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Zvezda 1/72 scale Yakovlev Yak-3

Kit:7301 // Scale:1/72 // Price:$13.50
Zvezda, from Dragon Models USA, 626-968-0322
Nice details, especially in cockpit; easy construction
Wheels, gear doors, and canopy tabs all have a "snap-fit" look
Injection-molded, snap-fit, 47 parts, decals
To my surprise, I have four different Yak-3s in my collection, including this recent release by Zvezda. How does this new kit stand up against the Heller, Hasegawa, and HobbyBoss models? Read on, comrade.

Zvezda’s difference for this Yak is that it’s a snap-fit kit. So, I expected a basic kit with crude detail. But I was pleased to see just the opposite. You’ll find nicely molded detail throughout, particularly in the cockpit. Instructions, shown in exploded-view diagrams, are straightforward, with a seven-step construction process that has subassemblies within each step. The final page of the booklet is a painting and decal guide.

The kit can indeed be snapped together, with some qualifications. Like the three other kits mentioned above, part of the cockpit is molded into the wing. But unlike the others, it has ten additional pieces to install in a detailed cockpit lacking only seat belts and a shoulder harness.

After painting the cockpit and tail wheel, I had the model together in less than two hours. The pieces pushed together snugly, but several were too snug and required sanding to fit. You should definitely reduce the thickness of the exhaust stubs before pushing them into place; they’re extremely tight and can break.

I had intended to remain glueless, but I tacked some of the smaller cockpit pieces with white glue to ensure long-term hold. Also, there were large gaps along the longer seams. After gluing these seams, I still needed a little filler.

To facilitate painting, I left off the propeller, canopy, main gear, and exhaust stacks. Painting references are given in Testors Model Master colors; I converted to my usual Tamiya and Gunze Sangyo paints. Though I finished the model according to the guide, my research suggests the actual upper surface colors may have been two shades of gray. Check for yourself. The decal sheet offers markings for two planes. The decals’ translucence is apparent in the yellow tail stripes.

If you don’t want a snap-tight look, I’d recommend filling the holes in the sides of the tires and gluing the gear doors in place.

The verdict: Zvezda’s Yak-3 is much more detailed than the other three kits, although the HobbyBoss kit may have a slight edge when it comes to decals. According to my references, the dimensions for the model are right on, except for height, and it certainly looks the part.

This was a quick and enjoyable build for me — a little more than 12 hours. I would recommend it to any modeler interested in World War II aircraft. The snap-fit design certainly makes it easy to build, although you’ll need a little glue to prevent a toy-like appearance. Still, it’s a pleasing replica.
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