More Sherman Hardware from the East

US Medium Tank M4A3(76)W Sherman

Zvedda 1/35, Ref. 3676

Zvezda continues their work on the M4 Sherman family with this recently-released M4A3(76)W, offered in their traditional ‘sleeved up’ cardboard box that adequately protects the 322 plastic parts. The box is neatly illustrated with a US Army vehicle.

The kit itself is molded in Zvezda’s typical medium grey plastic and features very nice details and restrained engraving. Ejection marks are present here and there but are located so that they will not be visible. Seven sprues, including a clear plastic one, make up the kit ; sprues A and F (two sprues F in fact) are new when comparing to the earlier M4A2 kit.

Options include two turret roofs, two hull front plates and two different gun muzzles allowing for the ‘early’ or ‘late’ versions to be built. As with the M4A2, the rough aspect of the turret and transmission housing is not represented and will need to be done by the modeller. We do not know why Zvezda are doing this this way, but it does allow for a bit of individuality or creativity in reproducing this feature. Really, not a bad thing.

Markings are provided for three vehicles, one from the 2nd Armoured Division named Hell on Wheels in June 1945, and two slightly different representations of the same Sherman from the 501st RCC, named Narvik II.

This is a no frill offering from Zvezda, no resin bits, no photo-etched parts, no accessories, but if it goes together as well as their M4A2 (and there’s no reason why it would not!), this is a highly recommended kit at a very reasonable price. Let yourself be tempted !

Review by Renaud Labarbe ; photos by Renaud Labarbe and Zvezda.

http://www.zvezda.org.ru

US Navy Spook Revisited

F-4J ‘Aardvarks’

FineMolds 1/72, Ref.FP43S

Let’s get it out right away, the F-4 Phantom II has never been my cup of tea. But if I were to build one, a US Navy F-4J in white and grey or in Blue Angels livery would the one I would go for.

It was therefore kind of exciting to open up the box of the recently released 1/72 F-4J kit from FineMolds… The boxing I got is a ‘special release’ edition with two small sprues as a bonus. Those carry the seated crew, normally available separately.

It’s got to be said that what is in the box appears to be top-quality stuff, not really a surprise considering it is FineMolds we are talking about, but still a shock on the system when one is more usual fare is made up of older kits from, say, Heller, Airfix, Arii, Matchbox,..

155 parts await you in this kit, most of them in a pleasant light grey plastic and 8 of them in clear plastic. The quality of the latter is extremely good, with options for closed up or opened up canopies.

The instructions are printed, black & white, onto a small A5-sized 24-page booklet with Japanese and English as language options. The build is divided into 37 stages, plus painting and decalling. Instructions appear to be easy to follow; a large part of the instructions cover the stencilling of the aircraft and decalling of the three options, each featuring the grey/white US Navy scheme with touches of colours here and there.

I am not an expert on the Phantom II but the kit seems to have all the right ‘bits’ for a F-4J, including the bulge on the top of the wings, the cans for the J79-10 engines, the slotted stabilators, the rear cockpit with only the left-hand console, larger tires, short ECM RHAW antennas on the main air intakes ..

Speaking of the intakes, those are with nicely molded-in bleed air slots (so often badly rendered in other Phantom II kits), neatly detailed variable ramp and intake trunking leading to the fan blades.

Cockpit detail as offered is probably sufficient for most of us; this includes instrument panels with slightly raised details or ‘flat’ ones to be adorned with decals and 5-part ejection seats to name but the most important bits.

Stores only include the 600-gallon centerline and 370-gallons wing-mounted fuel tanks. Sadly, the Sparrows missiles, and any other load, although shown in the instruction sheet, will need to be purchased separately (US Aircraft Missile Set Ref.FP44; US Aircraft Bomb Set, Ref.FP45). Pylons are included in the kit, though..

As mentioned earlier, the three schemes will please those like me who like the grey/white US Navy scheme: the first two options are for VF-114 aircraft aboard USS Kitty Hawk in May 1972, the third option being a VF-21 F-4J aboard USS Ranger in June 1970. However, there are out there many other options available to decorate or detail further this new kit.

Personally, I think this is a very nice kit, and I very much doubt the fit will bring in any trouble, this is FineMolds after all..! Certainly not the cheapest option if you want a F-4J Phantom II in your collection (particularly if you want a loaded up aircraft), but I may just need one on my work bench soon! This might one day be a real collector’s item, given the spelling mistake on the box (First edision bonus)..!

