AIRFIX 1:72 AVRO VULCAN B.Mk 2
Reviewer: Derrick Winters (rec.models.scale)
The Vulcan was designed as the Type 698 to meet a 1946 requirement for a strategic bomber able to deliver a 10,000-lb "Special Weapon" over a radius of more than 1,700 miles, at high altitude. The first Vulcan flew in August 1952 and the first production version entered service in 1958. The Vulcan formed part of the infamous "V-Bombers" profile during the 60's and 70's to act as a Nuclear deterrent against the former USSR, but because of certain defensive missiles developed found itself also having to specialise in a role of low level attack using a stand-off missile. The Vulcan's swansong came in 1982 when a few types flew the longest bombing raids yet attempted from Ascension Island against the Port Stanley airfield in the Falklands War. The last aircraft were retired soon after the historical mission that all but ended the war.
Airfix soon released this kit after the "Black Buck" missions in the Falklands War and it seemed that they were always going to release the kit, it just needed something to speed up the process. Needless to say, I obtained my kit not long after it was released but after looking in the box, and due to its sheer size, I have put off building it for more than a decade! This kit is not for the faint hearted, and although builds into a nice replica, many parts need to be discarded in favour for some aftermarket detail sets. I ordered a Flightpath set from the UK and I also believe that Aeroclub have a detail set around the place. My kit had some warping problems but this may be more due to the long time being packaged and sitting around the house, than the kit being engineered that way.
As one would expect this large aircraft must be packaged in a large box and on first impression the kit looks big and ugly! The plastic is typical of Airfix (late 70's!) engineering with over-sized raised panel lines and plastic that feels it can be easily gouged. Both these observations proved to hamper the assembly process somewhat. I decided to rescribe some panel lines with a unique pen scriber and ruler (workman's steel ruler of course), especially those around the control surfaces. The plastic is fairly soft so it was particularly easy to work with (and easy to make an error!) but still took some time to do properly. I decided to limit the amount of scribing to control surfaces and one or two other 'required' areas.
Thankfully I had decided to go with the Flightpath detailing and brass set (on the recommendation of a fellow modeller) because on scrutinisation of the parts I could see some fundamental errors and problems were going to arise. The jet exhaust pipes in the kit are wrong and the resin 200 series narrower and longer pipes are more accurate (this is because the kit supplies the 300 series exhausts which only appeared on later Vulcans, only one of which is replicated by the kit), air brakes and ladder are also much better portrayed in the brass set. The only problem is that these pipes are moulded onto the aircraft and need to be removed before adding in the 200's. There is a complete lack of detail for the cockpit, although this is fully covered over when the canopy - allowing very little visibility - is placed over the top. The wheel well detail could also be a lot better and a bit of scratchbuilding is necessary to bring these up to par.
The fuselage halves are split horizontally and the first task is to put in place the sparsely detailed cockpit unit, consisting of only front crew seats and console surfaces. The kit does not reproduce any rear crew detail, as it is these would be invisible anyway, nor does it include the rear small circular windows. These have been moulded into the fuselage and need to be opened and plugged up with something from the spares box. Even with the newly made windows the rear crew compartment would be invisible so these were not detailed in any way. Flightpath include a small brass firing handle to include on the seats and these didn't look too bad once placed. I gave the whole cockpit a very dark grey wash, the kit calls for black which is also appropriate, but I didn't want to blacken out the interior details completely. A fair bit of weight needs to be placed into the nose to prevent a tailsitter and a couple of lead sinkers and bolts did the trick, packed in with blu-tak.
