One of the first things that will strike you about this kit is that it is in a BIG box, and this is adorned with only fairly ordinary artwork (not that this is a big deal of course). The kit is in fact a rebadge of the old Heller version, I believe.
Opening the box revealed that some of the deck-edge railings were broken, but I think they should be fairly easy to fix, and indeed I opted not to use these anyway. Three lengths of metal chain are included for the anchor cables, which is a nice touch. Locating pins and holes for the two halves of the hull appear very few and far between, so fixing the halves together will need to be done carefully. You will see that this is to become something of a recurring theme…
Decals are included for the black boot-topping band around the ship’s waterline, however I imagine it will be a lot simpler to mask and paint this in any case!
Finally, the instructions are adequate but fairly spartan, and will need careful examination during assembly.
The instructions begin with various sub-assemblies – turrets, funnels, lifeboats, and so on (steps 1-16). I opted instead to start by building the hull first (step 17). Only three locating pins are given to marry the halves together, and so lots of test fitting and tape/clamps are required. There is no representation of any hull plating, although in this scale it would probably be overdone anyway. The fairleads are also overscale and quite softly moulded – I was sorely tempted to replace them, but am under strict instructions that this must be an out of the box (OOB) build!
That said there is very little flash on the hull halves and they actually fit together nicely, albeit some filler is needed along the seam afterwards. But seeing as this runs along the keel it won’t be visible on the finished ship anyway.
I’ve read a few horror stories online about this kit, and so was pleasantly surprised to find that the deck actually fitted very well. A bit of sanding and filling is needed at the break in the main deck just ahead of X turret, and also around the stem and stern, but there are no gaping holes to be found anywhere.
Despite departing from the suggested building order more or less immediately, I did decide to follow the instructions’ advice with regard to building in sub-assemblies; then I painted and put everything together, as it would have been impossible to paint the teak deck under the sides of the shelter deck otherwise. All major parts were fitted to the hull (propshafts and screws, breakwaters, etc) and then she was painted completely. When fitting the propshafts and screws note that the instructions do not specify which ones are for port and which for starboard; take the time to do some careful dry-fitting here to ensure that you get everything square and correct. Any errors here will be very noticeable on the finished model, and so this will be time well spent.
A couple of general observations at this stage:
Nearly all of the larger parts have some mould seams, which are easy enough to clean up but add considerably to the overall build time. Some, such as the upperworks of the ship’s barges for example, also have sink marks to be filled, which is something of a pain. All the scuttles marked on the kit were drilled out, as well as a few others in accordance with reference pictures on the H.M.S. Hood Association www.hmshood.com
Assembly of the turrets is pretty straightforward and they look reasonable when finished, although I think the barrels are probably overscale. Part 120 (a director I think) has a sink mark on top of it that is very visible and so needs attending to, and the UP (unrotated projectile) launchers (step 11) are pretty crude. Most of the parts have very little flash, which is good considering the age of the kit.
Unfortunately there was a large hole in the B turret mount, looking almost as if it had melted. Some putty soon put that right though.
The breakwaters are surprisingly nice mouldings and fit well onto the upper deck; very fine guidelines are provided to help with positioning them correctly.
Step 16 covers construction of the shelter deck. Locating lugs for assembly of this are few and far between once more, but with care it can be put together nice and square. As ever a little sanding and filling are needed after, but nothing too horrendous. The shelter deck seems to extend too far aft (either that or X turret is too far forward) as the two very nearly foul each other. It is also well worthwhile carefully checking where all the superstructure items will fit to the shelter deck before gluing the various boats in place, to ensure there is sufficient clearance for everything… On the subject of boats, if you decide to assemble them all at once then bag them up and label the bags, so that you know which ones are which later when you come to fix them in place.
Fitting the stands to the hull is a fiddly process, since there are (again!) no locating lugs provided. With hindsight it would have been worth the effort to add some lugs myself, they would have been considerably easier to fit in place then.
It is definitely best to leave off all masts, flagstaffs and any other fragile parts until as late in the build as possible, otherwise you are almost certain to damage them whilst handling the model (that’s the voice of experience speaking there I’m afraid!)
