by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Airfix's 1/48 scale English Electric Canberra must surely be among the most keenly anticipated kits of recent years. A while ago it looked as though it was a victim of the company's financial crisis, but the subsequent rescue by Hornby revived hopes that one of Britain's most popular post-war aircraft would finally appear as a mainstream quarterscale kit.
Even though the Canberra lies outside my normal areas of modelling interest, a sense of brand loyalty to a company that's been a part of my modelling life since the 1960s meant I grabbed one at my earliest opportunity.
So what are the first impressions? Well, it's a pretty big kit in an even bigger box! For a dyed-in-the wool propeller head, the sheer size of the wing chord at the roots is quite a shock. Most of the sprues are in one big plastic bag, the tranparencies bagged separately within it, with the wings sprue loose in the box, separated by some bubble-wrap. The kit comprises:
172 x grey styrene parts (some not needed for this version)
8 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
A 14-page A-4 instruction booklet.
The parts are moulded for Airfix in China and the style and styrene used rather reminds me of Trumpeter and Hobbyboss. The moulding is nice and clean with basically no sign of flash. Knockout-pin marks have been kept out of harm's way and the only minor sinkage I found in my kit is under the wings ahead of the aileron cutouts. The surface has a silky sheen and with detailing in the form of prominent engraved panel lines. While a bit heavy, they are consistent and neatly done and a coat of primer should knock them back a bit.
For a kit of this size, Airfix's Canberra is surprisingly simple - quite a lot of the parts count is accounted for by a generous set of stores. The box states that the kit is suitable for 8-year olds upwards and I can believe it - Airfix have clearly aimed for a much wider market than Classic Airframes did with their short-run kit.
Test fitThe parts are warp free and a check of the main components shows the fit is excellent. The fuselage and wings have very chunky locating pins and line up precisely. The fit of the wing roots is very good, while the stabilizers are a bit loose in a dry-fit, but will be fine when cemented. Airfix have moulded standard fuselage halves, and to cater for the different Canberra versions, there's a separate section incorporating the cockpit. This is probably the most critical point of the model and, if the fit was poor, it could have been a real problem. Happily, it's a tight fit and matches the fuselage contours perfectly; with a little care, the joint should be just about indistinguishable from the surrounding panel lines.
The detailThe overall detailing reflects the general simplicity of the kit and is a little soft. The cockpit isn't bad, with multi-part seats and reasonable sidewalls and consoles, but the pilot's instrument panel is very basic. A unusual touch these days is the inclusion of seated crew figures. They are maybe a little small, but should look fine when installed.
The kit can be modelled with an open bomb bay with a separate pannier for 4 x bombs. There are also underwing pylons for a choice of bombs, missiles, single or dual unguided rocket launchers and wingtip fuel tanks. There's an optional gun pack and the tips of the cannons are rounded. You might want to drill out the barrels, but they probably would have caps on them in real life to keep dirt out.
The wheel wells are nice and deep with neat rib detail, but there's plenty of scope to add some plumbing. The gear legs are a bit basic, but they are good and sturdy. The kit is a natural tail-sitter and the instructions recommend 100 grammes of noseweight, although a tail prop is also provided. The hubs are reasonably and the tyres are weighted.
TransparenciesThe clear parts are bagged separately to protect them and are quite thin and free of distortion. The pilot's fighter-style canopy is split in two, but the instructions state not to pose it open (presumably, it was only opened on the ground for servicing, with the pilot entering the aircraft via the nose hatch). The entire nose cone is a separate clear part. This means no problems with fitting the bomb-aimer's windows, but I found this piece a little cloudy, something a dip in Future/Kleer wil hopefully help with. The kit includes clear parts for the wingtip lamp covers.
Instructions and decalsThe instructions booklet is attractively produced and the assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and logically laid out in 39 stages. That might seem like overkill for what is essentially a simple model, but it breaks everything down into nice easy chunks that will ensure an easy build. Humbrol paint matches keyed to most details.
The kit's colour schemes are illustrated on a separate full-colour painting guide:
A. Canberra B(I)8, No. 16 Sqn. RAF, Laarbruch, Germany, 1972
B.Canberra B(I)12, No. 14 Sqn. RNZAF, Ohakea, 1968
C. Canberra B(I)12, No. 12 Sqn. SAAF, Waterkloof, 1969-75
The decal sheet is enormous and includes a comprehensive set of stencils. The items are thin and glossy and printed in excellent register. A nice touch is that the roundel centres are separate items, ensuring accurate alignment. At first glance I thought the Roundel Blue used was a bit pale and muted, but closer examination reveals that it's printed as fine dots, so many modellers will want to replace the national insignia. How about a set of Miracle Masks, Mal?
ConclusionOverall, Airfix's Canberra shows huge potential. It's a big and attractive kit and the great fit and slightly simplified detail makes it ideal for the mainstream market. Experienced modellers will see it as an obvious canvas for superdetailing - and I'll be amazed if a host of aftermarket don't follow its release. The parts breakdown is almost an open invitation for resin and etched details and there's obviously plenty of scope for new decals. Airfix have done well by keeping the price down to a reasonably affordable level. OOB it looks a simple and enjoyable build and I'm looking forward to tackling it - and, of course, for any Brit, it's always great to see a new Airfix kit!
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