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Special Expanded Review - Revell 1/48 scale Stearman biplane

Kit:85-5264 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$16.95
Excellent fit; well-engineered for ease of assembly
No detailed paint references; incomplete and inaccurate rigging diagram
Injection-molded, 51 parts, decals
The full-size Stearman cockpit is pretty simple, an aspect that Revell’s kit captures very well. Framing, seats, and controls are included.

After a decades-long wait, modelers can finally welcome a newly tooled 1/48 scale Stearman to compete with the vintage Lindberg kit. Reflecting current molding technology, Revell’s Stearman is loaded with petite surface details, including such finery as a combination lock on the baggage compartment. The interior is graced with an abundance of detail, tubular structure is well represented along the full length of the fuselage, and the engine accessory bay lacks only wiring and tubing for a well-furnished look. The version of the Stearman chosen by Revell for this boxing includes a detailed Continental W670 to hang out front, including complete exhaust detail.

Two decal options are provided, both for currently airworthy warbirds with accurate vintage schemes. Leave off the included “N-number” registrations and you’ll have a reasonably accurate representation of a typical World War II Stearman.

Construction of the interior was fuss-free — decals depict the instruments for the main and auxiliary panels. Separate rudder pedals are installed as well, using keyed tabs for alignment — nice! 

Of the two fire extinguishers provided, one is an old type that should be painted silver (not mentioned in the instructions); the other is a current design with a plastic nozzle. Since I was modeling a restored warbird, I used the modern one.

There are ejector-pin marks on the interior walls, but they aren’t very noticeable when everything is installed. Assembly is fast once the interior is complete.

In a throwback to older kits, you will find the kit copyright molded on the underside of the stabilizer. A few quick passes with a knife and sandpaper erase this mark.

As with all biplanes, I spent time reviewing the rigging instructions and comparing them to photographs. Revell missed a set of double wires leading from the upper-wing cabane connections to the upper centerline of the fuselage. My initial plan for rigging included using fine stainless steel wire to emphasize the look of a restored warbird; to that end, I drilled oversized rigging holes all the way through into the hollow upper wing to allow the wire to adjust to the exit angle without bowing. Be aware that the rigging diagram seems to indicate the wires meet the wing at the strut attachment points; that is incorrect for a Stearman. Photos show the wires enter the wing well away from the struts. I drilled partway into the plastic for the lower rigging attachment points, referring to online photos and drawings. In theory, the lower end of the wire would be glued in the lower hole and allowed to “float” in the upper hole. I rigged the tail surfaces with metallic fly-fishing line.

Once the rigging prep was complete, I finished assembly by adding the engine-bay covers in the closed position (although you could leave them off or loose if you wished to display the engine accessory detail). The fit of the panels and upper fuselage coaming was near perfect, needing no filler. I also installed the lower wing prior to painting — you did remember to paint the interior of the wing center section that’s visible through the interior, right?

I painted my Stearman with Testors Model Master true blue (Federal Standard 15102) and chrome yellow (FS13538). Decals went down nicely with a little setting solution, although the white is a bit translucent.

It was while placing the numbers on the nose that I realized what I believe is the inertial starter lug is out of position — it should be lower on the cowl, not in line with the filler cap. Basically, the lug and the numbers on my model should swap locations to be accurate. You may wish to trim the decal film from the inboard edges of the wing-walk decals to improve fit.

Since my original rigging plan used wire, I installed the upper wing before rigging. I had to clamp the wing down to get it to seat fully on the strut mounts. My first attempt at rigging failed because I hadn’t allowed enough slop in the entry angle of the wires into the wing. My second attempt, using stretched sprue, failed as well.

So much for planning. I resorted to E-Z Line, which lived up to its name, but it is not the shiny silver I was hoping for.

After slightly more than 21 hours — some of it spent on my failed rigging plan — the Stearman was done. Even with all the handling and fuss, it never complained or fell apart. The kit’s detail should satisfy all but the most fastidious, and the opportunity for modeling different versions — with or without Revell’s eventual help — makes this kit a winner. I’m very happy to have finally been able to put a state-of-the-art Stearman on my shelf. Thank you, Revell!  Now how about a cropduster, and an airshow bird, and …

Note: This version of this review appeared in the September 2014 FineScale Modeler.

The shape of the Stearman was a function of the stringers and formers, but its rugged strength was due to the robust tubular structure that formed the basic structure of the fuselage.  Revell has captured this look quite well, with modeler-friendly attachment points for the included details.

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