by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Tamiya's 1:48 Buffalo is one of their oldest aircraft kits that is still available, dating back to the early 1970s. It shows its age to some extent with raised panel lines and some simplified details, but it can still justify a place among releases almost 40 years its junior, offering an affordable, simple and enjoyable build.
The cockpit as supplied isn't bad, but Pavla Models produce a very nice upgrade set that completely replaces the kit parts and brings the kit into line with the best of today's releases. The set includes 13 x beige resin parts, plus a vacuformed canopy, all sealed inside one of Pavla's distinctive blister packs. I've sometimes expressed reservations about this style of packaging, as delicate items are at risk of damage in transit by larger castings, but there was nothing to worry about this time and everything arrived perfectly intact. The casting is very good indeed, with no bubbles or other flaws to worry about in the sample kit, and just a wisp of flash to clean off.
The overall level of detail is really very impressive, with new sidewalls sporting neatly modelled ribs and stringers, much more detailed consoles and control boxes, along with a mass of wiring. The sidewalls are an excellent fit and immediately highlight a major difference between this and the Tamiya kit cockpit; whereas the kit features a solid bulkhead behind the pilot's seat, Pavla have just seat supports, allowing you see through into the rear fuselage, where the new sidewalls extend the detail much further after. Depending on how much is actually once the halves are joined, it might be tempting to continue the ribs and stringers right down to join at the base of the fuselage. The overall effect should look really nice and busy with careful painting and weathering to bring out the details.
The main instrument panel and side displays are very nicely modelled and the bezels are far more convincing than Tamiya's (in fact the latter are only represented by decals in the Tamiya kit).
The new seat features just lap belts, which could well be correct for a pre-war US Navy machine, but I imagine later aircraft were fitted with shoulder harnesses as well. The seat back itself looks a bit heavy, so careful thinning will help.
Installing the new cockpit will entail quite a bit of surgery to remove the kit's original details and thin the fuselage halves ready for the sidewalls. This shouldn't prove difficult for modellers with a modest amount of experience, but beginners should take extra care as some of the moulded detail is pretty heavy and a slip could result in a nasty accident.
A well laid out and illustrated set of instructions accompanies the parts, and includes a comprehensive painting guide. This suggests Interior Green as the overall cockpit colour, but I think aluminium would be more correct for a pre-war aircraft, with black anti-glare areas under the cockpit sills.
With all the extra detail incorporated, you'll want to show it off. Tamiya's canopy is lovely and clear (as you'd expect), but it's moulded closed and is too thick to saw into sections and pose open, so it's a nice touch is that Pavla have included a new vacuformed canopy. This is good quality (not "Falcon-clear", but then hardly anything else is), with well-defined frames and should look good with a dip in Future/Klear.
Conclusion Pavla's Brewster Buffalo cockpit set is very good indeed, surpassing the venerable Tamiya kit's "office" at a stroke. It makes a good combination - taking a straightforward kit and adding a well-priced upgrade set to raise it to current standards. It would make a good first project for newcomers to modifying kits and working with resin. Recommended.
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