Frog 1/96 DeHavilland Comet 4

KIT #: F-356
PRICE: $10.00
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Peter Burstow
NOTES: Long OOP but can be found

HISTORY

 Reborn from the ashes of the earlier Comet disasters, the Comet 4 first flew in April 1958, received it's C of A on 24th September 1958 and was delivered to BOAC the next day. The first jet powered regular transatlantic service was flown on 4th October of that year. Unfortunately for de Havilland and BOAC, Pan-Am started regular Boeing 707 services later that month, the technological lead of the earlier Comet 1, being reduced from four years to a few weeks.

 The Comet 4 was a much stretched and up-engined version of the earlier Comets. Powered by Rolls-Royce Avon engines, the go-to British engine of the 50's and 60's, it had a capacity of 60-81 passengers. Later it was stretched further as the 4A, 4B and 4C.  

THE KIT

First released in 1958, a busy year for Comets, the Frog kit represents some early Comet 4s as delivered to BOAC. The review kit was a Novo boxing, moulded in the USSR. In a tan, brittle plastic, the kit barely fits in the large top opening box. There are 10 parts for the airframe, with another 20 odd parts for the undercarriage and engine exhausts. Two cockpit windscreens were supplied. There are no cabin windows moulded.

 The parts are very cleanly moulded with a little flash here and there. A couple of small sink marks are visible on the fuselage. A lot of thought went into the kit engineering, with the sprue attachment points hidden inside joints and on the under fuselage. The sprue had been torn away from the fuselage, leaving a couple of holes that need repair. Detailing is fine recessed lines, a little heavy for this scale, but a few coats of paint will lighten it enough. The mouldings showed signs of polishing and clean up.

 As expected from a kit of this vintage there is not much detail. The cabin is empty, with just a bulkhead, the site of the sink marks. The engine intakes are open holes into the wing, the exhausts blanked off. The undercarriage is simplified with very shallow wells, and thick doors. There is moulded hub detail on the wheels, not sure how accurate, but it looks OK. There is a large stand slot, but no stand provided.

 The large decal sheet has markings for three BOAC aircraft, G-APDA, with extra letters provided for G-APDF and G-APDT. G-APDA was the test airframe, c/n 6401, F was c/n 6407 and T was c/n 6420. The cheat line decals include representations of the cabin windows. The decals are very dull, a bit out of registration with a lot of cracks. The instruction sheet details seven instruction steps, and the side of the box has a three view painting and decalling diagram.

CONSTRUCTION

 I started with a dry fit of the main airframe parts, fit was good, with just a little flash needing removed from the tailplane attachment slots. Took the opportunity to work out the weight needed to stop it tail sitting, I ended up with 50 grams of lead behind the cockpit bulkhead, two 20 gram and one 10 gram wheel balance weights. Painted the cockpit dark grey, then closed up the fuselage. Fitted  well, with a small gap at the base of the tail. Left it clamped up to harden. Next day I filled the gap with Mr Surfacer, and put a small drop into the sink marks. I repaired the two sprue attachment scars under the fuselage.

 While that was all hardening I assembled the wing and tailplane halves. Again just about perfect fit, with a light sand needed along the joints and no filling.

 I then fitted the wings and tailplanes to the fuselage. Tabs at the roots assured a strong fit and set the dihedral on the tailplane. There were small gaps at the roots, a line of Mr Surfacer was enough to fill them. I then added the exhaust nozzles, wheel doors and undercarriage legs. A light sand and the airframe was ready for priming.

COLORS & MARKINGS

With airliner kits, it's all in the painting and finishing, not one of my strong points. I gave the model an all-over prime with a light grey epoxy paint. Very high gloss, it fills any slight imperfections and sanding marks, and highlights any faults. I needed to do a bit more filling and sanding on one of the wing roots.

 A few of days to harden, then a coat of Tamiya AS-20 gloss insignia white from a rattle can, that's when the fun really started. Started to lift and bubble in three spots around the wing tanks, the lacquer had attacked the primer. Why in only those small areas? Anyway, sanded those areas and re-coated with gloss white enamel. Much better. A week of hardening then I masked the white parts and primed the rest of the airframe again, this time with a thin coat of gloss black to provide a base for a natural metal finish.

More waiting around, just a few hours this time as I wasn't going to handle the model, then a coat of White Knight Chrome, the best natural metal paint I can get here, (Alclad lacquers being very hard to get). Another day and then another coat. After another few days I removed the masking, needed a touch up in a couple of spots. The paint is very easily damaged so I left it a few weeks to really harden before any further work.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

 While the fuselage was in the paint shop, I turned my attention to the wheels. Not a lot of work here, just removal of a mould seam on every part. I painted the wheel hubs silver, and the tyres Tamiya German grey. The wheels are designed to rotate, but I didn't try hard to achieve that. I added the wheels after the decaling had been done.

 Early in the build process I gave the decals three coats of Microscale liquid decal film, I didn't like the chances of them surviving a dip in water, let alone being applied. Despite all that decal film, the decals did break up, fortunately in large hunks, which I was mainly able to manipulate together. They were much thinner than I expected, and tended to fold, and also tended to lift and curl when dry, despite using micro-set. I repaired them using a mixture of floor polish and micro-sol.

 The colours were not very solid, and on anything other than a white or metal background probably would not be much good. I had a lot of difficulty with the long cheat line decals especially. They did however conform well, no silvering on the high gloss surface. I had to touch up the decals in several places, using hand brushed Tamiya acrylic paint. Just about last, I added the windscreen clear(ish) part, and hand painted the frames.

 I sealed the decals, and the rest of the model, with several coats of sprayed floor polish, which dulled down the chrome paint, but lifted the gloss on the decals. I use a cheap external mix airbrush just for floor polish, it's too uncontrollable for painting, but works fine with polish with a drop of dish washing soap added to the bottle.

CONCLUSIONS

A very easy build of the first jet airliner to be in regular service. The kit fit very well, with no problem areas, and I had only a few difficulties in the long painting process. The decals were a chore, but ended up reasonably acceptable. I would not have used them if I could have found some others.

I took about four hours to build the kit, with a month of waiting for paint to dry, and another few hours decaling in several sessions. The scale is a bit odd, but works well, providing a reasonable sized kit, spanning 14 inches. For those imperialist reading, the scale works out to one inch to eight feet, and is sometimes used for large ship models.

This kit needs a bit of attention from the aftermarket guys. Decals for the many schemes of the multitude of operators, resin bits for the engine intakes and exhausts, and maybe SAC could provide a decent undercarriage. All wishful thinking, the market is probably too small. In the late 1950's Frog released a number of kits in the rather odd 1/96 scale, several airliners, as well as the trio of British 'V' bombers. Some appear from time to time. Glencoe has released the Viscount, and Eastern Express released the Britannia. I haven't seen any of the others for many years, there was a Douglas DC-7, and a Caravelle, there may have been others. Avoid the Lancaster!

 Recommended if you can get it. Throw away the decals!

REFERENCES

 Jackson, A.J. De Havilland Aircraft since 1909. Putnam, London, 1978

Wilson, Stewart. Viscount Comet & Concorde, Aerospace Publications, Weston Creek, 1996

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_DH.106_Comet

 Peter Burstow

May 2014

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