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Special Hobby 1/48 scale SPAD VII C1

Kit: No. 48009
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Special Hobby, from MPM Ltd., Mezilesi 718, 193 00 Prague 9, Czech Republic,
Price: $27
Comments: Injection-molded, 69 parts (18 photoetched metal, 2 vacuum-formed windscreens), decals
Pros: Good plastic parts, excellent resin and photoetched parts, well-printed decals
Cons: Cabane struts of unequal length make alignment of top wing difficult, missing fuel hose from top wing to cowl
The SPAD VII (correctly S.P.A.D. for Société Provisoire des Aéroplanes Deperdussin) may not be as well known as the later SPAD XIII used by many American aces, but it was the preferred mount of French aces Guynemer, Nungesser, and Fonck. The SPAD VII had a single synchronized Vickers machine gun and an excellent 150- or 180-horsepower Hispano-Suiza engine (in contrast to the troublesome 200-horsepower geared version used on some SPAD XIII and S.E. 5a fighters). The SPAD was sturdy, fast, and could out-dive its contemporaries.

Special Hobby has joined other Czech Republic companies in producing 1/48 scale World War I aircraft kits. This kit contains well-cast resin parts, fine photoetched metal parts, vacuum-formed clear windscreens, and good injection-molded plastic parts. Decal markings and four-view drawings are supplied for two French and one Italian aircraft. Exploded-view instructions are easy to understand and indicate the colors of interior parts.

I spent considerable time cleaning up and assembling the resin and photoetched metal cockpit parts. With a little fitting and filing, the assembled cockpit fit well between the fuselage halves. There were no locating pins in the fuselage, but it went together fine.

I fastened the lower wings to the completed fuselage but delayed the remaining assembly work until after painting and decaling. That's the best way to assemble biplanes, especially those with as many struts as the SPAD. I painted the model with an overall coat of Polly Scale WWI French beige, darkened slightly on the forward fuselage and landing gear, as suggested by the fine box art. I chose to do Guynemer's aircraft as it appeared in September, 1916. The decals were well-printed and responded satisfactorily to decal setting solutions. I attached the machine gun, its sight, and the windscreen before adding the struts and top wing.

Limited-production biplane kits are usually a challenge, and Special Hobby's SPAD was no exception. The cabane struts did not provide a good platform for the upper wing because they weren't equal in length. To align everything, I made balsa jigs to hold the top wing in position over the lower wing and fuselage. I used a brass wire for the hose from the upper-wing gas tank to the engine, and this doubled as a support for the upper wing as I added the struts. The inboard interplane struts needed transverse rods, which I made from brass wire. Stretched sprue, painted monofilament, and fine steel wire make up the rigging and control wires. I reinforced the landing-gear strut joints with small wire inserts.

The kit surfaces fit almost perfectly on the 1/48 scale plans in the Windsock Data Profile SPAD VII, and the contours appear correct as well. As with most limited-production biplane kits, this one was labor intensive. I spent more than 40 hours on it and recommend it to experienced biplane builders.

- Dr. Bill Funcke


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