There will be no mention of what comes out of a chicken and at what scale in this build guide of Tiger Model's "Cute Series" Lavochkin La-7 Soviet Fighter. An amazing build from such simple components is what we expect from Andy - let's see how he did it in his build guide...
Build Guide: Cute Fighter Series - Lavochkin La-7 Fighter
Manufacturer: Tiger Model
Kit Number: Cute Plane Series No. 07
Scale - Non
Price - ¥1,520 • $13.39 • £10.60 • €12.56 from Hobbylink Japan
Fun... you remember that, right? When you made a kit because it looked cool, or you liked the colour scheme? Before we all became obsessed with photo etched enhancements, resin upgrades, and grumbling on forums because the latest kit is half a scale millimetre too short...
Earlier in the year. I had a trip into 'modelling for fun' territory with one of Meng's egg plane-like kits, and actually did have a great deal of fun doing it.
Now it seems that some other manufacturers are deciding to let their hair down and join in with the less serious side of the hobby, and top of the list is Tiger Model who have released a whole range of cartoon style kits in their new 'Cute Plane' series.
So far they've released six single engined WWII fighters in the range (yes, I know this one is no. 07; don't ask me why), and they certainly live up to their 'cute' moniker, having a very Japanese Super Deformed style to them. They've picked a great selection of famous fighters from both the Axis and Allied sides, including today's build; the Russian Lavochkin La-7.
In The Box
The kit comes in a small, but rather neat (and very sturdy) top opening box, with a sleek satin finish and nice cartoon artwork that matches the style of the kit well. Inside you'll find two small sprues moulded in bright blue, one in black, and a final one for the canopy in clear. On top of that, you get the instruction manual and a choice of either water slide decals or stickers of the markings.
The two blue sprues contain the main fuselage and wings, together with parts for the cockpit and landing gear. This is only intended to be a simple kit but, despite that, everything's well moulded with fine engraved panel lines and surface detail. You get a choice of instrument panels either with or without moulded dials, and even separate moveable ailerons.
The black sprue contains the prop, control stick, and wheels, and again everything is well moulded. The wheels have flat faces and the hub detail is provided as a decal.
Rounding off the parts is the clear sprue which holds just the cockpit canopy. Although the glazing is very clear, my example had a couple of flow marks which spoilt the effect somewhat, but these were the only flaws I found in the kit.
The instruction manual comes as a small fold-out pamphlet with clear assembly diagrams spread over just 7 build steps, with explanatory text in English, Japanese and Chinese. Construction is snap-fix so you won't need any glue, although a little can be added for extra strength if you wish. The back of the manual shows a four view painting and decal placement guide for a single scheme, with paint call-outs for Tamiya colours.
As mentioned above, the kit includes an option for either water-slide decals or stickers. This is a nice inclusion from Tiger, as it means a kid who just wants to clip the parts together and add the stickers can do so, but the traditional decals are there for anyone who wants to treat this as a regular model. Tiger have printed the white tail flash and red star as a single decal/sticker, but handily they've also provided a full set of individual stars should you wish to paint the white tail, or alternatively do a different scheme altogether. Nice attention to detail there by Tiger.
Okay, enough talk about what's in the box. Let's get some building done. The first step unsurprisingly is the cockpit. Just four parts make up this section but, despite the low parts count, the resulting assembly looks great. The whole thing was painted in grey, then the details picked out in appropriate colours. I used the instrument panel with the moulded detail here, carefully picking out the dials before adding a drop of gloss varnish to represent the glass. The paint chipping was added with a pencil, which is a quick and easy way of adding this effect.
A bit of weathering followed with some enamel washes, and a very simple representation of the seatbelts were added using thin strips of Tamiya tape. Although the empty cockpit does look very good, I think it would have been a nice touch if Tiger had included a similarly styled cartoon pilot, like the one they've shown on the box art. Of course, the kit has no real scale but, if you are thinking of adding a figure, then 1/48 would look about right.
Before installing the cockpit into the fuselage, I made one modification by way of adding the two guns to the cowling. Tiger have moulded the recesses for the barrels, so all that was necessary was to drill a couple of holes and glue two short lengths of aluminium tube in place. It's a simple mod, but it adds a nice detail to the finished model.
While I'd got my detailing hat on, I also made a small mod to the landing gear. These come as single units with the main leg and door combined. This makes assembly and painting much easier, but Tiger have added a small fillet, presumably for strength, between the main gear leg and strut. I simply trimmed this away to give a more realistic look. The undercarriage still has ample strength, so the final build isn't affected.
