Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Build Review - Dragon 1/48 Ju88 A-4

Although a few years old now, this is the best 1/48 Ju88 kit on the market. So when I was asked to build one on a commission I went straight to it. The kit is very well detailed, although with a little flash in places but nothing that cannot be dealt with. The customer is after a particularly tricky paint scheme which is going to test my airbrush skills to the limit, but that's why I do this!

The first thing that hits you when opening the box is that there is a lot of plastic in there! However, as one discovers later, a lot of parts are not used, sprues being included in some cases just to support a single piece! But the quality of the moulding is first rate and this always makes a kit a pleasure to build.

So we start, as ever, with the cockpit and in the Ju88 this is critical. This plane has a lot of canopy real estate and it will all be visible. Given the multiple positions for as crew of up to four there is also some complexity here, but the kit designers have engineered things very well. It all fits together really well and on top of an overall "German grey" paint scheme the details came out really nicely. I added some Eduard etched Luftwaffe seat belts but otherwise went with what was in the box and was very pleased with the result.

The cockpit parts then fitted beautifully into the fuselage halves. The instructions suggest putting the tail wheel in place as well before closing up, but after checking it was possible to do later, I left this out as I always like to add such details after the main painting is completed. Fitting the fuselage together went as well as to be expected from a larger plane such as this, my only complaint being that the kit should probably provide more locating pins than it does. The bulk of the length of both top and bottom has no pins and this inevitably results in problems with vertical alignment. With a little more foresight, I would have added my own lugs but I did not spot this until it was too late. As a result, I had to do a bit of work on the seams to get them to disappear!

The tail sections snapped in nicely and did not require any alignment - which is always nice! Now to build the wings. The undercarriage bay walls have to be built and put in place inside the wings before the wings are closed up but I elected to ignore the instructions again with respect to the undercarriage struts as these could go on after painting. It is also necessary at this point to put the engine cowlings together. The exhaust details are of the "fix from the inside" variety which I always hate. I like to paint up the exhaust stacks and slot them in after painting as they are always very hard to mask separately. However I managed to ascertain that if I left the front plate off the cowlings I would just be able to slot them in later, so I left it at that!

A slightly tricky part is the gun/bomb sight gondola under the belly. The kit provides it in three transparent parts (to support a number of windows) and working with clear plastic is always a bit trickier, since it is so brittle. You also need to install the rear facing gun before installation. Plenty of filler was required around this part.

The major parts all fitted together well and relatively seamlessly, although as always, the wings needed some careful alignment and there were some noticeable gaps at the wing roots that needed a good fill. I then went over all major joints with primer and/or filler, whether they appeared to need it or not, I find a bit of time spent at this stage pays dividends later and its better to be safe than sorry.

So on to the final main build challenge - the glazing! This is one of the most highly glazed canopies a modeller is likely to come across, what with the canopy, nose and gondola. So, I used the Eduard pre-cut mask set. I am sceptical about the value of these pre-cut masks on many models but there are a few planes, this one included, where it is a no-brainer. The few pounds spent on this are easily made up for in time. But it still took a good couple of hours to get all those little bits of masking tape in place. I also installed the front gun in place in the canopy since this would be impossible to place later, but the rear canopy guns I left out since their mounting disks could be temporarily stuck to the canopy. A bit of filling around the canopy seams, some wet tissue masking in the wheel wells and engine cowlings and she was ready for painting.

The customer had requested a specific scheme from the AirDoc Ju 88 Part 2 decal sheet. And yes, they wanted the bottom one with the squiggly lines. But as I said, I'm always up for a challenge! I primed the whole model initially, then sprayed the underside with "scale black", that is, my own version of black that actually contains a few other colours, in particular brown, so that it appears much more authentic on a scale model. Try it - it works! But that was the easy part. The top side presented two key issues. Obviously the wavy lines were going to be tricky to do, but also the base colour is non-standard RLM. The decal instructions refer to it as either RLM77 (which it is definitely not) or a dark version of RLM78. To be honest, it looked like neither of these to me. It actually was light version of RLM75 (grauviolet) with more emphasis on violet. It took me some time to come up with a mixed paint colour that I was happy with. In the pot, it looked pure purple, but once sprayed, dried and finished it dulled down nicely to grey with just a hint of violet.

So the topside got a good coat of my customised colour. Next I sprayed thin random streaks of black which are part of the pattern. Finally, and with much patience and no small amount of re-covering and starting again in some areas, I sprayed the final wavy RLM79 lines all over and I was actually very pleased with the result.

After a couple of coats of Klear and curing, I proceeded to the decal stage. The AirDoc sheet only contains ID markings and no stencils, and unfortunately the kit decals were little better. As luck would have it, I had an older Ju88A decal sheet from the Revell kit that I built a long time ago and I honestly cannot remember why I did not use it (I may have had a third party sheet, it was a long time ago!) So this provided the stencilling, although being of the older Revell variety, the decals were very matt and were prone to silvering which took some work to clean up.

Once decaling was complete, I sprayed with another coat of Klear and later applied a black oil wash to the top side and a brown one to the underside which brought out the panel lines nicely. Finally, after a coat of matt varnish, a little panel bleaching all over followed by some exhaust stains and and oil leaks completed the weathering.

While all that was drying, I assembled the undercarriage parts. These are well designed and once installed, permitted some nice fine adjustment to get everything square without spoiling any joints, which is nice! I also put together the spinners and props, which were tricky to paint requiring a "half and half" colour scheme. The engines themselves are represented purely by grill pieces which are more than adequate as a representation of the front of the engines.

The kit does NOT contain the underside aerial parts, which are so distinctive on these (and many other) planes. This is a bit of an omission so I fashioned some of my own out of spare plastic and guitar strings! Shhh... I think I got away with it. Finally, the spinners were attached, bombs plugged into place, guns touched up and she was all done.

This is actually a fine kit, with almost no vices and I look forward to building another. But next time, maybe a nice easy splinter scheme please.....


  1. Looks great! It's a nice kit and a solid series of kits even being just over 20 years old. Job well done. Was your client happy with it?

    1. Thanks Lee - was a while ago but yes, the client was delighted with it.