Review by Domi Jadoul; photos by FineMolds and Domi Jadoul

http://www.finemolds.co.jp

Heavy Paper Projects

British Nuffield Assault Tank A.T.4

OKB Grigorov 1/72, Ref.72094

British Nuffield Assault Tank A.T.10

OKB Grigorov 1/72, Ref.72096

Nuffield Mechanization and Aero was the brainchild of Lord Nuffield who was deeply involved in the development and mechanisation of the British army and the ‘ground’ section of the RAF. The Crusader cruiser tank was one of its best known success story.

Of course, other projects only reached prototype stage or did not even reach that far. The A.T. series of auusault tanks can be found in this category.

OKB Grigorov continues to fill in the gaps in this series of projects, this time with the A.T.4 and A.T.10 variants.

The A.T.4 is made up of 105 resin and 16 photo-etched parts.

While the A.T.10 has 115 resin and 27 PE parts.

The quality, details-wise and casting-wise, is simply superb. Cleaning up the resin parts should not take too long, and the main difficulty will be, as usual with those OKB Grigorov kits, to install the resin tracks around the various wheels. A warm water bath or a hair-dryer will come in handy.

The large number of small parts, resin and PE and the resin tracks put those kits above the skills of a newcomer in the hobby, but those with a few resin kits under their belts and with an interest in the unusual will rfelish them !

Review by Daniel Clamot ; pictures by Daniel Clamot & OKB Grigorov.

www.okbgrigorov.com

Low-profile Bug Killer

TOR-M2/SA-15 ‘Gauntlet’

Zvezda 1/35, Ref. 3633

It is in a fairly large box that this kit comes in, packed with 334 parts laid out over six grey styrene sprues, one clear sprue, and two large separate hull ‘halves’. Added to this are two small sheets of mesh in two different sizes, a B&W instruction booklet, a full-colour A5 sized colouring and decalling instruction sheet and a decal sheet.

The parts are nicely detailed, and the hard plastic tracks, of ‘individual links’ and ’section’ types, are well represented, some sections featuring some sag. It is a large model. But what is it

The Tor missile system is an all-weather, low to medium-altitude, short range surface-to-air missile system designed to destroy low-flying airplanes, helicopters, drones and missiles. Designated 9K330 Tor, it is better known here under its NATO reporting name, SA-15 Gauntlet. It is reported to be equivalent to the French Crotale system, but consists of only one vehicle combining the radar, missile launching and command vehicles. Operational since around 2007, developed from the earlier Tor and Tor-M1 systems, it has been exported by Russia to a large number of customers around the world and has seen action in a handful of local conflicts.

Rather unfortunately, the kit does not provide the missiles, just closed off launch stations on the top of the turret. However, the radars can be portrayed deployed or folded down. A closed off or opened up driver’s front hatch is another option offered by this kit.

The running gear and tracks also allow for some ‘individuality’ and ‘flexibility’. There are lots of details to be added just about everywhere, and it must be said that the final product looks very good and imposing. Just lacking a bit of ‘sexyness’ without a large gun sticking out somewhere. Maybe some imaginative modellers somewhere will be able to turn this kit into a show-stopper with some super-detailing or a slightly more ‘in action’ pose.

There are two painting options given by Zvezda, while extra decals afford again a little bit more diversity; the options are a vehicle spotted at the 2017 Victory Parade in Moscow, and one operated by the Syrian Arab Republic. The decals are well printed with dense colours on a satin-looking carrier film.

This is all in all an excellent-looking kit, just lacking, to me in any case, a little bit of ‘peps’.

Review by Domi Jadoul, pictures by Domi Jadoul and Zvezda.

http://www.zvezda.org.ru

Wacky Wacky World

The Mean Machine

MPC 1/25, Ref. MPC935/12

What a great idea the MPC folks had in re-releasing the kits from the famed Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Racers. I believe that at least four of those race ‘cars’ were released in 1969 by MPC, later also by Kellogs, and at least two of them, the Mean Machine and the Compact Pussycat, are now available here in Belgium in September 2021.

The Mean Machine is of course the main contender in Wacky Racers series of cartoons, belonging to the infamous Dick Dastardly. Wearing race number 00, it features a great many ingenious but also dangerous contraptions that help Dick cheat when he is competing with the other racers. The Mean Machine is a purple, rocket-powered vehicle with an abundance of concealed weapons and gadgets, and it can even fly!

