3. The BuildBefore I go ahead with the step-by-step description of this build, I have to make two important statements and a promise. 1st statement: I built this model under time pressure because it was part of a group build on a Romanian site which I joined in the very last moment. 2nd Statement: I had very limited time for research because the internet situation in Sint Maarten is still gloomy after passing of Hurricane Irma and I have meagre access to it. Besides, I ordered on Amazon one of Radu Brinzan’s excellent books on IAR 80/81 which got lost in the USPS Tenebrae (I eventually retrieved it but it’s still in transit at the time of writing this review). The Promise: I will be back with a new build on this aircraft (as White 344) as soon I buy a new kit, I clarify all the research voids and I have the necessary time to make a more detailed construction.
Step-By-Step:I have done this build following closely the instructions, and therefore I’m going to present it as the instructions manual suggests:
Step 1: assembly of the cockpit, seat harness and control levers. The whole fret of PE parts is consumed here. The detail on the rudder pedals is a little over-simplified but isn’t all that visible once the cockpit buttoned up. There is no flash to deal with and the fit is exemplary. The control levers fit in keyed holes thru the cockpit floor, so the parts can be glued (not that any glue is required) from the invisible side, avoiding the risk of glue marks.
Step 2: attachment of the instrument panel to the dashboard. Here I had my first problem with the decals. The carrier film turned very soft and curled against itself. I was afraid until the last moment I won’t be able to complete the task but eventually I was lucky. As you may note in the supporting picture, the center one is offset at one corner, because I wasn’t able to unfold it properly after it stuck to itself. On the positive side, the decals are very malleable and conform easily to the panel’s raised detail. I didn’t install the deflector sight at this step because I forgot to paint it first. I went ahead instead and attached the tail skid, the dashboard and the fire extinguisher to the appropriate fuselage side.
Step 3: joins the fuselage halves and the cockpit / seat assembly. No problem whatsoever.
Step 4: the engine assembly. That was the only instance on this build where I encountered alignment and flash issues. The cylinder heads have hard to clean flash and the push rods ring (part C5) doesn’t align properly to the assembly. Probably one can adjust the alignment issue by fiddling with the locator pins, but myself I wasn’t paying enough attention and I have to correct the problem by holding the rods with a pincer into position one by one until the glue set. It worked out. I also have installed the exhaust pipes at this step.
Step 5: joining the upper wing halves to the bottom half. This is easily done because the engineering is gorgeous. The wing tips are molded with the upper sides and not split between halves. This solves the common problem of over-scale thickness as well as the ever-present seamline. The only complaint is the “stick” look of the MGs, molded with the lower wing. I should have them removed and replaced with stretched tube or hypodermic needles but the time factor decided against me and I let it go. This is one aspect I’m going to address in my next build for sure.
Step 6: adding together the wings and fuselage assemblies. Again, Hobby Boss turned this normally difficult step into a piece of cake. The join line are well concealed by the aircraft’s “anatomy”. I needed just a drop of filler liquid over the rear joint, but this could be again my lapse in preparing the parts prior to joining them.
Step 7: sees the installation of ailerons / flaps, rudder and tail stabilizers. Because the war time pictures show almost invariably the tail control surfaces and the flaps in dropped position, I decided to make some surgery which went easily. What a blessing would have been if Hobby Boss would have presented us with separate parts!
Step 8: attachment of the canopy halves and engine cowling halves. I assembled the cowling halves but I haven’t installed it right away because a visible seam line appeared between halves. I decided to correct the issue and paint the cowling interior before bonding it. I masked the canopy halves but I attached definitively only the front one. The sliding aft half I used only for masking purposes and secured it temporarily in place with white glue.
Steps 9 & 10: construction of the main undercarriage (left, respectively right). I built them as separate sub-assemblies because a few parts needed to be pre-painted before joining.
Step 11: attachment of undercarriage to the wings. I skipped this step to ease the painting process and to avoid accidents which I’m pretty much prone to.
Step 12: this last step puts together the small exterior details: the antenna mast, the radiator housing, the radiator drip pipes, the counter-weights for the ailerons, the propeller and the propeller hub. First went in the radiator drip pipes, whom I hollowed in first. The radiator housing secured firmly the engine cowling to the fuselage. I added then the counter-weights for the ailerons, without realizing that they will interfere that much with the painting process. Later on I tear them off and added them back after I finished the painting / weathering process. Same happening with the antenna mast. I knocked it down twice during masking / painting. Fortunately, it didn’t break and I re-installed it later. The propeller and the propeller hub I assembled and painted separately, also saving the assembly to the plane for later. The pilot tube was the only part damaged from the box. With the hindsight, I’m actually happy it was broken because it forced me into a scratch building a new one. The kit provided part is unfortunately another featureless “stick”.
Although the box art suggests some rivet lines, there is almost none on the kit’s surface. On the real aircraft, the rivets are quite prominent and I decided to use for the first time my newly acquired rivet maker from Trumpeter. I choose not to duplicate the whole horde of rivets from the drawings, but just a few lines for that “extra” visual interest. I don’t think was the wisest of choices, since my lack of experience corroborated with almost no visibility offered by the tool gave me “doubtful” results at best. It was a valuable experience however and I’m thinking of modifying the rivet maker for better visibility. Buying another design it’s also an option and more practising is a must!
3.4. Conclusions to the build
Comprising only 69 crisp molded parts, the build is fast and trouble-free. On the reverse, the number of options is quite limited to raised/lowered gear and closed/open canopy. Some detail needs to be modified or replaced (MG barrels, radiator drip hoses, front antenna wire insulator). The main advantage of the kit is the clever engineering which accelerates the build. Roughly, I think I build this kit in three days with scarce modeling time at my disposal. For whoever has the time, should be a “week-end” build. I also appreciated the fact that Hobby Boss added just the necessary modicum of PE parts.