Pegasus 1/72 Gloster Gauntlet I
|KIT:||Pegasus 1/72 Gloster Gauntlet I|
|PRICE:||£5.50 from an on-line auction|
|NOTES:||Very basic short run kit.|
I had always wanted a 1:72 model of the Gloster Gauntlet and toward the mid-late 1980’s, I purchased a couple of Matchbox Gloster Gladiators with the intention of trying to convert one to a Gauntlet. At the time, I knew only of a superficial similarity in overall size and shape but had no idea of actual specifications for the Gauntlet. I had no plans or line drawings whatsoever to use, even as a rough guide. Back then, the plethora of references available today was only a dream! I think there may have been plans available via one of the aircraft reference magazines but in those days, I had only recently graduated from university and entered the workforce, so such extravagances were well beyond my budget.
I was tempted to go ahead with a conversion based only on my interpretation of available photographs and by assuming identical overall dimensions to the Gladiator, but chose against such a reckless pursuit and instead, put the Matchbox kits away to await the acquisition of plans and/or more information. That was almost 20 years ago…
I ventured into the cyber-world of Ebay about 18 months ago and one of my first searches was for a 1:72 Aeroclub Gauntlet. This failed to materialise but a Pegasus Gauntlet was available so I placed a bid and won it. To my knowledge there had only ever been the Aeroclub kit, which is now out of production, and since I’d never seen a Pegasus kit, I had no idea what to expect. This review describes what you’ll find if you ever come across one.
For the record, I have recently become aware of the resin Gauntlet offerings from HR Models which are still available, albeit at a high price. AZ Models (Legato) recently announced a forthcoming 1:72 Gauntlet release which was scheduled for September 2007, so should hopefully be available very soon.
My trawl of “The Superhighway” for information revealed some useful information and photos but not much by way of technical detail. I thus ordered the Mushroom Model Publications “Bulldog and Gauntlet”, which contains the answers to most of my questions about this aircraft.
During 1926, the Air Ministry issued Specification 24/33, requiring a new day-and-night single-seat fighter. The Gloster Company responded with their Model SS.19 fighter, designed by HP Folland. After a lengthy delay, due mostly to the lack of a suitable engine, the prototype was finally accepted for RAF evaluation in February 1933, following the availability if the Bristol Mercury VIS radial.
The prototype had a maximum speed of 163 mph at sea level, rising to 210 mph at 14,000 and a climb rate of 2000 feet per minute. The aircraft was armed with two 0.303 calibre Vickers Mk.V machine guns and carried 600 rounds per gun. Following the testing period, the Air Ministry requested some changes before production began on the Mk.I, including the use of the Mercury VIS2 engine. An order was placed for 24 aircraft in September 1933.
Following Hawker’s takeover of the Gloster Company, the design was revised slightly, resulting in the Mk.II. The revisions were based on Hawker’s fuselage and wing spar construction methods which were considered superior than Gloster's structures. The changes resulted in very little improvements in performance. A total of 204 Mk.IIs were produced in the UK.
was 246 machines, comprising the prototype, 24 Mk.I, 204 Mk.II and 17 machines
built under licence in Denmark
The Gloster Gauntlet entered Royal Air Force service in 1935. Although phased out of front line service in the UK by the end of 1939, the aircraft was used by the RAF, RAAF and SAAF in North Africa during 1940 being handed down from one squadron to another as the active units upgraded to more modern machinery and the more junior squadrons geared up to join the conflict. The last Gauntlets listed on squadron strength were those of 2 Squadron SAAF, in early 1941, although a handful of Gauntlets continued in use in the UK for meteorological flights until 1943.
The Gauntlet was popular in operational service, mainly because is showed a large performance improvement over the Bristol Bulldog, which it was designed to replace. The Gauntlet was, in fact, the fastest aircraft in the RAF during 1935-37. At the peak of its service, the Gauntlet equipped a total of 14 Squadrons of Fighter Command.
In addition to the Allied air forces, 24 ex-RAF Gloster Gauntlets were supplied to Finland by South Africa in 1940, serving as advanced fighter trainers until 1945. The 17 licence-built Danish Gauntlet were constructed during 1936-38 by the Haerens Flyvertroppers Vaerksteder and equipped 1 Eskadrille of Danish Army Aviation at the time of the German invasion in April 1940.
As far as I could ascertain, there is only one preserved Gauntlet worldwide and it remains airworthy. This aircraft is operated by the Finnish Airforce Museum and is powered by a non-standard, fully cowled Alvis Leonides engine. This feature gives the machine an odd profile but without the powerplant, there would be no airworthy Gauntlet in existence!
