Online Review
     
 
Kit: TM61053
 
Bristol Beaufighter VI
 
      Scale: 1/48  
Manufacturer: Tamiya
Medium: Plastic
Paint: AeroMaster, Humbrol, & Testors
Builder: Glen Phillips
Accessories: AeroMaster AN48341, Whispering Death Part II

References: Beaufighter in Action, SS1153, Squadron/Signal publications, 1995
Beaufighter, Warpaint #1, HB0001, Hall Park Publications, No Copyright Date.


Remarks: See Below


  For many years, the Bristol Beaufighter was somewhat ignored by the model companies. There were some elderly injection molded 1/72nd scale kits from both Airfix and Frog/Novo issued during the 1960s, and later a 1/72 scale kit issued by Matchbox during the 1970s. Revell issued a 1/32nd scale kit which is still available. But, what of 1/48th scale? Modelers were limited to a vacuform kit from a company whose name escapes me... must have been a memorable kit.

   Then Accurate Miniatures, a small, but excellent manufacturer of 1/48th scale kits, announced the future release of three new Beaufighters. Not to be outdone, Tamiya announced a Beaufighter Mk VI - apparently as a surprise to everyone - and issued it a few months later.    

   The Tamiya Beaufighter Mk VI consists of six sprues of gray plastic, one clear sprue, a decal sheet with markings for three different aircraft, and a ten page instruction booklet. This is NOT a weekend project. Tamiya has broken out the parts for different variants. Some of these variants have already been issued in the form of a Beaufighter Mk VI Night Fighter (TM61064) and a Beaufighter TF.X Torpedo Bomber (TM61067).

   Construction starts with a fairly complete and well-detailed cockpit. I followed the kit instructions in painting the interior RAF Interior Green, and then painted the instrument panels and electrical boxes flat or semi-gloss black. I used a white Prismacolor pencil and a drop of clear gloss to pick out the instruments. You do not have to spend a lot of extra time detailing the cockpit.

   Beaufighter crews entered the aircraft through a pair of hatches in the belly of the aircraft. These hatches were also their primary means of escape in an emergency. Consequently, there are no opening canopies through which to view the interior.


   Tamiya has provided the upper escape panel in the pilot's canopy as a separate part, but it's fairly small and only allows a limited view.    

   Fuselage and wing construction went quickly. The fit was excellent (which I've come to expect on Tamiya kits). I found it easier to lightly clamp the fuselage and wings components together and then apply Tenax 7 cement with a ruling pen. The Tenax 7 cement runs through joins creating a strong welded, bond and dries fast; I was able to remove the clamps in 10 to 15 minutes.    

   The joints were ready for a light sanding within two hours. The only areas that required putty were the two oil cooler intakes flanking the engine nacelles. I used superglue to join the wingtip light covers to the wings. After 15 minutes, I used gap filling superglue and a fine sanding stick to fill in the small gaps. I polished out the light covers with a Tri-Grit sanding Stick (SQ30505). This effectively removed the scratches and restored a clear gloss look to the clear plastic.    

   I've heard that there is some spurious detail on the kit in the form of raised panels on the wings. It was pointed out that these were patches over some battle damage on the aircraft used to master the kit. Tamiya faithfully reproduced the patches. Well, maybe If it's battle damage, it's awfully symmetrical, since the patches appear in the same spots on both wings.    

   One other concern I had is the accuracy of the wing gun bay panels. The kit gun bay panels are also symmetrical, but it has been pointed out that the panels over the left wing should be half the size of those on the right wing. The reasoning is that the left wing only carries two .303 caliber machine guns versus the four carried in the right wing. A landing light takes up the additional space in the left wing. The picture gets a bit fuzzier if you start modeling an Australian-built Beaufighter Mk 21. Further research is warranted.

The main landing gear components were built and painted separately. The wheel, strut, wheel well can be plugged into the nacelles after the kit has been painted.
Fine brass rod was used for the cowl braces. The exhaust collector ring around the front of the cowl was painted a mixture of dark brown and gunmetal.

  One item I did have to fix was the trim tab actuators on the upper elevator surfaces. Upper actuators seem to be correct for a few Beaufighters, however, actuators on this aircraft, indeed most Mk VIs, were placed on the underside of the elevators. The kit actuators were sliced off and new ones were made out of Sheet Styrene and thin brass rod. This operation took no more than 10 minutes.

   After the airframe was complete, I turned my attention to the landing gear. You can paint and assemble the landing gear as separate sub assemblies and leave them out of the model until it's finished. The kit wheels represent the late pattern solid wheel hub. Early wheels had a five-spoked wheel on the outside.    

   I painted the engine cylinders gunmetal, applied a black-brown oil paint wash, and then dry brushed the cylinders with flat aluminum. I left the engines out of the cowlings until after the airframe was painted, decaled, and weathered.

   Tamiya provides markings for three different Beaufighter Mk VIs: a desert scheme in Midstone and Dark Earth; a scheme of Dark Green and Ocean Grey, and a night fighter scheme in overall flat black.    

   I wanted something different, so I turned to the two 'Whispering Death' decal sheets from AeroMaster. I selected the Dark Green and Dark Earth over Sky camouflage of an Australian Beaufighter. I used AeroMaster painted for all three camouflage colors. I kept a soft edge between the two upper colors, but masked off the demarcation line between the upper and lower colors. I sprayed a lighter tint of each color into the middle of each panel, stopping just short of a panel line or another color. This is a fairly common fade-and-shade technique for those modelers that like the look.

   I applied the decals over a gloss coat and then applied a clear flat over the decals to seal them. I sprayed a thin coat of Medium Sea Grey over the decals to tone them down. The mix is about 10% paint to 90% thinner. I used AeroMaster's thinner to thin the paint. I painted the exhaust collector rings on the front of the cowl a mix of dark brown and gunmetal. This gives the collector rings a rich, burnt metal look.    

   Now comes the fun part - weathering. I sprayed a thin mixture of black and dark brown over the engine nacelles and wings and picked out the main panel lines and control surfaces with black-brown watercolor.    

   Next, I pulled off the cowlings and added the engines. I decided to add the cowl braces using thin brass rod. These braces radiate from the engine crankcases out to the exhaust collector rings. I've seen photos and read descriptions that indicate anywhere from three to five braces were used - and they weren't always symmetrically placed. I didn't add the exhaust manifolds leading from the engine cylinders to the collector ring.    

   I added the landing gear and propellers next. The props were painted Tire Black and dry brushed with gray. I dry brushed the outer third of the propeller blades' rear faces with flat aluminum.    

   I broke out an assortment of black, gray, green, tan, and brown chalk pastels to further weather the model. I concentrated on maintenance access panels and areas stained by the engines, guns, or dripping oils.    

   This is an excellent kit. Its large size, combined with an assortment of after market decals, also makes it a striking addition to your display cabinet. I think I'll tackle a desert camouflaged Beau next. And this time, I'll stay in the modeling tunnel a bit longer.                                

                             Glen Phillips

Two different shades of the upper surface camouflage colors were used to simulate a worn and faded finish. The decals were toned down with a thin coat of Medium Sea Grey.
The kit elevator trim tab actuators were removed and replaced by new actuators made from Sheet Styrene and brass rod. This touch of "accurizing" took only minutes.
In my opinion weathering takes a model one step closer to the look a miniature airplane and a step further away from being a model. I've heard casual observers exclaim, "How real it looks". When looking at nicely weathered model.