can also look forward to some very fine details which in many ways often surpass kits produced by larger manufacturers.
So it is with the Vildebeest, with the wing parts and details bearing the appearance of having been design with the aid of the latest CAD technology giving a really mainstream in look and feel.. While I've always been an admirer of MPM's traditional "hand-made" treatment of fabric surfaces, the Vildebeest shows a different, much more "modern" style, with beautifully moulded ribs in an almost "Eduard-like" look. The effect of taught fabric around the fuel tanks is simply excellent.
To cater for the specific Spanish version, the fuselage is necessarily shorter-run than the rest of the kit, and it has a slightly different feel (in fact, more what I've grown used to from MPM in recent years). However it still boasts very subtle fabric panel lines and fasteners.
A full test fit is rather impractical for a model like this, but the fuselage, tail and lower wing all clip together neatly and promise a solid basis for the build ahead.
a few detailsThe cockpit is very neatly fitted out for a 1:72 kit, with a mix of styrene, resin and etched parts. There are harnesses for both the pilot and observer, and a choice of styrene or etched instrument panels. The control column and rudder bar are cast in resin, along with a very nicely detailed machine gun on a flexible mount.
Up front, the top section of the Hispano-Suiza is a very nicely detailed one-piece resin casting, and should look excellent when painted.
The interplane struts are moulded conventionally in styrene, but the tail struts are supplied as photo-etched pieces. You can probably just about get away with this in 1:72 once the parts are painted to thicken them a little and round the edges, but purist may want to replace them with thin styene stock.
The one mystery is that, while the instructions themselves state that the Vildebeest was only used in the Spanish Civil War as a bomber (and racks are shown on the box-top illustration), no bombs or racks are included in the kit. Instead, there's a torpedo as supplied with the original British version. This does seem a real shame, although I have to admit the torpedo is undeniably very neatly done, with etched fins and propeller blades, all slung from a very delicate etched mounting.
Rounding everything off is the rigging which, while still no job for beginners, actually doesn't look too daunting thanks to a clear rigging guide.
Instructions and decalsI'm normally something of a fan of the instructions included with MPM-produced kits, as they are logical laid out and I really like the style of the artwork. This time, though, there is a bit of a problem with the assembly sequence. To model the Spanish version, the bulges under the top wing (a hangover from the British version) have to be removed. Fair enough, but this is only shown after the wings have been fitted, when it will be almost impossible to accomplish without wrecking the model.
So, my advice, is to read the instructions carefully to formulate your own assembly sequence – I know it's something experienced modellers do almost instinctively (if they bother to read the instructions at all!), but this time it really is crucial.
Decals are included for no less than 5 colour schemes, silver doped unless as noted below (note: the colour illustrations here have been kindly provided by Azure - those in the instructions are monochrome):
A. "T-5", Sariñena airfield, summer 1937
B. "T-23", Los Alcaceres, 1937, sporting mottled field-applied camouflage
C. "T-5", Manises airfield
D. "T-1", shortly after delivery
E. "BR-60", Grupo 72 de Defensa de Costas, Los Alcaceres, 1938, with dark green topsides
The decals look excellent quality – thin and glossy, and printed in pin-sharp register on the sample sheet.
conclusionAzur's Vildebeest is a great little kit - and this Spanish inline-engined version offers a very attractive alternative to the better known standard machines. Experienced modellers should really enjoy the model, but it probably is over-ambitious for anyone new to building biplanes and short-run kits in general.
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