It's funny how things work out sometimes - we've actually managed to review Czech Model's impressive new T-33 (reviewed by Jean-Luc HERE
) before the F-80 which was released last year. Oh well, no matter, better late than never, and thanks to our friends at Squadron we now have a chance to tackle this exciting kit too.
Jean-Luc had warned me that the F-80 was big, so seeing the package that arrived was something of an anti-climax: the box is good and solid, with an attractive boxtop illustration, but it's surprisingly compact. However, opening it revealed what Jean-Luc meant! My first reaction on seeing the size of the fuselage halves was "Good grief!" (or words to that effect...). It simply dwarfs a 1:32 Spitfire or Bf 109, and there's a really satisfying muscular and pugnacious quality about the F-80 in this scale that I wasn't really expecting, my only previous builds of the type being the old Airfix and Monogram kits about 30 years ago.
The kit arrived with all the parts bagged for protection (although one or two of the smaller resin parts had still taken a knock - see the pictures) and comprises:
77 x grey styrene parts
12 x clear injected parts
24 x resin parts
9 x colour photo-etched parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The kit is something of a joint venture, with the main parts produced by MPM, the resin by True Details, the etched details by Eduard and, finally, the decals by Cartograf.
MPM are my favourite semi-limited run manufacturer, and their work fully exemplifies the enormous strides in this sector of the market over recent years, but there is still a "short-run" quality to some aspects of the Shooting Star.
The main moulding style is quite clean, with a nice smooth surface finish overall, but there are a few blemishes and mould lines to deal with here and there - and remember, you'll need a really polished surface to make the most of the natural metal colour schemes. Surface detail comprises nicely engraved panel lines and some very effective raised panels such as the wing root fairings. The ailerons are depicted with the same weight scribed lines as the rest of the wing panels, so I think they really need "beefing up" a little to differentiate them (the elevators and rudder stand out a bit better). There's not a lot of flash to worry about, and only a couple of minor sink marks. There are a few ejector pin marks to take care of, but the plastic is quite soft and they are easy to trim off prior to a test-fit of the major components.
Why do I say "the main moulding style"? Well, quite simply because one of the sprues is completely different to the rest. While the bulk of the parts are moulded in MPM's familiar recent style, one sprue is not only moulded more cleanly, but the parts on it are also crisper in themselves as though CAD-produced - the look is more "Gavia" than "MPM" if that makes sense. It's very intriguing and possibly a taste of things to come from this manufacturer...
The main parts have no locating pins, but the fuselage halves tape together easily and the panel lines match up nicely. The wings comprise a full-span lower half with separate top panels, and the trailing edges are good and sharp and with no warping. The leading edge is a bit odd in that, although it's thin, it's also rather blunt and angular, so rounding it a bit won't go amiss.
Fitting the wings to the fuselage is pretty encouraging - true, there's a bit of an ugly joint to sort out under the rear fuselage, but the wing roots are excellent and the separate intakes line-up quite neatly.
The stabilizers aren't the best fit in the world and will need some careful trimming to avoid gaps, and also thinning somewhat to match the roots.
A few details
The cockpit comprises quite a simple tub which is a bit bland, and looking at the photos of a preserved F-80C "office" on the US Cockpits website
it's immediately clear there's a lot more detail you can add to the side consoles. There's a rather unfortunate seam running through the moulded details, so that's maybe added encouragement to scratchbuild some items. Czech Model provide a choice of instrument panels - a very crisply moulded styrene version that looks great, but is still outshone by the pre-painted etched alternative - that really is a beauty with its minuscule text on the data plates.
The ejector seat is provided in as a one-piece resin item, and is very nicely detailed and cast. But I'm not totally convinced by the seat on two counts:
● Firstly, the harnesses do look very thin and, although they are draped convincingly, it's going to be tempting to trim them off and replace them.
