Azur/Fromm 1/72 Vickers Vildebeest Mk.III

KIT #: FR017
PRICE: CDN $39.00  from
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Mark Hiott
NOTES: Unspatted wheels supplied in kit but no decal option for them


The Vickers Vildebeest was a land based torpedo bomber first flown in 1928 and remaining in service until 1942, flying against the Japanese at Singapore.

The prototype Vildebeest, the Vickers Type 132, was first flown in April,1928 powered by a Bristol Jupiter VIII. As the Jupiter VIII was prone to vibration, a second prototype, the Vickers Type 204 was fitted with a Armstrong Siddeley Panther engine. Engines problems continued, however, which were solved by fitting a new version of the Jupiter, which later became known as the Bristol Pegasus. The Vildebeest had an all-metal, fabric-covered airframe, with single-bay unstaggered wings. An initial production order was placed in 1931 for nine aircraft, with the first production aircraft flying in September 1932. More production followed, with major production being of the Vildebeest III version, which added a third crewmember, with 150 built for the RAF. The Mark IV introduced the much more powerful (825 hp (615 kW)) Bristol Perseus engine enclosed in a NACA cowling, which significantly improved performance, maximum speed increasing to 156 mph (251 km/h) and rate of climb to 840 ft/min (4.3 m/s). The Perseus had overheating problems, however, and was unsuitable for tropical service, and production was limited to 18 aircraft, which served with the home based squadrons.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, 101 Vildebeests were still in service with the RAF. The two British based squadrons flew coastal patrol and convoy escort missions until being replaced by the Bristol Beaufort in 1940. The two Singapore-based squadrons still awaited Beauforts, however, when Japan invaded Malaya in December 1941, and the now obsolete biplanes were forced to be deployed against the Japanese attackers, attempting unsuccessfully to torpedo a Japanese cruiser off Kota Bharu on 8 December. The last Vildebeests in RAF service, operated by 273 Squadron at Ceylon were retired in March 1942.


Molded in gray, the kit has a rather small parts count, but the level of detail is quite nice. Resin is used for the engine, cockpit parts, oil cooler and 2 barrels for the forward firing gun. A small, but very nice, photo etch fret gives all the appropriate cockpit details, control linkages, torpedo details as well as parts for the Lewis machine gun.

The instructions are nicely done and well laid out in 10 steps. A rigging layout is also included. 3-views are given for all 4 decals options and a single 3-view is given for the stencils. The instructions are not quite clear on how to bend some of the p/e parts and I had to guess at a couple of them.

The decals are sharp and in resister. They are done by a company called "Dead Design" and are VERY thin. So thin that no setting solution was needed, even on the wheel spats. Care must be taken, however, as I ruined a few stencils by having them fold over. Being so small, I was unable to use them. Luckily, Azur provides extras for most of the stencils.


I started by painting the insides of the fuselage Brick Red with British Interior Green framing. I followed the painting callouts for the most part and painted the cockpit details Aluminum. I chose not to use the kit's windows and added a small cross brace to the left lower window. At this point I also drilled out the upper right window as called for in the instructions. After installing the seatbelts, the cockpit and gunners compartment were mounted to the fuselage and the fuselage closed up. Very little of the interior detail can be seen once the fuselage is closed, so it's really up to you to how much you put in. The rear gunners turret ring did not fit the opening in the fuselage and a bit of modifying was needed. The fuselage didn't require much filler, just a bit on the top and bottom of the nose.

Next up were the wings and here the build gets a bit interesting. The lower wing fit very nicely into the fuselage, but the upper wing requires a bit of finesse. (A small note here: Azur provides what I would call locators where various parts mount. Very few of them are actual holes. I went over the whole plane and drilled holes where they were needed.) I suggest anyone who decides to build this make a jig for the upper wing. As it was, it still required about 3 hands to get it all together. I installed the outer struts first and allowed them to dry overnight. The wing will be very fragile until the inner struts are installed, so care is called for. The inner struts snapped into place neatly, in fact they may be too long, I'm not really sure. The instructions tell you to install the tail supports (parts L9, L10 or L11) in step 3. Don't... install them in step 7 after you have installed the tail control linkages.

