Classic Airframes
1/48 de Havilland Vampire NF.10
Kit Number: 492
Reviewed by  Paul Bradley, IPMS# 35554
[kit boxart image]
MSRP: $50

The Vampire night fighter was initially developed as a private venture by de Havilland as an offshoot from the FB.5, but when the RAF's definitive night fighters, the Meteor NF.11 and Venom, took longer than expected to mature, the service placed an order for 95 of the earlier de Havilland machine as a stop-gap measure. Serving as a front line machine for only two and a half years, the Vampire NF.10 was popular with its crews and equipped three home-based squadrons; 23, 25 and 151. Following re-equipment with the delayed Venom, the Vampires were either exported to Italy and India, or converted to a stop-gap trainer version, the NF(T).10 - later fully developed as the T.11.

Classic Airframes delighted many with the release of the first of their Vampire series, the FB.5, in 2004. Extending the range with the T.11, and the export version of the FB.5, Classic now further expands the family by including this rare mark, the NF.10. Packaged in Classic's usual top-opening black box, there are just 41 plastic parts; however, these are supplemented by a bag of 19 resin bits that include most of the interior, the wheel wells and wheels. Instructions are the usual Classic layout of exploded diagrams and exhortations to "dry fit all parts before assembly" - though this is necessary repetition! The decal sheet is finely printed and gives three options, two RAF and one Italian.

The plastic is an odd mix of highly polished larger moldings, such as the fuselage and wings, offset by clunky detail on the smaller parts. All the smaller detail parts also have prominent mold seams that will require careful cleaning. [review image] The canopy is very nice - clear, with sharply delineated framing, this will sparkle under a coat of Future.

The resin is terrific. The whole of the cockpit is molded in this medium and the Czech craftsmen have gone to town here. The port cockpit sidewall is quite exquisite. All of the parts are cleanly molded with no air bubbles, flash or other blemishes. I ground off all the pour stubs with my rotary tool, wearing a face mask of course, and the parts were all primed for painting.

I started this kit by attaching the radar nose halves to the corresponding fuselage pod halves, to ensure there is no step. Continuing on, I painted up the cockpit interior with a very dark grey, with washes and dry-brushing as appropriate to highlight all that lovely detail. This is to be fixed inside the unmarked fuselage halves, so I made guides by affixing strips of 20 thou square section plastic card to the appropriate points inside the nacelle. Take care to properly trim all the cockpit parts, and you'll also want to also ensure at this stage that the nose undercarriage bay/nose underside part is dry fitted to check for obstructions. Even then, I had to do some judicious sanding of the mating surfaces to ensure that the fuselage halves correctly closed around everything. Be sure to add plenty of weight into the capacious nose in order to avoid tailsitting. Putty was needed top and bottom to fill a slight join line.

With the pod complete, I turned to the wings as these need to be attached to the pod before adding the tail booms. These are simple top and bottom halves with resin intakes and resin u/c bays. You'll need to sand the top of the wheel bay until it is wafer thin so that the wing halves will close neatly around it. Fit of the intakes is excellent - note that those included in the kit are of the more correct shape that were included in CA Vampire kits after the first batch were seen to be incorrect.

Attaching the wings to the pod is somewhat trying; there is a lot adjusting to be done to get the best fit. I trimmed back the wing roots a little and revised the shape of the cutouts in the pod, and this gave me the best fit. Even so, I needed quite a bit of putty to get them blended in. Once everything was dry, I found that one of the wings has about 1 degree more dihedral than the other - rats! The end result is certainly not perfect, but if you are prepared to spend a little more time that I did, I am sure you can do better!

With the wings attached to the fuselage, I tackled the booms. These are also rather tricky, as there is a bit of a mismatch at the join. The booms should parallel to each other and the top line should be straight with the top of the boom extension on the top surface of the wing. This line is not parallel with the fuselage. I needed putty here to blend the booms with the wings.