I can’t be 100% sure that the newly released kit is exactly that of 1969, but the packaging has remained the same (bar a new reference code), and looking suitably vintage for us 21st Century dwellers. The black & white instruction sheet (still wearing the original reference number) is mostly made up of illustrations and pictures. It’s not a complicated build with just 39 parts, one of which being a tool designed to help put together the operating wheels and simplistic axles. This tool can then be turned into a toy, the Wacky-Whirler, as indicated in the instructions.

The parts appear to be the very same than those of 1969, the quality of the moulding is, let’s say, average with few details, and some flash is apparent here and there. I would think that those interested in this kit (and the others in the series) will probably invest a bit of time to bring it up to current ‘standards’. The nose cone, for instance, is blunt while it should be pointed, no doubt a way for MPC to limit the risks of injuries to their customers and limit the number of court cases for their legal department..! The parts are moulded in a bright yellow plastic, but one sprue, that carrying the bodywork, wheel hubs and steering wheel has been metal plated in light purple. Both yellow and light purple metallic plating have little to do with the scheme seen on ‘real’ car. The chrome plating will need to go, for sure, if only to ensure proper cementing of the parts!

The kit includes both Dick Dastardly and his not-so-loyal pet dog, Muttley both rather accurate but each in two halves (left & right), meaning that some time will need being spent on turning them into good representations The kit does not lack of reminders that this is a Hanna-Barbera product, one of them being printed inside one half of each of the two characters…

Sadly, the kit does not come with a transparent , rear hinged ‘bubble’ or ‘canopy’ and this could prove a tricky part to scratchbuild, which probably explains why most Mean Machine ‘reconstitutions’ that are seen online do not have the bubble. But it is clearly seen in some of the cartoons.

Marking-wise, MPC have provided us with stickers (!) and, thankfully, proper decals. Decaling instructions, as well as painting instructions for Dick and his dog are printed on the outside of the bottom half of the box, the bottom of this container also printed with various warnings/disclaimers and a rendering of the parts included in the kit.

The product, a snap-tite type of kit, was obviously designed for the younger modellers in mind, but with care and patience, could be turned into a real show-stopper by one of those young-hearted people turned 50 or more now!

It’s certainly great to see those kits coming back. Let’s hope MPC find this re-release suitably financially-rewarding so that they invest some of that money into further representations of the Wacky Racers contraptions!

Review & pictures by Domi Jadoul, Round 2 & Hanna-Barbera.

http://www.round2models.com

Eye in the Sky

Henschel Hs 126B/K ‘International’

Sabrekits 1/72, Ref. SBK72013

Very nice surprise coming from the Czech Republic and in particular from newcomers Sabrekits, is this brand new Hs 126 kit. I’ve always had a liking in this parasol-winged aircraft ever since I laid eyes and hands on the Matchbox kit a good mmmm.. 45 years ago. And although I’ve resisted from buying again this old kit, or any other 1/72 Hs 126 released ever since. I have however over the years added some good reference relating to this aircraft into my library and I guess it was just a matter of time before I slipped. Not for just a single kit, but for a handful of them since Sabrekits were good enough to issue several boxings of this kit.

So, why did I slip? Well, simply put, this kit looks gorgeous. This is, I must say, a brand new kit, not a reboxing of any of the earlier Hs 126 kits in 1/72, not even the fairly recent Brengun one. It was the kit I had been waiting for!

Each of the five Hs 126 released by Sabrekits is, basically the same plastic with new decals and a different cardboard box. Each kit is made up of 72 parts, two of them in clear plastic. There is no PE set included, but the amount of detail provided is more than adequate, even for this partly open cockpit and large glazed areas. The differences between the variants are minimal and only the first two prototypes, with their in line engines can’t be modelled from this kit. The V3 would require a little work on the main undercarriage, but could be fairly easily done I reckon. The A and B series were mostly different in terms of the power plant, but both were 9-cylinder radials and if the one provided by Sabrekits is a little closer to being a BMW (Hs 126A) engine than a Fafnir (Hs 126B), it should still satisfy most.

The cockpit detailing consists of internal ribbing and framing, two bulkheads (three if counting the one supporting the pilot’s instrument panel), a floor made up of two parts, pilot’ seat and observer’s ‘saddle’ (seatbelts provided as decals), various side panels, control stick, radio boxes and gunsight. The pilot’s instrument panel is, too, offered as a decal.

