By now you may be familiar with Airfix’s 1/48 TSR.2. It’s very, very big, very, very white, and mostly very good. However, like most Airfix kits, there are places where the detail could be crisper, and you can easily triple the price of the kit by adding upgrades and accessories. The CMK undercarriage set is one of them but is unusual in that it helps you with the others too.
The kit’s undercarriage has solid plastic for all three legs and so is pretty strong. But the bogies’ attachment to the ends of the maingear legs will be a significant weak spot, especially if you feel like adding all the resin that’s now available for it. Also, the solid moulding means there are a few seam lines and mould slips, and making each leg in one piece compromises the detail. CMK’s upgrade solves this by replacing all the main structural components with white metal, and adding the fine detail in resin.
As with most white metal, there’s a bit of cleaning up to do – seam lines and flash – but there’s no mould slip, so all the lines meet all the way round. Also typical is that some parts are slightly bent, but that can be overcome with care. The resin parts are pretty clean, with only small amounts of flash; a couple had, as usual, managed to come loose, but are still in the box.
For the maingear the metal parts are pretty much direct replacements. They’re sharper detailed, with finer engraved lines and some bolt heads visible that are absent from the plastic parts. On the bogies, the shock absorbers are finer and the pick-up point for the bracing strut (more on this later) is narrower and curved more tightly. The retraction strut is resin and, again, features slimmer parts and better detailing (the white plastic makes it hard to show the finish on the kit parts).
The nosegear leg is where most of the improvements come. It’s in two main parts - unfortunately, not where the steered part meets the fixed part, so if you want to displace the nose wheels, you’ll still be in for some surgery. There’s a separate retraction strut to match the kit’s. There’s then a lot of resin for the braces at the top (integral on the kit leg), the torque scissors, and the steering gear. The zig-zag object to the top left of the lens cover in the picture showing the retraction jacks is what the kit offers for all the torque scissors; CMK gives you four separate resin parts instead. A nice touch is two clear resin landing lights. They’re not quite crystal clear but they can be worked up with a bit of a polish.
You don’t get replacement wheels. That’s not a problem, though, since the wheels – especially the mainwheels – are one of the nicest parts of the kit.
A quick test-fit indicates that the replacement maingear legs will stick out less in both planes than the kit’s. Alas, it’s hard to show in photos. As far as I can tell, the leg is a few degrees closer under the fuselage, and also raked back slightly less. This should solve one of the kit’s problems, one that has been spotted on other sites (and fixes already designed!).
The CMK set includes very nice parts for the bracing strut that extends down from near the top of the maingear leg to the rear of the bogie. This isn’t in Airfix’s instructions, although the pick-up points are present and the parts are in the box (they’re A36 and A37 if you’re wondering). This presents a slight dilemma if you want to model a what-if TSR.2. It wasn’t part of the original design but was added to cure a shimmy problem during the test programme. It’s not completely clear whether the undercarriage would have been redesigned in service – certainly, it had a lot of other problems too, so who knows? Many pictures of the prototypes show no bracing strut, while of the preserved examples, XR220 does have it. So I suppose you have to take an informed guess, or perhaps you add it and no-one will really notice. I think – though I can’t be sure – that if you leave it off, the pick-up point at the rear of the bogie will have to come off too, or at least be shortened. There are very good reference photos at http://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk/tsr2/walkaround.php
On the kit this strut adds a useful bit of extra strength. With this upgrade, it may still have the same advantage, as there remains a fundamental weakness: the joint between the maingear leg and the bogie. This will need careful gluing to ensure that the undercarriage doesn’t splay with time. It’s not really CMK’s fault, it’s just an inherent feature of the design. Although I do wonder whether the leg could have been cut short and the bottom end of it made part of the bogie, to give a stronger joint. The bogie’s articulation would have been lost, but since most TSR.2 models won’t be built with their bogies dangling, so to speak, that might not have mattered.
Now we come to the tricky bit. In the UK this set costs just over £28. That’s an awful lot for five small resin groups and half a dozen pieces of white metal, even if they are quite hefty. It’s more than the cost of some considerably larger resin upgrades for the TSR.2. But it’s the only straightforward way to get stronger undercarriage.
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