Rowan takes a look at Airfix's new-tool 1:48 Bristol Bulldog.


I think I'm correct in stating that it's over 40 years since Airfix have released a 1:48 kit of an interwar biplane. That was the Hawker Fury, which has been re-released several times since - surely proving the genre's appeal among modellers. 

The "Golden Age" of aviation has long been a personal favourite subject, so I was delighted when Airfix announced a brand-new kit of the Bristol Bulldog, which entered service with the RAF in 1929 and is synonymous with the era, soldiering on in front-line service until 1937 despite its obvious obsolescence. The Bulldog never saw combat with the RAF, but it was quite widely exported and served with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and, notably, with the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War, where Ylikersantti (Staff Sergeant) Toivo Uuttu downed a far more advanced and technologically superior Soviet I-16 monoplane, despite being outnumbered 3:1.

The Kit

Airfix's Bulldog arrives in a very attractive top-opening box, with the main parts bagged together and the transparencies protected from scratches in their own bag. The instructions are folded around the decals at the bottom of the box. Everything arrived safe and sound in my kit that I ordered online from Jadlam Racing.

The kit comprises:

115 x grey styrene parts

5 x clear styrene parts

Decals for 3 x colour schemes

The moulding is excellent throughout, with hardly a wisp of flash (as you'd hope with a freshly-tooled kit) and  no signs of sinkage in my example. Ejection pins have been placed thoughtfully as far as I can judge on a quick inspection - importantly, the cockpit is totally clear of them. Runner attachments are on the glueing edges of the main airframe parts to preserve surface detail, and you'll find quite a lot of ejection "tags" on smaller parts - a small price to pay for the fine and unmarred detail they allow. 

The designers have done an excellent job with the exterior finish, with a subtle fabric-covered effect on the flying and control surfaces, and a nice mix of metal panels and drum-tight fabric on the fuselage. Engraving is neatly done and the fuselage panels have raised fasteners. Overall, the finish should give an excellent impression of a well-maintained airframe.

It's not really practical to dry-assemble much of the kit, because Airfix have aimed it at more experienced modellers rather than compromise accuracy for an easier build. So, expect to spend some time ensuring that everything is aligned square and true - and if you have a biplane assembly rig it'll probably come in handy. The design looks very precise, though, so I don't foresee any problems if you're careful.

A Few Details

The cockpit is nicely fitted out, comprising some 16 parts. The seat is broken down into 3 parts to allow some fine detail, and the instrument panel is supplied with excellent decals for the faces. The interior structure is moulded pretty finely - probably as delicate as can be done safely - and it will be worth ensuring there are no moulding lines to get as a true-to-scale effect as you can.

The engine is quite a complex affair, with separate 2-part cylinders for a total of 25 parts. It should look excellent.

There are some nice detail touches on the exterior. For instance, the wheels have a subtle fabric effect and stitching on their hubs with spokes depicted in the openings. The tyres are "un-weighted", so I'll add slight "flats".

The kit includes an underwing rack with 4 x 20lb bombs and a camera-gun mounted on the top wing.

The clear parts are very nicely moulded. Don't get fooled by the windscreen that looks like a short-shot - it is correct.

Instructions & Decals

The instruction booklet is printed on plain paper with colour-shaded diagrams. Construction is broken down into  74 stages and, while the diagrams themselves are clear, I think the layout is a bit cluttered. As usual with modern Airfix instructions, I'm not a fan of the way prior assemblies are counter-intuitively highlighted in red (a warning colour in the rest of the modelling world) - and not always consistently at that.

What is very welcome is that Airfix have included a comprehensive guide to rigging the kit spread over 4 pages with large illustrations. I noted above that general airframe construction will require a little extra care, and this is especially true if you choose to rig the model. 

Airfix include colour call-outs for Humbrol paints throughout. 

Decals are included for the following aircraft:

Bristol Bulldog Mk. II, s/n J-9576, 3 Sqn., RAF, 1929

Bristol Bulldog Mk. II, s/n J-9576, 3 Sqn., RAF, 1929

Bristol Bulldog Mk. II, s/n K-1088, 17 Sqn., RAF, 1930

Bristol Bulldog Mk. II, s/n K-1088, 17 Sqn., RAF, 1930

Bristol Bulldog Mk. II, s/n A121-1, No. 1 FTS, RAAF, 1930s

Bristol Bulldog Mk. II, s/n A121-1, No. 1 FTS, RAAF, 1930s

The decals are custom-printed for Airfix by Cartograf so, as you can imagine, they are superb quality. The finish is glossy, with pin-sharp registration and no excess carrier film except where it's used to group elements.

The colours and design look excellent, and a nice touch is the inclusion of separate serial numbers to allow you to use decals or paint the rudder stripes.

What was a bit of a shock in my kit was to find a prominent brown stain on the sheet. At first I thought it was ink-bleed (unheard of in my experience with Cartograf), but the culprit turned out to be a sticky blob of "guck" on the back of the decal sheet. I don't know whether that happened during the printing or packing stage, but it's disappointing that it crept through final inspection. Touch wood, it won't affect the decals in use...


Airfix's new Bulldog is a real gem of a kit. It's aimed fair and square at modellers with at least a bit of experience, because (thankfully) it hasn't compromised on things in order to make for an easier biplane build. That shouldn't put anyone off, though, because the design and engineering look excellent - just don't expect linked interplane struts fitting into unrealistic trenches in the wings.

Hopefully, the new Bulldog will be the resounding success that it deserves to be and encourage Airfix to produce more new-tool 1:48 kits of "Golden Age" aircraft - a Hawker Hart and its stablemates for starters. Thoroughly recommended for anyone with a few biplane builds under their belt.

Item #A05141 is available now from Airfix - Price: £28.99

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