Sabrekits do offer engine cowlings that appears a bit fiddly (5 parts not counting the engine and prop) but with flaps in open or closed position. Other options include two antenna masts, desert filter and wheel spats, a bomb rack and its explosive extension, and a separate landing light ‘panel’. Speaking of clear parts, the main canopy is commendably thin and masks are available separately from http://www.mhmodels.cz

As mentioned earlier, each boxing has a different decal sheet. The one reviewed here, Henschel Hs 126B/K ‘International’ offers markings for four machines, an Estonian and a Soviet (ex-Estonian) in the rather smart pre-war 3-tone ‘splinter’ scheme over light blue, a Greek Hs 126K and a 450th Sqn. RAAF (captured), in a RAF desert scheme in Libya. The design and printing appears first class, but for the yellow on the British fuselage roundels was a little off-centered. Not a problem for me, since this particular boxing was purchased in order to get the Greek and Estonian markings. The other four boxings, ‘Blitzgrieg’, ‘Eastern Front’, ‘Over Spain’ and ‘Over Africa’ all offer a number of options that should please everyone. All, though, carry the bomb aiming lines that adorn the fuselage sides.

If separate ailerons, a smoke generator, the different types of tail wheels, and the other type of spinner sometimes seen on pictures would have been nice additions to this kit, it is a very nice depiction of the real machine and certainly a very good base for further detailing. I can’t wait to get into it! Well, them. All five of them!

Review and pictures by Domi Jadoul.

http://www.sabrekits.cz

Unwanted Duckling

Breda 27 Metallico Prototypo

Sabrekits 1/72, Ref. SBK72016

New from Sabrekits, the prototype version of the Breda 27 with its highly colourful livery. The aircraft first flew in 1933 and could well have been inspired by the Boeing P-26 Peashooter. Having said that, the P-26 was itself inspired by the racing aircraft Travel Air type Air, and one of those racers was purchased by Italy following the recommendations of Italo Balbo…

The Breda 27 was Italy’s first low-winged monoplane, the first two prototypes featuruing wooden wings. We have here the third prototype with a all-metal wing and a cockpit pushed a little forward and higher on the fuselage. Although modern for its time, more conservative, biplane designs ended up being ordered by the Regia Aeronautica instead.

In the end, 18 machines were manufactured and sold to China (some sources state that only 11 were actually delivered) then at war with Japan.

If this is a new release for Sabrekits, it is in fact a re-boxing of the AZ Models kit from 1998, but with a new and well-printed decal sheet. As part of Sabrekits ‘Series 100‘, this kit will soon be a ‘collector‘ item since only 100 kits have been manufactured.

The recessed engraving is very fine and should not suffer too much during the build since the fuselage halves appear to go together well. However, thye plastic is hard and quite brittle and care must be taken when removing parts from the trees. A single sprue carries most of the parts, but four resin parts are offered for the engine, main undercarriage and cockpit tub, while a nice photo-etched set brings in more cockpit detailing and the external wiring. A sheet of acetate carries the windshield and instrument panel. The already superb decal sheet completes the kit.

The instruction sheet, still wearing the AZ Models logo, appears clear and to the point, but some reference will certainly be needed to complete the complicated wiring that the boxart did not really warn us about! All in all, a very tempting, aesthetic and colourful subject, but requiring some experience with rigging and metallic finishes. For about 12 euros, we are not being robbed blind and it’s really good seeing this little kit coming back, if only momentarily!

Review & pictures by Bernard Libert.

http://www.sabrekits.cz

Cute Little Bird

Robinson R-44 Astro/Raven

KP 1/72, Ref. KPM 0215

It is always, for me in any case, nice seeing light aviation aircraft being marketed in any scale. 2020 brought us this kit from Stransky in the Czech Republic and it is now maybe more widely available from KP, a better-known manufacturer from the same country.

Developed from the 2-seater R-22, the Robinson R-44 is a four-seater light helicopter that has been in production and in service with many civilian (and military) users since 1993.

KP’s offerings (two separate boxings, one ‘civilian’, the Astro/Raven, one ‘military’, the Raven II with in reality, a different engine not included in the kit) does not hide its origins, Stransky’s logo still featuring on the largest of the two sprues making up this kit. The main sprue is molded in medium grey styrene and contains just under 30 parts, with the two halves ‘fuselage/cabin’ being of course the largest; the second sprue includes 5 parts molded in clear plastic.

