HPH 1/32 Avia B.534 Series IV
KIT #: 32001
PRICE: $285.00 MSRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Resin, photo etch and vacuformed parts


      It is hard to believe nowadays, but 70 years ago, there was a vibrant aviation industry in both Poland and Czechoslovakia, the original designs of which rivaled anything created in Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, the United States, or Japan.  Perhaps the one thing that hurt both was their failure to build on early success in the first half of the decade of the 1930s, so they could stay competitive when the great aeronautical revolution that began in 1934 hit the scene.  For both the Czechs and the Poles, had their air forces fought the pre-1938 Luftwaffe, they would have given an excellent account of themselves.  However, the revolution in aircraft design and the creation of high powered engines left them woefully in the Luftwaffe’s dust when push came to shove in 1938 and 1939. 

      While the B.534 may be obscure to westerners, in the Czech and Slovak Republics it is looked on in the same was the Spitfire is revered in the British Commonwealth. Developed from the B.34 biplane fighter of the late 1920s, the B.534 first flew on May 25, 1933, powered by an imported Hispano-Suiza HS-12Ybrs.  The design showed no bad tendencies and it was decided to power the production airplanes with a Hispano-Suiza HS-12Ydrs, which be manufactured under license in Czechoslovakia.  The prototype was first displayed publically on Army Air Day, September 10, 1933 at Army air day, which was five days after the second prototype had taken flight. The B.534 had better performance than either the He-51 pr Ar-68 fighters that were equipping the Luftwaffe at the time, and was considered one of the best fighters of the early 1930s.

      The Ministry of National Defense ordered the B.534 into production on July 17, 1934, with an order for 147 aircraft, which were delivered to the Air Force by the fall of 1935, known as the Serie I.  A second order for 46 Serie II aircraft was placed in 1936, with the aircraft reaching their units in March and April, 1937.  The third order was for 134 Serie III aircraft; however, due to the growing German threat, this was increased by 50, which were the first Serie IV which were distinguished by an enclosed cockpit.  68 more Serie IV were ordered in August 1938, the first of which were just arriving at their units as the Munich Crisis that led to the Sudetenland Partition broke out.  A total of 445 Avia B.534s of all sub-types were produced.

      Following the German invasion of what was left of Czechoslovakia at the end of March, 1939, the country was divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, and the Slovak Republic.  The Slovak Republic allied with Germany, and the 79 B.534s and 11 Bk.534s (a version with an engine-mounted 20mm cannon) became the main fighter equipment of the Slovenské Vzdusné Zbrane - the Slovak Air Arm.  These came from the former 3rd air Regiment of the Czechoslovak Air Force.  These aircraft saw combat against the Hungarians in the Carpathians in the summer of 1939 and were flown in support of the Luftwaffe during the invasion of Poland that September.  They were also used on the Eastern Front after the invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941.  They were returned to Slovakia in late 1942, where they were used for training and anti-Partisan activities.  During the Slovakian National Rising in august 1944, four B.534s joined the insurgents, and Sgt. Frantisek scored the final biplane victory when he shot down a Hungarian air Force Ju-52 enroute across Slovakia to Poland.

      Other B.534s were sold by the Germans to Bulgaria when that nation joined the Axis in 1939.  These aircraft saw action in August 1943 against the B-24s of Operation Tidal Wave, the mission against Ploesti.  A few shot-up B-24s were shot down over Bulgaria.

     The majority of B.534s were used as advanced trainers by the Luftwaffe, where they were highly prized for their very good performance. 


      When I opened the box to see what was there, I was truly amazed at the quality of this kit.  The kit contains 163 resin parts, 101 photoetched parts, three rubber parts, mask for both canopy and markings if you choose to paint them rather than use decals, and decals for four different aircraft, including the airplane flown by Sgt. Frantisek during the Slovak National Rising in 1944, when he scored the last aerial victory by a biplane.

      The quality of the surface detail is astounding.  The kit really is “museum quality.” I have never seen a kit - in injection plastic or resin - that has the quality of this kit.  The parts are more than enough to build the entire fuselage structure, with a fully detail cockpit.  HPH has announced an upcoming model of the Hispano Suiza 12Y engine that will likely be a full model in itself and almost too much to put inside this model.

      The MSRP of $285.00 is sufficient to induce heart palpitations among the overwhelming majority of modelers, but if you are someone who wants to build a truly “museum quality” model out of the box, who enjoys a challenge, the kit is worth every penny.


     I think I should say at the outset that this kit was almost more than I could accomplish, and what I did accomplish here - after “shooting the project in the foot” by a bad strategic choice at the outset - was only done by some extreme simplification.  This is not a kit for someone who is building on a schedule for weekly reviews.  It’s a kit for a “Labor of love” where the modeler commits to doing nothing else for the entire period of the project.

      I began with the fuselage, and here was where the major mistake was made at the outset.  The model provides a complete airframe interior, which involves a lot of work that ultimately won’t be seen.  Following my philosophy of “if you can’t see it, I didn’t do it,” I decided to do the cockpit detail only where it would be visible when completed.  Thus, I did not make the entire airframe, which was the major mistake.

