Amodel 1/72 Polikarpov I-180

KIT #: 7283
PRICE: $11.00 a few years back
DECALS: one option
REVIEWER: Peter Burstow
NOTES: Short run

HISTORY

The Polikarpov I-180 was almost the last gasp of the I-16 line, redesigned, with a longer fuselage and a straight wing leading edge. It was powered by the M-88 engine, a licensed built Gnome Rhone Mistral Major 1,100 h.p. two-row radial. The 40 odd turn hand-crank undercarriage of the I-16 was replaced with a pneumatically operated mechanism.

 The aircraft had a bad start, with the first prototype crashing on its maiden flight, on 15 December 1938, killing the famous test pilot Valery Chkalov. The second prototype crashed during testing on 5 September 1939, killing another test pilot Tomas Suzi. The third prototype crashed on 6 July 1940, the pilot parachuting safely.

 Ten aircraft were manufactured based on the second prototype, and another three, designated I-180S, based on the the third prototype.  

THE KIT

 The kit represents the third prototype, and is small, spanning 140 mm or about 5 inches. There are 34 parts moulded in a light grey, soft plastic. The plastic has a slightly rough surface appearance, lots of flash, and a few lumps and bumps, but the pieces seem to be well shaped and finely detailed with recessed lines.  There is a fabric effect on the ailerons and tailplane, and framework detail on the cockpit side walls. There are small sink marks on several parts.

 Many of the small thin parts such as exhaust pipes, pitot tube, and u/c legs have mould misalignment ledges, very small and easily sanded off. There are two clear parts for the windscreen and separate hood, which is not used on some of the versions. The decal sheet has four silver stars, nothing else.

 Three versions are shown on the instructions, the third prototype, all silver without a hood, the same aircraft, silver with a black cowling and the hood. A third version is described in the instructions as a serial aircraft, probably intended as one of the I-180S production aircraft, all red, with silver stars and no hood.

CONSTRUCTION

Building commenced with the cockpit, the two part seat, rudder pedals and a control column were added to the floor. The floor was then attached to the lower wing centre section. The instrument panel and a tank were fitted to the starboard fuselage side. Positive location points were provided for all the small parts, which is unusual for a limited run kit. Some of the detail is just visible through the small cockpit opening.

 The cockpit was painted medium grey as per the instructions, then given a dark wash to pick out the frame detail. I painted the tank flat aluminium, the control column, rudder pedals and instrument panel black, then added masking tape belts, and picked out details in chrome silver. The next sub-assembly was the engine, comprising two cylinder banks in half relief, a prop shaft and the rear half of the spinner. The cylinders were painted Mr Metal Color 'Iron', then buffed, which brought out the cooling fin details.

 The fuselage attached to the upper wing halves, so I assembled the wing. I had to remove a lot of material from the lower wing tips to get them to fit in the cut-out in the upper wing halves. I then added the right fuselage half, then the left half with the engine assembly between. I then closed up the top fuselage joint. It seemed an odd way of doing things, but reduced the filling required in the hard to get at wing roots. I had to carve a lot off the inside of the fuselage halves to clear the top of the undercarriage wells, and shave a little off the engine firewall to get it all to fit.

 Next step was to add the top deck to the cowling, again a little trimming was needed to get a good fit. Then added the front cowling ring. Discovered that my assembly method had widened the front of the fuselage slightly, so I cut through the bottom of the ring and spread it by about 1 mm. When it was dry I filled and smoothed the resulting gap. All the joints needed a little cleaning up, mostly one or two layers of Mr Surfacer was enough, except at the lower rear wing to fuselage joint which needed a lot of putty.

 The last bit of the main assembly was the one piece tailplane, again a little trimming was needed to get a good fit with the fuselage, and the joints needed a little filling with Mr Surfacer.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 After masking the engine and cockpit, priming and the usual joint and glitch repair, I painted the model overall gloss 'Cherry Red' using a White Knight rattle can enamel. The silver star decals worked with no problem on the gloss surface. I used a little setting liquid to make sure they stayed put. Once dry they were sealed with a little floor polish.

 The box art, and a photo of a crashed example shows an unpainted metal ring around the cowl, a common feature on Polikarpovs, I used a Xtradecal 0.5 mm stripe for this, great fun!

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

The windscreen went on with a little sanding and trimming to make it fit, I left the canopy off, it was full of glitches and too small to sand and polish. The propeller was painted aluminium, and attached with the pre-painted spinner.

 The rather complicated undercarriage was then added. Each leg had three door parts. Amodel thought it confusing enough that they supplied front and side elevation views, in addition to the exploded style assembly instructions. As I had pre-painted the parts, I used a slow superglue for the assembly. Separate closed position doors were also supplied, and might have been a better option, for what was the only really tricky part of the build. I replaced the pitot with a bit of 0.5mm brass rod. A little bit of touch up and detail painting, then an overall coat of floor polish and it was made.

CONCLUSIONS

It turned out a nice little model, and a good exercise of basic modelling skills. It looks like it belongs at the air races with the Gee Bees and the Travel Airs, must be the paint job, just needs a few company logos and a NX serial.

 Needed a small amount of joint filling and sanding, less than normal for a short run kit. The kit was much better than the other Amodels I have built recently, but still required plenty of dry-fitting and trimming to get it all together. My method of moving the wing root gaps to the underside of the cowling worked well enough, changing two long and hard to clean up joints, to one that was small, easily accessible, and not very visible.

 I enjoyed the build but after three recent Amodel Polikarpovs, I may avoid another Amodel for a while. Recommended for experienced modellers due to the tricky assembly and carving required.

REFERENCES

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polikarpov_I-180

Vaclav Nemecek, The History of Soviet Aircraft from 1918, Key Publishing, London 1986.

Kit Instructions.

Peter Burstow

January 2014

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