Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV/IVF
Reviewed by Brett Green
While Spitfires and Hurricanes were carving themselves a legend during the first years of the Second World War, Bomber Command was faring poorly.
Their inventory comprised Whitleys, Harrows and Hampden as heavy bombers; while the Fairey Battle and Bristol Blenheim formed the backbone of the light bomber Squadrons.
The Battle and Blenheim were both fatally vulnerable to attack by Messerschmitts, but the Blenheim Mk.IV continued to press home the RAF's daylight bombing campaign until replaced by Mosquitos and Bostons during 1942.
The Blenheim Mk.IV also served as a night fighter, equipped with four additional Browning .303 machine guns in a ventral tray.
Classic Airframes have earned a reputation for producing models for significant niche-interest areas that would not likely otherwise be available. One of their areas of interest over the last two years has been early war RAF, commencing with their Westland Whirlwind (follow this link for a Construction Feature) and continued with their three Fairey Battles (see the HyperScale Review) and Blenheim Mk.I (see John Valo's Construction Feature).
Classic Airframes' Blenheim IV is packed in their familiar box with attractive artwork of a Coastal Command bomber.
The main parts of the kit are produced in low-pressure injection plastic. There are only 61 parts in grey styrene - quite a small number for a kit of this size. Plastic is smooth and shiny, while surface detail is impressive. Engraved panel lines are crisp and fine, and raised detail is present where appropriate. Fabric surfaces look great.
Sprue gates are reasonably narrow for a short-run kit, but many of the smaller parts exhibit a light surrounding of flash. Delicate or complex parts such as the main gear legs will need careful clean-up before assembly. Ejector pins are present on the inside surface of larger parts. The modeller can easily remove these if they interfere with fit. There is one big sink mark on the underside of the trailing starboard wingroot. This should be filled and sanded before assembly.
Some thought has gone into the location of sprue attachment points for the major parts. The trailing edges of the wings are free of attachment points, and are quite acceptably thin. Four narrow attachment points run along the bottom of the fuselage, with a single attachment at the tip of the rudder..
All control surfaces are moulded in the neutral position and cowl flaps are closed. I found it slightly surprising that the prominent landing lights in the leading edge of the port wing are moulded solid, with no option for a clear lens cover in the kit.
One of the characteristics of the Blenheim IV is its long, clear-glazed nose. Mercifully, Classic Airframes have represented this feature in injection-moulded clear plastic. The glazed sections are impressively clear, and the plastic is quite thin and free of distortions. Sprue connector points are kept to a minimum and are attached in areas that will be painted. This will eliminate possible sprue scars on glazed sections. The nose is split down the middle, so adhesive should be used sparingly to minimise the likelihood of visible glue marks. Two ejector pins will have to be removed from the inside of the main nose sections before painting and assembly.
If the clear plastic is the crown of this kit, then the resin parts are the jewels. Almost 70 parts in pale cream-coloured resin are supplied. These parts include two lovely Bristol Mercury engines, gear wells, a detailed cockpit, an array of guns, propeller hubs and other fine details. The resin is crisp and seems particularly lightweight. This should make it easier to remove some of the blocks from major parts.
Resin highlights include the structural detail inside the wheel wells, the drilled-out gun barrels, and the fine engine detail. Unfortunately, several of my more delicate parts were broken in transit due to the parts being packed in a single small bag. A spot of super glue will restore these parts to their rightful shape.
One part in clear vacform represents the early-style underside turret.
The decal sheet includes two marking options. These are printed by Microscale. The decals appear quite thin and opaque, and they are in perfect register. One aircraft is a Coastal Command machine of 105 Squadron finished in Extra Dark Sea Grey, Slate Grey and Sky. The second machine is a Mk. IVF. of 68 Sqn. in overall Night (Black).
8 pages of instructions include a parts breakdown and 20 construction steps described in illustrations and helpful captions.
Kit options include the choice of two underside turrets or a ventral gun pack, two different turret armaments, extended turret ring and tropical filters.
The general outline of the aircraft looks good. The complex scalloped shape of the nose is captured very well, but the rake of the windscreen seems slightly steep according to photographs and drawings - even the CA's own drawings. Some minor framing and a prominent blister on the port side of the canopy (depicted attractively on the box top) is also missing.
In addition, the contour of the fuselage bottom is a smooth, shallow curve on the kit, but displays more of a discernible angle on the real aircraft.
Even so, neither of these issues prevent the model from looking very much like a Blenheim.
Engineering is basic but thoughtful. Parts are not fitted with locating pins, but the major components are quite rigid. This will assist alignment. The recessed section in the fuselage to accommodate the completed wing assemblies is also a welcome feature that will help set the correct dihedral and create a strong bond.
Take note of any comments and warnings in the instructions. There are some important notes about parts that may need excess material removed, or alternate construction suggestions.
Most major parts are common with the Classic Airframes 1/48 scale Blenheim I, and construction reports have been favourable about that kit. Careful preparation and plenty of test fitting should deliver a rewarding result for any modeller with some experience of limited run kits.
I spent a pleasant half-hour cleaning up and test-fitting the main components. The grey plastic is quite soft and easy to work with. Wing halves match well, and the trailing edges look surprisingly good for a limited-run kit - better than many injection-moulded kits.
The fuselage halves mate up perfectly with no evidence of steps or gaps. The turret insert seemed to be a likely fit problem, but I was pleasantly surprised with the alignment. The insert may just need a little sanding at the rear to blend with the fuselage, but there should be no gaps to fill.
I also prepared the nose glazing and top cockpit transparency. The clear styrene is quite brittle, so make sure you don't stress the material while removing sprue attachment points. I taped the nose halves together and offered this sub-assembly up to the fuselage. My initial impression is that the fit should be very good - no steps or gaps. The top cockpit transparency aligns perfectly with the nose, but the clear top hatch rides slightly high. This can be addressed by either trimming the edges of the transparency, or cutting out the clear sliding hatch and posing it open.
This brief fitting exercise reinforces the good overall impression of Classic Airframes' Blenheim IV.
Classic Airframes must be congratulated for adding this significant subject to their 1/48 scale range of aircraft.
The Blenheim IV appears to be this company's best offering to date in terms of detail and engineering. It is an impressive model that will look great when completed.
The kit instructions state clearly that this kit is intended for experienced modellers and that additional time and effort is required. Even so, thanks to the injection-moulded clear parts and improved engineering, the Blenheim IV should be within the capabilities of many HyperScale readers looking for a challenge.
I sincerely hope that Classic Airframes continues their journey to the next logical step - a Bristol Beaufort. Maybe an Aussie Mk. VIII? I can only wish!
Thanks to Jules Bringuier of Classic Airframes for the review sample. Classic Airframes kits are available in Australia via JB Wholesalers and worldwide through hobby retailers.
Review and Images Copyright © 2000 by Brett