Step 13 – once again no locating lugs are provided (a recurring theme throughout the kit – maybe a peculiarity of Heller kits? I’ve never built one of theirs before so don’t know for sure Note from the Editor: Yes this is a feature of Heller models ever since I remember; Big scale ones like this HMS Hood or smaller one's like Heller Cadet ship models they never had locating pins). Anyway, you must take care when assembling this stage. I drilled small locating holes for parts 100 and 108, which give them a much more positive fit to the superstructure. There are also ejector pin marks on several parts which will need filling and sanding, although all the ones I found were quite easy to get at and sort out.
Accommodation ladders are provided for alongside Y turret – fit these before painting the hull. Note that only the upper edge of the ladder should contact the hull side in order for the ladder to hang at the proper angle. I taped the main superstructure in place whilst I glued on the accommodation ladders from the Admiral’s quarters, to ensure that they were set at the correct angle. The platforms outboard of the forward gun directors (parts 118) would be better moulded integrally with part 53 (lower bridge deck). This would give a much stronger finish and obviate any risk of a join when the parts are glued together. Also the instructions appear to show these parts as projecting out from the sides of the bridge deck – this is incorrect, they should wrap around the aft corners of the deck, thus surrounding the director on each side (see the photos and you will get the idea hopefully!)
Heller provide three metal anchor chains, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately they are in a bright metal finish and so will need painting. If you’ve never tried painting chains you might wonder why this is such a big deal – believe me, painting chains is a pain in the neck! I found the simplest method was to hold each end of the chain with a bulldog clip, paint it with acrylics (Vallejo), and then work along the chain clearing built up paint from each link. Then hang it up to dry… These chains are also quite a tight fit when you come to add them to the capstans and feed them through the hawse pipes (I did them quite near the end of the build, rather than when the instructions suggested, to make the painting a bit simpler).
The foremast starfish will need drilling out to enable the spotting platform to be securely sited atop the mast (step 26 inset). Similarly, the fighting top is supposed to sit on top of the foremast with just the aid of some glue and no locating lugs whatever (yet again). This was never going to work, and so I drilled holes and inserted plastic rod. I recommend you do this for the main and foremasts as well, it gives a much more secure fit of the parts. Also drill the tripod base of the mainmast and the deck, then fit this before assembling the upper sections of the mast. It is meant to sit on three slightly raised locations on the boat deck, once more this will not be nearly strong enough a joint without some assistance. The foremast yardarm (part 30) will need CA glue to hold it in place, again there is nothing in the way of lugs and/or pins to hold it in place well enough for poly cement to have time to set. The boom (part 56) on the mainmast is a similar story, I drilled it and its mounting point and inserted some brass wire to hold them together, and then propped the boom up with a cocktail stick whilst it was setting in place.
The model was finished off with the addition of lycra thread for the rigging, a white ensign from BECC Model Flags and a set of guardrails from White Ensign Models. These provide a very nice effect; okay I know they are breaking the spirit of the ‘out-of-the-box’ build, but when you compare them to the railings supplied by Airfix I think you’ll see why I made the change. If the option of using the photo-etch rails was not available then I honestly think I would have left off the plastic rails, since they are massively overscale and I think would have spoilt the kit.
This kit builds up into an impressively large finished model. Detail is pretty sparse compared to modern offerings and what can be achieved with the use of photo-etch; but if you disregard the railings provided she will still look pretty good if you take some time over the build. Remember that this kit is around 30 years old! Most parts fit fairly well, and I did not have to resort to very much filling and sanding at all. However the lack of locating pins virtually throughout the kit is something of a pain – it’s not insurmountable if you test fit and take some care as you go, but it is a factor that would make me hesitate to recommend this kit for a complete novice modeller. In addition several parts will need drilling so that you can insert strengthening pins.
At about a third of the price of Trumpeter’s eagerly awaited 1/350 Hood, I think Airfix’s Hood represents quite reasonable value for money. She builds into a good looking display model and captures Hood’s graceful lines nicely. That said, I would love to see how the Trumpeter version compares – anybody have a sample they want built?!
Thanks very much to Airfix for providing this kit for review.