have recently released a new-tool 1:48 kit of the Bristol Beaufighter, a subject which has been the sole preserve of Tamiya in the mainstream field. The Tamiya kit is certainly very good, and ideally targeted at less experienced modellers thanks to its straightforward construction, but it's getting long in the tooth now, so a fresh take on this iconic aircraft is arguably overdue and Revell
have aproached the subject quite differently to Tamiya with a considerably more complex kit.
Of course, there was famously another 1:48 Beau that failed to reach the market - the Accurate Miniatures kit, the story of which is still surrounded in a degree of mystery. The conventional wisdom is that it was killed off by the announcement of the Tamiya kit, even though it may well have been superior, simply because there wasn't thought to be a market for two competing Beaufighters appearing almost simultaneously, and that a Tamiya kit would always outsell a rival, regardless of which was the better kit.
But, 20 years on, Revell
have clearly decided the time's right for a new-tool quarterscale kit of the "Beau".
kit arrives packaged in a large and attractive box, but it's end-opening (which I always find the least useful type of packaging for model kits) and is a little bit flimsy for its size. Still, it did its job and clearly protected everything sufficiently well in transit, because my kit was delivered completely intact.
The box is well stuffed with separately bagged sprues, with the decals tucked inside the instructions for protection. The kit comprises:
174 x sky-grey styrene parts (plus 7 not needed)
9 x clear styrene parts (plus 2 unused)
The moulding is pretty good for the most part in my kit, but I did find a little flash in places - surprising for such a new kit - and you'll need to be prepared to spend time cleaning up mould lines on many of the smaller parts. The designers have done a great job keeping ejector pins out of sight, but I noticed a little sinkage on both the top and bottom surfaces of the wings where there's detail on the reverse side for the interior of the flaps and in front of the ailerons' locations. The moulding isn't particularly thick there, so it's a bit concerning that there should be any sinkage, and it's something Revell
need to keep an eye on.
With those negative comments out of the way, I'm pleased to be able to write that I'm impressed by the surface finish, which features delicate embossed panel lines and fasteners etc., plus quite a lightly done ribbed effect on the fabric covered control surfaces. There's no attempt at rivets, which is probably a blessing, because unless they're done as well as, say, Eduard, I'd far rather add them myself if I want to, rather than fill the heavy-handed efforts of an over-zealous toolmaker.
I was prepared for a little extra work after reading Steve Evan's excellent build article in Valiant Wings' Airframe Album 14. ####
Steve built a pre-release test-shot and hit problems fitting the wings, so I approached the test fit expecting trouble.
The fuselage halves match up neatly and the tail slots into place with no fuss. The way Revell
have designed the tail is clever, because it allows for a choice of fins and horizontal tailplanes, and also leaves open the possibility of early "flat" tails further down the line.
And so on to the wings. The top and bottom panels go together neatly, and then it's time to join the completed sub-assembly with the fuselage. This does take a bit of jiggling into place, but I actually found the fit very good at the roots (Steve found the right wing root especially troublesome), so perhaps Revell
have made some adjustments to deal with problems highlighted in the test shots.
Where the fit still isn't great, though, is under the nose, where the seam falls along a panel line and is very exaggerated. That will need some filling. To be fair, Revell
approached the joint in the best way they could to avoid seams crossing the troughs for the cannons under the nose.
The wing is quite heavy and has a tendency to flex under its own weight, so it will need taping to support the joints at the roots while the cement dries. This could have been avoided if Revell
had designed the kit with a partial spar extending from the fuselage. You could still do this by cutting slots in the interior inserts that Revell
provide to blank off the hollowed-out roots, but taping will probably suffice, especially once the kit is stood on its wheels.
A Few Details
The interior of the fuselage is neatly lined with ribs and stringers to give a convincing impression of the structure. The interior is constructed from just 19 parts, but should still look quite good when finished.
A disappointment is that both the pilot's and observer's seats have rather crude moulded-on harnesses. I do wish manufacturers wouldn't do this, because they look dreadful and can be a pain to remove. Experienced modellers will want to replace the straps with a more detailed scratch-made or aftermarket harness, but even a decal would look much better.
The prominent heating duct between the front and rear cockpits is provided, but it does look a bit spindly. The original was lagged, so binding the kit part tightly with tissue or kabuki tape and adding some support ties should help improve the appearance.
