One of the most intriguing releases so far this year has been the appearance, with little or no fanfare, of a new series of 1:48 Hawker Hurricanes from Russian manufacturer ARK Models. So far, two versions are available:
Kit #48024 - Hawker Hurricane Mk.1 - Soviet Air Force Fighter
Kit #48026 - Hawker Hurricane Mk.1 Fighter - Royal Air Force
More versions are planned, including:
Kit #48025 - Finnish Hawker Hurricane Mk.1
Kit #48007 (48027?) - Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.1b
The parts arrive in a good quality box, with the contents tightly wrapped, and the instructions and decals rather unusually contained in a ring-binder pouch. Both the RAF and VVS versions are basically identical, comprising:
94 x pale grey styrene parts
11 x clear styrene parts
Decals and instructions
The overall impression is somewhat mixed. There is a definite "short run" quality to some of the parts, with a degree of flash and a fair number of sink marks to deal with and a couple of spots where parts aren't fully formed. Note: I bought both versions and the flash and sink marks vary considerably between them. Detail is a little soft and heavy in some places - but, conversely, surprisingly sharp in others. The surface finish consists of engraved panel lines and embossed fasteners, with a few raised fittings and rivets. Many previous Hurricane models have suffered to a greater of lesser extent from a heavily exaggerated fabric effect on the fuselage, but here it's the opposite - the overall effect is much lighter and more realistic, ironically in danger of getting lost in places.
The breakdown of the parts is unlike any other Hurricane kit I've seen in this scale. The fuselage has a separate rudder and large sections left open for tropical and naval versions, while the wings are moulded in five pieces. A quick test fit is a very mixed bag. The fuselage halves are a poor fit straight from the box (one half is slighly longer than the other, for a start) and will need some attention getting the edges levelled. Likewise the wings - the trailing edges are heavy and the lower centre section has a tendency to go concave but, with the parts taped together, there's unmistakably a Hurricane lurking in there!
The cockpit consists of 9 parts, with quite niicely detailed side structures and flying controls. The instrument panel is moulded clear (just like the Unimodel bf 109G) as though a decal is meant to go behind it for the instrument faces, but none is provided so it seems a little pointless. Two pilot figures provided and hese are definitely among the kit's highlights - beautifully sculpted and crisply moulded. One has standard flying gear, while the other is dressed in tropical shorts and shirtsleeves.
There's a choice of De Havilland and Rotol propellers, with three types of spinner, alternative styles of exhausts and there's a Volkes tropical carbutettor filter. The main gear legs are neatly moulded and retraction/locking mechanisms to dress up the otherwise basic wheelwell. Both plain and weighted mainwheels are included, but the weighted effect looks very excessive to my eyes. Different style tailwheels are provided, with and without a torque-link.
Just as with the Unimodel Bf 109G, the real disappointment is the one-piece canopy. In one of my kits it's fairly clear (but not great), but in the other it has an almost frosted effect that makes it semi-opaque. It may be possible to polish clear, but that would probably be at the expense of the quite nicely defined frames - and I must admit I wonder if it's worth the effort when excellent vacufomed replacements are available from Falcon/Squadron.
So far so good, in a short-run sort of way. The kit obviously isn't going to be suitable for beginners, but quite a decent Hurricane might result in experienced hands. But, at the back of my mind as I examined the parts was a nagging feeling that, although the breakdown of the main components was unlike any Hurricane kit I could remember, the overall impression was of déjà vu. For a start, that fabric effect on the fuselage reminded me of the kit that, even after 30 years, I still feel has come closest to getting the look right - namely Airfix's Hurricane Mk. I.
So, I ransacked The Stash (I really must organise it better too make life easier on occasions like this!) and, sure enough, the rear fuselage is unmistakably Airfix. Rescribed, true, but the fabric effect is identical. Even the sink marks are in the same places and, if you look carefully, you can see where the pattern makers haven't quite managed to hide the old Airfix panel lines!
The nose is different, but the "inspiration" can soon be found in Hasegawa's kit, which also seems to have been the basis of most of the cockpit. It's as though someone has kitbashed an Airifx Hurricane with Hasegawa details. Comparing the kit parts becomes a "Hunt The Original" game - Airfix propellers, Hasegawa wheels, and so on...
Even the excellent pilot figures bear a striking resemblance to Tamiya's old Spitfire Mk. V pilot - although, bizarrely, ARK's are crisper and better detailed! (Tamiya and ICM's well-known tie on figures might be behind this.)
At this point I must make it clear that I don't know whether there's some behind the scenes licencing at work. I'll let you draw your own conclusion and merely mention that, in the course of trying to find more details of the VVS version's colour schemes, I stumbled across a Russian modelling forum that is rife with allegations of piracy...
Instructions and decals
The assembly instructions are identical for the RAF and Soviet versions and are generic in that they depict all the available parts without indicating which are specific to the machine you're modelling, so you will need a decent set of references to check what's appropriate. The diagrams are clear enough and the assembly sequence is logical. In kits rather full of surprises, the next one is that no painting instructions whatsoever are provided - not even for the colour schemes! You simply have the boxtop paintings (which only depict one scheme each) - after that, you're on your own to figure out both the painting and decal placement.
The markings provided are:
1. Hurricane Mk XIb s/n BW959, 2nd GiAP
2. Hurricane Mk IIb s/n Z3768, FK-49 in full Soviet markings (originally part of 151 Wing, RAF fitted with a tropical filter)
There seems to be a third option for an unidentified Hurricane bearing a patriotic slogan.
1. Hurricane Mk1 s/n V6555, DT-A, 257 Sqn., flown by Sqn. Ldr. Robert Stanford Tuck.
2. Hurricane Mk1 s/n V7467, LE-D, 242 Sqn., flown by Sqn. Ldr. Douglas Bader.
The decals are printed by Begemot and seem good quality, with good registration and a satin finish. The red used for the RAF roundels looks a bit bright and there's one pair of fin flashes, plus the small flag for Tuck's aircraft with the blue printed in the same ink as the Wing Commander pennant which doesn't match any pictures I've seen.
Summing up ARK Models Hurricane is rather awkward without knowing the legal situation - which is why I haven't given an official rating. If it's bona fide, then judged simply on its merits as a limited run kits, ARK Models Hurricanes seems to be very much a case of a curate's eggs - i.e. good and bad in places. Despite the poor clear parts and lack of painting details, there's undoubtedly potential for quite a decent model of a late Mk. I (not a Mk. II - which had a longer nose for the Merlin XX, among other changes) but it's certainly not suitable for beginners.
If the kit has been produced without the blessing of Airfix and Hasegawa, modellers should send a clear message that such piracy is unacceptable and buy the originals. I expect we'll soon know one way or the other - of course, if it does turn out to be a pirate copy, it could well become the target for kit collectors before it disappears from the shelves...
ARK Models' Hawker Hurricanes are available from Modelimex - specialists in Eastern European short run kits.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE