Kopro 1/72 Aero C-3A/B C-103

KIT #: KOP3158
PRICE:  HK$32.50 at UML in Hong Kong (sale item)
DECALS: Four options
NOTES: Same kit as Kopro KOP3135 Siebel Si-204


The Aero C-3 was built in Czechoslovakia after World War II. It was a copy of the German Siebel Si-204D which came into service in about 1943, apparently mainly used as a trainer and a liaison aircraft. Just over 1200 were made in various sub-versions.  Production wound up in 1945. After the war, the Aero Vodochody company built a further 179 in three main variants -  the C-3A and C-3B were trainers (the B version for bombing training) and the C-103 designed as a passenger and transport aircraft.    This little plane had yet another life in France, where up to 350 were built as the NC-701/702 Martinet with three-bladed props and Renault engines (the 702 had a more conventional nose). The airliner versions were used by the Czech airline CSA and by Air France.

There isn't a great deal of information about this little plane. The German aircraft seems to have the dubious honour of being the last German plane shot down on the Western front, downed by a P-38 on the evening of 8 May 1945 just a few hours before the end of the European War - hard luck for those aircrew having survived that long with the end so close in sight. I read that on wikipedia - may or may not be true.

I bought this because it looked weird and was half price. Full price, which is only $HK65 (E6.50), was nonetheless too much of a stretch for a kit like this of a subject I'd never even heard of, but who can say no to 50% off? I had a rough idea of what to expect but I was actually pleasantly surprised.  This is a nice little kit. Of course, it is not remotely close to Tamiya or Hasegawa, and not even as good as older Airfix kits.  But it does have a decent shape, a bit of cockpit detail, and a nice set of clear parts. In the cockpit there are two seats, a control panel, control sticks, rudder pedals and a little bit of raised detail.

It's moulded in grey and the parts need cleaning up, particularly the smaller parts which do require some effort. The clear parts are quite clear and the window frames on the main cabin are crisply done.

The kit seems to contain all the parts you need for any of the Aero versions and also the Siebel versions from the Siebel boxing. There are two little bombs and a clear turret with a very basic representation of a machine gun. These go with the C-3B version.

Everything is pretty basic - heavily raised panel lines, some rivets (though these are okay to my eyes), and basic wheels (but not simplistic - they look okay).

Getting a great result out of this kit would take a lot of time, effort and skill. Getting a nice model of the C-3, on the other hand, just takes a little patience and a lowering of the bar in terms of your expectations.

I started by painting the interior and installing the cabin windows - these fit very well. There's no detail in the passenger cabin, but unless you really tried it'd be difficult to see much in there anyway.  I painted up the cockpit and advertised in the spares box for a pair of pilots. These two were laid off from the aircrew of my Matchbox Dornier flying boat when I decided to do the airmail version, so they presented as the perfect candidates for this mission. A quick lick of paint to take off their life jackets and they were hired.

The good thing about this model is you can put together the fuselage and install the cockpit without actually finishing it - the big canopy leaves a huge wide open space before it is attached. So if you're feeling bogged down by the cockpit you can install it, build the airframe, and come back later to finish off the front office.

I built the wings and engine nacelles and attached them to the fuselage along with the twin tail.  Then came a long period of putty and sanding. Needless to say, the fit on this model was less than perfect, and plenty of careful sanding is needed to clean up the mismatch without ruining too much of the raised detail.

With that all done, I moved to the painting described below. Once painted, I only had to install the control sticks and other cockpit components, plus the pilots, and seal up the canopy.  The canopy doesn't really fit very well. I used my standard, semi-lazy technique of filling that gap with paint, using a very fine gap and a tiny bubble of paint, and gently wedging it into the gap until it fills. I do this because I can't be bothered masking the canopy off. I just paint the framework freehand instead. Lazy? Yes.

The undercarriage is very simple and went on after a little trimming to the undercarriage legs to make them fit into their locator holes.

Remember to drill out a hole for your astrodome too, and the turret if you build that version.

I had hoped to make a C-103 in CSA colours but try as I might, I couldn't find a picture anywhere.

So, I went for the C-3A in brown and light grey camouflage, with the classic Czech pale blue underside. Other kit alternatives are two Czech C-3 aircraft in green over blue, and an overall cream Soviet C-103.

The alert reader, who perhaps remembers my other reviews, will know that I usually use the paints that I have handy, rather than seeking out precisely the right colours. That was my approach here - although I bought a jar of Mr Color 20 "Light Blue" for the underside, I went with my existing jars of Mr Color 11 "Light Gull Grey" and Tamiya XF-10 flat brown for the top. The blue and grey are semi-gloss enamels, while the brown is a matt acrylic.

Not everyone would agree with this approach of using semi-gloss and matt for the same scheme, nor on using enamels and acrylics. But the result satisfies me, especially for a simple build of a fairly basic kit.   As I said, I hand painted the canopy frame lines with a fine brush and a steady hand.

This particular option didn't have any kind of serial numbers or other markings beyond the roundels. The other Czech variants have more complete markings.  The Czech roundels themselves are nicely done, thin and easily applied. They worked much better than some other KP decals I used recently, which disintegrated seconds after hitting the water. Six roundels later, and you're done!

Well, it's a quirky plane, quite stylish in its own way, and if you can find it at a reasonable price, it's a fun build for the novelty value.

Skilled modellers will be able to really go to town because the basics are there. Average modellers, like me, can still get a trouble-free build of a plane that's not well-known and probably rarely seen on display shelves.

Side profiles: http://www.czfree-ol.cz/latal/kamuflaze/c-3a.htm

Richard F

October 2009

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