● The second point is the style of the seat itself. The Ejection Site
shows a different version for the F-80, with the kit seat matching that of the T-33. However, it looks like the T-33-style seat fitted in the preserved a/c mentioned above, so it could well be that the seat was changed over the course of the F-80 production run. This seems to be borne out by the Avionix/Combat Series upgrade set
produced by Squadron for the kit which includes "early" and "late" style seats, along with a much more detailed cockpit.
Turning to the wheel wells, there's again plenty of scope to add more detail if you want to, but the basics are there. Czech Model give a choice of resin and styrene wheels, and the resin versions definitely show more detail. They also provide two different styles of hubs and treads, with 8- and 12-spoke mainwheels (although apparently only the latter are appropriate for production F-80s) and 6- and 12-spoke nosewheels. Both styles of nosewheel appear in Squadron's "In Action", so you'll have to check your references to judge which was fitted to any particular aircraft. More of a worry is the nosewheel leg, which has been moulded "reversed" so the wheel is attached on the wrong side. It's not a difficult fix, but it's odd that it slipped through unnoticed before the kit was finalised (proof, maybe, that the most obvious things are sometimes hardest to spot).
The control surfaces and flaps are all moulded in situ
, but the speed brakes can be positioned open.
There's a selection of underwing stores provided - a pair of bombs and standard or "Misawa" drop tanks. Now, I hasten to admit that I'm only going by the Squadron's "In Action" book, but the nose of the "Misawa" tanks does look too short compared with the clearest photo in that publication.
The canopy and other transparencies are beautifully moulded and crystal clear. The one obvious thing that the sliding section of the canopy lacks is the embedded antenna. I think it's forgivable that Czech Model didn't try to mould this, because most attempts that I've seen look very heavy. A decal might work (or not) - it's a tricky one. I suppose somebody very daring could try scribing on the inside of the canopy, but that's a job best left to the experts...
Instructions & decals
The instructions are certainly a radical change from the previous Czech Model kits I've seen. Gone are the hand-drawn diagrams of old, and in their place are full-colour rendered CAD images in a glossy A-4 pamphlet, rather reminiscent of Eduard's Fokker D.VII of a few years ago. I have to admit that I'd prefer a smaller booklet with more pages to take up less room on the workbench, but the style of the illustrations works well, maintaining clarity while being very attractive. Construction is laid out logically in 31 easy to manage steps and generic colour notes are keyed to many of the parts.
There are full-colour painting guides for the three decal options provided, along with a full-page stencil placement diagram. The cour schemes are:
1. F-80C-10-LO 49-650 "Saggin Dragon", 16th FIS, 51st FIW, Suwon, Korea, March 1951
2. F-80C-10-LO 49-423, flown by Lt. Col. Levi Chase, 8th FBG, Suwon, Korea, March 1952
3. F-80C-10-LO 49-765, "Li'l Dottie", flown by Lt. Roy Marsh, 80th FBs, 8th FBG, Taegu, Korea, Dec 1950
The decals are beautifully printed by Cartograf and well up to their usual impeccable standard - thin, glossy and in perfect register. "Saggin Dragon" will represent a challenge in matching the blue of the fuselage stripes for the nose which must be painted. FS 35180 is quoted (although, surely, it should be gloss?), but the decals don't quite match my FS colour chips, so you may choose to paint everything for consistency.
Coming to this kit late is a little odd because I know it's been the subject of some debate on modelling forums. I've consciously avoided reading them so I could judge the kit "cold". There are areas where you can add more detail but, overall, Czech Model's F-80 looks set to build into a big and very impressive model - certainly, not one that will "build itself", and I wouldn't recommend it to beginners, but modellers experienced with short-run kits should find it a very rewarding project.
To take full advantage of the opportunity of the F-80 and T-33 arriving together, Jean-Luc and I will be embarking on our second Dual-Build. Tackling Eduard's Fw 190D was great fun and the big Shooting Stars look set to be equally so, with a whole new set of modelling challenges.
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