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Tamiya 1/48 scale Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VI

Kit: No. 61053
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Tamiya, distributed by Tamiya America, 2 Orion, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-4200, phone 800-826-4922
Price: $33
Comments: Injection molded, 122 parts (2 vinyl), decals.

In response to the Royal Air Force Fighter Command's 1938 request for a heavy fighter, the Bristol Aircraft Company proposed a twin-engined craft based on its Beaufort medium bomber. Only eight months were needed to build the prototype fighter. Armed with four 20mm cannons in the nose and six .303" machine guns in the wings, the Beaufighter saw service on all fronts in day and night combat.

Tamiya's Mk.VI is the first injection-molded 1/48 scale kit of the Beaufighter and features fine engraved panel lines and several options. It includes two different canopies for the rear observer's/gunner's position, underwing rocket racks, radar antennas, and direction-finding loop antennas.

Extra parts included in the kit but not listed in the instructions - a thimble nose, small carburetor intakes, and the nose blister for the Sperry autopilot - suggest Tamiya will release at least two other Beaufighter versions.

The interior is well detailed. The instrument panel features raised detail, and the decal sheet provides instruments that match the panel. The interior fuselage ribbing was marred by several ejector-pin marks, but you can't see them once the fuselage halves are glued together.

I painted the interior with Testor British interior green, and black chrome trim (an excellent semigloss black). The interior fits perfectly into the fuselage, and if you glue carefully and align the fuselage halves as you go, you will be rewarded with a seam that requires just a few passes of the sanding stick.

I filled two small sinkholes behind the rear cockpit opening with super glue. The boarding hatches can be displayed open or closed. They fit well, but you may want to glue the rear one in place rather than depend on the pin hinge.

To re-create the Beaufighter's dihedral, the wings are molded in two upper and three lower pieces. I like the way Tamiya molded the landing lights with the upper wing section - no seam to clean up inside the light compartment. Clear lenses are provided for the four wing-tip navigation and position lights.

The main landing-gear assemblies are built up on inserts that can be installed in the wings after painting is complete. They fit well and are solid. The fit of the wing to the fuselage was also impressive, requiring only gentle alignment while gluing, a few swipes with the sanding stick, and a dab of epoxy putty on the upper left wing fillet joint.

Take care removing the engine nacelles from the sprue - they are attached in three places on the face of the nacelles. With care and gentle sanding you'll never know where the attachment points were. The nacelles fit snug to the cowl flaps (part D24), so I glued the cowl flaps to the wings but only pressed the cowls in place. This allowed painting the model, removing the cowls, adding the engines, then replacing the cowls.

I masked the canopies and the landing-light cover with frisket film and Testor Parafilm M, and installed them with white glue before painting.

Tamiya provides three marking options: a Coastal Command bird in ocean grey and dark green camouflage, a night fighter in overall black, and a Malta-based aircraft in desert colors. I chose the latter and painted it with Testor Model Master azure blue, middlestone, and dark earth. I glossed the model with Future floor polish, and when it was dry, I applied the well-printed Scale-Master Invisa-clear decals. They responded to Micro Sol setting solution.

After the decals dried I airbrushed the entire kit with Testor Dullcote, and accented the panel lines with a wash of burnt umber oil paint. I removed the engine nacelles and painted the collector rings and exhaust with Humbrol bronze. Don't glue the exhausts to the engine nacelles before the nacelles are in place (as I did), or the nacelle locating lug will interfere with their installation.

The finished model scales out to the dimensions listed in Squadron/Signal's Beaufighter in Action. I spent 20 enjoyable hours on my Beaufighter, but modelers should have a little experience with airplane kits before putting this one together.

John Plzak

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