A decent interior is provided with nice seats, instrument panel separate control pedals and levers (including that weird looking control stick) that will be clearly visible through the commendably thin clear parts, and an engine that will mostly be invisible unless some panels are opened up on the fuselage halves. The cockpit furnishing, however neat, is not the one provided on all R-44 in service, so some good reference will be required in order to model any particular aircraft. Note that some R-44s are also only provided with a single set of flying controls (on the right-hand side), and therefore with a still curious-looking but modified control stick. Seat belts , document holders and other ‘furnishing’ will need to be added for a better final result. Extra detailing would be welcome on the tail rotor hub too. Pictures, walkarounds and references are available on the Net.

KP’s ‘civilian’ boxing includes markings for four R-44s, including the aircraft flown by Flying TV in the UK. Note that the scheme provided, with the Remembrance Day poppies is not current anymore and that the kit does not include the camera pod (or pods?) attached to the landing skid.

The instruction sheet is clear and easy to follow. Masks (for the clear parts) are available separately from Peewit (Ref. M72256) and extra schemes from Avalon (Ref. 7031).

I can’t wait to get started on this build (just a couple of other models to complete first!).

Review & pictures by Domi Jadoul.

http://www.kovozavody.cz

Bombing Mitten

Russian Light Bomber Yak-130 ‘Mitten’

Zvezda 1/48, Ref. 4818

The Yak-130, NATO code-named Mitten, is an advanced trainer aircraft designed to take over the Aero L-29 Delphin and L-39 Albatros. The advanced trainer entered service in 2007, and a combat trainer variant followed in 2009. Current operators include of course Russia, but also Algeria, Lao, Syria and Vietnam to name but a few.

Following the release of the aircraft in 1/72, Zvezda is now offering it in 1/48, in its light bomber guise. The model, 24.5cm long, is made up of 339 parts split over 10 runners of various size, one of them supporting the clear parts.

Two large sprues deal with the wings and fuselage ; The latter is curiously but cunningly split between right and left rear fuselage halves ontop of which the whole wing platform comes to rest, and a separate front fuselage. The wings’ moving bits are separate items. Two medium-sized runners offer, amongst others, ejection seats, tanks and main intake covers ; two sprues carry the bomb load, while another one has the two crew members and two more, small ones, offer a missile each.

All parts look great and are flash-free ; two canopies are offered, one with the explosive wires molded in, the other without. Particularly useful are the covers for the intakes (already mentionned), exhaust cans and wheel blocks which will come in handy for any ‘on the ground’ representation.

The instruction booklet, A4-sized, B&W-printed is clear and easy to follow ; it includes info on the location of all the stencils. A full-colour A4-sized leaflet offers the colour schemes for four aircraft : two Russian, a Laotian and a Bangladeshi aircraft seen in 2020, 2014, 2019 and 2015 respectively.

This looks like a very fine product, confirming Zvezda’s current place amongst the best providers of scale models.

Review by Daniel Clamot ; pictures by Daniel Clamot and Zvezda.

www.zvezda.org.ru

Parasol Fighter Delight

Morane-Saulnier MS 225 C1

Sabrekits 1/72, Ref. SBK7007

The French Armée de l’Air modernisation programme in the early 1930s gave birth to a robust parasol wing fighter, the MS-225, first flown in 1932. The plane featured superior flight characteristics and agility, structural strength as well as simple maintenance and excellent reliability. By 1933 the Armée de l’Air acquired 67 of these planes. Intended only as a stop-gap fighter,further production was not planned. 12 Moranes were supplied to the French Aéronavale and seven planes were sold to China in September 1933.

Sabrekits are a recent outfit offering a number of interesting re-boxed items from a number of companies, and this MS.225 is following the trend, being the old 1968 ‘Série Musée’ Heller kit with brand new decals. The kit was first re-boxed by Smer back in the 1980s. The Heller kit is actually pretty good given its age, but could benefit from a bit of work in the cockpit area and maybe on the engine ; the ailerons ‘lines’ are missing on the underside of the wings, but that is also easily fixed.

The new decal sheet is very nice-looking indeed. Four liveries are offered, including the demonstrator used by Morane’s chief test pilot, Michel Detroyat, one aircraft from the Etampes aerobatic team (the weapons must be deleted on those two, a thing not mentionned in the instructions sheet), an Aéronavale aircraft and last but not least, a Chinese machine.

Although the Heller (and Smer) kits are still easy to find on the second-hand market, the Sabrekit offering has the edge with its still very reasonable price and brand new decal sheet. But it is still a limited release edition, so do not wait too long before getting yours !

Review and pictures by Daniel Clamot.

www.sabrekits.cz

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