Tamiya 1/48 BEAUFIGHTER VI
Price: MSRP $33.00
Decals: two different aircraft
Accuracy: Looks right to me
Overall: Excellent - see review
Reviewed by: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (THE AERONUT)
The Bristol Beaufighter has been called "the forgotten fighter," overwhelmed by the spectacular achievements of its stablemate the DeHavilland Mosquito in much the same way that the Hawker Hurricane is overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire, even if the Hurricane did shoot down more enemy aircraft than any other Allied fighter. Similarly, the Beaufighter was the airplane that was there when needed when it came to fighting off the Blitz, making the coastal waters of Europe inhospitable to Axis shipping, or bringing "whispering death" to Japanese soldiers. As an important airplane, it has ranked high on my want-to-have list for years. I've built both Falcon vacuforms, but always wanted the kind of kit Tamiya has presented us here.
Just what have they given us? The box says a Beaufighter VI is inside, and you certainly can do one, either the night fighter or the coastal day fighter in desert camouflage. You can also do a late model Mk. VIF nightfighter with thimble radome, an Australian Mk 21 with the Sperry autopilot housing, or an early TF Mk X, and that's just with the mix-and-match of the extra parts in the kit. In fact, the only Beaufighters you can't easily make from this kit are the early Mk. I with the small horizontal stabilzer, the Griffon-engined Mk. II, and the late TF X with the dorsal fin extension. For anyone unafraid to take a razor saw to the horizontal stabilizer, the early Mk. I is an easy conversion, and a bit of work with sheet plastic is all it takes to come up with the late TF X. I'm certain there are those out there crazy enough to take the engines from a Tamiya Lancaster, mate them with the Beaufighter kit and come up with the Mk II, but I'm willing to wait on that until Aeromaster provides a cast resin conversion, if only for cost. Aeromaster has already released two sheets of Beaufighter decals for all the versions listed above, so there's no reason not to do whichever one you want.
So far as the kit itself is concerned, it's typical Tamiya: well-engineered and easily assembled. It has the one failing associated with Tamiya, in that the interior could be better-detailed, but what's there is certainly acceptable.
At the time I got my Beaufighter kit, the Aeromaster sheets weren't out yet. I marked mine as NT850 MB-T, "T-for-Tommy", a well-known Coastal Command Beaufighter in 236 Squadron with D-Day invasion stripes. Aeromaster has this on their sheet; however, I think their information is incorrect. There were several "T-for-Tommies," and NT850 is an early one. It may in fact actually be a Mk VIC TorBeau, the early torpedo-strike fighter. Aeromaster says this aircraft was dark sea grey uppers with sky underside, which is correct for Coast Command TF Xs; however, photographs of this particular airplane in "Beaufighter At War" show light and dark areas that fit exactly with the dark sea grey/slate grey Coastal Command upper surface camouflage pattern for earlier Beaufighters. I decided to do mine that way.
I've read a review of this kit in an English model magazine that claims it isn't accurate at all - they also say the same thing about the Tamiya Meteor. From all the photos I have, I think the kit is accurate. I like the model it makes up into, and I will probably do another one. I hope this kit doesn't steal the thunder from the upcoming Accurate Miniatures series (A Mk I nightfighter, Mk VI day fighter, and TF Mk X) the way Tamiya got the march with their P-51B, but only time will tell on that.
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