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Wingnut Wings Sopwith F.1 Camel

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/32 scale plastic model aircraft kit
Despite being the mount of many Allied aces and a cartoon dog, World War I’s Sopwith Camel has not been well served in 1/32 scale. The only kits until now have been based on Hobbycraft tools, the newest of which is at least 12 years old. Wingnut Wings ends that drought in style with the release of an all-new Camel, in not one but six kits, including a “Duellist” pairing with its out-of-production LVG C.VI.

Each kit includes all the optional parts for the entire series, with differences accounted for by varying engine sprues included in the different kits. This review covers Clerget-powered variants with 130 horespower and 140 horsepower versions, depending on optional parts.

Wingnut Wing’s typical attention to detail and clever design show up everywhere. Modelers with limited biplane experience will be thrilled that the center-section cabane struts are molded in place and at the proper angle — that makes mounting the top wing a snap.

The fully appointed cockpit includes photo-etched seat belts to decorate the nicely molded wicker seat. A handful of ejector-pin marks marred the cockpit area inside the fuselage halves, but a touch of filler and sanding made them disappear.

The twin Vickers machine guns are smartly split into breech and barrel sections, helpful when installing the characteristic hump covering. That hump molding is astonishing — it is so thin it almost looks like resin. I left it off for painting so I could also install the gun barrels at the end of the build.

As usual for Wingnut kits, fit throughout was stellar. The interior takes time to finish because of the wide variety of colors and details, but that’s typical for WWI models.

The fuselage fits together like a precision instrument, including the deck over the cockpit.

Before installing the struts and other wood parts, I painted them with Tamiya deck tan (XF-55) then streaked brown artist’s oils to simulate grain. The engine and prop were finished separately. The prop alone accounted for six paint applications; I used an RB Productions prop tool to produce the laminated layers.

I added the lower wings but left off the fragile stabilizer and rudder for painting. This meant I left the rear fuselage unglued, which allowed me to mount the petite tail skid near the end of the build.

I painted the underside and the wooden upper decking Tamiya deck tan. Then I masked all of the ribs on the wings, and stringers on the fuselage, and misted on Tamiya desert yellow followed by a splotchy coat of lightened deck tan. Removing the masks revealed subtly highlighted structural elements. I mixed Tamiya dark green and olive drab to match the upper camouflage PC-10 green; masking and lighter shades reproduced the rib effects topside. The cowl received a coat of Tamiya NATO black.

The decals settled over clear gloss with heat from a hair dryer. The white on the cowl stripes is opaque, and they fit well.

I dropped the top wing into place — effortless thanks to the pre-angled cabane struts — and the outboard interplane struts clicked right into place.

I rigged the plane with EZ-Line, a stretchy nylon material. The tricky step was installing the little football-shaped tensioner in the center section of the rigging just above the guns. I drilled a tiny hole through the tiny part, then threaded two pieces of EZ-Line through and tacked them in place. Extrapolating measurements from the instructions, I calculated the length of line from the football to the wing top was 24mm. After cutting each to 22mm to accommodate tension, I attached the assembly. Like magic, the little part ended up exactly in the center. My teachers were right — math works!

After little more than 34 hours, I was over the hump and had a good-looking Camel in my stable. Except for some tricky rigging, this would be a good kit for those wanting to try their hand at WWI biplanes. The engineering brings it within reach of modelers who have a bit of experience and want to stretch their skills.

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