Once the booms were set up, I added the one-piece tailplane. This fit rather well after the mating surfaces were sanded square. On the outside of each vertical tail, there is a resin extension piece - these were a reasonable fit, a little putty being needed to get them looking tidy. However, I have already knocked one of these off twice - I would recommend short lengths of brass rod to attach them to the booms.

With the main airframe done, I added the canopy. [review image] This is too narrow for the contours of the opening and I had to sand back the cockpit sills to get a seamless fit. It was then that I noticed another problem. This kit shares the same fuselage pod moldings as the earlier CA T.11 trainer kit. The T.11 was actually derived from the NF.10, but had slightly wider cockpit sills than the night fighter. Checking photos of both the NF.10 and T.11 against the kit, the sills on this kit are too pronounced, being much more like those of the T.11, as you can see in the accompanying photo montage. There isn't a whole lot you can do aside from major surgery - cutting away the sills, restoring the pod contours and adding the smaller sills with card and filler would be the method I would use if I had to choose. This would then involve playing with the interior resin parts to get them to fit the new contours. Once again, the pressures of review deadlines gave me the easy out, and I chose not to do this, but it is something you'll need to consider for perfect accuracy.

[review image] Once I had the canopy blended in, I gave the model a coat of primer and corrected any major blemishes and did some rescribing to replace detail lost in sanding. The model was painted overall Medium Sea Grey with a disruptive pattern of Dark Green, using Xtracrylix paints. The radome was painted MSG with a slight yellow tint to simulate the fibreglass construction.

Once the paint was dry and sealed with Future, I added the decals. CA offers three options - Nos. 23 and 151 Sqns RAF and the Italian Air Force Escuelo Turbogetti, all dating from the 1950's. These are accompanied by a comprehensive set of stenciling. The decals are printed by Microscale and are thin, in register and respond well to Microscale decaling products.

With the decals set, I began the final stretch of this build by adding the undercarriage. As I mentioned previously, the undercarriage parts feature some clunky detail, but little will be seen once complete if you don't turn the model upside down. I had to ream out the attachment holes in the main wheels as they are far too small for the huge chunky nubs on the legs. With the main undercarriage in place, I started on the nose leg. [review image] The leg itself is molded with only the port fork, the starboard one being a separate part - this needed some work to get it to fit nicely. The wheel was inserted between the two forks and glued into place. Trial fitting this in place showed that the nose leg is far too long, giving the appearance of a carrier-borne jet on the catapult and ready for launch! Study of photos of the NF.10 on the ground shows a slight tail-down attitude when at rest, but certainly not to the extent depicted if you make this kit out of the box. By trial and error, I found that trimming 3mm off the top of the leg brought the nose down to an acceptable angle. The accompanying photo montage shows the problem and my results. Their Canberra kits exhibit the same problem; I hope this is not becoming a trend!

Speaking of accuracy, I have already noted the problems with the cockpit sills and the canopy fit. On checking with my references, I found that the model scales out at about 3mm long and 2mm too great in span; I think the booms may be a bit long.

This kit is a bit of a mixed bag. The resin and the decals are top notch, perhaps the best out there, but the plastic has its problems. Although the main airframe parts are nicely molded, there are some accuracy problems and fit issues, and the smaller detail parts are a bit crude. Overall construction is somewhat challenging. This cannot all be excused by the limited run, low-pressure nature of CA kits. I hope that CA will address these issues in future kits, especially with the forthcoming Venom family. CA have always given us the basics to create a nice model and this is no exception; most of these issues can be addressed if you approach this kit with the right frame of mind and an appropriate plan of attack. The only really tricky area would be the depth of the cockpit sills, which would require some surgery. Bearing all this in mind, I can recommend this kit to the experienced modeler who has tackled a few limited run kits; modelers of less experience are very likely to be frustrated by the challenging construction and fit issues.

My thanks to Jules at Classic Airframes for the review sample. Classic Airframes kits are available at their website (www.classicairframes.com), or from all leading distributors and hobby stores.
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