The Pegasus Gloster Gauntlet is a very basic, limited production, injection moulded kit. It is packaged in a plastic bag with a folded cardboard header. The assembly instructions are given only as a written list and are provided in 8 steps on the inside of the header. An A4 page is included which has a nice 3-view scale line drawing of an aircraft in 19 Sqn markings. This is intended to be used as a rigging and construction guide, and it refers to the use of Modeldecal Sheet No.31 for markings, as no decals are included in the kit.
The kit comprises only 17 parts, all of which are moulded in a fairly dense white styrene, except for the lower wings, which are in a brittle, glossy black styrene. After perusing the contents more closely, I could see why the kits’ previous owner purged it from his collection by placing it on Ebay. In short, it’s pretty awful. I’ll quickly summarise the parts to paint a picture of what’s available to work with.
Fuselage halves are very thick plastic and are OK but there is some thick flash and the engraved panel lines are quite indistinct and irregular. The gun troughs on the fuselage sides have the guns moulded in, but these are no more than basic cylindrical shapes. On the fuselage sides, the fabric effect is generally good except for some minor moulding imperfections that leave a scratched or bumpy texture in some panels. Unfortunately, the fabric effect is absent at the top and vague at the bottom of the fuselage where the halves will join, so some work will be required to replicate this. I have also noted that some published profiles of the Gauntlet show a “solid” decking on the upper side of the rear fuselage rather than the correct ribbing. Admittedly, it is difficult to see the upper fuselage ribbing in many photos, which may have led to this error. Comparison to photos of the real thing and the plans in the MMP book indicate that the number of longerons beneath the “fabric” on the model is incorrect. I think the best option for the fuselage halves is to sand back all detail, refine the fin, re-scribe the panels and somehow recreate the fabric effect.
Aside from a crudely moulded seat, there is no internal detail other than some vague scratches on the inside of the fuselage that (I eventually realised) are supposed to represent internal structure. With a small but open cockpit, some attempt at replicating an interior will be required and as none is available in resin or etched brass (to my knowledge), it’s back to the “old fashioned” scratch building skills. The Airwaves etched Gladiator cockpit (designed for the Heller kit) could possibly used to fill the space; the Gladiator cockpit is different, but at this scale, it will not necessarily matter to many modellers.
The leading edge of the fin is commendably thin on the starboard fuselage half but woefully thick and uneven on the port side. This may not be an error however, as the 3-view plan included with the kit shows an asymmetric rudder section when viewed from above. The plans in the MMP book do not show this, so I am unsure which is correct. Nevertheless, it will need to be tidied up and the leading edge of the fin needs to be a little more rounded when viewed as a side-on profile. The latter may require the addition of a sliver of styrene stock added to the fin leading edge prior to re-shaping, as the chord of the fin is a little short and there’s no “spare” plastic to work with here.
The one piece upper wing suffers from huge lugs where the sprue gates meet the leading edge. The part also has thick flash developed. The trailing edge is terribly thick and the fabric effect is again let down by moulding imperfections on the ribs. The ailerons are weakly defined and will need to be deepened with the scribing tool (or removed and reattached later). Comparison to the line drawings included and the MMP plans show that the required dihedral is absent, but this should be fairly easy to add by bending with little heat. The overall shape of the upper wing seems to be OK but will need some tidying up, especially to correctly represent the “scallop” in the centre section.
The thick and ugly sprue gate attachments on the lower wings will be easier to tidy up, as they meet the wings at the fuselage attachment points. Like the main wing, flash is prevalent around the wingtips and the trailing edges are very thick. The wing rib representation is better on these parts but the surfaces are very uneven, with abundant pits and bumps. On my example, the “flow texture” of the low pressure injected plastic forms a radiating pattern from the sprue to the wingtips, which also creates serious surface imperfections The lower wing shape needs to be rectified by rounding off the tips a little; comparison to the MMP plans shows that there is enough plastic to work with here because the wings are a tad too long. Also required is a more pronounced curvature of the trailing edge into the wing root.
Basically, both upper and lower wings will require a thorough sanding to even the surfaces and thin the trailing edges, and this will obviously remove the fabric effect, which will then have to be replicated. No struts or strut material are included in the kit; the instructions simply state “…cut all struts and undercarriage legs from plastic card using the plan as a reference” and explains that the limitations of the short-run nature of the kit precludes their inclusion. The locations for the struts on the wings and fuselage are given as shallow, circular dimples. No windscreen is included and the instructions advise “…make a windscreen from acetate” but no guide is given other than on the line drawings included (which differs considerably from the windscreen shown on the MMP plans).
