Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Build Review - Sweet 1/144 Desert Hurricane

Ignore the "interesting" box artwork. This is actually an excellent rendition of the classic WWII fighter in the diminutive scale. This is a commission build for a good customer of mine who wants it turned into a MK.IID "Can Opener" with the tank busting cannons under the wings. So a bit of scratch building beckons...

This is the first time I've done a hurricane in 1/144 scale, I did the Sweet P-51 recently and it was a lot of fun (except for the canopy masking, and this will be even tougher). This is an up and coming scale, now that tooling technology has improved so much and the detail on these things is better than many older 1/72 kits. So time to break out the magnifying glasses and get a check up at the opticians.

You get two kits in the box, in common with most Sweet offerings. As I have mentioned, I think this is as much about spares should the carpet monster strike, as anything. But in this case, the second kit is moulded entirely in clear styrene. The actual clear parts, i.e. canopy and wing light lenses, are duplicated on each kit sprue and this enables Sweet to give you two identical sets of sprues and you can "borrow" from the clear version for the solid one. It also means you end up with two canopies and four wing lenses moulded in solid plastic which are rather redundant, but it's a convenient way of designing the kit I guess. Building a complete plane from clear styrene would also present a few challenges since as ever, the clear plastic is rather brittle.

But I have to say the detail on the main parts in terms of the panel lines and fabric spars is exquisitely done and far better than I have seen in many 1/72 or even, dare I say it, some 1/48 kits (remember the old Airfix 1/48 Hurricane - that kit was an insult to the hobby). It is amazing how such finesse is now being applied to the smallest of scales by modern tooling methods.

But onwards, I started by spraying the fuselage and lower wing interiors in cockpit green. The seat and instrument panel are integral to the fuselage halves (remember the old Airfix kits?) and are extremely basic but I was not too worried as I knew for a fact that very little would be visible. My pandering to interior detail consisted of painting the instrument panel black, putting a blob of leather brown paint on the back of the cockpit to represent the headrest, and adding a couple of seat belts painted and cut from Tamiya tape. Anything further would be a complete waste of effort.

The two fuselage halves went together brilliantly, this is the first time in ages I have not had to apply any filler to the seams - just a quick swipe with a sanding stick. Similarly, the wings sections and tail planes clicked into place with no fuss - just my usual dribble of primer in the wing roots and also in the crack joining the lower wing section to the upper halves. Just to be safe! Now came the first bit of "additional" work to get this to a Mk.IID. The basic kit represents a Mk.I tropical version and in order to get it to a Mk.II I had to fill the panel lines behind the gun ports and re-scribe to make it look more like a Mk.II. Only 99% accurate, but it should fool all but the most geeky of geeks.

The next modification required was the air filter. The part provided represents the older version and this needed to be cut and filed down to represent the later, "pointy" shape sported by my chosen machine, "JV-Z BP188" which again, came out reasonably well - certainly good enough in this scale. The final significant modification was to fashion the pylon fairings for the 40mm cannons from spare plastic which took some careful cutting, sanding and checking against references. But in the end I had two fairings which looked right to me, and these were glued into place. I would leave the barrels until later, lest they got broken off during painting, which was otherwise a given. After adding the radiator housing, I dribbled a little more primer in all the seams to make sure everything was smooth and turned to the canopy.

I remember what "fun" I had masking the P51 canopy, this was even worse. Getting masking tape to hold fast in tiny patches is not easy, it tends to drift slightly every time you touch it. But I opted for the "trial and error" approach. That is, I cut out what I though were the right size and shape pieces for the panes of glass and adjusted re-did those that did not fit. Really painful, probably the biggest single stage of the whole build but got there in the end. I had to shave the edges of the canopy a little as well to get it to fit seamlessly in place. Phew.

I sprayed the whole underside with my own mix of Azure Blue. I have seen many different versions of this colour by modellers ranging from sky blue to indigo via turquoise. My own version was based simply on Tamiya flat blue mixed with plenty of white and a dash of yellow which worked for me. I carefully masked this off (no surprises how tricky this is in 1/144) then sprayed the whole upper surface with Tamiya desert yellow, which is a very good match for the middle stone colour used as a base on RAF tropicals. After Blu-Tack masking the camouflage pattern (again, tricky!) I then used my own mix of flat brown, red, yellow and black (trade secret, guys....) for dark earth to finish off the pattern. After unmasking she got two coats of Klear to seal everything in and was left to cure.

In the meantime I prepared the remaining parts, i.e. the undercarriage and spinner assembly. The prop/spinner is provided as a single part, which is a little disappointing even in this scale since it is tricky to get the paint demarcation between the red spinner and black blades looking convincing. The P-51 I made previously had separate prop and spinner parts, which is far preferable. Similarly, the undercarriage doors and legs are single mould pieces which leaves a little to be desired but with careful painting they came up well. I all constructed the cannon barrels from styrene rod, carefully glued together and allowed to dry thoroughly.

I used the kit decals for roundels and tail markings, but I needed custom lettering to create JV-Z. This scale is not well served in terms of third party decals and so I was pretty much on my own here as there was no realistic way of converting the stock lettering. In the end a decal sheet kept over from a Tamiya 1/48 Sea Harrier kit came to the rescue (which is an awful kit and got binned, but I kept the decals). It contained white lettering of exactly the right height and thickness and in the end, the "J" was cut from an "O" and the "V" made from two "1" numerals trimmed appropriately. The "Z", which needed to be red, actually came from walkway lines on an old 1/72 Lancaster sheet. But where would we be without resourcefulness? I made up the aircraft code (BP188) from an existing 1/144 squadron code sheet I had in stock.

One more coat of Klear followed by a black oil wash brought out the panel lines nicely. I finished by  spraying with two coats of matt/satin varnish. This stage is always very satisfying because finally it looks like a real plane. I then spent a little time adding a few stains and marks to give some more realism. The undercarriage popped in nicely and after glueing the cannons in place and placing the spinner, the model was complete.

I am really pleased with the way this model came out, especially given the scale. I am starting to get into these tiny models in a big way, and there is quite a range left to explore. I already have a number lined up to do in the future, my only wish is that the after market decals were available in the same way as they are for larger scales for military planes since I think this scale for small planes is going to be BIG. So to speak.


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  2. Nice review. I'm considering buying some of these little kits and your experience has definitely tipped me towards giving them a try.