MPM 1/72 Meteor 4/7/8
The Gloster Meteor was the Allies’ first jet fighter to see service in World War 2. Although it saw only limited service in that conflict, in the late 1940s and early 1950s it served to introduce a significant number of air forces to the operation of jet aircraft. It was revolutionary for its jet power plants but rather more conventional in its airframe design and structure. Rugged and reliable, relatively easy to operate, it was state of the art in the early Cold War until eclipsed by the second generation of aircraft that featured swept wings.
The first Meteors were fitted with Rolls Royce Welland engines of up to 2,000 lb thrust. Entering squadron service with the Royal Air Force on 12 July 1944 they were employed intercepting V-1 missile attacks. The small number of early aircraft were fitted with a crude, heavily framed, side hinged canopy. This was soon replaced with a smaller clear bubble, rearward sliding hood in the improved Mk.3 which entered service in December 1944.
By July 1945, a definitive Meteor took to the air. The airframe had been uprated and strengthened to take 3,500lb thrust Derwent engines and as the Mk.4 the Meteor gained the distinctive stubby wing plan form that would characterise nearly all of the subsequent variants. In the early years of peace after World War 2, a move away from the drab colours of the war years saw the RAF’s fighter command squadrons decorate their mounts in an array of bright and flamboyant colour schemes. A total of 535 Mk.4s were built and the type was exported to Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt and the Netherlands.
The F.4 was the basis of the twin-seat T.7, an unarmed trainer that featured a fuselage extension incorporating a second cockpit under a massive framed canopy. This version first flew in March 1948 and was a long term success in the RAFs training fleet. 677 were built. In addition to RAF service, small numbers served with land-based units of the Royal Navy and exports were made to Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Egypt, France, Israel and the Netherlands.
Parallel work in Gloster’s design department led to another version with an extended forward fuselage, this time retaining the single seat layout and providing extra fuel capacity. This, the F.8 fighter, featured yet another canopy redesign, having a more blown hood, that in the early versions featured a solid rear section. The F.8 was further characterised by a new taller tail assembly. F.8s were to take up 40% of all Meteor production and 1,502 were built, including 330 under licence by Fokker in the Netherlands. Export orders came from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Egypt, Israel, The Netherlands and Syria.
Records show that 57 squadrons of the Royal Air Force flew Meteors at one time or another, but the prolific Mk.8s never fired their guns in anger in RAF colours.
In late 1950 No 77 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force re-equipped with Meteor 8s as part of the United Nations operations in the Korean War. This was seven years after the first flight of the Meteor and the World had moved on too much for the aircraft to be truly competitive with the state of the art swept wing Mig-15. The Meteor was switched to a ground attack role and the Australian unit bravely carried out some 18,872 individual sorties before they were stood down in July 1953 after three years hard service.
By the mid-1950s the time of the Meteor as a fighter had passed, but dedicated reconnaissance and night fighter versions lasted in service to the early 1960s. Many Meteor 4s and 8s were converted to pilotless drone targets in the UK and lived on into the early 1980s. Incredibly two Meteor Mk.7s continue as working aircraft in military marks. One is held in reserve, but the second, WA638, flies regularly on ejector seat trials for Martin Baker in England, fully 64 years after it left the Gloster factory and has notched up over 550 live seat firings
MPM’s Meteor bids fair to be as versatile as the real thing, having appeared in a variety of boxings, different variants, alternative colour schemes and under the labels of MPM, Revell, Airfix and Xtrakit, all in the UK marketplace. They are of a standard that I feel is at the upper end of quality for a short run kit, very close to that of a mainstream product.
Regardless of variant, the kits offer one common parts frame that forms the basis of the stubby wing, nacelles, undercarriage and associated doors that are common to all fighter and trainer variants. The parts frame also includes enlarged engine intakes that are applicable to some late versions of the Meteor. This is a regular trap for the unwary when modelling Meteors, so if an aftermarket decal sheet is to be used a confirming photograph may well be essential.
A second parts frame provides the specific fuselage halves, tailplanes and external fuel tanks.
