Putting the “special” back in Special Hobby: Building the 1/32 “Hi-Tech” Yak-3.

spe-cial

adjective

  1. better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual (emphasis mine).

By now, I am pretty confident with what I am going to get from a Special Hobby kit. In this case, as with their Tempest V, “special” means short run. Short run means an interesting and often under represented subject, with engineering that goes from as good as can be expected to sloppy, with detail to match.

Their kits are relatively simple in execution, which is great when one is looking for an escape from Tamiya or more complicated and ambitious builds, as I was.  But, while there should be a time cost savings in parts simplicity, there is a time penalty when some things need significantly more attention.

There were three significant issues with this build.

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The first is that the kit came with multiple broken parts including, astoundingly, parts of the wing.  To compound this issue, I either had to wait on the U.S. distributor of the kit to get replacement parts from the manufacturer, or buy a new kit.   I opted to buy a replacement kit and was going to use the replacement parts from the manufacturer to refill the parts in the kit, and then re-sell the unused kit. I’m still waiting on the replacement parts.

The second is the wheel wells.  Like the aforementioned Tempest V, Special Hobby has an almost singular ability to make construction of the wheel well as frustrating as possible.  It’s the worst combination of bad design and poor parts fit.  My solution, after ruining one set of wheel bay inserts, was to simply leave the parts that run along the leading edge of the wing out until the wing was closed, and then trim, sand, file those to fit.  Good luck. Also like the Tempest V, this seems like it could be easily remedied with resin replacement wheel bay inserts.  Note that the issues with the wheel bay parts also throw off the construction of the little intakes on the leading edge of the wing.  Be prepared to play some jazz here.

Third are the instructions.  Special Hobby’s instructions are beautiful, but sometimes utter and complete nonsense. There is no guidance I can give here except to read the instructions enough to commit them to memory so you understand what they want you to do, and then disregard all of that using your experience and constant dry fitting to determine the build sequence.

I wish I could say those were all of the problems, but they aren’t.  Those are just the problems that are unusually difficult for a build of this scope.

All of that said, this model was a fun and worthwhile departure from the meandering and ambitious P-61A I’ve been building for almost 8 months.  And, one of the weaknesses mentioned above, that of the wheel well and landing gear, turns into one of the best aspects of the build (after you’ve pulled all of your hair out getting it together).

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Similarly, the cockpit was well detailed out of the box and fun to build, paint and weather.  I hand painted the whole thing except for the individual cockpit dial decals. I knew that would be good enough given that I intended on closing the cockpit and a close inspection would be almost impossible. Note here that there is very few in the way of positive location features and good fit/alignment comes from lots of test fitting and patience.

20190406_130147-COLLAGE.jpgThis kit took significantly less time than other builds I have done in this scale, a mere 40 days from start to finish, even with some extra time being spent to work with the problem areas.  It’s a good kit of an important subject that builds into an impressive addition to my World War 2 fighter collection.

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Special Hobby’s Tempting 1/32 Tempest MK V.

There are really only two books that have inspired me to model specific subjects. The one that matters to this discussion is Pierre Clostermann’s diary “The Big Show.” In it is an unvarnished account of the author’s time as a Free French pilot in the RAF in command of both the legendary Spitfire and the brooding Tempest Mk V. To me the Tempest with its gaping maw, cuts a profile of a bare knuckle boxer, a hard-as-coffin-nails street fighter. The Tempest exudes a singular purpose of power in a way the more elegant Spitfires, Mustangs and Lightings do not. And, having recently made the transition from 1/48 to 1/32 I had to build not only a Tempest, but one of Clostermann’s.

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Clostermann in his Tempest Mk. V, NV 994.
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I really enjoyed the detail and build of the cockpit, especially with the addition of HGW’s fabric belts.