The engine is next in step 5. I found the resin engine to be quite nice, but the plastic parts didn't fit. The front exhaust ring fit ok, but the rear intake ring I had to cut in 3 parts to get it to match up with the engines intake ports. Leave the engine off until later in the build. The gear is installed next and I found that the inner gear struts don't match up with the "locator" markings on the wing. As a result, my wheels had a pronounced positive Camber that I had to fix on the fly. I suggest testing the fit of the wheel struts and then drill the mounting holes. Azur gives you unspatted wheels but none of the decals options offer unspatted wheels. Although, I suppose at some point the spats may have been removed.

The torpedo and its mount are a true thing of beauty. The p/e fret provides a very nice cradle, that looks intimidating but folds perfectly. I completely assembled the torpedo and its cradle before attaching it to the fuselage as I found working between the wheels would be a bit of a hassle. I attached the torpedo as the instructions show, but it's a bit farther forward then the 3-views show. I tried to set it as the 3-view shows, but the tail fin hits the bottom of the fuselage. The gunners Lewis machine gun is another thing best assembled and then installed. The p/e sights and elevator rails are very small parts and are best installed when you have lots of "elbow room".

Next were all the various p/e parts the festoon the fuselage. These included the aerial supports and the gunners ladder. The windows were then filled with Kristal Klear. After painting I installed engine, exhaust and propeller. Before mounting the engine, make sure that the nose of the fuselage is square. There are no mounting holes for the engine and it's easy to get it off center.


I chose to rig the model before painting as that's how I normally do it. However, I don't normally build a lot 1/72 biplanes and it turned out to be a bad idea. I use the "point to point" style of rigging in that I don't drill holes through the wings. I drill small "dimples" where the rigging attaches and use individual pieces instead of one long line. The instructions call for .3mil line and I used 8lb nylon which is pretty close. One end of the line was attached with CA glue, measured, cut and then the other end is glued into place. I rig 1 wing at a time and any sag is taken out with a "pencil" type soldering iron.

The wing has a line running from the top of the inboard struts to the middle of the lower wing. The instructions only show this line on the forward part of the wing. Common sense would say that rigging is the same front to back, but I could not find a photo that provided proof that this wire was on the back side as well. Since this was a build review, I chose to follow the instructions. The line could be added later with no trouble if I find out that it should have one.


I chose to do the Squadron 36 version at Singapore in 1936. I figure everyone is going to do the 4-color camo versions and decided to do a silver version. I could have done the New Zealand bird with the blue stripes, but it doesn't carry a torpedo and I like that yellow/black torpedo! The plane was painted, as an assembly, MM German Aluminum Metallic. I have found that this is a good representation of the doped aluminum color of the period. The rigging was painted MM Steel. The engine was painted flat black with a bit of silver dry brushing and the exhaust Humbrol Matt #70.

The decals are nicely done and, if anything, are a bit too thin. When I went to install the stencils, several of them folded over on me and were rendered unusable. Thankfully Azur provides extras of most of them. However, the instructions call for 4 of stencil #33 but the decals only provide 3. Through no fault of the kit, I had a hard time installing the footprint decals so ended up not using them. The main decals went on well and snuggled down with no trouble. No setting solution was used, not even on the wheel spats! Even these decals wanted to fold over, so take care, as there are no extras here. Care must also be shown when trying to slide them into place on the model. They are very thin and will tear quite easily.


My decision to build and rig the model before painting turned out to be more trouble then it was worth. Because of this, I was unable to use the walkway footprints on the lower wing. If I had read the instructions a bit more carefully, I may have noticed the problem and done it a different way. An observant reader will also notice that I installed the lower wing control links backwards!

The kit has a few fit problems, but nothing that an experienced modeler can't handle. Someone who hasn't done them before may have trouble with the small p/e parts. It builds into a well detailed, nice looking rendition of a rather ungangly looking aircraft. A must for every biplane or interwar model lover.


Wikipedia for the history

Mark Hiott

September 2011

My thanks to for the review kit. Get this and other neat kits and accessories at the link.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page