MPM helpfully provide the wing centre section in one piece to include the engine nacelles, This allows the fuselage to fit over the centre section in a saddle-type arrangement that gives a strong joint.
Transparencies are accurately and thinly moulded although they seem quite brittle and need to be carefully separated from the sprue. Gun sights are included as clear parts.
Main plastic parts are moulded in a softish mid-grey plastic that I find easy to work, although as with any kit of this kind careful trimming and sanding of joining surfaces is needed. Where joining pegs and sockets exist on the parts they are quite shallow and require careful alignment. On some kits that I have examined there are signs of mould wear that cause small ridges either side of join lines so I always expect to use some filler, but given the soft nature of the plastic any associated rescribing is quite straightforward.
Cockpit are fairly basic, but are what I consider to be adequate for 1:72 scale, consisting of a floor, rudder pedals in foot channels, bucket seat or ejector seat as appropriate , instrument panel, rear bulkhead and an under floor bulkhead for the nose wheel bay. At least 10grammes of nose weight is required and it needs to be tucked in, around and under the cockpit.
Construction is as conventional as the Meteor itself. The cockpit assembly is trapped between the fuselage halves and while everything is drying, the upper and lower wing halves are assembled around two main wheel bays which are glued to the underside of the upper wing. Engine front detail is added to the air intakes, consisting of a disc and a short section of the wing leading edge. The engine inserts did not want to fit on my samples and required some careful sanding and trimming. The rear of the engine nacelles consist of a tapering cone with an inset disc representing the rear of the engine and a shallow exhaust tube which could be painted and added separately to ease painting.
The fuselage sits over the wing with a satisfyingly positive alignment, although I find that the horizontal tail planes are a sloppy fit and are best secured with a good squeeze of tube cement and left to dry with a small clothes peg clamped either side of the tail fin to ensure that they are square.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The airframe is then painted and decalled. A silver finished Meteor is painted in RAF High Speed Silver, not natural metal and my choice is Tamiya Acrylic Flat Aluminium XF-16 which looks OK to me under a finishing coat of Xtracrylic satin varnish. All applied with my Iwata HP-C airbrush. Most Meteors were meticulously maintained so any weathering should be subtle.
The slight downside to these MPM kits is the undercarriage and this shows up one of the minor weaknesses of short run tooling. Each leg consists of too many parts for comfortable assembly – at least with my ageing eyesight. The nose wheel assembly consists of the vertical leg, a separate angled nose wheel fork, the wheel, a mudguard and then two small mudguard stays that must be added from scrap plastic. The knee joint between the leg and fork must be carefully aligned so as not to leave the nose of the parked aircraft too high or too low – it should be at an angle of 100 degrees according to the Revell instructions. The main legs are a little less complicated since there is a positive joint between the leg and fork sections but still some mudguard stays must be added. The whole undercarriage assembly is also influenced by vague and shallow attachment point for the legs where they meet the roof of their respective wheel bays. I solved this by gluing a small plastic collar around the top end of each leg to give a larger mating area between the parts. Just for luck I also ran a tiny amount of epoxy into the back of the nose leg “knee” for extra strength since this small area of plastic has to support the nose above which is already handicapped by 10 grams of fishing weight.
I found that the undercarriage assembly, modification and adjustment took nearly as long as assembling the rest of the airframe.
Finally I added the undercarriage doors (perhaps a little too thick for scale) and the aerials.
This assembly sequence and notes applies to all three of my Meteors. The differences between various boxings are as follows:
Meteor F.8. Airfix Club Limited Edition Kit No A73004, “Coronation review 1952”, £12-99 to Airfix Club members
(Pictured finished in the Blue and White checks of No .19 Squadron RAF.)
