I picked the AZmodel kit up on the LHS's annual 25% off sale day, along with a few other short run Czech kits. My version is the Africa boxing, which contains Free French and Vichy aircraft based from the African colonies. There are 2 good reviews already on aeroscale for this kit by Rowan Baylis (MS 406 - France)
and Eetu Tahvonen (MS 406 over Finland)
. As soon as I inspected the kit, after getting it home, I knew it would move well up in my "to build" pile. To be honest I'm much more interested in early war aircraft like this. The aircraft that were each countries best shot at the start: Brewsters, Moranes, P-40's, early Bf109's etc, interest me much more than later war "designed with benefit of hindsight and combat experience" aircraft like Mustangs, Corsairs etc.
I can fully backup what's already written on this site about the kit. Excellent surface detail overall. But I don't think the resin detail is as good as recent products from CA or Special Hobby. My biggest disapointment is having a vacform canopy, I hate them! But at least the Eduard pre-cut masks solve the problem of cutting around soft acetate frame lines.
Fit has way exceeded my expectations. I really expected this one to put up more of a struggle. Though I have to admit to have cheated in the cockpit a bit. Rather than assembling the cockpit as a stand alone assemby for fitting in one go, I built it onto one side of the fuselage instead- bulkhead by bulkhead, frame by frame. I left the side wall frames only glued at their tops so the bottoms are flexible and could be attached to the bulkeads from underneath once the fuselage halves were together. It's hard to explain, I should have taken pics but this has just flown together in 2 days, I hate stopping when I'm on a roll!
To me the supplied belts look too narrow and I've seen no factual evidence for the channeled rear decking either. Az say to use the same colour as the landing gear for the cockpit, but I don't think so. All the pics and info I've seen so far has French cockpits as midnight blue, which seemed to be almost black.
Strangly the left wheel well insert fit without modification, the right one needed extensive filing of the weel well and wing top. Don't know why there was so much difference from one side to the other.
The fuselage and wing joins are pretty much trouble free. I've had far worse from Hasegawa kits if you must know. The only place needing filler is at the aft underside of the wing to fuselage join. Here there was the option of pressing home the join and ending up with a nasty step that would damage the fabric and stringer detail to repair, or the way I did it, which was to even the step and accepting an easy to fill join along the aftmost wing to body fairing.
The all important top wing to body join is as perfect as you will ever come across (no filler). Once again you find far worse in mainstream kits.
Painting and Decals
I wanted to do the Madagascar Vichy aircraft. Well you can't go past those yellow and red markings can you? I tried the colour mixes for French Colours that were in the Bloch MB 152
feature on aeroscale. I think the colours on that one look spot on. Not that I'm an expert on the subject though.
The AZ colour guide is a bit hard to interpret actually. And from what I could gather, each French aircraft of the time had a different pattern applied to it, quite random, not like the more rigid (and boring) RAF procedures. I left off the tailplanes at this point because this makes the masking easier. They butt fit to the fuselage nicely and should cause no problems to fit later, I hope.
To do the "Vichy" markings, I first sprayed the model in white, then some areas in yellow and finally I applied the red stripes. Also I realised I made a mistake by applying the Vichy stripes to the rudder... it would have been better to have left that white, as I planned to use the kit decals for the rudder, and the stripes could well bleed through. The decals are very thin. The camo was masked using bluetack because I don't trust my freehanding enough to do such tight schemes as this one.
Decal Warning: I did a test run using an un needed kit white decal and found that my suspicions are correct. They are VERY translucent. Also there is no decal for the rudder French Tri-colour, for some reason I thought there was! So out more masking tape to spray the rudder white, and at the same time to lay a white circle under each roundel location.
And that was when I made the second most dumbest mistake with a model I've ever made! (I'll tell you the dumbest mistake as well if promise not to laugh). I did the white circle for the left wing, then I went and did this on the right! I have an excuse, sort of. I used a circle template (as below) and masked around all the other holes to stop overspray. One of the holes matched the size of the roundels for the placement of a white disc, just to stop the border of the underlying camo from showing through the white part of the roundels. Well the problem is with all the masking tape around the circle template you can't see exactly where you're placing it! I lined it up with wrong panel line. I then put it in the correct spot, which will have to be re done now anyway. I gave myself an uppercut, don't worry.
I had to re-do the outer right wing camo. I went over the colours to soften and blend them a bit, as that seems to have been more normal for French camo at the time. I applied the decals over a gloss coat and they worked well.
I'm not entirely happy with the canopy. I hate vac formed clear parts! Too thin to get a good glue join and never easy to get to fit. Other than the canopy the AZ Model kit is pretty easy and fits quite well. Regarding the wheels problem (the flat spots are at a 90 degree angle, whilst the aircraft had a large degree of camber), the best compromise I could come up with using the kits wheels was to sand the flat spots as much as I could to angle the wheels, any more and they would just look like they were out of air completely. The angle could probably be a bit more to be totally accurate. Really the wheels would be best replaced, but I hardly ever buy aftermarket stuff for my models. In this case it would have been much better for AZ to just cast the wheels round and let us make the flat spot.