MPM 1/72 Blenheim IV
As this kit is previewed elsewhere on this site, I'll not go into detail about the contents. Also, for those interested in the developmental and operational history, check out Tom Cleaver's excellent article on the Classic Airframes kit in the review section.
This kit is the little brother of Classic Airframes' 1/48 offering, with a similar parts breakdown and clear, injected nose halves. No structural sidewall detail for the crew office is included though and on my sample, the sprue with all the small parts have a lot of flash and mold lines plus the molds appears to have shifted a bit. The plastic on this sprue is very soft and workable though so it's not as much work as it initially seems to clean up these parts. I still opted to replace a few with scratch built items.
When receiving this kit, I decided right away to model my Blenheim as a Finnish Air Force (Soumen Ilmavoimien) machine during the continuation war. One of the kit decal options is for BL 129 of LeLv48 (Bomber Squadron 48), which was part of the first batch of Mk IV machines delivered to Soumen Ilmavoimien in early 1940.
Fuselage and interior
I diverted somewhat from regular practice and started out with gluing the fuselage halves, the rear bulkhead for the cockpit and the insert for the dorsal turret together. No serious fit problems were encountered, but most seams needed some extra attention. I used CA glue as a filler. Consulting my references, I noticed that the panel lines outlining the bomb bay were placed too far aft. These were filled with superglue and new lines were added in the correct position.
I modified the mount for the dorsal turret to enable me to fit this later. To do this, I shaved off plastic from the turret base on two sides until it was possible to drop it in place from the outside. Then I fitted a small shelf made from sheet styrene at the forward part of the insert, and a piece of styrene tubing at the rear part of the ring. This piece was made just long enough to touch the bottom of the fuselage with the turret in place.
Next came the cockpit interior. The details included are very nice, but as mentioned the kit lacks structural sidewall detail. I glued on small bits of strip styrene to add a bit of busyness and visual interest. In hindsight, I wish I had added more detail here, since almost everything is visible when the model is finished. The interior was painted British grey-green, the instrument panel and side consoles were painted "scale black" and the seats were given a red-brown leather colour. I dry brushed everything with lightened versions of the base colours and used a dirty watercolour wash to deepen the shadows. Some weathering was later added using pastels and a silver coloured pencil. I decided that it would probably be a good idea to leave the interior and all the clear parts for the nose off until the rest of the model was finished to prevent any damage.
Wheel wells and landing gear
As the gear legs were suffering from a lot of flash, I decided to replace parts of them with copper rod. This involved a lot of precision measuring, drilling, cutting and gluing (add a bit of swearing to mix as well) before they started to look acceptable. I also modified the way they are attached to the roof of the wheel wells. A short tab on each gear leg is supposed to fit into a shallow depression in the well insert. I drilled through each of the mounting recesses, and positioned short pieces of styrene tubing on the opposite side. These were aligned by pushing a piece of copper rod through the holes in the inserts and into the tubing, which was glued in place with liquid plastic cement. Then I drilled out the top of the gear legs and inserted mounting pins from sections of copper rod, making sure everything lined up. The retraction struts were also made from copper rod and I fashioned pieces of stretched styrene tubing to pose as retraction cylinders.
I proceeded to paint the landing gear aluminum only to discover that the aircraft I was modeling was delivered in Dark Green and Dark Earth over Black undersides, gear included. Studying my references, it became clear that the gear apparently wasn't re-painted when the aircraft received its characteristic Finnish camouflage but rather left in its original colour. It also seemed that the paint was quite worn and chipped here. Due to leaks in the hydraulic system perhaps? The solution I opted for was to dry-brush heavily with black, something that worked very well and left me with a pair of suitably scruffy gear legs. The wheels were cleaned up, assembled and painted without incident. The well doors included in the kit are nice but awfully thick. Being lazy, I figured that instead of sanding them down it would be less labour-intensive to make replacements from scratch. Using the kit doors as templates, I cut new ones from sheet styrene and shaped them by taping them to a suitably sized piece of brass tube and heating them in boiling water. An internal brace was added and the new doors were painted grey green on the inside.
As mentioned, there are inserts for each wheel well that form a roof and bulkheads. Some rather noticeable gaps into the wing interior are left at the sides though so I glued on some strip styrene to close them. After a coat of interior grey-green followed by the same light/shadow treatment as the cockpit the gear wells were done. It is possible that the wells should have been black too, as this seems to have been the practice with other British bombers in factory-applied night camouflage at the time. I chose to leave them as they were and moved on.
