by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Classic Airframes has revisited old territory with an all-new tooling replacement for one of their earliest kits - the Heinkel He 51B. Comparing the two models shows just how much semi-short run technology has progressed since the original kit appeared in 1996, with new kit being moulded much more cleanly in more easily worked styrene - all in all, it promises to be a simpler build, relying less on mixed-media parts and comparing closer to mainstream kits. That said, it's important to underline that this is still a limited run kit, so it will require some extra skill and patience on the part of the modeller.
Classic Airframes' new He 51B comprises:
73 x grey styrene parts
5 x resin
1 x injected windscreen
Decals for 6 x colour schemes
The kit appears to have been produced for Classic Airframes by the MPM group, which is a great choice in my opinion because, if nothing else, they are past-masters at handling fabric surfaces. This is a really fine example with a drum-tight rear fuselage and subtle flying surfaces. Panel detail is neatly engraved with a few embossed fasteners. The moulding is pretty clean with just a whisper of flash here and there on some of the smaller parts. I couldn't find any sinkage or other flaws on my kit and preparation should largely be restricted to trimming off a few raised ejector pin marks that will otherwise interfere with the fit.
A full test fit was impossible, but the fuselage halves line up perfectly and the full span lower wing should provide a sturdy foundation for the biplane. I couldn't resist digging Classic Airframe's original kit out of the stash and, in terms of overall dimensions and exterior finish, the two models are remarkably similar - a good sign that they did a good job first time around. Where the kits do differ is that the old fuselage halves were rather warped in my kit. There's no such problem in the new tooling - everything is dead straight.
The cockpit is simply, but effectively, detailed. The instruments are styrene, but with quite good detail and the resin seat features a moulded-on harness. Oddly, the old kit had etched instrument panels and a separate seat harness which many modellers might prefer to the items provided here.
Assembly seems quite simple for a kit of this nature. Nice touches are separate ailerons and rudder and the exhausts which feature hollow ends to the individual stacks. There's an optional long-range fuel tank and the undercarriage with resin mainwheels is a definite improvement over the rather "clunky" moulded parts in the old kit.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and laid out, and a pair of very helpful rigging diagrams are included. Classic Airframes don't recommend any particular brand of model paints, including generic colour names and RLM matches where appropriate.
A real stand-out point of the kit is the set of decal options - a virtual who's who of Kondor Legion pilots and their mounts. All the schemes are included in Classic Airframes' "Jagdwaffe - Vol. 1, Section 2 - The Spanish Civil War" and, barring occasional minor details, the kit camouflage diagrams match the photos closely.
1.He 51B, 2-98, Lt. Kurt Strümpell, 3.J/88, circa February 1938
2.He 51B, 2-64, Oblt. Harro Harder, 1.J/88, summer 1938
3.He 51B, 2-78, Oblt. Adolf Galland, 3.J/88, spring 1938
4.He 51B, 2-102, Dr. Heinrich Neumann, 3.J/88, early 1938
5.He 51B, 2-85, Dr. Heinrich Neumann, 3.J/88, circa December 1937
6.He 51B, 2-94, Oblt. Hannes Trautloft, Escalona, circa August 1936
The decals are beautifully printed in Italy. The items are thin and glossy with crystal-clear carrier film and the registration is spot-on in my kit.
ConclusionClassic Airframes' new Heinkel He 51B is a fine limited-run kit that should appeal to modellers with a bit of experience who are interested in Golden Age aircraft and the Spanish Civil War. A second kit, # 4143 is available featuring the spectacular "traditional colours" worn by early units in the reborn Luftwaffe.
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