by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundDeveloped from America's first operational jet fighter, the Lockheed T-33 was initially designated the TF-80C after its fighter forebear and took to the air in March 1948, beginning a phenomenally long and varied career. With over 6,500 T-33s built between 1948 and 1959, the classic trainer served at one time or other with more than 40 airforces - and according to Wikipedia was still in active service in Bolivia as of 2015.
The KitGWHís announcement of a new-tool T-33 Shooting Star understandably caused plenty of excitement among classic jet fans. Now the wait is over with the arrival of a sample kit.
GWHís T-33 arrives in quite a large and stylish top-opening box, with the sprues and accessories bagged separately for protection. A nice touch is that the main canopy section is further protected by a piece of clear adhesive film to negate any chance of scuffing in transit.
The kit comprises:
112 x grey styrene parts
7 x clear parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The styrene used is quite hard and the moulding is beautiful - very crisp, with no sign of flash. A first inspection revealed just a couple of areas of faint sink marks on thicker parts which should be quick to remedy. The surface finish comprises very fine engraved panel lines with delicately embossed rivets and fasteners on some parts of the airframe.
To preserve the surface detail, may of the sprue attachments are on the glueing faces, so you'll need to spend a minute or two preparing the main parts before assembly - a small price to pay for what should be a blemish-free exterior.
Test FitA dry-run bodes extremely well for the build ahead; the fuselage halves clip together neatly and the wings slot in place very tightly. The full-span lower wing section reaches forward past the air-brakes to form the rear edge of the nose-wheel bay and interlocks with the air intakes, which are an excellent fit, despite their complex shape. The stabilisers fit well, but have short locating tabs and are too loose to stay in place without cement (hence their absence in the shot at right).
My only concern on the basis of the test fit is that the trailing edges of the flying surfaces are heavy, whereas they look like knife-edges in reference shots, so I'll definitely thin them down a fair bit.
A Few DetailsConstruction begins, logically enough, with the cockpit, constructed from 28 parts. The pair of ejection seats each comprise 7 parts and should look pretty good with careful painting and a little additional dressing up. The inner faces of the seat pans are very nicely detailed, but all this will be hidden by the cushions (still, itís there should you want to do a servicing scene), and the backs and side frames are crisply moulded. All thatís missing is a harness, as GWH havenít included any etched parts with the T-33.
The instrument panels are quite ingenious, and are a route other manufacturers might also follow successfully. Basically, the panel front fascias have opened up bezels to reveal decal faces that are sandwiched behind. Itís what Iíve done myself, by drilling out the bezels of kit panels, and the results can look very convincing - combining the raised detail of a moulded panel with the recessed instruments of an etched film sandwich-type. Iíll use a fine file to open up the bezels a tad more, finishing the job with a drop of varnish.
Decals are also provided for the side consoles, but these may struggle to sit down over the moulded details, so Iíll prefer to paint them.
Attention then turns to the nosegear, which looks both sturdy and nicely detailed. The landing lamps have separate clear lenses and the wheel is moulded with a lightly weighted tyre.
Talking of weight, GWH have tackled the problem of the kit being a tailsitter in an unusual wayÖ with a solid-moulded styrene weight that sits on top of the nosewheel bay, ahead of the cockpit tub. To be honest, it doesnít actually feel all that heavy, but presumably the designers have done their sums right. If not, thereís plenty of room to add more ballast.
Clever intake inserts prevent a see-through look from the front, and thereís a two-part slide-moulded tailpipe at the rear. So, anyone hoping for a detailed J33 engine will be disappointed, but the plus side is thereís no awkward mid-fuselage seam to disguise, making for a very straightforward build.
The mainwheel wells and airbrakes are beautifully detailed, with crisply moulded-on pipework and wiring. No doubt resin upgrades will come along, but the kit parts are about as good as youíre ever likely to see moulded in styrene - and, to honest, should satisfy all but the most devoted superdetailer as the basis for a great looking model.
The wheel doors and airbrakes are moulded closed as one piece, so youíll need to slice them apart carefully if you want the landing gear lowered.
The landing flaps are shown lowered and equipped with operating arms to attach in the bays. The flaps feature very nicely moulded inner surfaces, and a real plus point is that the designers have managed to keep them free of any ejector-pin marks. Full credit there.
Although the T-33 had hardpoints for underwing stores, all the kit offers is a pair of wingtip tanks.
The canopy is crystal clear and attaches to an inner frame for the opening ram. A final touch is the inclusion of a neatly moulded boarding ladder, so itís a shame GWH havenít also included a couple of crew figures to complete the scene.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly and painting guide is spread across 3 sheets, with the bulk of the instruction on one large (slightly cumbersome) fold-out document. Construction looks very straightforward and is divided into 9 easy to follow stages. Colour matches are given for Gunze Sangyo and MIG paints, along with their generic names.
Decals are provided for 3 interesting subjects:
1. T-33A s/n 53-4892, 78th Fighter Interceptor Wing, Hamilton AB, California, 1957
2. T-33A s/n 51-17481, JA-395, 2 Staffel, JG 71 "Richthofen", Alhorn, West Germany, 1961
3. T-33A s/n MM55-3076, CR-20, Reparto Radiomisure Aeronautica Militare Italiano, Pratica di Mari, Rome, 1964
The schemes chosen offer plenty of variety and should look great. The Italian aircaft will need some careful masking for the large areas of Orange, and GWH don't give templates, so you'll need to go by eye to produce symettrical masks. The result should look amazing, though.
The decals themselves look pretty good quality, with sharp registration. The insignia red for the US markings looks a bit bright to me, but more of a concern is that the decals are finished with a dead flat varnish. Quite how well the carrier film will blend in over the extensive n/m areas remains to be seen.
ConclusionGWH's looks set to be a very enjoyable build. It's simpler and more straightforward than their previous kits I've seen, but still packs in some excellent detail where it counts - GWH's moulding technology placing them firmly amongst the best in the mainstream business. Highly recommended to all classic jet enthusiasts.
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