Academy 1/72 Sopwith Camel

KIT #: F-1624
DECALS: One good, comprehensive set
NOTES: Basic kit, good rib representation.


The Sopwith Camel was a single-engined biplane fighter that was introduced into combat with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1917. It got its name from the hump that covered the breeches of the two cowling-mounted machineguns. The Camel was a handful for new pilots because it was naturally tail-heavy and had a heavy engine that spun about its shaft (to give each cylinder a spell in the cooling airstream). This made a Camel pilot's evasive actions predictable to a Camel's enemies because the torque of the spinning engine made turning left a haul, but a Camel would readily flick to the right. Despite this, the Camel was more agile than its enemies, and other RFC aircraft, with heavy armament to boot. It is arguably the best-known RFC fighter. Even Snoopy flies one.

"Arghhhhhhh!!! The decals are out of register!!! Curse you, (insert model company name here)!!!."

How many of us have said that? And what do you do with out-of-register decals? First you identify which decals you can still use. Then you work-out if you can salvage any of the bad ones. Finally, you seek-out replacement decals from friends, fellow-modellers, after-market producers or even the original model company. The unusable really-bad ones - they are unceremoniously binned.

The inspiration.

Over my modelling years, I have received many sets of out-of-register decals , with varying degrees of offset. I have decided to use a set and to display them in public as a protest at my displeasure at the Company's poor quality control measures as evidenced by their releasing of decals with so obvious a fault. But I didn't want to do it on a kit that would cost me an arm and a leg. I expounded my idea of protest to several fellow-modellers as we had a bull session on the night before they went to a local hobby shop (we have several within a two-hour drive). As we jawed, I identified that I would be seeking a cheap Sopwith Camel, because I've never built a Camel before. Next afternoon, one of them presented me with this kit. I commenced building it immediately, to thank you for giving it to me, Ed.


The Academy kit is quite a simple affair with only 19 parts. The moulding is quite basic with the engine front moulded as part of the cowling ring, featureless guns and a tailplane that looks like it was carved from a plank. On the other hand, the rib detail is fairly subdued, and the wing trailing edges are beautifully thin. The cockpit is a joke being a simple socket formed by a floor that connects a chair-shaped rear bulkhead to a floor-to-coaming instrument panel plate. The tail skid is another misrepresentation. Surprisingly, the decal sheet is crisply printed, and in-register (so I won't be using most of it on this build). It includes four long red stripes to be placed along a white-painted nose. The instruction sheet is on a single (slightly smaller than A4) sheet with the assembly guide almost cartoonish in nature. The painting & decal-placement guide is crisply printed, but lacks any suggestion as to what the required colours should be. It suggests that the model be painted in the livery of a flying replica built by Airdrome Airplanes of Missouri, USA.


It took me but a few minutes to glue the fuselage parts, lower wings and tail-plane together. The fit was pretty good, but it did need some filler. Knock-out pin scars needed filling too, then I spray-painted all the loose and assembled bits with Tamiya XF51 khaki drab (which I now reckon, looks too dark). The engine face, the decking, struts, the flash on the fin and rudder and the underside linen colour, were brushed-on with various Citadel Miniature paints.

For extras, I added (at various times in the build) a seat which I scratch-built from a bit of plastic drinking straw, a gun-sight (from a PE sheet of several dozen that I have), and rigging from the elastic polymer, EZ-line.

The paint was overcoated with Future so that I could place-on the decals. To utilise the out-of-registeredness of the roundels, I elected to put them on thusly, and to enhance them with black additions. Both sets are different because, after putting-on the top wing set first, a fellow modeller reckoned that they looked cross-eyed rather than angry. My visual inspiration was an angry bulldog from the 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons (which I STILL enjoy, along with the 'Roadrunner' cartoons). Only a couple of the kit decals were used (the fuselage roundels) in place of the horrible out-of-register ones. A clear flat coat followed, to allow the weathering to stick. The rigging material was attached to the upper side of the lower wings where the bases of the struts would be positioned, and at the wing roots. As well, an X of EZ-Line was placed between the one-piece vertical struts and their horizontal connectors, to pre-rig them.

Now, the struts and carbane pieces were attached to the lower wings and fuselage. Fit of the struts (between the wings) was fair. Fit of the carbanes (connecting the fuselage to the top wing) was abysmal. Rats!! All were correctly aligned to the top wing by using it as a jig to correctly position them. After a whole day of drying, I stretched the EZ-Line by only 3%, and attached it to the tops of the struts and carbanes (which pulled them a little out of alignment) then attached all the tops to the underside of the upper wing (which put them back in place). This process, allied with the EZ-Line, ensures that the wings are correctly aligned relative to each other, and that the rigging remains tight. Attach the last bits, the legs and wheels, and she was done. , so I lined the up on the top wing, and glued them where they touched the fuselage. The landing gear had an equally abysmal fit as the carbanes. This model 'ain't gunna' be no show-stopper, but what more can you expect from a cheap kit?


This biplane, as a kit, is a relatively-simple build that is probably well within the ability of a young modeller who has a few completed models under his (or her) belt. In fact, my son built this exact kit when he was eight. There are much better kits of the Sopwith Camel available, so I can't in all honesty, recommend this kit because of the poor-fitting struts and landing gear. When I receive out-of-register decals, it makes me wonder if the parent company exercises any form of quality control. Ditto kits with sink marks, flow marks, heaps of flash, ill-fitting parts and stupidly-placed knock-out pin scars. Will my model encourage model kit manufacturers to think twice, or even stop, releasing out-of-register decals with kits? Definitely not, but my protest still stands.

There are modellers out there who think I'm nuts because of this model, and my answer is "You don't have to be mad to be a modeller, but sometimes it helps!". There are others who are quite amused by my model's 'angry eyes'. I don't believe that there ever was, or will ever be, an aircraft so-marked, but I had a LOT of fun building this kit in this way. And it didn't cost ANYONE an arm and a leg.

PS - I'll not list company names because my brother the Barrister advises me that truth is no defence in a Slander law suit.

George Oh

5 March 2019


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