First released some 25 years ago, Tamiya's Beaufighter still holds up well against modern mainstream kits and is a very affordable basis for a very fine model. Straight from the box the cockpit isn't at all bad, with some decent detail on the tub and fascias, but there's naturally still plenty of scope to add more, so it's good to see Eduard revisit this classic kit with a pair of contrasting upgrade sets in their LööK and SPACE series.
Item 644162 - Beaufighter Mk. VI LööK
Starting with the simplest, the LööK set tackles the instrument panel and provides colour-etched harnesses for the pilot's and observer's seats to replace Tamiya's decal versions. It arrives with the resin panel and etched fret on a cardboard backing. Here, as usual, I have my one gripe about these LööK sets - the fret is glued to the backing and the glue that Eduard use is too strong, so it's easy to damage the etched fret as you remove it. It really does require care, and it's a silly issue that could easily be improved on.
Once you've got the parts free, the new resin panel is very nicely done. It's crisply cast in black resin with detailed bezels and switches etc. There's no need for painting or decals because it comes with pre-coloured bezels and detailed instrument faces. To finish the job Eduard have glazed bezels so, with minimum preparation, the panel's ready to drop in as a straight replacement for the kit part and it offers much more detail. You'll have to take extra care if you want to weather it - e.g. dry-brushing to highlight the edges slighting - because you'll risk losing some of the painted detail (drops of liquid mask will protect the instrument faces).
Needless to say, the new seat harnesses are a massive improvement over the kit's decals - it really is in a different league entirely. To install the harnesses you'll need to open-up small holes in the seat backs to feed the straps through. This will be a fiddly task, because the positions of the holes are marked on the plastic parts. Unfortunately, although the instructions include dimensions for the holes, they don't provide measurements to locate them. So, you'll have to rely on your Mk.1 eyeballs. Once you've drilled the holes and file them to shape, the etched parts include raised surrounds to glue in place.
The parts come with a small sheet of instructions, mostly devoted to fitting the seatbelts.
All in all, this is a neat and straightforward upgrade for anyone wanting to give the kit cockpit a worthwhile boost, particularly if you don't intend to use Tamiya's crew figures.
Item 644162 - Beaufighter Mk. VI LööK is available now from Eduard - Price: £5.48
Item 3DL 48074 - Beaufighter Mk. VI SPACE
Taking things up a notch, the SPACE set once again includes etched seatbelts, but this time adds details all around the pilot's "office", with items for the consoles and cockpit sides as well as the instrument panel.
The 3D decals are beautifully printed with precise registration and a good amount of depth to the raised details. Once again the instrument faces are glazed, and I think the precaution noted above about weathering is valid here too. The colours look good - crucially, the Grey-Green used is believable and you should be able to blend it in with model paints without much trouble.
The parts include a 3-ply instrument panel, plus fascias to add to the throttles and various consoles on the cockpit tub. The cockpit sills are blank in the kit, so Eduard provide equipment to line each side. The etched fret also comes into play here, with a number of levers and wheels to add, plus a couple of small boxes to fold to shape. The latter are going to be a bit fiddly and will likely challenge newcomers to working with etched parts.
As you'd expect because of the extra parts, the instructions are more comprehensive with this upgrade, breaking things down into 9 manageable stages. The diagrams are clear - but again you're left to guestimate where to drill the holes in the seat backs for the etched harness straps.
Item 3DL 48074 - Beaufighter Mk. VI SPACE is available now from Eduard - Price £7.30
The extreme magnification in the close-up photos here really doesn't do either set any favours; to the naked eye, both are highly impressive. The seatbelts are identical in both sets and, in terms of which to choose for the instrument panel, both have their advantages; the resin LööK panel boasts crisper 3D depth, whereas the SPACE is multi-layered and the set obviously includes parts for the rest of the cockpit. For the sake of the extra couple of quid, I'd go for the SPACE set because the items dotted around the cockpit sills will make a noticeable difference - just be aware that you'll need some experience working with small etched parts to make the most of it.
Many thanks to Eduard for the review samples.
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