Enter the Special Hobby 1/32 high tech Tempest Mk. V. I read several in box reviews and was amazed at the level of detail that Special Hobby had appeared to achieve. I ordered one and dove in with excitement and high expectations. I must admit that my initial expectations of the kit were too high, and that is not the fault of Special Hobby but of Tamiya. I had just completed Tamiya’s 1/32 Corsair and that unfairly set a bar that few kits could achieve. But, Special Hobby is not let off of the hook. While the detail is truly tantalizing, especially the cockpit, the fit and assembly is often immensely frustrating.

With a few tweaks, Special Hobby could have an exceptional kit on their hands. What Special Hobby currently has is inarguably one of the two best Tempest Mk V in 1/32 scale (note: there are only two Tempest V kits available in 1/32 scale). Make no mistake, if you are willing to invest the work, Special Hobby’s Tempest will build into an impressive and substantial display piece, but it will provide many hours of frustration and unnecessary work to get there.

I will not recount every step of my build that spanned over ten weeks, or each of the many areas that I believe needed improvement. Some of those issues could be problems I created. I will, however, address a few areas that provided me the most trouble.

  1. Wheel Bays: This is the place that needs a redesign from Special Hobby. The instructions provided in my kit were incorrect (they were correct in my version of their Mk II). The construction is unnecessarily complicated and finicky. Slight misalignments in this stage can throw off the alignment of the top wing, thus throwing off everything from the fit of wing tip lights, to the inserts Special Hobby created for the inner wing to allow the same wing moldings for the Mk. V and Mk. II. Later in the construction, Special Hobby wants the builder to install about a dozen small parts, all of which required varying degrees of modification to fit correctly. Most troubling were the fit of the knuckle where the main landing gear struts connect to the wheel bays. I had to modify them until they were almost unrecognizable. It all worked in the end, but I think that was more my will than the kit. Special Hobby should look at creating a one piece resin wheel bay insert. This would fix the correct proportions and alignment of all of the important parts.
  2. Cowling: The focal point of the Tempest V is the prominent yawning radiator/oil cooler inlet. Special Hobby created a sub assembly with the radiator faces sandwiched between two halves of the engine and radiator cowlings. After dry fitting and trying to correct the fit of this multiple part affair,
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    Note filler required for a smooth transition between cowling and fuselage and inner wing inserts and wing.

    I decided the best way to assemble these parts is to ignore the steps suggested in the instructions. I glued the cowling halves together so as to be able to fill and sand the prominent seams on the inner and outer surfaces of the radiator scoop. Then, I had to sand down the radiator faces to fit into the assembled cowling. The next step is to fit the assembled cowling onto the assembled fuselage. Every build I’ve seen of this kit has had some sort of significant step/gap between the engine cowling sub assembly and the fuselage, so I am not alone. The fit of the cowling halves required substantial sanding and filling that required a great deal of riveting and scribing to resurrect from plastic sanded smooth.

  3. Other: The instructions, while pretty, often provide less than necessary clarity on how to assemble the parts, or are outright wrong (as was the case with the wheel bays). The clear parts all required some modification to fit correctly (especially the landing, navigation, and formation lights). The fit was bad enough that, when possible, I attached the lights with gap filling CA, then sanded/polished to match the surrounding contours. This means you need to put the lights on before paint so as not to destroy the paint during sanding. The gun sight is provided in a beautifully cast resin that is almost impossible to fit into the windscreen correctly. Pay great attention here, with lots of dry fitting.

Ultimately the rule on this kit is simple: dry fit constantly, plan ahead, and give yourself plenty of time to build it. This kit can’t be rushed. The Tempest requires the builder’s full attention (ironically, I think this was said by her pilots, too). With time, patience and intermediate skill, a great result awaits. As a good friend who has built the kit said, “this is the best-worst kit you’ll ever build.” In sum, it’s modern Tamiya level detail with 1960’s era Revellogram fit.

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Here is an album of un-narrated pictures during the build process.

Here is an album of the completed model.