The name HMS Vanguard is a distinguished one in the Royal Navy, having been borne by 10 ships. The most famous of these were a 74 gun third rate that served as Nelsonís flagship at the Battle of the Nile, and the last big gun battleship of the R.N. that was launched soon after World War II. The name is currently proudly carried by the Vanguard class ballistic missile submarine that is the subject of this review.
The submarine HMS Vanguard, S-28, is 491 feet long, with a beam of 42 feet, and a draught of 39 feet. She displaces 15680 long tons, or 17560 short tons. This last measurement always surprises me, being used to World War II ships. She is half again as big as a standard World War II heavy cruiser! She is armed with 16 missile tubes capable of carrying the Trident missile, and 4 21Ē torpedoes.
This is my first experience building a Bronco kit, though I have several of their tank kits in the stash. This is also my first modern, i.e. post World War II, ship. Finally this is the first time Iíve specifically built a kit for review.
My first impression is where are all the parts?
Opening up the box, which is my preferred type of box, i.e. with a top and a bottom, you find one plastic bag with the hull in two pieces, separated top and bottom but NOT at the waterline, a basic base, a very small fret of P.E., the decals, one, count em one, sprue of parts, and the instructions. A grand total of 42 plastic parts, plus 4 P.E. parts.
The P.E. fret consists of one nice name plate to put onto the base, two very small name plates for the ship itself that are so small you need very good eyes to read the name, and one small piece to fold that I think is some kind of chock for mooring lines. My only gripe about the name plate is I donít know why manufacturers feel compelled to put the scale of the kit on the name plate.
I must say Iím not impressed with the packaging, or maybe Iím just spoiled by Trumpeterís excellent packaging. My model arrived with two pieces of the hull damaged. What are needed are some cardboard spacers to keep the bag with the hull from moving around the shipping box, so nothing gets broken. There is some kind of sensor, I think, that extends from the upper and lower hull at the very end of the starboard horizontal plane mounting. On my kit the lower piece is broken off completely and the upper is badly bent. The prop is supposed to mount on a shaft at the stern so that it can spin, but mine came broken. I glued the broken piece back on but I doubt it will be strong enough to support a spinning prop. Iíll have to glue the prop in place for additional strength.
The first pieces of plastic I tried to work with were the two stands that go into the base. Neither fit without quite a bit of sanding. I hope this isnít a taste of things to come as to the fit of this kit.
Before gluing the upper and lower hulls together I thought Iíd like to add some additional weight to the hull, to give it some heft. I took some kids clay and pushed it into the lower hull, then pushed a couple of fishing weights into the clay. Naturally my first attempt didnít work as I didnít allow room for the tubes for the missiles to extend far enough. I had to cut back some of the clay from the forward weight. After gluing the hull together Iím happy with the weight of the ship. I think it will sit on its base better now.
Test fitting the hull together reveal a ridge where the two pieces meet. Iím reluctant to sand this down for two reasons. First Iím not 100% sure this isnít something present on the real boat. Second I frankly donít want to screw up the hull by poor sanding.
I tried a new technique as far as gluing the hull together. Accurate Miniatures has a build log on their website for their SBD Dauntless kit. http://www.accurate-miniatures.com/builds/sbd/sbdbuild05.shtml
In one step they describe using a razor blade and a touch n flow applicator to get the glue into the seam without leaving any mess. This worked pretty well and I will use it again in the future.
The instructions call to fit the aft diving planes between the hull pieces before gluing the hull so that these planes would be movable. I was more interested in making sure the hull seem was a good as I could get it than to be able position these planes. I cut the center shaft between the planes and glued them in place from either side. I wish Bronco had taken a page from Tamiya and had given these and other pieces, some positive placement points to help align them properly. As it I had to glue them then wait for the glue to set somewhat and make sure they are horizontal. The same thing is true with the upper and lower rudders and the forward diving planes. Ideally I think Bronco should have given these a half round shaft that would make aligning the planes more exact. Iím not 100% happy with the alignment, both horizontally and vertically, of the forward dive planes.
The kit, for some reason, has two very small hatches on either side of the forward end of the sail, (conning tower). I really donít know why Bronco chose to model these separately as they are so small they are carpet monster feed just waiting to happen. Note to self, donít try putting on such small parts at 4:00 am after my shift ends. I got one cut off the sprue and glued in place, but badly. The next morning, when I was rested, I was able to get the second one to fit better.
One feature of this model is that it has two open missile tubes. These can be modeled either open or closed. For the open position the hatches have two hinges. At first I was going to keep one hatch open, the other closed, but looking at way the other missile hatches are modeled I donít believe a closed hatch would match the others. I didnít want to cut off the hinges then find I didnít like the fit of the hatch so I decided to model both in the open position. My first plan was to have one of the missiles in the open hatch, the other part way out, to show the missile. After tediously trying to paint white stripes onto the missile, which I wasnít happy with, I found I really didnít like the way the missile looked coming out of the tube. I decided to have both missiles showing in the open tube.
Major construction is now complete. I am going to leave off the propeller and its cover, and the periscopes and radar masts until I have painted the main hull. They will be the last items attached.
Painting is the most difficult part of the build so far. Thankfully there is no boot top, so I donít have to double mask. There is a fairly complicated deck to mask. I masked off the straight edges of the desk then filled in the odd curves after it dried. She doesnít look too bad from a distance, I donít know how well sheíll stand up to close scrutiny.
I always seem to make at least bonehead mistake in each build and this one was no different. The paint guide called out for semi-gloss black for the upper hull, and flat black for the deck. I mixed the semi-gloss from Tamiya gloss black, X-1, and Dark Grey, XF-24. It came out fine as to color, but dead flat. When I went to paint the deck I picked up the bottle of X-1, instead of the correct bottle of Flat Black, XF-1. So the deck is gloss black. The deck was by far the hardest thing to mask, and I plan on spraying the finished model with a dull coat anyway, so Iím leaving the deck the way it is.
When I finished painting the hull I added the prop and cover aft. As I suspected the shaft that was broken off in shipping, which I had glued back on, had broken off again during the paint process. So I had to just glue the prop and cover in place.
The decals were simple and basic, consisting of two radiation symbols, four white lines that I really donít know the purpose of, and draft marks on either side for and aft. The decals went on easily, with no silvering even without decal setting solution.
The last step of construction is mounting the periscopes, radar masts, snorkels, etc. These are very thin and hard to handle. I have not been able to get one of them to stand upright, it keeps wanting to lean aft and to port.
My plan originally was to give the boat some basic weathering. Iíve never weathered black or dark grey and I really donít know how to. I got one suggestion from another modeler on Modelshipwrights, Anthony Kochevar, to use tan pastels to weather the deck. This sounded like it would work but I decided I wanted the boat to look brand new instead and thatís how I kept her.
All in all Iím happy with this boat, and she makes a good addition to my display shelf. For those of you who think that a submarine has to be 1/144 or ever 1/72 to be fun and impressive I say a modern sub, like HMS Vanguard, can be quite a nice change. I found a supposed ďlist priceĒ of $34.95, which I frankly think is pretty high considering the few parts. More realistically Lucky Model has her for $15.29. If you are looking for a kit with tons of parts, that will take months or years to build, pass this one up. If you would like a quick, easy build, that will look nice on the shelf, perhaps something for a first ship model, or to get over modelers block, the Bronco HMS Vanguard fits the bill.