AIRFIX


Airfix 1/48 Bristol Blenheim Mk 1f


Review by David Harvey

 

 

Review Type

First Look

Scale:

1/48

Price:

$89.95 AUD from Gundams Plus

Contents and Media:

See review below

Advantages:

Fine panel lines and enough parts to make the interior look busy

Disadvantages:

Thick decals and rivets possibly oncrrect

Recommendation:

Highly Recommended

 

Introduction

The Blenheim was a 'between the wars' aircraft designed by Bristol Aeroplane Company (Bristol) which was used extensively in the first two years and in some cases throughout the Second World War. The aircraft was developed as Type 142, a civil airliner, in response to a challenge from Lord Rothermere to produce the fastest commercial aircraft in Europe. The Type 142 first flew in April 1935, and the Air Ministry, impressed by its performance, ordered a modified design as the Type 142M for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a bomber.

The Blenheim was one of the first British aircraft with an all-metal stressed-skin construction, retractable landing gear, flaps, a powered gun turret and variable-pitch propellers. Unfortunately, like most 'between wars' aircraft it's innovative design was overtaken by subsequent developments that rendered it virtually obsolete by the beginning of WWII. Due to the shortage of aircraft and a need for the light bombers in the RAF it was used mainly during the first two years of the war in Europe and throughout the war in other roles and theatres of operation.

Production commenced in 1935 with an initial order of 150 aircraft with formal deliveries to the RAF beginning on 10 March 1937. The production of the Mk 1 ended in England in 1939 with a total of 1351 aircraft. The aircraft served in multiple Air Forces including Finland, Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece and Turkey.

Approximately 200 frames were converted from the Mk 1 in to the Mk 1f fighter aircraft. The Mk 1f turned out to be not as fast and less nimble that expected and suffered high loss rates during daylight operations. During 1940 it was put in to Night Fighter operations and proved itself to be very useful in downing German aircraft.

The kit

Over the years the Blenheim has not really been represented in 1/48 with only the cottage industry putting out kits with Classic Airframes being the only large scale production of the kit in this scale. Airfix had previously released a 1/72 model of the Blenheim Mk 1f and I live in hope that they will produce the Mk IV in 1/48 scale.

The kit comes in the now familiar red box and is very large considering the size of the model inside. All of the sprues are in one sealed plastic bag and, thankfully, the clear parts are sealed in their own bag. The Instructions are large and have the decals hidden inside the pages.

The Instructions

The instructions are in the format as shown below with the components you just glued on being highlighted in red(?) at the next stage. I like this new method of printing instructions as it is relatively clear and helps you work out where the next component is to go and how.

 

The plastic

Inside the single large plastic bag is seven sprues of various sizes in the Airfix Gray plastic. For the most part the plastic is cleanly cast with only a few areas of flash to clean off prior to the usual join line on the parts. One point that I am unsure about is the surface texture, on the wings and tail the plastic is mostly smooth with panel lines and recessed rivet lines, but in some areas (eg underside inner wing) it suddenly goes to raised rivets. I looked at a Walk around of a Mk IV on Grubby Fingers and it shows the lines should be more raised rivets than recessed rather than the combination as Airfix have done.

The panel lines on the plastic are not too bad at all in comparison to previous Airfix efforts though they are representing overlapping panels on the fuselage rather than butt joined panels.

 

The interior of the model is quite busy when everything is in so a bit of effort on the painting and a little detailing should make it look great. I have seen some comments on the one or two builds in progress that the interior has tight tolerances as per the Meteor and the Walrus so care needs to be taken on positioning of parts and not going crazy with paint in join areas. The ejection post marks inside the fuselage look like they should be hidden when the interior is built but I will need to check that when I build the kit.

The wings have a few peculiarities with ensuring which engine goes on which side and you need to add the wing root curve at the rear of the wing/fuselage join (the same as the Meteor). It is a bit confusing when it comes to the engines as it appears there are two different pipe set ups in the front of the engine but they appear to be the same part numbers to me. I think the engine could do with some extra detailing as it is a bit basic and is able to be seen.

 

A nifty little piece of plastic has been added by Airfix to assist in the construction of the turret. You can see it on the last of the sample instructions above printed in green. I think this will be invaluable as the turret looks complicated and easy to mess up so something to hold things in place would be great.

It appears the components to have an open bomb bay are there but it is not in the instructions as it is the Mk 1f fighter boxing so I dare say in the very near future Airfix will release the bomber version. I have identified bomb racks, two types of bombs and the curved part of the bomb bay doors so I dare say it should not be too hard to make the bomber version if you so desire, or just add the bombs to the parts box for other RAF aircraft.

The clear parts are very nice and appear to have the tow different left hand canopies, the Night Fighter canopy (part G4) and the bomber canopy (part G12). The difference between them is the front panel for the bomber is clear while the Night Fighter has a fair amount of it blanked out.

 

The options during the build are:

The Decals

The decals cover the following aircraft (click on Option for PDF of scheme):

The colour schemes and decals are shown on an A3 sized, double sided, colour printed sheet. The decals come loose inside the instructions which I think Airfix need to rethink as they can be damaged if left there.

The decals themselves look well printed and do not suffer the misprinting of previous kits though they do look a little thick. You are given a small quantity of stencil markings, instrument panel markings, walk ways, National Markings and the letters for the aircraft.

The National Markings for the Night Fighter has one large roundel with a printed black ring to reduce the visible blue section of the roundel. This may be a problem depending on what exact colours you paint the aircraft as straight black would look too harsh and the black circle would stand out a great deal if you lightened the black a little.

The instrument panel decals are printed with colour sections but need to be put on to a part that has raised details. This could be a problem when pacing them but should work out ok. I personally prefer the pre-painted PE from Eduard to do instrument panels as it is one of the few cheap and effective uses for PE that is easily installed and looks good.

Recommendation

This kit is all over well done by Airfix with nicely cast parts, useable options and will no doubt go together well. I actually expected the bomber version first but this will no doubt come next year, hopefully the Mk IV is not far off as well.

I highly recommend this kit as it should make a very nice representation of the Blenheim that will go with all the early aircraft of WWII.

Review kit courtesy of my wallet.