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Bandai “Star Wars” Snowspeeder

In a universe filled with some of the coolest science-fiction vehicles, the Snowspeeder that played a central role in the Battle of Hoth in "The Empire Strikes Back" stands out. Fast and maneuverable, the diminutive craft, properly known as the modified Incom T-47 Airspeeder, proved itself against Imperial forces before the rebel base was overrun.

There have been kits of the Snowspeeder before, including AMT/Ertl's box-scale offering, with its infamous Michelin Man crew, and Fine Molds' reportedly good 1/48 scale kit.

Bandai recently acquired a "Star Wars" license and has been aggressively releasing kits in 1/72 and 1/48 scales.

Typical of Bandai's Gundam and Starblazers kits, the speeder is molded in colors to match the filming miniatures. Sometimes there are different colors on the same sprues; in this kit, Bandai has dark gray, medium gray and, most surprisingly, clear plastic on a single frame. Waterslide decals are complemented by a set of identical stickers. Combine that with near snap-fit construction and you have a model that a novice could easily build into a convincing replica. Something to keep in mind for the 'Star Wars' fan in your life; these kits are a perfect entry point to the hobby.

The instructions are in Japanese, but the diagrams clearly show part numbers along with explicit locations.

The moldings are first-rate. Finely engraved panel lines and a few fasteners mark the surface of the body parts and control surfaces.

The cockpit includes detailed walls, seats, and controls. A lot of decals provide the instruments and controls inside the cockpit, but they are difficult to conform to the molded detail. I mostly used Micro Sol to settle them, resorting to Mr. Mark Softer for the most stubborn ones. I painted the cockpit with Tamiya German gray, then used black artist’s oil washes and medium gray dry-brushing to make the details pop.

The figures wear well-rendered rebel flight suits and helmets with decal insignia. The pair look similar, but pay attention — they are different.

Once the cockpit is installed, the build moves quickly with few problems. Fit is positive throughout.

Two canopy options are provided. One provides the entire frame with a separate clear insert for the glass to pose the cockpit closed. The other has the sections, including the frames, molded in clear plastic to show the canopy open. I chose the former, painting the frame separate and installing the clear part at the end of the build.

The air brakes can be deployed or stowed using optional actuator arms. Terrific detail marks the bays for the upper air brakes.

The decals include most of the panels but were the only letdown in an otherwise terrific project. In addition to a noticeable printing pattern, many of the panels are too dark compared to images of the filming miniature. Next time, I'll mask and paint the panels. On the plus side, the decals come off the backing paper easily and respond well to Mr. Mark Setter and Mr. Mark Softer. Despite the clunky printing, the result looks spot-on with all of the tiny stencils and warning labels.

The stand has a snowscape base, and the movable head means the craft can be posed at almost any angle of attack. Transparent red rods can be inserted in the cannons for laser bolts. There's even a harpoon cable for the stern.

Bandai has hit the ground running with its "Star Wars" kits, and the result is a terrific blend of detail and accuracy, ease of construction, and accessibility. Most of all, it was a blast to build.

I recommend the Snowspeeder to anyone from youngling to master with an interest in George Lucas' world. Even  before gluing the last piece, I was flying my Snowspeeder around the workshop, making attack runs at the cat, and shouting, "Use your harpoons and tow cables. Go for the legs!"

Note: A version of this review appeared in the October 2015 FineScale Modeler.
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