The observer's "office" is very sparsely detailed. There was a mass of equipment and fittings lining the area in the real aircraft and none of this is provided in the kit. True, not much will be visible if the clear blister canopy is closed, but there's still massive scope for adding extra detail. The rear equipment rack is represented by a rather basic one-piece fascia - which again will probably suffice as so little can be seen. It's worth noting that later Beaufighters had armoured doors between the observer and the rack to protect him if the oxygen bottles ruptured. This is also included in the kit as an optional part, but I think it was standard on the TF.X.
If the cockpits seem a little basic, the undercarriage is just the opposite and is very well detailed and looks quite a complex assembly with 8 parts per unit. In fact it looks fiddly enough that beginners may struggle a bit. The tyres are plain and moulded unweighted, so I think it'll definitely be worth adding "flats" to give an impression of the bulk of the Beaufighter.
The wheel well doors feature good internal detail and are moulded closed for the modeller to slice apart. This is because the kit allows for the kit to be built either "in flight" or with the undercarriage lowered. That's fine, although it does seem to be rather a half thought-through idea, because no crew figures are provided and there's no provision to mount the finished model on a stand.
The pair of Hercules radials are nicely detailed too, comprising 7 parts each. The cylinders are well moulded and the exhausts connect to the cooling ring, so it's odd that Revell
have missed the rather prominent cowling support struts at the front of each engine. They won't be difficult to a dd, but when the designers have included so much other detail they are an odd omission.
The cowls are built up of separate sections, which has allowed Revell
to mould the small blisters on the sides that were added to give space for the cylinder heads of the later versions of the Hercules engine. A nice touch is that both open and closed cowl flaps are provided.
The propellers are provided with optional spinners and the blades look nice and thin.
The kit includes a choice of nose cones, including a thimble radome, and both short and extended dihedral tailplanes. There's a choice of vertical tails too, with the option to fit the dorsal fillet seen on many later Beaufighters. Unfortunately there's a problem here, because the fillet just doesn't look the correct shape, sloping down too steeply to meet the fuselage instead of having a rounded front end.
It's obvious that Revell
have more versions planned, because the sprues include the mounting plates for underwing rockets (no rockets are provided in this boxing), an alternative nose with a radar dipole, and an alternative instrument panel. For the present, just an 18 inch torpedo is intended for use. This is a simple 3-part affair, but it should look fine with its detachable tail.
The clear parts are very well moulded, with no blemishes and well defined framing on the cockpit canopy and the observer's blister. The latter is the later type with a mounting for a defensive machine gun.
Instructions & DecalsRevell
include a nicely illustrated and well laid out set of instructions as a 28-page A4 booklet. The assembly sequence looks refreshingly logical. Paint matches for Revell's
own range of paints are included. This does mean some mixing is needed for some colours, so many modellers will no doubt use alternatives.
Decals are included for two colour schemes:
1. Beaufighter TF.X, s/n NE429, "P6-S", 429 (NZ) Sqn., RAF, July 1944
2. Beaufighter TF.X, s/n RD467, "QM-J", 254 Sqn., RAF, May 1945
The decals appear to be very good quality, with the silk-finished items printed in perfect register and convincing colours (the red of the roundels looks brighter in the photos here than it does to the naked eye).
Unfortunately there is a problem with both the chosen colour schemes and I don't think you can finish either aircraft correctly with what's supplied in the kit.
A photo of NE429
clearly shows it fitted with a Yagi radar aerial under the nose and an air vent ahead of the windscreen, neither of which are included among the kit's parts (there's also a lot of repainting evident), while a period shot of RD467
shows the serial number repeated under the wings, which the decals don't include.
Beaufighter is basically a very sound kit, but it's let down slightly by a few slip-ups. These certainly shouldn't deter anyone from purchasing it, though. In terms of value for money, you do get plenty of model for the UK price of £36.99. You can find the kit for sale much cheaper if you shop around, though, and I bought mine for just £25.00 on Amazon - and at that price it's excellent value.
It's probably not a suitable kit for beginners because the assembly could be a bit complex in places and a little more clean-up is needed in some places than you might hope in a new-tool mainstream kit, but anyone with a little experience should find it a very enjoyable build.
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