Squadron is one of the mainstay companies in the United States for our hobby, and they have been making great strides in providing customers great items at reasonable prices. In this case, their release of the Avionix-range of resin accessories is proving quite valuable. We cannot thank Squadron enough for their support of the hobby, and IPMS USA in particular by providing us new releases. On to the subject of this review: The Avionix front cockpit for Hobby Boss’ 1/32 P-61!
I’m a bit tardy on this review; I received the Avionix review item a month or so ago, but the reason is I needed to purchase a kit to use it on, (I thought the backorder would arrive before the review item) and they keep selling out! Once I had it, I could use it to review the upgrade while meeting the reviewer corps requirement of “Use the set if you can…” I thought it would be an easy to find one, but no… I finally got one about two weeks ago, and here we are.
This set comes in a deceptively small box; inside are sufficient resin bits to keep the AMS modeler busy for at least (in my case) three full days of work.
First item out is the floorboard section; the detailing is subtle and appropriate – railing for the seats is very fine and well defined. As I (carefully) removed the remaining items, I began to appreciate the time and effort that went into this upgrade. There’s delicate wiring on the sidewalls, and the ribs and stringers incorporate cable clamps, panels, and switches. The only parts requiring a bit of thinning are the instrument panels, the aft bulkhead, and the gunner’s seat bracket. I used power tools (carefully) with a vacuum and dust mask to do this.
I started by cleaning the parts with a toothbrush in ammonia cleaner. After drying, I applied a shot of automotive primer, then sprayed with Dark Green zinc chromate. I used ModelMaster Acryl with some dark brown mixed in to bring it closer to the WWII interior ZC color I remember from my time in the ‘70’s, working on restoring some older aircraft. Dana Bell’s Hyperscale article with direct technical notes on color concerning P-61 corrosion prevention applies; the cockpit was dark ZC green, not ZC yellow, and condition would fade or darken it based on dirt, sun, etc… Paint it and be happy; there is no perfect Mk 1 eyeball out there.
The sidewalls were installed first. I picked out boxes and bits with flat black, and wiring was finished in light tan (which is also what I remember from working old aircraft – black, tan, or white wires). Many of the detail parts were added, and this was where I realized the only minor problem (that could be a big one for those who don’t understand the aircraft) was with using this set. The parts are called out by name, but there are no corresponding numbers on the pour gates, nor is there a parts map. This created more than a little bit of head-scratching during construction, because the photo fidelity of the instructions is also not well defined. I figured out everything in the end, but someone who doesn’t do this on a regular basis could be very frustrated.
Anyway, the sidewalls only needed a bit of coaxing to get into place; you will have to remove two nibs on the upper sidewalls of the kit fuselage to get them to fit, but they will. Also, I highly recommend you carefully remove enough material from the bottom of the sidewalls to ensure the floor parts (there are two) will fit into place between the fuselage sides when you install them. I was off about a half-millimeter, just enough to prevent the sides from closing. And I know this from the first P-61 I built for review earlier this year; this fuselage is a tight fit even without resin parts.
The instrument panel looks great when finished; it incorporates a detailed panel front and several additions, and you sand the back down until the flashed-over instrument bezel locations fall out. Paint the back of the instruments flat white or yellow (radium) and then use a clear acrylic cement to attach the acetate instrument dials, and cut to match when dry. Depth is convincing and detail unmatched. The rudder pedals are attached to the back of this assembly…nice.
More bits and things to attach now – the throttles, pitch controls, and engine mixture controls are well executed and look a lot better than PE with a blob of cement on the end. They are also flattened on the inner surface, so each pair matches up. They stayed in place very well; happy construction effort! I broke the oxygen hose while trying to form it using the recommended heat gun technique…too small to salvage, I’ll try to make my own from copper wire and fishing line.
The seats have excellent harness and buckle details; I like them better than PE because a good paint/drybrush session looks far better than flat, too-thin PE belts. They also are easier to work with! I left the pilot’s seat in the painted resin and raw plastic mode so y’all could see what it looks like.
Last minute additions include the control bar on the fuselage to which the yoke assembly is attached; you are admonished to take your time in the instructions – true. I lightly sanded the diameter of the rod down to facilitate sliding the VERY fragile bearing brackets on the torque tube; once in place, attach the control stand and eyeglass yoke. Pre-paint the stand first; there is a lot of fine detail and wiring on the fore and aft sections.
When you are using this set, you will have to cut up the full-length floorboard to get the mounting for the lower 20mm cannons; remove the front and back sections, keep the center. I have the aft cockpit set; like the kit, it is not part of this review (it is from my pocket), but the detail is the same – great!
All in all, Avionix has provided us a major upgrade; one British source quotes, “In for a Penny, in for a pound” on the upgrades for the P-61. I happen to agree, unless you really like a lot of scratchbuilding. The basic kit is fine out of the box (see the original kit interior as I built it in May of this year for review, pix below), but this set will set off your model in proper fashion.
Well done, and thanks again to Squadron for providing IPMS USA another great review item!