by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
I have to admit my first reaction was that kit cries out for better packaging. It arrives in attractively printed top-opening box, but it must be the flimsiest I've ever seen. It's made out of greetings-card weight cardboard (more like heavy paper) that crumples at the slightest opportunity. Luckily, Neomega had packed it in their own sturdy mail-order box and every part reached me perfectly intact. Still, I really think Vector should seriously look into better packaging for future releases.
The kit consists of:
52 x parts cast in green-grey resin
1 x vacuformed canopy
1 x film with printed instrument faces
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
From all I'd read about Vector's resin kits and accessories I knew I was in for a treat and the La-5F certainly lives up to expectations! The casting is quite immaculate, with just a couple of very tiny bubbles despite the intricacy of some of the parts. The surface finish is beautifully smooth, with finely scribed panel lines, some delicately raised panels and neatly represented fasteners. The control surfaces are excellent, with a very nicely done fabric effect - just strong enough to show when painted, but giving the smooth look of taut doped fabric.
The kit is cast in three distinct shades of green-grey resin - in fact some other examples I've seen on-line have a distinctly pie-balled appearance which caused earlier reviewers some (unwarranted) concern. I think Vector have taken the comments to heart, because my kit is very even in colouration - it just that some parts are cast in one colour resin, some in another.
Vector have made a real effort to make the kit assemble as closely as possible like a conventional injected kit, so the parts include separate thin-walled fuselage halves and stabilizers with neat locating tabs. Almost all the parts are attached to casting blocks, but Vector have kept the attachments as thin as possible and the resin trims easily enough with a scriber or razor saw, so clean-up is pretty straightforward. The detail on the smallest parts is exceptional, with items like trim wheels cast without any sign of flash.
One part that is most UNLIKE a plastic kit is the wing - this is a hefty single-piece casting with nice thin, straight, trailing edges, deep wheel wells and correctly profiled cut-outs for the separate ailerons.
A test fit of the major components is a bit of a curate's egg. The fuselage halves line up perfectly and the cowling front is a neat fit. The stabilizers fit very nicely, but it's a different story on the wing/fuselage joint. On my first test, there was quite a major gap at the roots and a small disparity in the chord at the trailing edge roots. Fitting the cockpit floor makes a big improvement in the gap as it serves as a spreader, but still, matching up the airfoil means the wing seems slightly too deep at the front. However you tackle it, fitting the wing will need a fair amount of filling and sanding.
DetailsThe cockpit is beautifully outfitted with finely detailed sidewalls and a mass of small detail parts. I was examining the fuselage and wondering what was "missing"... then it struck me - being cast in resin, the deep interior sidewall detail hasn't caused any sink marks on the outside, which would probably be inevitable on an injected kit. The cockpit is made up from 19 parts, including a very neat instrument panel which is cast so thin that it features open bezels ready for a clear backing-film with the instrument faces. The effect should be excellent, as the resin parts give greater depth than an etched panel, along with far more detail than an injected styrene item - really the best of all worlds. The seat and control column are lovely with cast-on harness and triggers and wiring respectively. The radio shelf is really nicely detailed and sits underneath a cut-out framework. All in all, the cockpit should build into a really impressive replica.
The undercarriage is cast with metal inserts in the legs which will definitely help support the weight of the heavy one-piece wing. Early versions of the kit included wheels with rubber tyres as seen in the recent South Front LaGG-3. These attracted a bit of criticism for not being up to the standard of the rest of the kit and, in an encouraging example of a manufacturer listening to their customers, Vector now include a great set of resin wheels with excellent hub detail. The doors are impressively thin and have some fine detail on the inner faces. The tail wheel comes with a separate wheel and the leg and fork are superb, complete with oleo scissors.
The propeller is made up of a two-part hub with separate blades. The blades are really the only parts which disappointed me - not because they are poorly cast, but simply because I don't think they'd actually work as a propeller! Still, it shouldn't be too hard to warm them and twist them gently to give a more accurate profile.
The vacuformed canopy is a beauty! It's Falcon-quality and is moulded in three parts so it should be easy to pose open to show off the cockpit detail. Be careful trimming it though, because Vector don't provide a spare, which seems a little mean in view of the price of the kit.
There are a few parts which must be made from scratch. The armoured glass behind the pilot isn't supplied and it's a pity that Vector don't provide a template for it. One of the colour schemes shows an aerial mast and, again, this isn't among the parts. The only things that appear to be missing compared with reference photos are the ventilator openings beneath the windscreen, but these should be easy to add.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly instructions are frankly quite disappointing, printed on just one side of an A4 sheet. There's a useful parts list, but the actual construction diagrams are tiny and laid out in quite an illogical order - fitting the undercarriage before attaching the wing is just asking for problems in view of the work that'll be required to fit the latter. The instrument panels aren't shown in the assembly sequence and there are no colour notes included, so you'll have to find your own references.
Decals are included for four attractive aircraft:
1. I. Kozhedub, 240 IAP, 1943, with a prominent patriotic slogan
2. N. Kuznetsov's a/c wearing a spectacular eagle on the fuselage
3. I. Galchenko, 324 IAD, 1944, with a black cat on the tail
4. I. Galchenko, 324 IAD, 1945, again with the black cat motif.
The decals are printed by Begemot and they look very good quality, quite thin with a semi-gloss finish and minimal carrier film. The individual items are numbered, but the B&W instructions don't include the numbers or indicate where the few stencils included should be positioned. The profiles for three of the schemes are reproduced in colour on the sides of the box - but, just to confuse matters, two of them are flipped left-right compared with those in the instructions! Going by the camouflage patterns, I think the instructions are correct and the box illustrations are wrong, but it's worth searching for photographic evidence to confirm this.
ConclusionThere's no getting away from the fact that Vector's kit is expensive, but the superb resin casting really lives up to Vector's reputation from their aftermarket engines and this kind of quality doesn't come cheap. The only tricky-looking area is the wing root - other than that the La-5F looks like it'll be quite a straightforward build. I think it's fair to say that the casting is in advance of the presentation - the packaging and instructions are a bit of let down. The price definitely puts the La-5 into the luxury bracket, but let's face it - we all need a treat sometimes! Recommended to modellers with some experience of working with resin.
Useful ReferencesLavočhkin La-5, by Miloš Veštšík and Jirí Vraný, MBI, 2006
Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941-1945, by Erik Pilawskii, Classic Colours, 2003
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