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Stransky Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/48 scale plastic model aircraft kit
I was only aware of the Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann as the plane Hendley and Blythe attempted to fly to Switzerland in The Great Escape. It’s a German two-seat trainer that was used as a courier/liaison plane during World War II. It was also converted to a tank-buster with the additions of wing-mounted Panzerfausts.

However, Stepan Stransky’s 1/48 scale model kit depicts the Bestmann in foreign services, with decals for Czech, French, Croatian, and British markings. But the four Panzerfausts provided may foreshadow a German tank-buster to come.

Typical of limited-run kits, there are no alignment pins; care must be taken to make sure fit is true. The panel lines are both engraved and raised, as on the real aircraft. For landing gear, you have a choice of wheels and skis. The instructions include a bit of history as well as some color and black-and-white detail photos and line drawings.

I mostly followed the directions, save leaving the doors and skis for last. The instructions start with the fuselage, then the wings. I let them dry thoroughly, working on the landing gear before proceeding with the nicely detailed cockpit. The instrument panel comes alive with some dry-brushing, but no decal is provided.

Next came the nose, where I encountered problems. The clear canopy, C1, must be aligned with the fuselage sides as well as five other nose pieces while ensuring the firewall, instrument panel fit, and doors fit, too. When I reached this stage, the fuselage sides were too narrow and the canopy overlapped on both sides. I chose 5-minute epoxy and spread the fuselage halves gently while the epoxy set. I thought this worked (more in a moment).

I assembled the nose, exhaust, prop, and horizontal stabilizers, leaving the skis for last, then started filling, sanding, and prepping for painting. Filler was needed along the spine and belly, the wing roots, and where the wings’ trailing edge mates with the fuselage.

But during this step the nose fell apart. I had to clean up the parts, reassemble, and try again with more 5-minute epoxy. However, with all this trouble, the doors no longer fit and the model’s length comes up a few scale inches short.

The decals, thin but not too delicate, went down well in a puddle of Pledge FloorCare Multi-Surface Finish.

The model took me 11 hours, some due to my difficulties with the nose. It matches published dimensions (except the nose) and looks like a Bestmann. One noticeable drawback — the intakes give a good view inside the nose, which is empty. At least part of an engine there would be nice.

I would recommend this kit to modelers with at least a little bit of experience. It does make an attractive addition to any Luftwaffe collection.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the December 2017 issue.


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