Wings and tail
Each wing is made up from the traditional upper and lower halves. Test fitting these revealed a pretty good fit except for the engine nacelles protruding from the leading edges. Also, the trailing edges of the wings were a bit thick. On a darker note, the way the wings mount on the fuselage is a potential problem as they are supposed to be butt-joined inside recesses on the fuselage sides. I imagined a world of problems with the wings falling off every single time the model fell to the floor! Being ham-fisted, I opted to make spars from sections of brass tubing. This would also help a lot when aligning the wings. As the assembled wings had a slight sag about mid-chord where they meet the fuselage, I used small pieces of sprue to pry the halves apart to ensure a tight fit.
The horizontal tail surfaces were a little bit thinner than the fuselage fairings so I aligned them to fit flush at the lower side, leaving a slight step on the top which was easily eliminated with putty and superglue. I made mounting pins from copper rod to add strength to the assembly.
The navigation lights were cut out and replacements made from clear plastic. The landing light is a spare from Eduard's He 280 in 1/48.
The engines are beautiful resin castings, and needed only paint to look great. Some valve pushrods were broken off during shipping so I replaced the damaged ones with short pieces of .010 guitar string. Ignition harness detail or exhaust stubs are not included, but in this scale it's not overly noticeable as the engines are quite obscured by the propellers. Note that it was not necessary to remove the casting blocks on the engines rear face on my kit, as these blocks were just big enough to properly space the engines from the firewalls. I sanded the cowling halves on the inside a little bit to make more room for the engines and glued the halves together trapping the engines inside. When the seams were taken care of, I aligned the engines properly and glued them with superglue. The carburettor air intakes, remaining cowl bulges and exhaust pipes were also glued on at this stage. During sanding, the cowl bulges directly on top of each nacelle had become quite mis-shaped. I sanded them smooth, made resin copies of an undamaged bulge and stuck the new bulges in place with superglue. Finally, I made a mounting pin for each engine/cowl assembly from styrene tubing to aid the alignment of these later.
The Finns often mounted propeller spinners on their Blenheims during winter to protect the engines from flying bits of ice and such. These are not included in the kit, so I decided to make a pair from scratch. I intended to use resin copies of a modified Hampden spinner, but the resin proved too fragile to be thinned out sufficiently. Plan B was to heat pieces of styrene sheet and pull it over the cast resin item. After a few attempts, I had a reasonably identical pair.
With all the grunt work done, I decided that it would be a good idea to paint the exhaust collector rings and exhaust pipes now. These were sprayed with a metallic "champagne" colour mix of Humbrol Enamels (see the colour mix section)
Back to the nose
With most of the construction work done, I decided to attach the clear parts. After a bit of trial-and-error, I ended up using two-component epoxy glue to attach the clear parts. This was the only stuff I found that was able to hold the parts together sufficiently. I spent some time tinkering with these parts to ensure a good fit, but along the fuselage/nose joint I had some work to do. No complaints about the fit but the clear plastic's ability to repel almost everything I threw at it made this rather tedious and difficult. After several runs with Tamiya putty and wet sanding all traces of the seam were gone. I also needed some filler to smooth out a step at the bottom of the windscreen. When done, I masked the clear panels using Bare Metal Foil and sprayed the framing grey-green.
Almost final assembly
I made a simple interior for the dorsal turret, including a mount for the single Browning .303 and the ammo feed chute. Only the mount and the chute are visible on the finished model so there's no need to pull out all the stops here. As the kit includes two different and not very spectacular twin guns, I used a white metal gun from Airwaves that look a lot better.
Being no fan of butt-joined parts, I made mounting pins for all the propeller blades and antennas. The pitot head broke during cleanup so I made a new one from scratch.
Air intakes for the oil coolers were fashioned from very thin-walled copper tubing.