The tailplanes and rudder are included on the sprue that contains the smaller items. Again, sprue gates and trailing edges are thick. The subtle curvature of the stabiliser leading edges has been missed (the edges are fairly straight), but because the chord is too great, this can easily be fixed with some careful sanding. The curvature of the rudder trailing edge will also require adjustment, being too rounded.
Wheels seem acceptable but will need a careful clean-up of flash and some minor imperfections. The kit includes spatted undercarriage for those who wish to use them, but the spats show sink marks and I suspect they may be a little narrow in cross section. The tail wheel is crude and its strut is too short, so a replacement from the spares box or some other source is necessary.
The kit engine is hopeless, being so badly formed that I’d describe it as deformed! Being a prominent feature of a radial-engine aircraft, it cannot be used and is not worth further comment. Replacement with a white metal Aeroclub (#E071) or resin Engines ‘n’ Things (#72022) item is a must. The cowl ring is also sad, with a large mould line of thick flash running straight through the prominent cylinder head “bumps”. It will be virtually impossible to clean up the mould line without removing those bumps, which will be very fiddly to replicate. Modification of a spare Gladiator cowl may be the easiest option here. I note that Aeroclub do make a Bristol Mercury with cowl ring (#E078), which I ordered as a replacement for the kit item, but this also has a prominent mould seam straight through the “bumps”.
Like most parts, the two-blade propeller suffers from flash but otherwise, is quite cleanly moulded. Comparison with the MMP plans shows it to be a little short in diameter, but comparison with the 3-view drawing supplied with the kit shows it to be a touch too big. I could not find any published data on the Internet or in the MMP book to confirm one or the other, but comparison to photographs of the Gauntlet suggests that the MMP plans are (more) correct. Shortening blades is easy but lengthening them is another story, so a replacement may be the best option. If modelling a Mk.II Gauntlet, then a 3-blade unit will be required anyway, which is available from Aeroclub (#P088) or can be robbed from the Heller Gladiator if available.
Other details required but not mentioned in the instructions will be the gun aiming tube atop the fuselage, pitot tube, formation lights, exhaust pipes, boarding step, cowl ring brackets and aerial masts.
I have not modelled many biplanes; hmmm… just thinking about it, I haven’t built a biplane since I was in my teens (a long time ago!) so this one will be a challenge. That is, of course, if I bother to proceed with it. I have never tried to replicate a fabric effect on wings and fuselage, but I’m prepared to have a go. With all parts carrying flash or showing moulding imperfections, clean-up and preparation will be a big job; bigger than usually expected of short-run kits.
To be fair, the Pegasus kit is (was) a reasonable attempt to produce a 1:72 scale model of an important pre-war and early war British fighter. Given the limitations of short run, low pressure styrene moulding, it is a fair attempt to provide the modelling world with a Gauntlet. The overall dimensions are pretty good, requiring only minor modification. The surface detail is the “Achilles heel” of the kit, which appears to have suffered from the moulding process. The lack of interior, struts, markings and some minor details and the coincident lack of after-market Gauntlet goodies will challenge both the spares box and the modeller’s scratch building skills.
I am currently working on an overseas posting and I’ve been having modelling withdrawals on the long trips away from home. I therefore decided to bring a few projects back with me after my last break back home in Australia. I specifically chose a handful of kits that need some attention prior to construction, so that I could work on all of the clean-up and preparation whilst I’m travelling and put the model together once I return home. The Pegasus Gloster Gauntlet is certainly one that will require a lot of attention; so much in fact, that it may even just be pushed a side to await replacement with the forthcoming AZ Models offering.
I’m sure that the HR Models kit is more detailed and less problematic (despite being resin) than the Pegasus Gauntlet but the high price will prevent many modellers from picking up this one. The forthcoming AZ Models kit promises to be a reasonably cheap but fairly well done kit with adequate detail. I recently bought their Avro Tutor and Avro Prefect kits which are not Tamigawa standard, but nice little kits all the same.
Editor's Note: James' description of this kit is quite accurate, especially as it was the fourth kit that Pegasus ever produced. I have several of these very early kits and they are just as James has described them. However, you should not think that their newer and more current projects are the same as they are very much not. Pegasus has steadily improved its products and their more recent offerings, while still low pressure, short run kits are quite different from those of decades back.
For those wondering what to do about struts, Contrail (or whomever bought the company) offers packs with several different sizes of airfoil section struts that can be used on kits like this.
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
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