Allow me to start by thanking Pavla Models for their most generous contribution of numerous models for review by IPMS/USA.
The Gloster G.40 Pioneer was the first British jet -- it is also known as the Gloster Whittle or the Gloster E.28/39. There were two aircraft built but the second crashed so this one, W4041/G, did all the testing from its first flight on 15 May 1941 until it was put on display in the London Science Museum in 1946.
I asked for this not because I am particularly interested in the aircraft but because I had just done the FROG version for the Classic British Kits SIG display at Scale Model World (Telford) in 2009. That kit is so bad that I felt I should have a better representation on my shelf. For those of you not familiar with the FROG kit, the wings and fuselage are two different scales and the two figures -- one sitting, one standing -- are also.
The Pavla kit comes in their thin, flat, side-opening box -- they don't stack well flat. They are typical multi-media, limited run kits. It is not a new kit, the decals sheet was printed in 2004. The aircraft is small and simple, the kit reflects that.
There is one plastic sprue with 20 parts for the main aircraft parts -- fuselage, wings, etc. There is some flash. The engraved panel lines are finely done, but inconsistently so -- however a quick pass with a scriber should fix that up. There is a gouge under the center section and a few other minor flaws, but all can be fixed.
There is one bag of of 18 resin parts and 2 vac-form canopies. The resin parts are for the cockpit tub and details, the gear, inlet vanes, etc. The 2 vac-form canopies are for different versions; unlike many kits you don't get two vac-form canopies, just in case.
The 12-page instruction booklet gives you a potted history, sprue layout, paint colors and build symbols, 14 very clear assembly steps on 3 pages, and 6 pages for paint and markings. Overall, it is a nice booklet with plenty of paint call-outs, although the insistence on optioning the under-color paint in almost every step tends to clutter things up.
There are 3 assembly/ markings options, although really the 1st two marking options assemble the same. The assembly options are two different canopies, 2 different tailpipes, and the finlets for the horizontal stabilizer. There is also an option to use either 3 inlet vanes or 6, but no indication as to why. I used all 6 as that's what's on the Science Museum display.
The marking options are:
- At roll-out, an aluminum doped aircraft, devoid of markings.
- Early test aircraft in Dark Earth/Dark Green over Yellow.
- Later test aircraft in Ocean Grey/Dark Green over Yellow.
The decal sheet looks OK, although the fuselage and underwing roundels for the 3rd scheme are out of register. There is some "controversy" as to whether the prototype "circle-P" appeared on option 2 or not; the kit does not use it, but the machine in the Science Museum is painted that way. Doesn't matter, I'm doing option 3.
Off we go. I more or less followed the instructions. There are no major problems, everything is clear, although there are a few exciting moments.
The cockpit tub also serves as the inlet splitter and the nose gear well. There is no positive locator of the tub in the fuselage other than getting the nose gear well aligned with the gear opening in the fuselage and having the headrest fit neatly in its place. The cockpit tub does have a place up front to store the 5 gr of weight needed to keep it from tail-sitting. The only thing I added was etched seatbelts - the kit comes with only marginally identifiable lap belts cast in the seat.
The vac-form canopy is pretty thick and like the fuselage is not quite symmetrical at the windscreen. I stuffed it full of Blu-Tack and carefully sliced with a new #11 blade. It then took a bit of trimming to get it to fit neatly, and a nice bead of Kleer to seal it. With the canopy on, the cockpit detail is pretty visible and the makes seatbelt enhancement necessary.
Before you go very far, clean up and test fit the wing halves together. My left wing fit fine, but the right main gear well sat a bit too high forcing a gap at both leading and trailing edges and had to be sanded down. There is an effort at gear well detail, probably not real visible, but appreciated nonetheless.
Most everything fit well, except for a mismatch/gap of the upper wing halves at the root which required filler. This might have been partially my fault.
The landing gear humps which attach to the top of the wing are flat, but of course the wing is curved, so I had to clamp them at each end to force a bend, then run a seam of CA glue around the edge to fill the gap. The instructions don't note how these should go on, or at least it isn't obvious, and I got them wrong -- the flatter side goes outboard.
The landing gear doors come as one piece -- that is, ready to be installed closed (gear-up). For gear down, you have to cut them along the marked seam. The nose gear door is something like a scale 3 inches thick so if you are doing a contest model, replace or thin it. I didn't. The main gear doors are a whole other problem. The edges of the closed doors are very thin, rounded to conform to the gear well bulges underwing. When you cut the doors apart, you end up with that curved thin edge to hang the doors from and a really thick edge hanging -- exactly opposite of what you'd expect/want. I took the field expedient of swapping sides and hanging them from the thick edges, doing a bit of hacking and sanding to get the right shapes. Play with it, you'll figure something out.
With the kit almost done, I went to put on the landing gear -- I waited until the very end to avoid breaking them. I found I had 2 nose gear and one main gear and I'm not sure I got a real nose wheel but something bigger. My fault for not checking carefully at the very beginning. Anyway, I got some Evergreen and made another main gear, close enough for a prototype. Note all the trouble I could have saved myself if I had done it gear up -- and I had just gotten a supply of clear acrylic rod for that very purpose. Oh, well.
The decals went on very nicely. Do be careful -- they come off very quickly and I had a slight problem with #13 (stencil) and one serial number folding over. Fortunately I was able to straighten them up with no damage. Be careful of #13 (stencil) as it is nearly invisible on the sheet and I almost sliced through it while cutting out an adjacent decal. Other than the slight out-of-register on the #6 and #7 roundels, the decals are great. I left off #11 on each side of the nose, I think that is a museum marking and not real world.
I had decal silvering. I had a layer of Future, used Micro-Set/Sol and then Dullcote. I suspect I rushed things a bit and I know I have some issues with my new spray booth set-up in that it isn't in well-conditioned space and I've not made all the adjustments. I'll call it my fault, but watch your decals, just in case.
When done, you'll see the fuselage isn't quite symmetric. Look straight on from the nose and from the tail -- you'll see what I mean. It's not a build problem, it's the mold itself. The edges line up nicely but that's about it -- if you were to cut cross-sections, the left and right would not match up. On the shelf you can't see it, but you can under scrutiny. The worst problem is the fairing behind the cockpit.
Far superior to the FROG kit -- it's not even a contest. It is, however, for an experienced modeler. Getting the cockpit tub in, handling the gear well, gear doors, thick vac-form canopy, etc, are beyond newbie level. Other than the vac-form canopy, the resin-styrene combo isn't a problem and it could make a decent transition model from pure styrene to mixed-media. It seems to be accurate, well-researched, and there is an effort at detail -- the cockpit insides, the gear wells, etc. I do recommend they include two vac-form canopies, just in case.
With some effort, you'll have a nice model of a rare, but important, airplane and for that reason, I recommend it highly despite some of the difficulties.
Again, my thanks to Pavla for the review sample and to IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it.