Trumpeter’s 1/32 Tropical Fritz – almost but not quite.

As I’ve often mentioned in these very pages, I tend to build kits based on books I have read or currently reading.  At this point in my life, the subject has to interest me intensely to keep my attention across months long builds.  To that end, Pierre Clostermann’s “The Big Show” inspired a love for the Tempest Mk V, and rekindled an interest in the Spitfire Mk IX (a long over-due project now on the bench).  Robin Old’s autobiography “Fighter Pilot” bloated my stash with a 1/32 P-38, P-51, Shooting Star, Meteor and F-4C Phantom II.  Pertinent to this discussion is Dan Hampton’s seminal history of air combat “Lords of the Sky“. Hampton introduced me to one of the most interesting characters in the history of air combat, rivaling the original most interesting man in the world Robin Olds.

Hans-Joachim Marseille was a Luftwaffe pilot in the early stanzas of World War 2 and his famous “Yellow 14” is a fixture at any gathering of modelers.  Admittedly it is often a difficult exercise to applaud any man who voluntarily fought under the banner of Nazi Germany, but some warriors left an indelible mark on history for their exploits, bravery, chivalry, and skill.  Marseilles is inarguably one of those men.

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Trumpeter’s kit of the same is an impressive mix of modern tooling and detail to build into a very impressive model.  Insofar as part layout and complexity it falls between most of Tamiya’s large scale offerings and Hasegawa’s.  That is just enough more complexity and detail to make it catch your eye, but not enough to require a dozen steps to build the cockpit or engine.  The majority of the kit fits together as well as anything you would find from either of the big two.  That said, the finicky fit of the engine makes this kit impossible to recommend to anyone unless you want a kit with a basic DB 601 engine displayed.

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The problems all seem to stem from the construction of the engine itself. Specifically the attachment of the individual exhaust manifolds. While it builds to be a convincing replica of an important historical engine, there are problems. The exhaust are the one place in this whole model that should require a tight positive fit to assure proper orientation but the exhaust themselves have several degrees of play in their vertical orientation. As they have to protrude out through slits in the fuselage halves, this is a critical alignment.  As I found out, a slight and even imperceptible, misalignment of the exhausts can cause the flimsy fuselage nose to warp out of true making alignment of the prop hub, or the cowlings positioned in the closed position, almost impossible without significant modification. If you are planning on building this kit, I strongly suggest ignoring the instructions and finding a way to attach the exhausts after the fuselage is together, even if you want to leave the cowls open.

Another problem is that for all of the effort Trumpeter put into providing a nicely detailed engine, and cowlings with nice internal detail, they also decided to have multiple and prominent injector pin marks on the interior of each cowl.  These are difficult to remove without destroying. With some careful sanding and filling an acceptable result can be achieved.

IMG_0351Beyond that, construction was relatively simple and straight forward. It took me about as long to get the cockpit and engine built up as it did to finish the rest of the model.  Modelers should be aware that if you want to pose the lower cowl open, the drop tank cannot be installed.  This is not mentioned in the instructions and I didn’t find out until too late into the build. Further, beyond a few placard decals for the cockpit and engine, I would highly recommend aftermarket wheels and the Quickboost tropical filter.  The difference between the kit and Aires wheels is breathtaking.  The fit is flawless with no modification (a rarity with anything Aires, and aftermarket wheels in general) and it allowed me to wait until the end to install the tail wheel. The kit tropical filter is unnecessarily complicated with too chunky and out-of-scale mounts.  Both are worth the money and effort to upgrade.

One mistake I made that I can’t really blame on the kit was that I went against my usual process to install the wing-tip navigation lights.  I had presumed, given the relatively minor fit issues with the rest of the kit (engine notwithstanding it is a great kit), that the wing tip lights would simply drop in with a little glue after paint.  This is wrong assumption on almost every kit, and especially wrong on this kit.  Not only do the sprue mounting points on the lens require buffing of the part itself (and resultant minor changing of the shape of the lens), but the notches on the wing tips for the lights don’t particularly fit well without some help, and or filler.  The better method would have been to install the lights before paint, and sand/fill to fit, then mask as is per my usual. Instead I was left trying to cobble together an acceptable fix with bondic that left the port light a bit misshapen in appearance.

Overall my recommendation for the modeler who simply wants a representation of Marseille’s “Yellow 14” for their collection would be to find the Hasegawa kit (note: I haven’t built that kit specifically but have built enough Hasegawa kits of similar vintage to extrapolate).  On the other hand if you want a bit more detail than Hasegawa out of the box, and a more challenging build with a displayed engine, this kit won’t let you down.

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