After years in the modelling wilderness, the iconic Stearman is finally being given the attention it deserves, firstly with Silver Wings' beautiful largescale resin kit (reviewed HERE
), and now by Revell with a totally new-tool quarterscale kit that puts the ancient Lindberg version firmly out to pasture.
At present the new Stearman is only available from Revell USA and, being used to Revell Germanyís releases, I was fascinated at just how different the presentation style is between the two arms of the company - especially in the kitís instructions. But more of that laterÖ
Back to business. Produced in China, the Stearman arrives in a neat top-opening box, with all the sprues bagged for protection. The kit comprises:
57 x white styrene parts
3 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
plastic. Not normally my favourite colour to work with, because it makes spotting blemishes and seams that much harder (and, incidentally, doesnít show off the detail to its best in the accompanying photos), but for the Stearman itís an inspired choice. Why? Well, with so much yellow to paint (a colour thatís notoriously lacking in covering power) youíd have to spray a white undercoat anyway to get the best results. I guess one could have asked for the interior and other details to be moulded in a more modelling-friendly grey, but that would just be being picky. In my books itís full marks to Revell for choosing white.
The moulding itself looks excellent. Thereís no flash on the sample kit, and ejector pin marks are kept to a minimum. The fabric surfaces are quite subtly handled, with no exaggerated sagging or corrugated iron ribs. I especially like the fuselage, where the effect is drum-tight and just right (please Revell, tackle a Hurricane in the same style!). Metal panels are neatly engraved and there are a few raised fasteners and inspection panels. The gaps around the ailerons look a bit excessive but, generally, the surface finish is very nice! One exterior feature I certainly wasnít
so impressed to find, however, is the makerís name and copyright moulded in raised letters under the tail. Come on Revell; this is a hark back to old-style kits we could do without.
The Stearman is aimed at modellers aged 12 and, with young and less experienced modellers in mind, Revellís designers have aimed to make assembling a biplane as undaunting as possible, while avoiding the non-scale compromises that marred such kits in years gone by. So, the fuselage sides clip together neatly and feature integrally moulded cabane struts and undercarriage legs to ensure a solid and true basis for the rest of the build.
The full-span top wing is split into upper and lower halves, while the bottom wing is moulded in 3 parts with with separate upper panels. This slots in solidly and so should ensure the correct dihedral, but does mean a seam to a fill across the stringer detail on the belly. (Note: once the lower wing is removed form the sprue, it has a tendency to flatten out, so you'll still need to watch the dihedral.) The wings and rudder boast beautifully thin trailing edges while, oddly, the elevators are rather heavier.
A few details
The fuselage halves feature delicately depicted ribs and stringers running all the way back to the tail. Add to that a 17-part interior, including a well moulded cockpit framework, side console, rudder pedals, heel boards, linked control columns, throttles and fire extinguisher, and you have the basis of a pair of quite impressive ďofficesĒ. The seats are nice and thin, but feature moulded-on harnesses. The instrument panels are a bit vague, but the kit includes well-printed decals for them, so itís a shame they didnít print seatbelts as an option too.
Revell have really gone to town on the engine, which is lucky because the little Continental is uncowled and all there to see. Surprisingly, the designers have gone one step further and included a nicely detailed firewall, engine mount and rear accessories too. The 12-part sub-assembly should look excellent if painted carefully, especially if you add some cabling and fuel lines - and separate side panels ensure it wonít all be hidden. Rounding things off up front is a choice of wooden or metal propellers, the former complete with wood-grain decals.
The wheels are neatly moulded with separate hubs. The tyres are unweighted and depict a rather heavy block tread pattern, but photos of Stearmans also show plain ridged and diamond tread patterns (ironically, the block tread is the one style I havenít spotted yetÖ).
Instructions and decals
After Revell Germanyís cluttered and confused instructions, these are a real breath of fresh air to me; clearly drawn and broken down into logical stages, with plenty of space on each page. Thereís even a useful list of parts, with each piece named in English, French and Spanish. Suggested colours are keyed to most details (oddly, not matched to Revellís own paint range).
A rigging guide is provided, but the only fly in the proverbial ointment is that the attachment points arenít marked on the parts. Presumably this is to give an unblemished surface for modellers who donít want to rig their kit, but no locations are shown in the instructions in any detail either, so it will mean checking plans or photos and carefully drilling each hole.
Decals are supplied for two aircraft:
1. US Army Stearman no. 456 in classic blue and yellow trim
2.US Navy Stearman no. 88 in overall yellow
Both subjects are ďwarbirdsĒ, bearing small civil codes, but the schemes look otherwise authentic for vintage machines to me, so Iíll be tempted to simply leave them off. A nice touch is that FS matches are given for the colours.
The decals look to be excellent quality. Nice and thin, and printed in perfect register on the sample sheet. The wood-pattern propeller decals are a really interesting idea - although coaxing them to fit the complex curves could take a fair bit of decal softener. Itíll certainly be worth trying though to see the effect.
Revellís new Stearman is a real little gem of a kit that deserves to be a real hit. It looks simple enough for less experienced modellers, while packing in plenty of detail for this scale. As one of the most important trainers in history it deserves a place in any collection. Recommended.
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