Saturday, 14 September 2013

Build Review - Anigrand 1/144 Avro Vulcan

Hong Kong based kit manufacturers Anigrand produce a pretty neat range of resin kits. The quality is always good (for resin kits!) and they cover some really interesting subjects. More importantly from my point of view, and particularly with respect to a customer of mine who collects in the scale, they offer an extensive range of 1/144 scale models.

Once of these is the Avro Vulcan, arguably the most iconic British built military aircraft with the possible exception of the Spitfire. However, in common with pretty much every kit of the Vulcan ever produced, their kit represents the later B.2 version with the expanded wings and tail machinery. My customer wanted an early B.1, with the straight wing planform. An extensive web search gave me cause to believe that the conversion should not be too difficult, indeed one or two other modellers had converted B.2 models to B.1s with reasonable success, but not the Anigrand offering as far as I could find. So I was in virgin territory here. Oh well, I like a challenge.

The Anigrand kit, like all their 1/144 offerings, includes a number of "bonus" aircraft and care needs to be taken to make sure you identify the parts for your particular model. The instructions are basic, including only a couple of diagrams to cover the whole construction but most of it is pretty self evident (other than the landing gear - see later). Selected panel lines are rather deeply scribed on the surfaces, completely out of scale for 1/144 (they should be virtually invisible) so these were filled in and sanded flat as I progressed with the build.

I started by joining the upper and lower fuselage parts, which were very slightly warped but nothing that could not be held together with a little tape. I did not bother with any cockpit detail, including the two seats provided in the kit, which have no floor to locate them on anyway. If you wanted to detail the cockpit, some scratch building will be required. However, trust me, it's not worth the effort as nothing will be visible. I simply painted the interior flat black.

Next the first major surgery was needed. The B.2 style wings needed to be cut to shape to represent the early B.1 "straight wing". I found a handy planform diagram on the web which I printed out to scale and used as a template to mark the cut lines. After a brief (but slightly fraught) session with the razor saw I spent a good while sanding down the edges and before too long I had two wings that I was happy represented the early straight wing accurately enough. I did, however, need to re-scribe the ailerons and flaps.

The wings then went on to the fuselage without too much trouble as there are good locating lugs (unusually for a resin kit!). But the undercarriage bay areas are provided as separate flat plates that go underneath and these did need some care to fare in to the wing properly. This was not related to the wing conversion and would have been a problem regardless.

Moving back to the fuselage, I had to use a fair amount of filler and sanding to get everything smooth but the resin is very compliant and this did not take too long. The kit includes a "Blue Steel" missile (which can, incidentally, be built as a stand alone manned version) and there are two alternate bomb bays provided depending on whether you wish to include this. Initially, I included the "Blue Steel" bay as the customer was keen to have this.

After installing the tail fin (with a small amount of re-shaping as the early B.1's had distinctly rounded tips) I then chopped off the tail tip of the fuselage. The B.2 Vulcan had an extended tip containing avionics but this would need to be converted to a smaller version for the B.1. I used the tip of a 1/48 Phoenix missile from my spares box which seemed to be of the right size and shape and with a little help from some Milliput and a lot of sanding down, managed to provide an acceptable looking fuselage tip.

I masked up the clear resin canopy (which was rather tricky in this scale). It does not fit over the cockpit particularly well and a bit of sanding and filling was needed to get it neatly in place. I also masked and installed the bomb aimers' blister that goes underneath the cockpit. The whole model was now sprayed with Tamiya white primer and then painted flat white. I used pure white as this represents the "Anti Flash" finish used on early V-Bombers which was actually a slight blue-tinted white and in this scale pure white is a good match. Two coats of Klear followed and she was ready for decaling.

However, email conversations with my customer at this stage resulted in us deciding that we did not actually want the Blue Steel missile (as the early straight wings would never have carried one). Therefore, with some effort, I removed the Blue Steel bomb bay and replaced it with the "normal" one. I also took this opportunity to push a packet of lead shot into the forward fuselage as the "tail sitting" risk on this model is borderline. Making good on this repair made after painting was tricky, but I got there without having to strip the whole thing down and re-do it. We had also agreed to make this model represent VX770 (one of the prototypes) and this particular machine did not include the bomb aimers blister either. So that had to be removed and made good as well. Oh well!

Finally I was ready for decals. The Anigrand Kit provides nice decals but unfortunately not suitable for this project. In fact the only ones I used from the kit were the ejector seat warning triangles. Anigrand does provide the pale "Anti Flash" roundels but unfortunately VX770 carried bold roundels. The very earliest white V-Bombers carried these before some bright spark realised that some of the Anti Flash effect would be undone by the roundels! So I had to manufacture my own roundels. The bold ones provided by Anigrand are for the later B.2 and are not the right design.

Looking at the few available pictures of VX770 I figured that there was an Avro logo tail crest, which I found on-line and reproduced as a decal. There was also an interesting nose marking which I could not quite identify. After much searching and digital photo enhancements, I realised it was some kind of Avro anniversary marking and even though I could not identify the words, it did not matter in this scale so I "fudged" something that looked about right and used that. A final coat of flat varnish and the main body of the aircraft was done. I did not attempt to apply any weathering. In 1/144 and on a pure white aircraft (that was only supposed to be a prototype anyway) I would only end up ruining it.

The jet outlet pipes are provided, helpfully, as separate pieces and these were painted in dark iron and installed. However the undercarriage was not so easy. The main problem is there is not really any guide as to how it is supposed to fit. The instructions say little more than "install the undercarriage". The nose wheel is not really a problem, consisting of just a leg and wheels and this went in easily. However the main legs are each made up of two parts that take a little figuring out how they fit together and how they go into the undercarriage bays. Suffice to say I had to use my initiative and they basically are "jammed" into the bays with a lot of glue. I am not sure if this is what the kit designers intended, although to be honest I am not even sure they even thought about it at all. Black mark against you there, boys. But I was happy things looked satisfactory. I also replaced the undercarriage doors with plasticard as the kit resin ones are unrealistically thick.

And so she was finished. After all the trials and tribulations I was actually rather pleased with the result. It's still a reasonably size model even in this scale. And if you want an early B.1 in this scale there is currently no option but a kit bash like this one. This kind of conversion is probably the most satisfying type of build in many ways, as it tests the modellers skills to the limits and if you end up with a good result, you really do feel like you have achieved something.