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  1. As soon as I got this kit from Martin @ T7 Models, and after the review (here) I was tempted to build it, as I've not built one of Airfix's new kits, but I also remembered that we'd reviewed a bunch of Eduard Photo-Etch (PE) and resin upgrades for it, in the shape of the cockpit set, seatbelts (STEEL), flaps, exhaust stubs and of course the wheels, the latter being in resin from their Brassin range. Putting aside the little Bren Gun Carrier I've been pottering with for my own amusement, I started cutting parts off the sprues. While the surface detail isn't going to blow your socks off for innovation, the kit has been designed from an engineering stand-point, and quality as well as certainty of fit has been a high priority. Use of lugs, keyed tabs and suchlike have been used to ensure that the parts fit where they are supposed to go, like one big jigsaw, each part supporting the next in terms of fit and strength. The cockpit is built up on a section of the wing panel, so is curved, and has the front and rear bulkheads slot in, supported by little buttresses to ensure the correct angle. The seat also fits into holes on the floor and rear frame, and although I elected to remove the kit seat to replace it with another, that also fits into a keyed slot for security. I tried out some chipping on the floor, seat, rudder pedals and control column, using a base of Gunze Zinc Chromate, with some AK Chipping fluid in between that and some Xtracrylix interior green. A quick scrub around the masked off aluminium and in places of wear gave a pleasant look to the floor, which was enhanced when the washes went on later. The cockpit sidewalls were upgraded with a lot of parts from the main set, most of which were pre-painted. Where the ejector-pin marks would be covered, I left those, but filled any that would be visible later for good measure. The set went together very well, and with a little care, I was done in no-time, using a little AMMO Dark Brown wash (A.MIG-1005) to show up some areas of detail. I spotted the grey fleck & wash overrun while I was processing these photos, so those have been fixed now. The seat was replaced initially with the PE seat from the main set, but I made a hash of that, so I dragged out an old Reheat one and folded that up for painting. The STEEL belts were easy to use, folding nicely around details and sitting quite well on the seat pan, and although they aren't quite as good as the HGW fabric belts, they are less of a faff, so it's swings and roundabouts, as well as a case of availability. The instrument panel was scoured of detail with a sanding stick, the pre-painted back sheet glued to the plastic with CA, and the front with the bezels and cut-outs for the instruments was then floated into place on a couple of drops of AK Gauzy. Once dry and matt varnished, I added drops of the thicker Gauzy to the dials to give them a shiny look, reminiscent of glass. Assembly of the finished cockpit cage was a piece of cake, and as I had remembered to smooth off and paint the insides of the fuselage with interior green, the ribbed look works when the 'pit is inserted inside. The chin intake/exhaust for the radiator needs assembling before you can close up the fuselage, so I added the more detailed mesh panels from the PE set, and painted the backdrop Zinc Chromate, the meshes aluminium, and gave them a wash of AMMO Cockpit wash before masking them over so that I could spray the underside colour into their ducting. Once Unmasked they fitted well, using keyed lugs to ensure they fit exactly 50% inside the centre of the port fuselage half, improving the fit of the finished assembly. I'll pop some Blutak into the ducting later to protect them from paint overspray. There are a few sink marks on the wing parts where the plastic is at its thickest, which I hid with a thin coat of Tamiya Basic Putty, rescribing any panel lines lost in the process. There were also a pair of large ejector pin marks inconveniently sited in the centre of the main wheel bay area, which is moulded with creases to simulate fabric, making it a bit tricky to get to with normal sanding materials. I filled the marks with a couple of layers of CA, accelerated and then sanded with a small piece of coarse sandpaper glued to the end of a flattened coffee stirrer gifted to me in bundles by a friend. As I got closer to the final finish I removed the coarse grit with a blade and glued a medium grit piece in its place, rubbing in small movements until it was flat enough, and being careful not to flatten off the moulded-in creases. A quick squirt of primer established that the job was done, but showed up a pair of deep sink-marks in the sidewall of the bays where the linking