by: Wiggus [ ]
PZL is short for Państwowe Zakłady Lotnicze (State Aviation Works). It was founded in Warsaw in 1928 as a state-owned company. Between the wars the Polish High Command had placed emphasis upon the role of armed aerial reconnaissance aircraft. The PZL.23 Karaś was developed to fit this role and first saw production in 1936.
Both the 23 and 42 carried a three man crew; pilot, rear gunner, and observer/bomber/gunner. It featured a rear-facing dorsal gun and a ventral bombardier gondola for both bomb sighting and rear gunning. It was designed around a single Polish-licensed version of the Bristol Pegasus radial engine. The “B” variant used the 650hp Pegasus VIII. Other variations were exported to Romania and Bulgaria with Gnome-Rhone engines.
The body and wings were all aluminum construction. The internal wing design was cutting-edge at the time and was designed by Polish engineer Fraciszek Misztal. Early prototypes had internal bomb bays, but were ultimately rejected. Production models carried their bombs externally under the center wing. The fixed landing gear had pneumatic shocks. The streamlined wheel cowling could be removed if required for use at rough airfields.
The PZL.42 (kit #72509) was an experimental variant of the 23 Karaś. It featured a double tail fin configuration and a modified bombardier gondola which, amongst other things, was retractable into the fuselage. It never saw production.
I was not familiar with IBG Models from Poland. They only offer a handful of aircraft. Most of their catalog is armor, transports and military trucks. They seem to concentrate on unusual subjects such as a BMW motorcycle with sidecar and a Chevrolet fuel truck.
I’m so glad that they took the time to make this lesser known Polish plane and its variants. They make the two kits reviewed here (PZL.23B and 42) as well as the 23A and an early variant of the 23B. IBG’s website has no details about the differences. As far as I know the only major difference between the 23 variants would have been the engine (which is barely visible), perhaps leading to slightly different cowl sizes and shapes.
The artwork on the boxes is stunning in person. I wish the artist was credited in the instructions or on the box. The lid lifts off so you can use the box as a tray for parts.
The 42 is molded in a pale brownish-orange plastic that I’m going to call “pumpkin ravioli”. The review kit provided to Kitmaker of the 23B is molded in dark grey, although another review says it was molded in “pumpkin ravioli” like the 42. Keep in mind that perhaps these kits are pre-production releases and some details may vary in the retail kits.
Inside the boxes you’ll find:
Instructions; 4 color pages, 4 B&W pages
7 or 8 plastic sprues
1 clear sprue
1 fret of 13 PE parts
Decals: 2 versions for PZL.23B, 1 version for PZL.42
No masks are provided
Instructions & Decals
The instructions are A4 size folded in half. Build instructions are B&W, with two pages of color diagrams for painting and decal placement. They include no history or specifications of the planes.
The paint schemes are all the same – Polish Khaki over a light blue-grey. Paint callouts are for Vallejo Model Air, Hataka, Life Color, Mr. Hobby and AK paints.
The decals are printed by Techmod. I’d never seen TechMod decals before. They look very thin and registration is perfect in the sample kits. They look like they will go down beautifully. The 23B has markings for two different planes; the 41st Squadron and the 23rd Reconnaissance Squadron. The prototype PZL.42 only has Polish national markings.
The clear sprues are identical in both kits (sprue K). Though be warned that if you are building the 42, they are mistakenly called out by the prefix “L” in the instructions.
The instructions are the weakest point of these kits. There is no clear winner as to which kit has better instructions. Both are better in different areas, and I found errors in both as well. The printing is not great, contrast is low, the choices of symbols representing pre-assembly and post-assembly parts could be much clearer. The parts are represented by 3D renderings (probably from the design stage) which are detailed, but due to poor printing on thin paper they are not as clear as I would like. The PZL.42 includes one small sheet of errata.
Since these are nearly the same kit, I expected the instructions to be identical for both, but oddly they are not. For instance, building the fuselage of the 23B is a fairly standard affair. The observer/bomber area is glued onto the wing assembly before hand, the pilot area and other goodies in the cabin are glued up to one side of the fuselage, then sandwiched between both halves of the fuselage. The whole fuselage assembly is then glued down to the whole wing sub-assembly.
But instruction for the 42 show that both the pilot and observer areas are glued down to the wing sub-assembly first. The rest of the cabin detail is glued to the left fuselage half which is then glued down to the wing. Then the right fuselage half is clumsily attached to the left half and wing at the same time. This method just sounds like a mess, and potentially a problem if there is filling and sanding required along seams.
I can’t tell which kit was released earlier, but perhaps by the later kit’s release they had realized a better way to build it. I would stick with the tried and true, and test fitting should resolve any questions.
This my first IBG kit, and I am really impressed with the molding of the parts. The styrene is hard. Details are really crisp. There are no obtrusive ejector-pin marks to contend with. There is a tiny bit of flash here and there, but I don’t know that you could ask for better parts, especially in 1/72 scale. I’ve seen worse from Tamiya.
The engine is basic, but it is hardly visible behind the cowl. The surface details are numerous, some recessed and some raised. The panel lines might be a tad wide, but after primer and paint is applied they will take pin washing nicely. The wing-walk is tightly grooved. The pneumatic shock boots are beautiful. The canopy will require a lot of masking, but the molding is so good that, short of pre-cut masks, they have made it as easy as they could for you. Again, I am really impressed with the quality of these parts.
There is plenty of detail in the cockpit to keep you busy, including the observers area and rear gun with seating attached. There is nice sidewall detail too.
The 23B only has one forward gun in the nose, while the 42 has two.
The PZL.42 prototype has no bombs, there is no bomber gondola, and there are less markings which should make for a quicker build than the PZL.23.
The landing gear looks to be a place where slight variations exist between both planes. The 23B only has one landing light. The 42 has landing lights on both struts. The 23B instructions show that you can choose to build the landing gear with the beautiful streamlined wheel covers, or without. Without the beautiful 30’s era covers, the landing gear just looks wrong, like a suit worn with shorts over little chicken legs. But the option is appreciated if someone wants to build a diorama of the plane under maintenance.
The instructions for the 42 only show the option for landing gear with the covers, even though it come with all the parts needed to build the gear either way. This must be an error in the instructions of the 42. It does include a small sheet with instructions errata for two parts in the cabin, but nothing more is added about the landing gear.
I am really astounded at the quality of this kit. And the price? I would expect these kits to retail up near the $30 mark. Both kits are priced in the high teens! The inclusion of PE parts alone should merit a higher price. You get more bang for your buck with the 23B, but also more windows to mask.
If you have any interest in this subject, scoop one of these kits up. I hope that would encourage IBG to continue to bring us unusual planes like this. They have a twin engine medium bomber (the PZL.37) is on the way. After seeing the quality of these kits, I’ll be first in line for it.