by Tomas Cleaver
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The box says "Beaufighter Mk. VI," but with what's provided inside, any reasonably-competent modeller can do every Beaufighter produced, except the Mk. II (see below for exception). If you're afraid to cut plastic with a razor saw, your choices are: Beaufighter VIF (early and late), VIC, VI (ITF), early TF X, Australian Mk. 21. The kit provides both large and small air intakes for the engines, the bulge for the Sperry autopilot on the Aussie bird, both types of navigator's cupola, underwing RP's, the arrowhead and associated antennas for A.I. Mk. IV and the thimblenose for A.I. Mk VIII, and the prop spinners for early Mk. I's. The conversion of the horizontal stabilizer to that of the Mk. I is so simple that if you've always been afraid of doing this kind of conversion, here's your chance to shine. Scratchbuilding the fin extension is easy for late TF 10s. You cannot do the Merlin-engined Mk. II unless you're crazy enough to buy a Tamiya Lancaster for spare parts. The way the kit is laid out,. Tamiya obviously expects to do all these versions as separate kits, but for those of us who have waited 40+ years for a really good Beaufighter, have at it and don't wait.
CONSTRUCTION: It's Tamiya, what more needs be said? Everything fits, is engineered logically, and if you take your time, you'll use no putty. As is usual with Tamiya, the cockpit could use more detail, but for the nitpickers, True Details will pick your nits (and your pockets) soon enough. For the rest of us, looking through the clear (but a bit thick) kit glass, everything looks fine. For those who want to make a rocket-armed strike fighter, you will need to fill in the various holes in the outer wing associated with the six machine-gun wing armament. For those building a Mk. 21, you;'ll want to keep four machine guns out there, rockets or no.
CAMO AND MARKINGS: Tamiya has fallen down in the details here. There are numerous Ace's aircraft known, but all these are anonymous birds from anonymous squadrons. The all-black night fighters are accurate, and so is the Malta bird with locally-applied mid-stone/dark earth/azue blue. But if you aspire to do a late Fighter Command VIF or a Coastal Command VIC, know that the late night fighter camo was Sea Grey Medium overall with British Dark Green over the upper surfaces in a pattern similar to that shown; the Coastal Command birds used the camo patterns provided, but the upper was Dark SeaGrey/Slate Grey, the lower was Sky. Early Mk. X's were painted similarly, then went to uppers of Dark Sea Grey overall, lower Sky: check your photographs. (No Beaufighters were painted Ocean Grey/Green Uppers, SeaGrey Medium lowers, as the kit info tells you to do) For those of you who research, the two most-accurate sources are the old "Camouflage and Markings - Bristol Beaufighter in Northern Europe" and "Beaufighter at War" for photographs. I looked over Squadron's "Beaufighter in Action" and found eighteen mis-identified photos (eight in the Australian section alone) and half the color profiles are mistaken. Use it at your own risk.
Overall Rating: Every time I get a new Tamiya kit, I say to myself, "this is the best they've ever done." This kit is no exception. For those RAF-lovers like me who have wanted the big mean Beau done right, here it is. For those who wish Accurate Miniatures would restore American model production to its proper place, Tamiya has done them in as thoroughly as they did with the P-51Bs, sorry to say. By the time AM brings theirs out, we'll all have the entire 1944 3-squadron Banff Strike Wing sitting on our shelves.
Buy more than one of this kit and have fun.
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