section shrank during cooling. Another layer of Tamiya Basic applied with a metal sculpting tool gave a good basis for the fill, which was tidied up with surprisingly small amount of sanding after it had dried. I also put in the bay skins where the struts would lie in the retracted position, the holes in which corresponded nicely with those in the underlying plastic. With the fuselage taped together I tested the fit of the wing root fairings, which again have a keyed format to ensure a good fit. The port side fits beautifully after scraping some moulding flash from the front of the fuselage cut-out, but the starboard one took a little more scraping and test-fitting before the rear section would stop veering toward the centreline of the fuselage, creating a negative step at the rear, and probably screwing up the fit of the wings completely. The rudder has a well-known goof with only one side having the trim-tab moulded in, which I fixed with a razor saw and scribing tool, giving it a quick squirt of primer to verify that a swirl in the plastic wouldn't show up under paint. It did not, which is useful, as there is ribbed fabric texture there, which would make replicating it fun. Whilst all this was going on I was trying to decide whether to fit the flaps set that I had, as it would slow the build down somewhat while I fettled the fit and butchered the wing parts to accommodate the parts. I did a test run of one flap last night to see whether it was doable, as they differ slightly from sets I have used before, in that the flap and bay are in one large single part. The piece is quite delicate and unwieldy once cut from the fret, but with the correct tools and a bit of patience I managed to build it up over the course of an hour, and even though I had my doubts whether the small PE stringers would fit through the holes provided for them, they didn't let me down. The instructions advise using a rod of 0.5mm styrene for a suspended section of the flap bay, but my Evergreen rod of that size wouldn't fit, so I resorted to a length of 0.3mm brass rod I had in stock. That probably made the job easier in the end, as the brass has better structural rigidity than styrene, and would be less likely to deflect as you push it through. Based on the fact that half of the folding work is now done, I'm erring toward using the set, as it might help to distract from the rather thick trailing edge of the wing, which will be more difficult to thin out in the old-fashioned way by scraping, due to the way in which the wing halves have been engineered with thicker sections interlocking around the ailerons that are moulded into the wing lower. I think I've talked myself into it now. Bugger. The resin wheels have been constructed after a few seconds with a razor saw to cut off the pouring blocks, and although it seems a shame to hide away those lovely crisp wheel spokes, the early Warhawks wore the hubcaps, so on went the PE parts. A word to the wise here. Lightly sand the edges of the parts to ensure that they sit within the hub's flange, as the tiny mismatch between the two sides of the PE photo-resist can lead to a slight step that, due to the tight tolerances, may leave you with a slightly off-centre hubcap, or stands proud at one side. The exhaust stubs were simplicity themselves to remove, and fit perfectly into their recesses on the side of the fuselage, so following a coat of primer, I'll be looking to see how they look after use, so I can try to replicate their patina something like realistically. Speaking of realism, I did some research on the most likely colours for the AVG bird that I'm planning on portraying – who cares if it's been done to death? The instructions give the DuPont codes for the airframe under the Airfix codes, so using a couple of websites I found on the subject, some information here on Britmodeller, plus my favourite paint conversion website, I decided on an all-Xtracrylix team for the painting. The underside will use XA1140 Light Grey (FS16622), which looks about right from the bottle, while the upper camo will be XA1111 Olive Drab (FS14087) and XA1114 Medium Green (FS14092), both of which seem a little dark from a scale-effect point of view, so they will end up a bit lighter once I've finished modulating the tones here and there. Probably wrong, or at least misguided, but I have those paints in stock, and they look close enough to an unrestored airframe I saw during my search, allowing for the ravages of age and any colour distortions picked up along the way. I'm not into Munsell values or arguing about what colour is displayed in a B&W photo, and having seen how dusty some of those aircraft got, I'm not going to stress about it either, so there!
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