by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe Avro Anson - "Faithful Annie" served with distinction throughout WW2 in a huge variety of roles. Almost unbelievably, this innocuous aircraft served the RAF for no less than 32 years - first appearing in the '30s and finally retiring in 1968 at the height of the Swinging Sixties!
More than 11,000 Ansons were built and the aircraft holds the distinction of being the RAF's first monoplane with a retractable undercarriage. First ordered as a coastal patrol and reconnaissance machine, the Anson went on to serve in communications, trainer and air-sea rescue roles.
Classic Airframes' Anson Mk 1 arrives in largish top-opening box which is full to the brim with parts:
51 x grey styrene parts on 3 sprues (including 2 unused engines)
17 x clear injected parts
67 x resin parts
39 x etched steel parts
Decals for 3 colour schemes
The moulding is typical of the MPM group, which means quite soft plastic with a satin surface finish. The parts feature nicely scribed panel lines and subtle fabric effect on the fuselage, control surfaces and nacelles. The wings and tail have a raised "quilted" effect which is very neatly done, although perhaps a bit overstated. There's a slight mark on the wing top halves where the moulds have been modified to shorten the ailerons (the early long style ailerons are now included as optional parts). On my kit there's very little flash evident and even the smaller plastic parts are well formed, although I noted a couple of flow-marks. The only moulding flaw is a small blemish under the port wing, which should be simple to fill. In common with most short-run kits, there are a few ejector pin marks to take care of, but the soft plastic makes an easy task. The resin parts are beautifully cast and very finely detailed.
The first surprise for me was what a large kit the Anson makes for in 1/48 scale. With my previous experience limited to the old 1960s Airfix 1/72 scale kit, I was unprepared for what an impressive the Annie was. A test fit of the wings and fuselage makes it look as though the construction should go quite smoothly. As you'd expect there aren't any locating pins but, once the sprue attachments are cleaned up, the fit is pretty good. The fuselage halves on my kit are slightly distorted, but here the soft plastic proves a real bonus and they are flexible enough for this not to present a problem; add some locating tabs from plastic card, clamp the parts and the fit is actually very good. The cockpit floor is a good fit - not something you can take for granted on short-run kits - and bodes well for adding the detailed interior. The wing halves fit well and should look good once the trailing edges are thinned down a bit. The wing/fuselage joint is quite a complex shape and the wings are a butt-joint, so I was quite concerned to see how well they fit. I needn't have worried - with minimal clean-up, the fit is fine. The joint crosses some panel lines, so it's important that everything lines up. There's a marginal misalignment, but the chord and airfoil look good.
ConstructionAssembly is broken down into 17 stages and some idea of the amount of interior detail included can be gained by the fact that the first 11 stages are devoted to the cockpit and turret! With so much glazing, it's hardly surprising that Classic Airframes have seized the opportunity to pack plenty of detail into the cockpit. The instrument panel is built up of plastic, resin and etched parts with a film backing for the instrument faces and individual throttle levers. The nicely cast resin seats get etched harnesses and the resin radio sets are well detailed. The resin sidewalls are very impressive, each cast as one piece with the tubular fuselage structure in place. These attach to a solid styrene floor and bulkheads to create a detailed "tub". The instructions indicate to leave off the starboard sidewall and roof structure until the cockpit is safely fitted into the port fuselage half, but I'd recommend at least tacking the complete tub together and testing its fit within the fuselage. Almost every page of the instructions carries a prominent note to dry fit the parts and, despite the massive improvement in short-run its over recent years, this is still good advice that you ignore at your peril...
The kit includes optional rear decking for a/c with and without a dorsal turret. The gunner's seat framework is made up from a number of delicate resin parts and one them was broken in my kit. There's no sign of the broken-off part in the bag of parts, so it must have been packed broken, It's easy to fix, but it's disappointing that the quality control let a broken part slip through. The Vickers K is very nicely cast and the turret is assembled from two parts which are thin and clear, with neatly depicted framing.
Stages 11 and 12 fit the extensive glazing. I've previously bemoaned Classic Airframes' switch from their old superb Falcon/Squadron vacuformed transparencies to injected parts, but I must admit they are improving with each release and the parts here are thin and very clear, with minimal optical distortion. So far so good, but there are a number of speckles in the parts in my kit which, obviously, can't be polished out - but, that said, they shouldn't be too noticeable on the finished model, and the injected parts will definitely make for an easier assembly than would have otherwise been the case. In view of the complexity of the framing and the price of the kit, it's slightly disappointing that Classic Airframes haven't followed the current trend among many manufacturers and included a set of pre-cut painting masks.
Stage 12 turns to the wings and you must decide at this point whether to fit the optional longer ailerons. I'd certainly add a note of caution here. The instructions don't indicate whether they're required for any of the aircraft featured on the decal sheet and fitting the longer ailerons won't be quite as straightforward as the notes would have you believe; the modification will also modifying the landing flaps and replacing the lower wing surface detail. As noted earlier, there's mark on the top surface where the pattern makers changed their minds at some point (it looks like they originally got the ailerons different lengths on each wing!...) - and if they can't make the change without leaving evidence, I think the message to the rest of us is clear... think twice before getting the razor saw out! The same is probably true for the optional landing lamps, which are inset into the port wing. These weren't fitted to early aircraft and adding the combination of resin and clear parts will almost certainly require a fair amount of trail and error.
The wings and tail feature a number of delicate etched control surface actuators and the navigation lamps are all provided with clear lenses. The cowlings for the Cheetah engines are beautifully cast with their prominent cylinder head fairings, while the engines themselves are made up of a mix of resin and plastic parts. The plastic propellers are pretty basic but, once they're cleaned up and the resin and etched bosses added, they should look fine. The undercarriage also combines injected and resin parts. The main legs are styrene and quite thin, but they should be strong enough to bear the weight of the kit. The resin retraction arms are nicely detailed, while the plastic wheel show some nice hub detail, and "un-weighted" tyres.
Painting and DecalingDecals are provided for 3 RAF aircraft:
K6321- 269 Squadron, circa 1937 - Aluminium dope overall.
K6298 - 233 Squadron, Leuchars, circa 1939 - Aluminium dope undersides, Dark Earth/Dark Green topsides.
K8754 - 206 Squadron, Manston, circa 1939 - Aluminium dope undersides, Dark Earth/Dark Green topsides.
The decals are beautifully printed by Microscale and are thin and glossy with perfect registration. The wartime roundels feature correct Dull Red centres as separate centres to ensure accurate alignment, but unfortunately the same Dull Red is used for the pre-war aircraft, which I'm sure would have had Bright Identification Red to accompany the Bright Identification Blue roundels provided on the sheet. The blue is perhaps a little to pale and bright - a deep ultramarine is most often quoted colour, but without the corresponding Bright Red centres and codes, the pre-war machine will look distinctly odd. It shouldn't be too hard to find replacement roundels (or paint them yourself), but the distinctive fuselage codes will be harder to correct.
ConclusionDespite the enormous strides in short-run kits, this isn't recommended for inexperienced modellers, but there's no doubt that Classic Airframes' Anson 1 will build into an impressive model of a long overlooked aircraft. The scope for further colour schemes is enormous, and Classic Airframes have also released a follow-up kit for the re-engined Mk. II. The price is perhaps a little high, but you do certainly get a lot of kit and anyone with a bit of experience should enjoy this as a project.
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