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Roden 1/48 scale Gloster Gladiator Mk.I

Kit: No. 408
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Roden, available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 972-242-8663,
Price: $27.98
Comments: Injection-molded, 94 parts, decals
Pros: Crisp and delicate surface details, separate control surfaces
Cons: All parts required cleanup, sinkholes and ejector pin marks needed to be filled, some omissions in paint and rigging guides
The RAF's last biplane fighter, the Gloster Gladiator, was developed from its immediate predecessor, the Gauntlet. Introduced just prior to the Hurricane and Spitfire, the Gladiator probably should never have been produced, yet it filled a valuable role in RAF expansion and pilot training during the buildup to World War II. It served with distinction in Norway, North Africa, Malta, Greece, and East Africa from 1939-41. Many Gladiator pilots achieved ace status.

Roden's kit has fine recessed panel lines and good detail, but all parts have mold-parting seams and require cleanup. The three-piece injection-molded canopy is well cast.

The instructions show parts placement well, but dry-fitting most parts before gluing will improve the fit. There are no locating pins on the fuselage halves, and some parts require precise placement.

The engine cowl is split into three parts, with the seams running through one of the rocker-arm bumps. The trailing edges of the cowl parts are not uniform, so sanding them all sharp will help. Also, the dimples for the cowl guns don't line up with the troughs in the fuselage. Be sure to eliminate seam lines on the leading edge, as this was the Townsend exhaust collector ring.

The engine goes together easily, but I had to shave about 1mm from each of the 18 exhaust stubs so they sit properly against the Townsend ring when the engine is pushed all the way forward in the cowl. It's easier to install the stubs with the engine inside the cowl.

Roden provides a clear instrument panel with a decal applied to its backside for the gauges. The center panel around the gauges should be painted black, the outer areas wood. There are no solid locating devices for the cockpit floor or radio shelf, and the instrument panel does not fit well without cutting away some of the fuselage's interior framing. Make sure you test fit all these parts before attempting final assembly.

Both flop-down entry hatches are separate parts; I glued the right hatch closed and positioned the left open. The canopy parts are delicate, and I improved their clarity with a coat of Future floor polish.

I made sure the landing gear struts were perpendicular to the profile centerline, and I cleaned up a few sinkholes in the struts.

Painting the wings and tail surfaces before installing them is a good idea. The separate control surfaces come in handy for posing them offset as I like to do.

Before adding the wings and stabilizers, I drilled holes for rigging. The rigging diagram omits the wires from the top of the left cabane struts to the base of the interplane struts. Also missing are the wire braces under each horizontal stabilizer and the exposed rudder cables. The brace wires between the interplane struts go into the strut fairings. The cabane struts seem too thin to me, and I broke one in construction. I used steel wire for the rigging.

The kit's octagonal firewall makes the engine/cowl assembly stand proud of the fuselage. This didn't look right, so I rounded off the corners of the firewall to make it sit inside the fuselage opening.

Roden's instructions give the correct colors for the exterior, but the diagrams show only the left profiles and an incomplete view of the top surface of the lower wings in the plan form. You'll have to study photos of camouflaged Gladiators.

I chose Flt. Lt. John Scoular's aircraft of 112 Squadron serving in Sudan, Africa, in 1940. The decals are thin and well printed, but the red in the insignias for the camouflaged aircraft is too bright. I used aftermarket roundels and fin flashes with brick red. The kit decals don't react much to Solvaset, so I made a little cocktail of Krystal Kleer, Solvaset, and water to make them stick.

There are several good references on the Gladiator, including Lumsden and Thetford's On Silver Wings, RAF Fighters Between the Wars, Warpaint's Gloster Gladiator, and Osprey's Gladiator Aces. I spent nearly 40 hours on my model and recommend it to experienced modelers who don't mind dealing with small parts, tedious cleanup, and minor fit problems.

- Ross Whitaker


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