by: Is a secret [ ]
Originally published on:
Upon opening the rather flimsy end-opening box, I was confronted by one sprue containing all the parts necessary to build 3 pilots and one dog. There are no instructions apart from the illustrations on the back of the box. There is little flash, but most of the parts have mould parting lines which will need to be carefully removed. Since the figures are not otherwise differentiated, I'll give them names of some famous RAF pilots: Bob, Ginger and Johnny (for Robert Stanford-Tuck, Ginger Lacey and Johnny Johnson). The dog shall be named Rusty. The box top illustration shows the figures standing in front of an early Mark Spitfire in Battle of Britain era camouflage and markings, which fits with the equipment the figures are wearing. The electrical cords for two figures' flight helmets are not provided, nor are the rather large connector plugs, despite being prominently displayed on the box top artwork. If desired, they'll have to be made from wire and stretched sprue. The sprue joins are rather large, especially on the many smaller parts. They'll need some very careful and finicky cleanup. The figures' accoutrements date them to 1940 rather than the more nebulous “WW II era” on the box. The colour guide on the back of the box references Vallejo and Lifecolor paints by numerical code only. I would have preferred generic colour callouts instead, so the modeller can choose their own paint range(s).
Bob is standing casually with his left hand in his trouser pocket (He obviously never had my old CO, who considered this to be the ultimate military sin), holding a pipe in his right hand. He is wearing a battledress tunic and trousers and his lower Mae West straps dangle undone. He wears the standard RAF Officer's Forage Cap (peaked cap) squarely on his head. He wears a flying scarf tucked into his collar, obscuring his shirt.1940 pattern flying boots without the ankle strap complete his ensemble.
Ginger is a Sergeant Pilot. His rank stripes are lightly engraved on his tunic sleeves. He is the only one of the three to wear his Service Dress rather than battledress. He carries a Type B flying helmet (with the rounded leather ear cups) with a Type D oxygen mask attached in the crook of his left arm and his Mae West is a little more rounded and fuller than Bob's. Ginger wears the white roll-neck sweater favoured by many RAF fighter pilots. Ginger's right hand hangs at his side. His pose seems a trifle sceptical, as if he's having trouble believing what Johnny is saying.
Johnny has obviously just jumped out of his Spitfire and is eagerly re-fighting the battle with his hands showing the desperate manoeuvres of moments just past. His pose is by far the most animated of the three figures. His flying helmet is pushed backwards off his head and bunched around the back of his neck, his oxygen mask dangling just under his chin. His parachute harness is still worn, yet the seat-pack parachute is separate. Perhaps this is so Rusty can carry it, as shown on the back of the box. On the box top it is shown on the ground beside Johnny's feet.
Rusty is moulded standing still with all four feet on the ground. He's obviously quite a mellow dog, otherwise he'd be jumping up at his boss after catching Johnny's excitement. The box top illustration makes him out to be an Irish Setter, yet the painting guide on the back has him looking more like a counterfeit Rottweiler. His mouth is not open, so if he is to be carrying Johnny's parachute a little surgery will be needed.
I found very little difficulty in building these figures. I needed to smooth off the contact areas, especially between their hips and torsos. The Mae West front sections need some hot glue to ensure they blend evenly with the collars moulded with the torsos. I scraped off the mould parting lines from all the major parts with a sharp blade before gluing. This step needs to be done carefully in order to avoid creating unrealistic flat spots.
I glued Bob's legs together and while the glue was still soft, I set his feet flat on the ground to ensure that he'd stand properly. This resulted in a fairly uneven surface where his hips would join his torso. Once the glue was dry I sanded the area flat to improve the fit. His left arm did not fit well with his pocket until I did some shifting around. I'll need to clean the shoulder seam up a bit as a result. I also had some trouble with his Mae West straps. They're fairly thick, and I managed to break them while cleaning the sprue attachments off. I replaced them with 10 thou card for a thinner appearance. Parts 35 and 36 are not mentioned on the illustration, but by elimination must attach to the rear of his Mae West.
Once again I started with the legs, adjusted their sit on the ground and sanded the waist to fit the torso. Ginger's waist has been made deliberately undersize to accommodate the skirts of his Service Dress tunic, which hang below his Mae West. They're a bit thick, but it's a limitation of injection-moulded plastic. All this means that it's important to glue on his torso and the tunic skirts at the same time so that you can adjust the positioning while the glue has not yet set. The fit of the tunic skirts needs careful adjustment if you're not to have large gaps at the sides and top where they meet the Mae West. Part 27, the left front piece, needs a bit of bending if it isn't to gape open too much. There's still a gap, but the Mae West covers it. His arms and head don't give any problems beyond the need to clean up the mould parting lines.
I didn't need to do much adjusting to Johnny's hips but that was made up for by the sheer complication of all his straps and bits. I broke his oxygen mask tube and one of the hanging straps on his parachute harness. Luckily the plastic is very responsive to the glue and the repairs held. The complication of the straps is not helped by the illustration. Part No. 7 does not go where the drawing says it does. I finally figured out that it mates up with part No. 9 and is supposed to meet the back of his parachute harness. Unhappily, it is too short, leaving a gap. The location of part No. 10 is extremely unclear. I finally glued it in the general vicinity of his right shoulder and helmet and hoped for the best.
I encountered the worst fit of the build with Rusty's head. There was a large gap on the top of his muzzle, as though the left side was short-shot, or perhaps the right side had some extra plastic that ought to have been sanded off. I needed to flood the area with glue and clamp hard to make the two sides join up. Cleaning up the mould parting lines on his legs and belly without damaging the moulded in fur detail was also a challenge.
These figures are very well done but let down a little by the vagueness of the illustrations. The fit is good, but can be improved by a little trimming and sanding. Taking a little time to make these improvements will bear great results in the look of the finished figures. I nearly lost Bob and Ginger in a catastrophic glue flood just as I was finishing Johnny, but I managed to save them. This explains the shiny appearance of the plastic in the unpainted shots.