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Revell 1/48 scale SR-71 Blackbird plastic model kit review

Watch out for silvering decals on this otherwise superb kit
Kit:85-5720 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$69.95
Revell USA (Sample courtesy of mfr.)
Good detail and fits; full intake trunks
Decals silver easily
Injection-molded plastic (gray, clear); 170 parts; decals

The Blackbird was a wild stallion of an airplane and so amazing that I’m surprised it took this long to see an updated kit. Testors’ 1983 offering was good for its time, but it is great to have Revell’s all-new tooling that features modern detailing. But is it worth the money and effort?  


Before I get started, I should point out that there appear to be two different boxings of the kit: the North American version (the sample FSM received and is featured in this review) and the Revell Germany kit, which includes a display stand and two complete engines.


Inside the box, a separate cardboard insert supports and protects the large upper and lower fuselage halves. Underneath, several parts trees, a 36-page color instruction manual, and two beautifully printed decals sheets with four marking options round out the contents.


A sturdy, thick spine that runs three-quarters of the way through the fuselage along with three perpendicular bulkheads give the completed model strength and rigidity. I found this a huge help while sanding so I didn’t have to risk popping a seam when putting pressure on the body.


The nose gear bay has molded plumbing and equipment. The main gear bays are a little less detailed, but all look good when completed. The well-represented landing gear legs must be installed before the fuselage goes together, but they attach on swivel points if you leave the actuators loose.


The main gear actuators proved to be the only problem I encountered in the build. They are too long and cant the main struts off center. I trimmed off about a 1/16 inch from each where they attached to the bay; the other end has a pin to attach to the leg. It was an easy fix and didn’t produce a weak point. The landing gear is stiff and strong enough to hold the heavy model. I question the instruction callout for the gear legs to be painted steel (iron). My references indicate they should be black.


Harnesses are molded onto the multipart ejection seats and detailed instrument panels with decals are provided for both the pilot and reconnaissance systems operator (RSO). I had trouble getting the decals to conform to the molded panels despite multiple applications of Mircoscale Micro Sol. A hair dryer helped.


The kit provides full intakes and front compressor fans. While a great bit of realism, you can’t see much of them beyond the conical center bodies. At the other end, multipart flame holders and exhaust nozzles add detail. The compressor and exhaust assemblies mount to bulkheads that support the three-part engine nacelle molded with the outer wings. I recommend test-fitting the assemblies to understand how they go together before gluing. Everything on this model gets awkward simply because of its sheer size.


Optional nose cones are given, so you’ll need to decide which marking option you are building before Step 40. You also have the choice to pose the gear up, but since no stand is provided in the North American version of the kit, you’d have to find or make one for inflight display. The refueling probe can also be posed opened or closed.


Despite all the control surfaces being separate, they can only be posed in neutral position. The canopies seem a bit thick, but they don’t detract from the model’s appearance.


I modeled the Blackbird now on display at the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center outside of Washington, D.C. Although bright, crisp, and clean, some of the scores of stencil decals silvered even over a coat of Pledge Floor Gloss.


Revell’s SR-71 provides a much-needed 1/48 scale up-to-date kit of what was and still is an amazing aircraft. It’s a relatively easy build despite the size and well worth your time. Hopefully, a YF-12, A-12, or SR-71B version will be forthcoming.
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