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Classic Airframes 1/48 scale Bristol Blenheim Mk.I/Mk.If

Manufacturer: Classic Airframes, P.O. Box 577580, Chicago, IL 60657-7580,
Kit: No. 435
Scale: 1/48
Price: $54.97
Comments: Multi-media, 135 parts (68 injection-molded plastic, 67 resin), decals.
Pros: Needed subject, crisp surface detail, excellent resin parts.
Cons: Incorrect propellers, some engine details missing, vague parts locations in instructions.
The Bristol Blenheim traces its roots to the mid-1930s as a six-passenger civil transport. Once the RAF discovered that the aircraft was faster than current fighters, Bristol redesigned the airplane to fill a light/medium bomber role. Soon outclassed by faster aircraft, it was nonetheless used in all theatres of World War II, even serving as a night fighter (Mk.If) during the Battle of Britain.


Classic Airframes' multi-media kit consists of an injection-molded light gray styrene plastic airframe, clear injection-molded canopy and turret greenhouses, and a cast-resin cockpit, main gear wells, and turret details. The plastic parts have fine recessed panel lines, but the edges are rough and require cleanup before assembly. With no locator pins, major assemblies are formed with butt joints, requiring extra care in alignment and bonding.
The cockpit was first on the agenda. Assembly was easy. Part No. R13 is shown but unlabeled, and I still don't know what it is or where it goes. My sample kit was missing its rudder pedals and steering yokes, but Classic Airframes supplied replacements. You have to drill holes in the turret ring to fit the seat support.


I had to trim the rear cockpit wall (R31) to get the fuselage halves to close around it. The chisel-nose canopy is split down the middle and you have to be careful when gluing it to avoid marring the clear panels. A pair of small windows just aft of the canopy are not provided.


Glue turret housing parts 25 and 26 to the sides (not on top) of part 24 so that the turret glass achieves the correct height later. The fit of this housing and the canopy to the fuselage require trimming, test fitting, and careful alignment.


The engines are fine resin castings but are missing the prominent push-rod tubes (one per cylinder) and the proper pair of exhaust tubes per cylinder. Only one per cylinder is provided, and they are not the right shape. They should come straight out of the cylinder head to the collector ring in the front tip of the cowl. One of my oil-cooler intake tubes had a cavity (air bubble) that needed to be filled.

You need to remove a lot of resin from the back of each wheel well, and you'll need to make the top paper-thin or it won't fit inside the rear of the engine nacelle. Even after that, I had to remove part of the rear corners and file the insides of the nacelles to get mine to fit. Since there are no precise locating points for the wheel wells, I suggest adding the main struts to the well (step 13) at this time. Align the gear legs so that they are perpendicular to the inner wing underside, which has no dihedral. This will help you align the wheel wells so that the main landing gear will be correctly vertical once the model is completed.


With no alignment aids, fitting the wings to the fuselage takes time. Carefully align them while referring to the fin. I had to cut into the left wing to add a leading-edge landing light. When adding the horizontal stabilizers, make sure the elevator hinge lines are perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the fuselage - you'll have to reshape the butt joints to get this right.


The main gear struts are easy to assemble, but the wheels are loose inside the struts. The kit props appear to be the same units from the Fairey Battle kit. These feature blades that are too long and are pitched for clockwise rotation; Blenheim props spin counter-clockwise. You can't just put the blades in with the correct pitch, as then the camber would be wrong. This same problem occurs with the pitch adjustment counterweights.


Painting was easy, and I liked Classic Airframes' color diagrams. The Microscale decals are well-printed and appear accurate, but I wanted to honor the Battle of Britain, so I went to the spares box for the squadron codes and fin flashes for 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron, Northolt, July 1940.


My main reference was the new Warpaint Series book, Bristol Blenheim, which is packed with useful information. The marking scheme came from the Scale Aircraft Monographs book Battle for Britain.


The finished model looks good, just seven scale inches short in span. I spent over 40 hours completing my model and can only recommend it to experienced modelers who can deal with fit problems and correct fine details.

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