by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
It’s funny how one kit leads to another sometimes! I visited Fly’s website looking for fresh news of their upcoming 1:32 Hawker Hurricane, and ended up buying their Arado Ar 234 in the same scale. It caught my eye on two counts - firstly, because this is the first largescale injected kit of this fascinating aircraft, and secondly due its remarkably low price when bought direct from the manufacturer. By adding a set of canopy masks, I was even lucky enough to benefit from free P&P, although the threshold for this has now been raised. Too good to be true? - there was only one way to find out, so I ordered the kit straight away.
The package arrived very promptly by recorded mail, and it was immediately obvious when I opened the box that Fly’s Ar 234 is a very nice kit indeed. Not one for beginners, it must be said, but anyone with some experience of mixed media limited run kits is in for a real treat.
Fly’s Arado represents something of a joint operation, also combining the talents of Fly themselves, Artillery Models (resin), Hauler (photos-etch) and Bodecek Agency (decals).
The kit comprises:
100 x beige styrene parts
11 x clear styrene parts
52 x grey resin pieces
63 x etched brass parts
2 x lengths of twine
1 x metal rod
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The styrene parts are very neatly moulded in a style typical of MPM Production’s current standards. So, that means delicately scribed panel lines and other exterior details, and a nicely smooth overall finish. There’s no sinkage that I could find, and ejector pins don't look too intrusive. The sprue attachments are commendably small, with some extending onto the gluing faces to preserve the main surfaces, so a little prep is needed. Importantly for a limited run kit, there’s basically no flash on my example, so any initial clean-up should be straightforward.
The resin parts are quite superb, so I was surprised to see some detail items moulded in styrene (e.g. the instrument panel, consoles and wheels). Perhaps they would have been better in resin, but the plastic versions still show some some very nice, crisp details, so any concern was unnecessary.
Test fitThe first thing to say is that, typical of short run kits, there are no locating pins. This is no bad thing, because unless pins are precisely positioned (something that seems notoriously hard to do - even in some mainstream kits), they are actually more trouble than they’re worth. With the glueing surfaces prepared, the fit of the main parts is very encouraging. The fuselage halves line-up perfectly, and the separate nose section matches the cross-section very well. A separate nose? Well, I’m guessing that opens up the prospect of the Ar 234C and other versions with their different canopies, which is rather exciting. The wings fit neatly enough with a little refinement of the locating slots, and the joint to the fuselage should be good. Likewise for the horizontal tail. The crucial thing is that the airfoil and chord look to be a match.
A few detailsConstruction begins, conventionally enough, with the cockpit. This comprises 64 parts in a mix of styrene, resin and photo-etched. The foundation is an impressive resin casting that also forms the nosewheel well and rear bulkhead. Onto this attach a nicely detailed resin seat, styrene arm-rests, and a multi-part etched harness. The plastic instrument panel mentioned above is supplied with crisply printed decals for each instrument face, and a nice touch is the inclusion of individual resin “pots” to fit on the back. If you add a wiring loom, the result should look very effective. The rudder pedals are photo-etched, while the bombsight is beautifully cast in resin, as are the battery, oxygen supply and electrical panel. A styrene console sits along each side of the cockpit, and items like throttle levers are photo-etched. All in all, you have everything needed for a very impressive “office” without resorting to aftermarket extras.
I was surprised to find the mainwheel wells are one-piece resin castings, but superdetailers needn’t worry - the level of integral detail is quite superb.
A braking ‘chute cable is supplied as a length of thread with etched brackets and a resin mounting. The panel over the parachute bay is etched , so it will sit slightly proud of the fuselage underside.
The instructions indicate that the kit needs noseweight to avoid being a tail-sitter. The only trouble is, they don’t state how much. However, the hefty resin casting for the cockpit/nosewheel bay will help somewhat, and there’s loads of room behind to add more weight.
The engines are tackled quite simply, with styrene nacelles and resin intakes and exhausts. As with the other resin parts, these are very well produced, with some fine interior detail. The exhaust detail will be largely hidden, though, when styrene “onions” are attached later.
The RATO units are crisply moulded in styrene, while their recovery parachute packs are resin. These are beautifully textured, and further adorned with etched fittings and thread lanyards.
The drop tanks are styrene, and look very decent, as does the semi-recessed centre-line “bomb bay”. So the only disappointing aspect of the kit is the lack of any payload - despite a 1,000Kg bomb being shown in the boxtop painting.
The mainwheels and legs are well moulded in styrene, with delicate resin oleo scissors, while the nosegear is a much more complex mixed media affair. The wonderfully detailed one-piece wheel well cleverly serves as a jig to set the angle of the retraction strut, before you add etched brackets and resin details. Considering how good the nose gear should look, the wheel itself is a bit basic, especially when compared against the mainwheels. The undercarriage is moulded “unweighted”, so I’ll add slight flats to avoid the completed model standing on tip-toe.
Construction ends with the canopy, which is crystal clear. There’s no option to open the entry hatch, but the extensive interior detail should still all be easily seen. The canopy is further adorned with a latch and grab handles, an auxiliary compass and flare pistol - plus, of course, the aircraft’s famous periscope.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly guide is printed in B&W as a 15-page A5 booklet. The illustrations are very nicely drawn in what I call classic “MPM” style, with neatly shaded diagrams and supporting info-views. Colour call-outs are generic, and include RLM codes where appropriate.
The construction sequence looks pretty logical for the most part, although I’ll probably want to get the kit standing safely on its wheels before adding the drop tanks and RATO packs.
Fly offer four interesting colour schemes that depict the Blitz in both Luftwaffe service and in Allied hands:
1.Ar 234B-2, W.Nr. 140151, T9 KH, flown by Oblt. Werner Muffey, Kommando Sperling, November 1944
2.Ar 234 S10, W.Nr. 140110, E2 20, used for tests with Hs 293 missiles, November/December 1944
3.Ar 234B-2, ex-W.Nr. 140476, s/n VK877, RAE Farnborough, UK, winter 1945/46
4.Ar 234B-2, ex-W.Nr. 140148, No. 303 “Snafu 1”, NAS Patuxent River, USA
The Bodecek Agency decals appear very good quality, with the thin glossy items in excellent register on my sheet. I do wonder if the red chosen for the RAF roundels might be too bright, but I guess there’s always a chance that non-standard paint was used when such war prizes were quickly re-marked after capture. Similarly, the US "stars and bars" are a bit strange - definitely non-standard - but I'd want to refer to photos of the captured aircraft before saying they're inaccurate.
The decals provide an extensive set of stencil markings, plus a rather neat set of strips to depict the prominent rivets on the cockpit glazing. These aren’t printed as curves to match the canopy contours, so they may well need a little coaxing with decal solution.
Aftermarket masksFly have also produced a set of canopy masks which are sold separately. They are die-cut from kabuki tape - pretty much the best medium for following compound curves like those found on the Arado's canopy. I actually purchased my set because it tipped the balance for free P&P, but that no longer seems to apply. However, Set #NWAM0001 only costs £3.66, so it's a cost effective chore-saver.
ConclusionIt's always great when a kit exceeds expectations - and Fly's Ar 234 did so by a considerable margin. I’m really delighted with it, and it should build into a very impressive model. The low price when bought direct is definitely an incentive (plus, I'm all for my hard-earned cash going to those that actually produce the kits), and I rate it as something of a bargain. As I noted above, the kit's not suitable for beginners, but it offers experienced Luftwaffe modellers a great value build. Based on the great job they've done on the Blitz, I'm keener than ever to see what Fly make of the Hurricane. Recommended.
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