With the mods completed, the cockpit was installed and the fuselage closed up. The wings and tailplanes were added and that was the bulk of the building finished. I was very impressed with the fit of all the parts in this kit. Tiger have done a great job on the engineering, and the fit tolerances are very tight. That does mean that if you want to test fit a part it's a good idea to lightly ream out the connection points or you'll struggle to get components apart again. The snap-fix nature of the kit does mean there's an inevitable seam on the wing and fuselage joints, but if you run some liquid cement along the join, the resulting bead of melted plastic will effectively fill any gaps. A quick rub with a file or sanding stick should give you a seamless join.
One extra detail was added before the canopy was installed, that being a rather quick and dirty representation of the gun sight. This was built up from scrap plastic and attached to the coming, making sure it wouldn't hit the inside of the canopy.
With the canopy clicked into place, the rather laborious task of masking all that glazing got under way. Here I used Aizu tape, which is a Japanese masking tape produced in very narrow widths down to 0.4mm, to mark out the edges of the framing. The rest of the glazing was then covered with regular Tamiya tape.
With the construction complete it was time to get some paint on. I started off with a base coat of Alclad aluminium which, as well as acting as a priming coat for the subsequent paint layers, also formed the base or some paint chipping.
I used masking fluid to create the paint chips, applying it with a sponge on areas that would naturally show some wear. I generally use Gunze Neo fluid for this, as it's quite thick which makes it easier to apply in small quantities, but make sure to dab any excess off the sponge first as you don't want to completely cover areas of the model. As is always the case with this kind of effect, the smaller you can make the chips, the better they will look.
When the masking fluid was dry, the whole model got a coat of light grey, followed by some pre-shading with black. The pre-shade was a combination of airbrushing and brush painting. The added randomness of the brush painting helps to break up the finish once the top coat is applied, and avoids that slightly artificial look that you can sometimes get with traditional, airbrush only, pre-shading.
For the top coat I used Gunze H331 Dark Sea Grey for the upper surfaces, which is a reasonably good match for the grey used by the VVS during the war, and a mix of Tamiya XF-23 Light Blue and X-14 Sky Blue for the underside, keeping the coats quite thin to allow the shading to show through. I left the front of the cowling unpainted for now, as this will be finished in red.
Although the red and white triangle on the nose is supplied on the decal sheet, you'll still need to paint the cowling and spinner so, to avoid a mismatch in colours, I decided to paint all the markings. The triangle, cowling and tail were masked off and given a base coat of white.
Next, the borders of the triangle were carefully masked as they would remain white, then a coat of Tamiya XF-7 Flat Red darkened with a little XF-9 Hull Red was sprayed. More Hull Red was added to the mix and some post shading applied around the panel lines.
The last bits of masking were for the two polished rims around the cowling, and the metal heat deflector panels behind the exhausts. These were both sprayed with different Alclad tones, and with that done, the main painting was finished. The whole model then got a clear coat to seal the paint ready for the decals and weathering.
The decals went on very well with no silvering at all, although they were quite thick which made it hard to get them to sink down into the panel lines, even with a heavy application of Micro Sol. In the end, I sliced the decals with a sharp knife where they went over a panel line and applied more Micro Sol and eventually persuaded most of them to sink into the lines.
The prop and undercarriage were the last details to finish. The prop was base coated in Alclad like the airframe, and had the same masking fluid chipping applied. The wheels use decals for the hub detail and, although they look a little 2-dimensional, once fitted and with a little weathering they looked fine. Before painting, I sanded flat spots on the base of the tyres to give a weighted look.
All that remained was to give the model a little light weathering. A panel line wash helped give it all some definition, and some further shading was added around the cowling and wing roots. A bit of exhaust staining was added to the sides, and some pigments on the wings to show where the pilot and ground crew would have climbed aboard finished it off.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that! Short and sweet, but then the resulting kit is pretty sweet too. Tiger have done a great job in producing a neat little kit that can be built up quickly by a modeller of any ability, but still make a nicely detailed model. Obviously, accuracy goes out of the window with a kit of this sort, but that's the point really; you're just meant to have fun with it, which I definitely did. This certainly won't be the last of these that I'll build, and I hope Tiger continue to expand the range with some modern subjects, and maybe even some armour as well.
And with a grass base - cute isn't it?...
For more on Tiger Model's kits please do take a look at their website.