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HobbyBoss Dunkerque

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/350 scale plastic model ship kit
This 1/350 scale, full-hull model of the French navy’s Dunkerque is a fascinating subject. Described in Jane’s Fighting Ships as one of the most elegant battleships ever built, her cruise liner look belied that she was accorded the era’s heaviest percentage of armor protection (36.8) combined with a 31-knot speed.

Laid down in 1932, Dunkerque sailed the Atlantic early in World War II in search of raiders (including the Graf Spee). The Vichy French political situation on July 3, 1940, predicated an attack on the French fleet by its former allies at Mers-el-Kébir. Heavily damaged by 15-inch shells, she was beached and, three months later, torpedoed and depth-charged, yet sailed to Toulon, where she was scuttled Nov. 27, 1942, as the German army arrived to take over the fleet.

The kit, produced by HobbyBoss, is well packaged, with a gray plastic one-piece full hull, 21 sprues, and 6 photo-etch (PE) frets. Moldings are crisp and clear of any flash with few seams. The three-part main deck is well engineered to prevent visible seams. A decal sheet provides the ship’s name and markings for the two clear-plastic Loire 130 seaplanes.

The 24-page instruction booklet features 26 steps and 29 subassemblies. Indicated main hull color is Atlantic dark sea gray, but by 1940, in the Mers-el-Kébir scene shown on the box, it had been repainted in Mediterranean light sea gray.

The build begins with drilling locator holes on the decks for the quad 13.2mm/76 CAQ MLE 1929 Hotchkiss mounts created in Step 3. Decks are attached to the hull in Step 2. Note: The vertical parts A3 and A4 tuck back into the 02 deck level, not to the front. The locator tabs on both parts had to be shaved down to fit into foredeck slots. Searchlights, rafts, and the twin 37mm/50 CAD MLE 1933 assemble easily, but the quad 13.2mm was a bit more difficult; the two mount halves, D27 and D24, created a locator pin too large to fit the fragile PE base with seats and sights. Careful bending is required for the PE as well as the plastic mount halves. Removal of the pins solved the problem; trying to force it in, even sanded down, just bent the metal.

The plastic used for the kit is softer than most; use glue sparingly, as small parts can simply dissolve.

The lower hull parts are addressed in Step 4, and handy locator lines are imprinted to align bilge keels B49 and B50. Steps 5 and 6 assemble a fine aircraft catapult, created mostly of PE. Steps 8-10 create the two main quad 330 mm/50 (13-inch) Model 1931 turrets, complete with saluting cannons, PE railings, steps, and ladders.
Most important in Step 11 is the aft director control tower. Part A7 has a D-shaped base, but alignment is critical at Step 23; test-fit first on Part N13 in Step 17 or your tower may end up pointing in some other direction.

The Step 11 aft DCT assembly is completed in Step 15 and finally placed in Step 23. It sounds confusing, but that’s because these instructions are a scavenger hunt. Always look to later drawings to confirm your assessment of the assembly.

The second main trap is the creation of the boat cranes in Step 15, which need to align with upper supports — not noted until Step 20. It would be much better to install them together in Step 20.

Steps 12-18 are fairly easy to follow to create the posable quad 5.1-inch turrets as well as boat-deck items. The second half of Step 18 is a portion of the forward conning section which places six free-standing support posts — but wait until final placement in Step 23 to align with the 02 deck indentations. The PE railings and ladders for the upper works are well described and should be followed carefully. Each PE rail has a specific size for its location and fits well. The PE yardarms are exceptional and really complement the model.

Step 22 brings together the forward con sections, yet also creates the aft aircraft-handling crane as an afterthought. Step 24 maps the final components placement; I referred to this section throughout the build.
Step 25 builds the Loire 130 seaplane, which contains the only deformity found in the kit. The starboard boat section of the fuselage has an odd oblong shape in the boat hull that should not be there. The engine and wing floats were built up as provided with vertical supports, but need to be reworked to V-shape brackets. Finally, just one PE B30 propeller is provided for the two clear-plastic kits; you’ll need another if you want to park the second aircraft on deck. The decals fit nicely, and the look on the catapult is OK.

Step 26 presents a display stand you should not use: It is too narrow and could be a tipping disaster. Oh, yes, there is one last ladder to place on the main deck as a filler.

This is an interesting and perfectly scaled kit for an experienced out-of-the-box builder, but it lacks certain finishing details. No rigging instructions are offered, and the soft styrene does not allow consistent stretched sprue. Also, for all the precise railings on the upper works, there are none provided for the main and 01 deck edges; aftermarket items will be required before placing boarding steps.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2017 issue.
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