COLORS & MARKINGS
After masking off the wheel wells and engines with tissue paper and liquid mask, I followed my regular practice and base-coated the model with a silver colour. This revealed a few blemishes and lost panel lines that needed some attention. After the mistakes were fixed and the basecoat re-applied, I pre-shaded the model with Tamiya flat black. Next, the yellow ID markings were sprayed using Tamiya Lemon Yellow. Note that the yellow markings on the wingtips are shown with a wavy edge in the instructions, This is incorrect, the demarcation line should follow the panel joint just outboard of the inner edge of the ailerons. I mixed the camouflage colours from Humbrol Enamels using the recipes found on IPMS Stockholm's colour chart pages. The mixes were altered a bit to suit my taste and to obtain the "right" look for the scale - see the paint mix section. I used Winsor & Newton kneading rubber to mask off the individual colours (as suggested by Mr Rick Brownlee - thanks mate!). When finished, the demarcation lines were softened with some careful free-hand spraying, some additional shading was applied to the black areas of the camouflage and the model was rubbed down with a bathroom tile scrub.
Next, I applied a coat of Future over the entire model using a flat, wide brush and when dry, it was time to tackle the decals. Although I have heard a lot of good things about them and they look great on the backing paper, these decals gave me more grief than any other part of the build. They were very thick and matte, refused to settle into the panel line detail plus they silvered badly despite the gloss surface of the model. I had to do a lot of touch-up painting to hide the silvered areas, but some are still visible. I also had to paint the green section of the serial number as the colour on the decal didn't match the paint but this was expected.
When I was pleased with the result, another coat of Future sealed the decals and a thin coat of Humbrol clear matte prepared the surface for the weathering process.
The very first task was to add some discoloration to the exhausts. I mixed up a dark brown colour from Humbrol enamels, painted it on the exhaust pipes and then removed most of it using a q-tip. One pipe was finished before moving on to the next. I tried to make the pipes gradually darker towards the outlet. When dry, I rubbed on some rust-coloured pastel dust to the rear section of the pipes and sealed them with clear flat.
For the rest of the model, I followed my normal procedure and applied a dirty wash of watercolours to the entire surface. When dry, I wiped off the excess with a moist paper towel and a few panel lines were enhanced using a pencil. Service panels, control surfaces and hatches plus any lines running under a decal benefitted from this treatment. Next, exhaust stains were added using black pastel dust carefully applied and rubbed out with q-tips. Finally, a few patches of bare metal was added using a silver pencil. Some to the leading edges of the wings behind the propeller arcs, a few to the grey walkway and a bit around the cockpit framing. A final dusting of clear flat sealed the weathering and I was on to the final step: removing masks and gluing on all the small parts. The foil left some glue residue behind on the clear panels but this was easily removed using q-tips soaked in plastic polish. I spent some time getting the landing gear alligned before adding the antennas, propellers and the dorsal turret. The antenna wires were replicated using strands of my own hair.
Now I was finally able to sit back and behold the fruits of my labour! But something looked wrong!? I shot some pictures of the model and studied them side-by-side with my references - as I feared, two goofs showed up. Firstly, the tail wheel leg was too long and needed to be cut in half. Next, I realized that the Finnish Blenheims weren't fitted with the under wing fuel dump pipes. Duh! These were promptly removed and the area was re-finished. And NOW I was done!
Building this model has proven to be one of the most enjoyable modeling experiences I have ever had. The overall quality of the kit is in my opinion so good that the extra attention and TLC it needed in some places didn't seem like a chore at all. Anybody who has built a limited run kit or two in their past should be able to produce a beautiful model from this kit.
Positive remarks: General quality, detail, fit, instructions, much needed subject.
Negative remarks: Flash and mold-shifting on the detail parts sprue, decals, instructions fail to mention some features unique to the Finnish version, some strange colour callouts for the camouflage.
Paint mixes used:
"Champagne" exhaust colour:
2x Humbrol 133 Satin Red Brown
1x Humbrol 11 Silver Fox
1x Humbrol 16 Gold
IPMS Stockholm gives the following mixing ratio:
5x Humbrol 34 Matt White
3x Humbrol 115 Matt Russian Blue
3x Humbrol 65 Matt Aircraft Blue
I replaced H65 with H64 (light grey) to tone down the blue tint.
IPMS Stockholm gives the following mixing ratio:
6x Humbrol 116 Matt US Dark Green
6x Humbrol 117 Matt US Light Green
1x Humbrol 163 Dark Green (RAF Dk. Green)
I used a bit more H163 to give the paint more brown tint.
Any black will do, but to give it more of a scale effect, I used the following mix:
4x Humbrol 33 Flat Black
1x Humbrol 67 Matt Tank Grey
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