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Modelcollect's challenging B-2A Spirit

FSM reviews the pros and cons of this 1/72 scale aircraft
While Modelcollect is new to aircraft, it has been producing 1/72 scale armor for a few years. So, projects like this 1/72 scale B-2 and Modelcollect’s announced B-52 and B-1 constitute quite a leap.

My first impression of the parts in the box was good, influenced by the beautiful cover art and packaging that includes foam inserts protecting the upper and lower halves of the outer wings and center section. Pre-decorated photo-etched instrument panels are included, along with a single-part, clear windscreen and an impressive decal sheet designed by TwoBobs Aviation Graphics and printed by Cartograf.

The kit features moderately detailed wheel wells, a bomb bay with a pair of rotary weapons launchers, engines with intake and exhaust trunks, an extended boarding ladder, and separate flaps and butterfly drag rudders/ailerons. The cockpit features good detail, too, with decent ACES II seats and a rear compartment.

The recessed panel lines are a bit overstated for the scale; you probably couldn’t see them on the real thing. The overall shape is good and the parts nail the birds-bill nose and the subtle, uneven twists and dips of the leading edges. The windscreen is crystal clear but marred by a pair of flow lines from molding.

Building the kit is not so clean or simple, however. Throughout the parts, there are several ejector-pin stubs that stand proud of inner surfaces and must be removed. Few locator pins, holes, tabs, slots, or keys are present to position interior parts; poor illustrations in the wordless instructions exacerbate the problems.

For example, in the cockpit it is not clear how brackets (parts C40 and C41) attach to the arched bulkhead, and the square pins of the seat rails are bigger than the small holes in the cockpit floor. The control sticks are too short and would sit below the pilots’ knees.

The directions for building the rotating weapons launchers are puzzling. Step 13 shows four rods being added to the front half of the pylon (Part A17) in one view, and four more in the adjacent view. But it isn’t immediately clear that the adjacent view is Part A17 rotated 180 degrees. Step 14 shows adding bombs to A17 and adding bombs to the unnumbered rear part of the launcher (which is Part A18 if you are still scratching your head). Then the two bombed-up sections are brought together in Step 15. Of course, you have to repeat this process for the second launcher. I left the bombs off because I didn’t like Modelcollect’s rendition of these “dumb” bombs. Someday I might add aftermarket JDAMs.

Step 16 adds the outer and center beams of the bomb bay, but they seem to teeter on the thin strips on the belly. The beams separate the bomb bay and engine bays and hold separate door-hinge arms — 24 of them. The fore and aft bomb bay bulkheads trap the rotating launchers.

Assembling the nose-gear bay was simple, but it was a bit too wide for the recessed flange of the bay opening in the lower center section. I thinned the edges for fit. The boarding ladder is a nice touch, but the fit of its two sections is poor.

In Step 23, the cockpit is attached to the top of the nose-gear bay. But the position is unclear, and when I dry-fitted the upper center section it wouldn’t close. Instead, I glued the cockpit to the upper center section and removed the bottom rear corner of the cockpit where it interfered with the position of the bomb bay. Don’t worry about the integrity of the cockpit — you won’t be able to see anything behind the seats once the model is built.
Sinkholes marred the intake fairings, and the fairings needed filling and sanding to fit the body. The instructions suggest the separate auxiliary air intakes can be posed open, but there is no representation of hinges or actuator arms for this feature; I left them closed.

Each engine is molded in halves, to which are added an intake fan and exhaust nozzle. Then you attach the separate two-part, curved intake trunks and two-part, serpentine exhaust ducts to each engine. None of the parts are keyed for alignment, so I held off attaching the trunks and ducts until I could fit them into the upper body and align everything in situ. Once in, the engines are suspended by the ducts and trunks; otherwise, the engine bays are bare!

Adding the 24 bomb-bay hinge arms should be simple, but the illustrations don’t establish an angle. I tried to set them 90 degrees to the belly, but the engine and bomb-bay doors got in each other’s way. Since I wasn’t happy with the floating engines anyway, I closed the engine bays.

The nose-gear assembly has a large triangular frame on which the nose strut is suspended. At the top of the frame are two large square pins, and there’s another pin at the end of the retraction strut. I figured they would go into holes in the ceiling of the nose-gear bay, but there are no holes! Also unclear is how the tiny link arms attach the frame to the forward gear door.

I was pleased with the fit of the center section (once the cockpit was glued to the upper section). The joint line is underneath the leading and trailing edges and resembles the surrounding panel lines.

The outer wings were next. Each flap section is separately molded in robust halves that produce razor-sharp trailing edges, but you can’t mount them drooped. Assembly diagrams show the option of posing the outboard butterfly drag rudder/ailerons open, but there are no slots to do this and no actuators inside.

Each outer wing has a thick tab in the rear and a thin slot in the front that match corresponding slots and tabs on the center section. But these are at different angles, and you can’t insert both tabs at the same time! I cut about 1/8 inch from the ends of each tab for fit.

Since the only color guide in the instructions is for the gunship gray exterior and gloss white for the open bays, here’s some information that was missing: The cockpit should be dark gull gray (FS36231); seats should be gloss black with olive drab cushions; instrument panel coaming should be flat black; wheels are gloss white, tires dark gray; exhaust areas dark metallic; engines a variety of metallic colors; bombs could be olive drab, light gray, or blue (inert).

I painted the bays and landing gear with Tamiya spray-can fine white primer followed by gloss white. Tamiya’s spray can gunship gray dried smooth enough to accept the excellent decals without a gloss overcoat.

The decal sheet provides markings for three bombers. The decaling guide is small and there are no labels for the different sections of walkways. You’ll have to look closely to determine which section goes where.

There was no way I was going to get 50 grams of nose weight in the model, so I inserted a flexible clear-plastic tab between the center tail and the bottom of the center section to keep the nose wheels on the ground.
I spent 37 hours on my Spirit. As impressive as the finished model looks, I can recommend it only to experienced builders who can handle complex kits and interpret confusing instructions.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2018 issue.
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