The Gloster Gladiator was one of a handful of biplanes that saw combat in World War II. Though obsolete and outclassed by Axis fighters, it did soldier on for a few years. Some even attained fame during the battle for Malta, where Sea Gladiators defended the island from Italian and German aircraft.
Airfix’s Gladiator continues a line of impressive 1/72 scale models from this company. The kit features finely scribed panel lines that enhance the excellent representation of the fabric areas. There are extra parts for different canopy and gear options, plus decals for two aircraft. For instance, in winter 1940, Sweden provided 12 ski-equipped Gladiators and crews to help the Finns in their war against the Soviet Union; this was my choice.
Instructions are clear and logical for a straightforward build. No major problems surfaced, though I did have to spend some time sanding the upper and lower ends of the interplane struts to get them to fit smoothly into their slots on the wings. The same held true for the tops of the fuselage’s cabane struts. What I didn’t realize until installing the upper wing was that the cabane struts on my model were longer than the interplane struts. Trying to wrestle everything into place, I broke one of the cabane struts. The lesson here: Test-fit the upper wing before applying glue.
The engine cowling was the only other area requiring extra attention. While the lower section snugly joins the engine radiator ring, the two side pieces do not. I put a shim on one side and filled the other seams with super glue to hold everything in place. You will need a little filler here and there, but mainly to repair damage from thick sprue attachment points.
A series of diagrams helped tremendously with the rigging. I deepened the original holes for all the rigging attachment points, as some of them were merely dimples. Wonder Wire is my go-to rigging material; it’s easy to cut, remains straight with no sagging, and can be attached with white glue.
I did question the colors suggested for the J-8A version in the painting guide. Since these were originally Swedish aircraft, I felt the undersurfaces should be Sweden’s standard blue-gray rather than aluminum. My research indicated these machines were camouflaged with aluminum lacquer over the existing green when they arrived in Finland. I don’t think ground crews in the field, in harsh winter weather, would have taken the time to paint the undersides of the wings and fuselage. For me, this particular scheme took more masking and touching up than I initially thought.
Decals went on nicely, were opaque, and in-register, though there was some silvering under the clear areas of the stencils.
A ski-equipped Gladiator with this camouflage scheme has been on my to-do list for some time. It was a delightful little model to build. Kudos to Airfix for its thoughtful engineering and reasonable price.
Most of the 28 hours I spent on the kit were with masking for the camouflage and on the rigging. The biplane configuration and rigging might challenge novices, but otherwise I would gladly recommend this kit for all modelers.
Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2014 FineScale Modeler.