New from Eduard comes a superdetailed Merlin engine for their highly successful Spitfire Mk. IX. The version isn't named, but I presume it's a Merlin 66. Now, I know "superdetailed" is a rather over-used term, but I think it really is valid in this instance as the upgrade set features some of the crispest and finest casting I've seen, and the finished engine should look quite stunning.
Of course, this kind of aftermarket excellence comes at a price, and the Brassin engine costs almost as much as the ProfiPACK kit for which it is designed. So, what do you get for your money? The set arrives in a classy cardboard box that is well padded with foam to protect the delicate parts inside. There are five sealed bags of resin castings and an etched fret for a total of:
56 x grey resin parts
12 x etched brass parts
As noted above, the casting is simply superb, with no bubbles or blemishes evident on the sample set. The parts appear to be CAD-produced and the level of detail far exceeds the best injection moulding. Some clean-up is nevertheless required, with wafer-like flash to remove in places, and the parts must be separated carefully from their casting blocks. As some of the smaller items are extremely delicate, I would caution that this is definitely not going to be a suitable project for a beginner.
The instructions are neatly drawn and feature Gunze Sangyo paint matches for every part. They are laid out over 3 sides of A-4 and break the assembly down into 3 main sections:
1. Engine construction
2. Engine bearers and plumbing
3. Installing the completed unit into the Eduard Spitfire
Considering the complex look of the finished engine, it's quite surprising to find that the "basic" engine and its accessories are built from only 13 resin parts. That's made possible because so much detail is cast in situ
as single pieces - something would be impossible on an injection-moulded equivalent.
A compromise that's a nod to simplicity is the way the spark plug leads are moulded solid with a "fill in" behind them. This won't be to everyone's taste, and purists may wish they had been left off to be added as etched or wire parts. It may be possible to carefully trim out the resin behind each cable if you have the patience, but to be honest they will be obscured from most angles behind the exhaust stacks, so I expect most modellers will be content to leave them as supplied.
What is odd, though, is that the cabling and pipework on the top of the engine between the cylinder banks isn't
included - despite being shown on the box-top illustration. This gives the game away that the illustration is a computer-rendered image masquerading as the real parts, which seems a little misleading. Ironically, as there's nothing to hide their absence, the items Eduard have missed are actually the more prominent ones, so you may want to add these from wire for completeness.
Four styles of exhausts are provided - all naturally enough hollowed out. They are cast as individual stacks that fit into 2-part resin/etch mounts.
The firewall and engine bearers are beautifully detailed, and although the latter are designed to fit firmly on and around the engine block, the level of detail visible from every angle will no doubt inspire some ambitious engine-change vignettes with the engine awaiting installation. Most of the associated plumbing and cabling is provided, but reference photos show there's more you can add if you wish - and, again, the box-top shows some pipework that hasn't been included in the kit. Naughty...
Installing the new engine looks reasonably straightforward for anyone with a bit of experience - it's basically a question of trimming off the existing cowl panels accurately, along with the carburettor intake cover. New resin engine covers are provided, and these are beautifully thin and feature excellent detail on their inner faces. There's a choice of top cowls, one slightly more rounded than the other. A suggestion for the enlarged cowling given on The Spitfire Site
is that it was introduced to make room for the larger intercooler used on the Packard-built Merlin 266 of the Spitfire Mk. XVI, but then fitted to other marks too.
The instructions show the new engine and firewall being installed as a completed unit before even attaching the kit's wings, but I'd be seriously tempted to try simply fitting the firewall and adding the delicate engine much later to avoid the possibility of damage.
Potentially one of the trickiest parts of the assembly to get right looks deceptively easy on paper - namely, the etched brass side-cowl supports. To be honest, they do also look a bit too thin and 2-dimensional compared with photos of the real thing, but the point is they are supplied flat and must be curved to shape very carefully to match the subtle contours of the cowls. Ideally, this would be easiest done over a former of some kind, but none is supplied. Maybe you could use the resin cowls, but I'd be wary of damaging them as they are so realistically thin, so a safer option might be to use the standard kit cowls.
Eduard's Brassin Merlin is an excellent upgrade for experienced modellers - really a kit in its own right. The diorama and vignette possibilities it offers are almost endless, and it's so detailed it would also make a great stand-alone item if you provided a suitable stand for it. (In fact, with this in mind, perhaps Eduard should consider releasing a series of large scale engine kits as desk-top models - they certainly already have the kind of detail required here.) Highly recommended.
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