This is supplied in a top hinged box and provides a choice of two finishes, respectively Nos. 19 & 92 Sqns. The instructions suggest 3 grams of nose weight – I chose to go for the 10 that Revell recommend in their kit although with a longer nose the Airfix Mk.8 might well be OK. The kit includes two types of canopy , the one with the solid rear panel applies to the two variants on offer, although the later type fully glazed bubble is included as are the larger type engine intakes. The instructions are in 21 stages of pictograms in Airfix’s usual clear style and one page of full colour for the finishing guide. The decals are crisp and well printed with a reasonable amount of stencilling and walkways. But there is one odd feature. The blue and white checks for the 19 Sqn. version are present on the fuselage decals while the tail decals are blue checks only to be applied over a white painted tail fin. So far so good, since white paint is fairly likely to match white decal. However the red and yellow fuselage checks of the 92 Sqn. machine appear on the fuselage decal only while red-only checks are to be applied to the tail with an invitation from Airfix to paint the tail planes and bullet fairing with Insignia Yellow and the tips of the bullet fairing in Red. I have never had much success with matching paint to decal colours, hence my F.8 has the simpler option of the Blue and White trim.
Meteor F.4. Revell Kit No 04658-0389, £12-99
(Pictured finished in the red and white triangles of No. 600 Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 1951).
The kit is packed in Revell’s familiar letter-box style of cardboard box and the instructions run to 28 stages. In this version the outer wing panels are moulded separately and it is pointed out that they should be fixed at 6 degrees dihedral. Similarly the need for 10 grams of nose weight and 100 degrees of nose wheel leg deflection are called out at the appropriate stage. Full marks to Revell.
Two colour options are offered on a neat decal sheet which includes stencilling and wing walks. Both are all silver aircraft. One from No. 1 squadron RAF in 1950, still carrying the late war C1 type roundels and a large red diamond stripe running the full length of the fuselage. The second is from No 600 Sqn. as shown in the accompanying photos.
Meteor T.7. MPM kit No 72548 “Commonwealth Trainer”, £22-40
(Pictured finished in the all silver of No 77 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force, late 1950s)
This kit costs considerably more than the other two and the box contents justify it.
The plastic parts are essentially standard but there is a substantial bag of resin giving a full interior to both cockpits. This is based around one casting that provides a full floor and nose wheel bay roof, even including the hump in the floor where the retracted nose wheel sits between the pilot’s feet. Bucket seats and full side wall and instrument panel detail are included. There is a separate etched fret for both flight instrument panels and film instruments. A vinyl canopy mask provides 19 tiny pieces to enable the canopy to be painted. The only possible downside is that a Meteor cockpit is mainly matt black so little will be seen under that heavily framed canopy but the scope is there for those who want to modify the kit to open canopy configuration.
MPM’s instructions are the least user-friendly being printed in black and white in A5 loose leaf format. There are five pages of annotated exploded views, but the instructions can be vague so MPM seem to assume that if you are up for a multi media kit then you must know what you are doing. The instructions show the installation of a gun sight which is not applicable to the unarmed T.7.
The decals are excellent, providing wing walk lines and some stencilling that is so small a magnifying glass is needed. There is a choice of five finishes, the first a very distinctive Royal Navy version in black with large red dayglo panels. The rest are all silver – a standard trainer of the RAF’s No 215 Advanced Flying School 1953; two versions of the RAAFs No 77 Squadron, with and without the kangaroo roundel on the fuselage; and an esoteric option being the sole Meteor that was evaluated by the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1951. The decals and instructions seem to have one flaw, showing the Australian version with a left-facing kangaroo on each side of the fuselage. According to my references the animal should face forward on each side so I stole a one from an F-86 sheet in my decal dungeon.
I like the MPM Meteor kit, it looks right and feels right, so much so that I was tempted to make my first 1:72 scale kits on over five years.
There is the need to take a little more time, a little more care, to check and re-check the fit of parts and the undercarriage assembly is a challenge but nothing insurmountable. It could serve as a good introduction to short runs kits.
Revell Mk.4 kit courtesy of my LHS – Spot on Models and Hobbies of Swindon, England.
MPM Mk.7 from Hannants of Lowestoft.
Airfix Mk.8. Direct from Airfix.com (Only available to members of the Airfix Club as a limited edition).
The Gloster Meteor F.IV, Profile Publications no. 78, by J.J Partridge 1966.
The Gloster Meteor F.8, Profile Publications no. 12, by C.F Andrews 1965.
IPMS (UK) Magazine June 1970
The Gloster Meteor, by Edward Shacklady, Macdonald & Co 1962.
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