      Even with cutting things down, the cockpit was a long project in itself to suss out what went where, figure out what the part was on the mold blocks, etc.  This was definitely one of the most detailed cockpits I had done.

      I then installed the cockpit and the rest of the internal parts I was using, and glued the fuselage halves together.  About halfway through that process, I realized that I ad managed to put a slight twist into the process.  When I tried to bend it back before the cyanoacrylate set, I was rewarded by a cracking sound in the rear fuselage.  Uh-oh....

      A quick inspection revealed that the fear fuselage area - the section with the really petite fabric rib detail - now had several cracks in it, as did the forward fuselage ahead of the cockpit.  It was now immediately apparent to me why the instructions called for the completion of the entire interior structure - to prevent exactly this kind of mistake.

      I managed to get the areas of the fuselage that I had glued together cut apart, but in the process a lot of the really nice little detail bits in the cockpit were ruined, though fortunately the very nice photoetch instrument panel popped out without further injury.

      After deciding not to throw myself in front of the local  train, and not having the guts to throw away a $285 model, I put the remains back in their box and put things aside for further contemplation as to how this could be salvaged.

      Things remained in stasis until I read Les Dorr’s review of the 1/32 1930s Naval Aviator.  Of course!  Put a pilot in the cockpit! I realized I had several Luftwaffe figures from the various 21st Century Toys kits I had, so I decided I would rebuild the cockpit structure as well as I could, and hide all the problems by putting the figure in the cockpit.

      First, I had to solve the problem of the cracks.  Working carefully from inside and out, I managed to push things together so that the cracks were about 95% fixed.  I used cyanoacrylate from the inside to set things, then applied Mr. Surfacer on the external side of the cracks. Once that was solidly set, I then very carefully filed away with a couple different rat-tail files, to smooth things out as much as possible without losing the rib detail.  This was not unlike what had to be done to rescue the early Accurate Miniatures Vindicator models, with their sunken moldings.

      I then reassembled the fuselage after painting the pilot and putting him in his seat.  When installed in the fuselage, things looked quite good indeed.  No one would be able to see everything that was missing.

      Finishing the fuselage required use of cyanoacrylate glue and Mr. Surfacer to get all the seams smooth.  I airbrushed on a coat of light grey to see if things truly were as well fixed as I hoped - they were.

      From there on, assembly of the model was quite easy, attaching the lower wings tail parts, landing gear and such.  Fit was excellent and I did not have to use any filler on the attachment seams of wings and horizontal stabilizers.  I attached the cabane struts and test-fitted the upper wing to see that they were properly located.  I then attached the ailerons, elevators and rudder in dynamic positions.  At this point, things were ready to paint.



     The model was painted overall with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum,” then I went over the lower surfaces with Talon acrylic “Aluminum,” which have a bit more of a sheen than the Tamiya paint did.   The lower surfaces were masked off, and the upper surfaces were painted with Tamiya “Khaki,” which I lightened a bit and then went over everything to post-shade it.


      I decided to do the model on the boxart.  The decals went on without any problem, under a coat of MicroSol.


      The model was given a coat of Xtracrylix “Satin” varnish, then the cockpit canopy was unmasked.  I then attached the separate exhausts, and next attached the interplane struts and the upper wing, which fell into place without problem.  The sliding section of the canopy was posed in the open position.  The wheels were assembled and inserted in the wheel pants - I had cut off the axles so I could do this, since I didn’t want the wheels inside the pants while I was painting the model.  I finished by attaching the tailwheel, and the prop. 

      I attempted to use the very nice photoetch interplane rigging but the attachment of the various bits to each wire was complicated and didn’t fitting in such a way that I could get nice taut wiring (it is apparent from the photos of completed models at the HPH website that this is a common problem).  I elected to rig the model with .010 brass wire.  At that point, I declared the battle over and repaired to the club for celebratory libations.


     As I said at the outset, this is not a kit for the casual modeler.  Completing it successfully requires an abundance of patience and a concentrated attention span while doing the fuselage.  Like it or not, all that detail you will never see must be assembled, to assure yourself you won’t have the problems I did, which were all self-induced.  That said, HPH could have done things like the photoetched flying wires in a simplified manner, with each wire and its attachments in one piece, which would not have detracted from the overall look.  This is definitely a project for someone with a lot of experience in scratchbuilding, since that fuselage interior is basically scratchbuilt with the parts provided.  Despite all my mistakes, the completed model looks very good sitting next to my other 1930s airplanes.  However, if you like the Avia B.534, I strongly suggest you get the Eduard 1/48 kits.  If you really really really like the airplane, or like a really significant challenge, and Chicken Little’s cry that “the sky is falling” still hasn’t hit your piggy bank, then this HPH kit is one that will give you a lot of satisfaction when you say “it’s finished.”  If you commit the radical act of following the instructions, it should be a show-stopper right out of the box.

 Review kit courtesy of Cooper’s Models.  Get yours at www.coopersmodels.com

Tom Cleaver

October 2008

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