When the kit arrived I felt a sense of shock, combined with déjà vu... large parts of the Koster kit were identical to the FM model! What was going on? A note from Bill Koster explained things - the FM kit is, in effect, an injected version of his original vacuform model (as are the FM Magister and Harpoon) - and Bill doesn't have too high an opinion of the result...
Although this was intended purely as a review of the Koster kit, comparisons with the FM model are inevitable. Rather than describe all the parts all over again, I'll concentrate on the differences and refer readers to the Fonderie Miniature Maryland review.
Koster's Maryland consists of:
25 x vacuformed parts (11 clear)
33 x Resin Parts
15 x White-metal parts
Decals for 8 aircraft
The main parts are neatly formed on two sheets of white styrene. The elevators and rudder are moulded integrally on Koster's kit but, otherwise, the breakdown of the main parts is the same as in the FM version. The surface finish is smooth and the panel-line detail is much more consistent than on FM's model, but it is a little soft in places, so a run over with a scriber still won't go amiss.
A test fit of a vacuform not very practical, but the parts are cleanly formed and it should be easier to get thin trailing edges on this than the injected version. Koster include a useful spar to ensure the wing dihedral is correct, which slots into the resin wheel-well inserts.
Wow Man, out of sight! The Koster kit includes a nice set of resin parts.. cast in the strangest mixture of colours I've ever encountered - pink, grey, duck-egg blue and beige. After turning down the Hendrix, I compared the Koster and FM parts... the parts are identical but, generally, the Koster originals are cleaner cast - admittedly, there's not a lot to choose between them, but the originals (not surprisingly) have the edge.
FM have decided to mould some of the detail parts in plastic... here the resin originals win hands down, except for the propellers, which will need a hefty clean up.
A big difference between the 2 kits is the engines; instead of the elaborate multi-part FM engines, Koster just supplies simple one-piece engine faces with neat pushrod detail.
Koster's Maryland has fewer of the detail parts cast in white-metal - just the machine guns and landing gear - and, at the risk of sounding repetitive... the Koster versions are cleaner cast than FM's.
To their credit, FM include two sets of vacuformed clear parts against one in the Koster kit, but... and I know you saw this coming... the Koster parts are much clearer.
Instruction & decals
Koster's instruction use many of the same assembly drawings as FM, but also include a number of scrap diagrams which show the position of items missed out of the FM instructions entirely.
Koster don't include any panting instructions for the interior, but the diagrams for the camouflage patterns are better drawn than FM's and include colour side profiles for no less than 6 French aircraft and 1 each RAF and SAAF. Annoyingly, only one side of each aircraft is shown and the French aircraft show a lot of variations in camouflage patterns, so it'll be important to find additional references before tackling these schemes. FS equivalents for every colour included.
The decals are superb - custom printed by Microscale. The registration is perfect and the roundels feature separate centres. The French text is printed directly on the rudder stripes which is a little annoying for anyone who prefers to paint the stripes. Koster sell the decals separately (Item D-28 for just $3.75) and I would recommend them for anyone building the FM model, as they are a huge improvement.
How do the 2 kits stack up? Both are really only suitable for experienced modellers but, basically:
Koster's vacuform is cleaner finished and has mostly better detail parts, plus a far superior decal sheet.
Fonderie Miniature's short-run injected version has much more detailed engines.
My plan is to build Koster's and FM's Marylands side by side. Suffice to say, neither kit is going to "build itself", so this is a definitely a long-term project...