by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Judging by the excitement generated in the Forum following Great Wall Hobby's announcement of their new quarterscale P-61, other manufacturers must be kicking themselves that they've let the opportunity to produce a state of the art Black Widow slip by.
After months of intense speculation, an early example of the kit arrived direct from Shanghai this afternoon, so I've wasted no time in shamelessly jumping the kit to the front of my review queue!
GWH's P-61 arrives well presented in a very solid top opening box with all the sprues bagged separately, and the clear parts receiving additional protection the main clear sprue is sealed in bubble-wrap, while the radar nose-cone is packed in its own clear plastic case to avoid damage to the pitot tube which is moulded in situ.
The kit comprises:
163 x grey styrene parts
11 x clear styrene parts
33 x etched brass parts
A length of styrene rod
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The moulding is generally very good indeed, as you'd expect with a brand new kit. There's no flash evident on the sample, but there are a fair number of light ejector-pin marks - some of which may be visible unless cleaned up. The only sink marks I could find are on the cuffs of the propeller blades (more of which later).
Despite the fact that the sprues are all bagged neatly, I was disappointed to find a number of parts had taken a knock at some point. Some of this could be due to overstressing on the sprues, and some may have happened in transit, but the 20mm cannons had been similarly damaged on two separate sprues (one barrel is actually bent in two places to point at a right angle to the body of the gun itself - the weirdest damage I've ever seen!), so I think this must have occurred at the production stage. It'll be interesting to see if other examples are similarly damaged if so, this something GWH will definitely need to watch out for.
The surface detail of the kit is very nicely handled, with beautifully light and subtle engraved panel lines. There are a few embossed fasteners, but the airframe is generally free of "rivets". I wasn't convinced by the fabric effect on the earlier Fw 189, so I'm pleased to see it's a bit more subtle this time, although still too heavy in my opinion for a well maintained aircraft.
Test FitThe sprue attachments are on the mating surfaces of the main parts to avoid any marks on the exterior, and once these are cleaned off, dry fitting the main components indicates the Black Widow is going to be a breeze to build! The fuselage halves clip together very positively (so much so in fact, I recommend shortening the locating pins a tad if you want to dry-fit the parts, or else you risk breaking them when you take the halves apart.
The wings are moulded with internal ribs/stiffeners which ensure there's no warping, and also provide extra surfaces on which to apply cement. There are no spars provided to support the wings, and only quite shallow locators at the roots, but this isn't a problem because the fit is basically perfect on the sample, and the joint should be really solid if you're careful.
Twin-boomers can be a bit of a nightmare if you get the alignment wrong, so the engineers at GWH are to be congratulated for the precise fit of the booms to the wings on the basis of the dry-fit, keeping everything square and true should be a doddle.
A few detailsThe cockpit isn't overly complicated, but is still very nicely detailed with multi-part seats that are each fitted with etched harnesses. The main instrument panel is supplied with individual decals for each dial, and a really nice touch is that data placard decals are provided for the cockpit sidewalls. Brass rudder pedals are included as an alternative to the moulded ones, and the control wheel is a 3-part assembly. One obvious omission is the pilot's gunsight.
The radar operator's station has a well moulded equipment panel and, just as they did in the Fw 189, GWH have provided inserts to avoid unrealistic hollows inside the wing roots. Inside the nose-cone is a 7-part sub-assembly of the radar dish and its associated equipment.
The gun-bay is simple but effective and the guns are nicely detailed (although I'm sure the originals couldn't shoot round corners like one of the ones in the sample...)
The boarding ladders can be assembled extended, with the forward hatch opening through a well detailed nosewheel bay. The rear ladder is made up from etched brass sides with plastic rungs to be cut from the styrene rod provided.
The undercarriage is nicely handled, with separate oleo scissors, along with brake cables for the main gear. The mainwheels are "weighted", so it's a little odd that the nose wheel isn't at all reference shots certainly show a bit of a flat, so I'll add one.
My first impression of the cowls is that the openings look rather small - (shades of a certain B-25 there...) - and the taper may be overdone compared with photos. However, the engines should look excellent when built up, as each is made up of 8 styrene parts, plus an etched ignition harness, and there's a choice of open or closed cooling gills. One odd point, though, is that the magneto covers are missing; the attachment points are there, as though they were intended to be included, but there's no sign of them in the kit or instructions. Still, it won't be hard to fashion suitable items from sprue. Apart from that omission, with the engines looking so nicely detailed, it's disappointing that the propellers are very basic. While the shape of the blades looks fine, they are moulded solid with the spinners, which results in a rather nasty mould line to clean up.
Clear partsThe transparencies are beautifully moulded crystal clear, with neatly defined frame lines. Clear wingtip navigation lamps are included, but the designers have missed the landing lamps under the wings.
This time GWH haven't provided any painting masks perhaps as a result of people moaning that those supplied with the Fw 189 didn't stay in place very well (I think it's a shame if that's the case, as you could always transfer the shapes to masking tape as a time-saver).
Which brings us inevitably to the canopy the centre of so much debate in the run-up to the kit's release!
There was a lot of concern over whether the main canopy hatch tapered or not. Well, the simple answer is yes it does. (Ironically, the hatch isn't shown tapered in the drawings in the original pilot's notes for the P-61, but it clearly is in reference photos.) Where things get more complicated is that GWH have moulded it with a "double taper" a noticeable kink in the plan view whereas the photos I've checked seem to show a straight edge. It's not something I'd want to make a definitive call on (after all, the designers presumably had access to the P-61 preserved in China?), but I can foresee more lively debate ahead. I still want to fit it before coming to any firm conclusions about the overall look, but Sergey Kosachev may well find a fresh market for his beautiful clear resin correction parts
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly guide is a well-produced 10-page booklet. Construction isn't broken down into numbered stages as such, but the layout is nevertheless very clear and straightforward to follow. Experienced modellers will probably want to alter the assembly sequence somewhat to complete the basic airframe before adding smaller details. There's no mention of whether nose-weight is required to avoid the kit being a tail-sitter (and it's so many years since I built the old Monogram classic kit as a teenager, I can't remember if any was needed - although I seem to recall a clear plastic prop?...). Gunze Sangyo and Vallejo paint matches are provided for most details.
Decals are included for two colour schemes:
1. P-61A "Lady GEN", Florennes, Belgium, December 1944, finished in Olive Drab and Neutral Gray with invasion stripes on the tail booms.
2. P-61A "Sweatin' Wally", Myitkyina, Burma, 1944 painted Black overall.
The decals are well printed with a matte finish. They are maybe a tad thick, but the registration is spot on, and the stencils are clearly legible. The Insignia Blue is extremely dark, looking almost black on the sheet, so you make want to seek aftermarket alternatives.
ConclusionGWH's new Black Widow is a really exciting kit that looks a worthy follow up to the company's impressive debut with the Fw 189. It looks set to be quite a straightforward build, and the result will be an impressive and finely detailed model. Looking at the overall quality and design, it's hard to believe that this is still only GWH's second attempt at an aircraft subject! The instances of minor damage to the parts of the sample kit are a little worrying, although I hope I was just unlucky there, and even those will hardly detract from what should be a very enjoyable build. Highly recommended.
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