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A BIT OF NOSTALGIA
Airfix is an established icon of the British toy industry, and many of us ex-little chaps in school ties and shorts will happily wax nostalgic over those pre-Nintendo, halcyon days of childhood, hastily gluing together our Spitfire's, Messerschmitt Bf109's and Hawker Hurricanes, before engaging in mock re-enactments of the Battle of Britain, invariably ending in British victory.
Airfix has seen some troubled times recently, but fortunately, the company was saved from going under by the timely intervention of another industry stalwart - Hornby - ensuring that its legacy would continue on for another generation - at least for the foreseeable future.
Having been an avid model-builder as a child, I got back into the hobby five or six years ago, but sadly, without the uncritical childlike innocence which allowed a new kit to be "bashed out" in a few hours with little regard to accuracy or authenticity. Like most kids, most of my models were never graced with a paint brush, or if they were, they were painted in wildly outlandish and inappropriate colours.
Instead, I am now afflicted with what is known amongst us kit-jockeys as "AMS" - Advanced Modeller's Syndrome - a result of spending hours poring over reference material to match the exact shade of the cockpit interior paint, and weathering and detailing our models to such an extent that they look like shrunken versions of actual aircraft.
A BIT OF HISTORY
The Hawker Hurricane was one of the most famous Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters of World War II, most well known for serving with distinction in the Battle of Britain, alongside its arguably more famous counterpart - the Supermarine Spitfire. The aircraft was designed by Sydney Camm in 1934, and the first flying prototype flew initially in November 1935. As well as the early Mk I, which was primarily a fighter, there was also a bomber variant - the Mk IIB. All in all, over 14,500 Hurricanes of all types were built before and during the war.
WHAT YOU GET
The kit consists of a top-opening box containing an instruction sheet, a sheet of decals (slide transfers) a couple of sprues containing the 55 light grey plastic parts and the clear canopy.
The quality of the decals - both in their printing and application to the model - are good but not great (main complaint being that the colour looks slightly off and off-centre on the roundels - but nothing that should trouble the casual modeller). Optional extras in this kit include rockets, guns and drop tanks. The landing gear can either be modelled up or down depending on your preference.
The model is in 1/72 scale, which means it is 72 times smaller than the original aircraft. Unfortunately, the manufacturing process doesn't always do the scaling down very well, and (again with a hypercritical veteran point of view) the canopy suffers because of it.
Put in context, a canopy of equivalent thickness on an original Hurricane would have been about two feet thick - meaning the pilot would barely able to see in front of him, never mind spot a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 diving at him out of the sun! That said, it is perfectly acceptable for a kit of this type.
Plastic kits are injection-moulded. That means that hot liquid plastic is forced into a mould and the result, when cooled, are the sprues, nibs and parts you see in the kit. These moulds are very expensive to make and a very rarely renewed, repaired or replaced. When they are, the kit is usually advertised as being a "new tooling" on the box.
When moulds get older, the facing parts (think of a clamp) don't fit together so well, and the hot plastic seeps out a little. Those extra bits - usually very thin and flaky - on the sprue are called "flash" and need to be trimmed off. This Hurricane mould is one of the older ones in the Airfix stable, and as such, although not a chronic problem, there will be some cleaning up of "flash" to do.
Kits also come with either "raised" or "recessed" panel lines (the parts of the kit that represent where the real-life parts come together - join lines if you would). This kit has "raised" panel lines, meaning that raised ridges are used to represent joins.
In addition (again with advanced modeller hat on) there is a significant gap left between the fuselage and the wing root when they are fitted together. Old hands like me would fill this with modeller's putty, sand it down and paint over it, but once again, this is not really a problem for the casual modeller and does not distract from the overall final appearance of the aircraft.
WHAT YOU DON'T GET
It comes a surprise to most first-timers that, unless specifically stated on the box, the kit does not include glue or paint. The side of the box will provide you with details of the paints required to finish the kit, while the instructions give specific details on where to paint what colour.
As a word of warning, the paints listed on the side of the box will include everything from the colour of the tyres, the pilot's face and clothing, to the actual camouflage scheme. As not much is actually seen of the basic cockpit once the canopy is glued into place, unless this is going to be the first of many projects, you may wish to skip those details.
Airfix has a club which modeller's can join which provides support and online resources, a badge, a "passport" with a pre-stamped Airfix Flying Hours" badge which can be collected and redeemed for more models, and a special member's only kit which is sent to you after joining.
You also get a catalogue and newsletter which you can opt to receive online (free), or in hard copy (for an additional charge). It costs around £15 a year and, in my view, is good value. The Hurricane kit includes one "Airfix Flying Hours" on its packaging.
More details here: http://www.airfix.com/official-airfix-club-membership
This kit is perfect for kids having a first bash at building an aircraft model. It is a pretty close reproduction of what a Hurricane looks like, and for most of its intended audience it gets the balance between cost (you can get the kit for around £4.99) and accuracy spot on.
I would recommend it as a first kit for someone over the age of eight, although the use of glue and paint pretty much demands some adult supervision. The instructions are quite easy to follow, and as such, an older kid could be happily left alone to build it.
© Hishyeness 2009 - parts of this review were previously published on ciao.co.uk under the same user name.