Friday, 3 February 2023

AZ Model 1:72 Martin-Baker MB 5 - greatest prop fighter and worst-ever 72nd kit !


" .. The M.B.5 came online at the beginning of the jet era, and never had a chance to prove its worth. With a P-51 sleekness and contra-rotating props, it would have been a frightful opponent for the Luftwaffe. Test-flown just two months before the Gloster Meteor jets went into R.A.F. service, the Martin-Baker M.B.5 promised much, but Whittle's invention took away its glory..."

Some six years after AZ's kit of the MB 5 first appeared I thought I'd build it, inspired by the neat article on Martin-Baker aircraft in the latest issue of Aerojournal magazine (issue no. 91). Aside from this there is good reference info in Air International, Vol. 16/2 (February 1979) and 'Wings of Fame', Vol. 9, 1997 which covers the whole MB fighter range and has some useful shots.

On with the build! Aside from the rear cockpit bulkhead, the interior parts were an OK fit. The instrument panel features nice raised detail that would benefit from careful painting and dry brushing to lift out the detail. Then the fun began! The fuselage halves were of different sizes. I lined up the upper surfaces and was left with a depression ahead of the radiator on the lower surface. The nose intake is 'solid' so was drilled open. 

The poor fit extended to the butt-joined wing halves. I drilled and pinned them to the fuselage but just couldn't achieve a decent fit. In the end I broke them off and stuck them together with Gorilla glue and filled the gaps. After a mammoth filing and sanding session I achieved a (sort of) reasonable result. Obviously I obliterated all the nice surface detailing and had to re-scribe - not my favourite job!

 Another tricky area is the ventral oil cooler intake. It is made up of 3 parts; a top half, a bottom half, and a cruciform grid that fits between them. The instructions are pretty hopeless here. Instead of assembling separate to the fuselage, I assembled the parts individually in-situ, and this worked well. Some clean up required, but not that much..

To get the gear legs on at what looks like a plausible angle is a trial. Rather than take a bit out of the front edge of the main landing gear bays - having already painted the undersurfaces -  I ended up re-drilling a location hole for them a little further back in the bay. The model simply doesn't look right in this area and certainly won't if built as per the instructions. The prop blades/spinner feature a mountain of flash and I didn't enjoy the clean-up job as the plastic that AZ use is so hard. 

Needless to say the rather thick bubble canopy didn't fit at all. I cut it into two parts so I wasn't left with massive gaps but its impossible to fit it 'properly' as it is too wide for the fuselage! Nor did the decals work - I lost one of the codes as it rolled up on itself and then 'shattered' into tiny pieces. Irretrieveably. 

The kit is 'short-run limited technology' - and pretty poor! It goes together like the 1958 vintage Airfix DH 88 Comet (see elsewhere on this blog)  ie with great difficulty!  To sum up the kit gets a poor 2 out 10 from me and is easily a contender in the 'worst scale model kit ever' Top 10, a subject we dealt with in a previous blog post (see link below). I certainly wouldn't build another. Short run shouldn't mean unbuildable and inaccurate- it certainly doesn't with other kit producers (RS Models for example). Okay, I managed to finish it - always a positive point - but really, I'm not sure why I bothered. Even now I still think the overall shape is 'wrong'. 

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