At this stage I prepared the wings, intake and replaced the engine pipes. Flightpath also include some brass casings for the airbrake to be positioned extended but the kit does not comply with having these as optional components. The top airbrakes are clearly molded into the wing detail (and appear wrongly positioned - too far forward) and the underwing airbrakes are non existant. This would require them to be drilled/cut out of the surface (and scratchbuilt in the latter case) and I decided that I wasn't going to do this in spite of reference pictures showing them extended. The wing halves resisted a good join with the main problem arising from the aileron fairings which were slightly oversized. The Intakes were also a little difficult to butt-join nicely and left noticeable gaps that required intricate filling and sanding. This was particularly difficult inside the airtakes but a small strip either wrapped around a pen or attached to a wooden (and nicely sized) skewer will make the work easier. The interior was then painted gloss white with the pre-painted turbine blades in black, highlighted with aluminum, added in. The intakes were then added to lower fuselage half without too much problem.
The next task was decorating the bomb bay and using the supplied Blue-Steel missiles this was going to be an area of the kit which would be getting its due attention. The bay supplied did not align correctly and a bit of work was needed to have it sit nicely in place. I then added in the cockpit and fixed in the weight mentioned above before attaching the fuselage halves together. This whole process was difficult due to a fairly poor fit. I then added on the tailcone which, like the intakes, needed its own share of filler and also resisted a decent mating against the fuselage. More sanding and filling was required. The wings were added on and the poor fit syndrome continued. In fact the wings are slightly thicker than the inner fuselage sections so a bit of sanding and even more filler was called upon to get these tapered right, and to avoid a possible sloping effect afterward. You're best off using tape to hold the parts in position while the glue dries because the sheer size and weight of the kit has a tendency to pull the joins apart.
The canopy and other detailing was finally put to task. The Flightpath set includes a brass frame for the canopy but this was going to prove a bit too difficult to apply, especially if super glue was called upon. I took the easy way out and carefully painted in a brass framework myself. I added the brass airbrake casing onto the wings and this gives it the appearance of it being non-extended, although a very careful and intricate cutting procedure was needed to make sure it was flush against the wing surface and not raised above it. Filler was used to sew up all the visible gaps from construction and then sanded to make it all blend nicely into the surface. The attachment of the canopy proved to be another poor fit, it was not moulded as an exact mate with the fuselage allocation area. More filler to plug up the gap, and I gently sanded the canopy back to achieve a better result.
The undercarriage units are nicely done but required quite a bit of attention to assemble, more out of the number of parts to affix together than anything else. The brass set also enhances what is supplied by the kit with brake pipes and small struts finishing off the detail, albeit it does disappear under the coat of black later! At this stage the rest of the brass bits were added on including bomb aimers window frame, aileron highlights and various grilles. I left the antennae off for fear of snapping them off during painting and decalling to come.
Painting proved to be a bit of a chore, mainly because of the size of the model. The small areas such as the fin top and panelling under the nose were painted in black and then masked off before applying the camouflage pattern. I almost decided to dispense with these dark panels in favour of a more elaborate wrap around scheme that took my fancy in a reference photo (actually a B.Mk 2A) but decided to go with the kit's suggestion on a particular version. Dark Green and Medium Sea Grey were airbrushed onto the surface as camouflage then the undersides were covered in white (which needed a few coats to look nice). The whole model was then coated in gloss and prepared for decalling. The kit decals were superb and conformed to the model very well before I added in all the antennae and other brass bits. Finally it was sealed in with another spray of glosscote and left to dry. The finished product looks exceptionally nice, and the only downside to all this work was having to find a place to display it!
In conclusion this is a kit that should only be attempted by the more experienced modeller, mainly due to the fit problems, lots of filling and sanding, sheer size, brass set and the alterations required for better options and accuracy. It certainly makes into a very nice replica of the Vulcan but requires a bit of work and attention to get a really decent result. I think the Flightpath brass accessories were really essential to achieve this - they not only enhanced the kit's features but also helped to fix up some problems, such as the exhaust pipes. In spite of all the extra work needed it is still a kit that is probably the best on the market in this scale (I'm only aware of some other vacuform kits), and highly recommended for those with patience and skill.
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B.Mk 2 Vulcan