Wednesday, March 10

In-Boxed: 1/48th scale Avro Lancaster B Mk.I from HK Models

Hong Kong Models new 1/48th scale Avro Lancaster B Mk.I has BIG shoes to fill. On one hand, you have the legacy of the Tamiya kit on the market for over 40 years - the "king of the Lancaster kits". Meanwhile their own very successful Lancaster in 32nd scale is not without some issues & a tall order to live up to in 48th scale. How would this new kit fare? Gary Wickham compares the box contents to the competitors & the real thing in his review...
In-Boxed: Avro Lancaster B Mk.I
From: HK Models
1/48th scale
Kit No# 01F005
Completely new moulds
Approximately 360 parts
Photo-etch parts included
Completed size: 648 (total width) x 443 (total length) 
Cartograf decals included for two marking choices
Poster of the boxart is included
Release date: Middle of March 2021
Expected Price: ¥11,000 ($105 USD/ 75GBP/ 86 Euro)
Product Link on the HLJ Website
Product Link on the HK Models Website
I've often heard it said that whoever releases a new tooled 1/48 Lancaster will have a license to print money...

Well it's been 46 years since the 1975 release of the venerable Tamiya 1/48 Lanc kit and we finally a contender. Most of us will be well aware that HKM has previously released a new tooled (the first) Lancaster in 1/32 and it seemed logical that they would eventually scale this down to 1/48 (and possibly even 1/72 at some point).

The new kit comes in a deceptively small box with all the sprues neatly packaged separately with the critical clear sprue receiving its own cardboard backing. The 24 page assembly guide is printed in colour on large format glossy paper and as a bonus HKM have included a nice colour poster which will look right at home on the wall next to your modelling bench to provide inspiration during your build.
Duplicating the 1/32 release schedule, the first release by HKM in 1/48 is the Lancaster B Mk.I. These original Lancasters were produced with Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines and SU carburettors. Minor details were changed throughout the production series – for example the pitot head design was changed from being on a long mast at the front of the nose to a short fairing mounted on the side of the fuselage under the cockpit. Later production Lancasters had Merlin 22 and 24 engines. No designation change was made to denote these alterations. If you chose to leave the engine cowlings on you could also build a B.III from this kit as it was indistinguishable externally from the B.I, being fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines. The Packard Merlins used Bendix – Stromberg pressure-injection carburettors, requiring the addition of slow-running cut-off switches in the cockpit.
It's natural to expect that HKM would simply scale down their 1/32 kit to 1/48, but as I found, this new release is much more than just that. HKM have been listening to feedback from modellers (both active and armchair) and refined, tweaked and corrected many issues found in their initial 1/32 releases.

Sensibly HKM have substantially simplified the engineering of this new kit from that found in 1/32. To illustrate this point, the 1/32 kit contains 824 parts whilst in 1/48 this has been reduced down to 362 parts. Much of this reduction has been achieved by combining multiple parts in 1/32 to a single piece in 1/48. Obvious examples are the wings and fuselage but this same principle has been applied to many of the subassemblies across the whole model. Fuselage windows for example are each separate in 1/32 but have been combined onto a single clear runner in 1/48.

I don't have the full 1/32 Lancaster kit, but do have the smaller 1/32 "Nose Art" kit and was curious as to what the differences would be in the level of surface detail between the 1/32 and 1/48 parts might be. As you can see the answer is no difference with the delicate panel and rivet detail scaling down to 1/48 perfectly.
Like most, I was also curious as to how this new HKM tooling compared to the older Tamiya kit. I have the 2009 re-boxing in grey plastic and whilst this review is NOT going to focus on a comparison I felt some side by side photos may be relevant and helpful. The immediately obvious difference is of course the use of raised detail by Tamiya vs the use of recessed detail by HKM. Whilst it's true that Lancasters have raised rivets I suspect that Tamiya's use of raised detail is more about when (1975) the tooling was made and less about them going for maximum accuracy.
Closer inspection of the real thing shows that neither HKM or Tamiya are 100% accurate as that would require overlapping panels and raised rivets. The closest I have seen to this level of accuracy is on the test shots of the (now cancelled) Wingnut Wings Lancaster.
A quick comparison of the wing details shows a similar story to the nose section above. Tamiya focusing on raised details, including all access hatches and the very noticeable life raft compartment near the wing root. By contrast, the HKM detail is very subdued.
Consulting once again the real aircraft, I feel that the Tamiya raised detail is overstated and that HKM would be the better choice in a 1/48 scale model. Its up to each modeller to decide for themselves of course.
Each fuselage half is moulded as a single piece, which is quite practical in 1/48. I was super impressed when inspecting the interior ribbing and found no (zero) ejection pin marks. That's quite an achievement for such a large part and will save considerable clean-up effort for the builder. The exterior surface detail is quite subtle, but at the same time very sharp and precise. I believe that under some paint and suitable weathering this model will really shine.
The wings are designed to interlock (almost without glue) with a series of alignment posts on the inside. Indeed, when you first open the box the wings are already assembled as you see here and the fit was so good that I initially thought these were moulded as one piece. Separate landing flaps are included and as these are commonly seen open on parked Lancasters its a welcome option.
The aileron control surfaces on the Lancaster are fabric and as you can see here the wing surface (top and bottom) is covered in distinctive lines of raised rivet heads. I know that many modellers get hung up on raised vs recessed but I am of the belief that in 1/48 and smaller recessed surface detail is the best way to go. In 1/32 and larger there is a visible benefit to try and accurately reproduce the real aircraft surface finish.
When it comes time to attach the wing to the fuselage HKM have provided a clever keyed friction interlock system. From my test fitting this resulted in a near perfect fit which was tight enough to be sturdy but still allowed disassembly with a small amount of reverse force.
The secret sauce of the wing locking mechanism lies hidden inside the wing root. To assemble you slide the fuselage mounted key into the wing lock and push rearwards. This causes the key to lock into place with no visible gaps. This will make painting the Lanc much easier as you can paint as sub-assemblies and bring together at the end. It will also make this large model easier to transport.
From my reading, early production wartime Lancasters were fitted with fabric elevators, with metal being used late/post war. You may notice that many of the museum and flying examples today have metal elevators which I understand have been retrofitted at some point in the life of those airframes. HKM have done their research and provide nicely scalloped cloth elevators as seen on G-George on display in the Australian War Memorial. I would have preferred that HKM provide us with separate elevators to allow them to be more easily displayed slightly relaxed.
The twin vertical tail of the Lancaster was one its most iconic features. HKM have done a fine job of reproducing the shape and surface detail.
In their 1/32 kit, HKM provided four fully detailed engines and bays. If you wanted to close up the cowlings, some effort was involved to align the parts correctly. For 1/48 HKM have taken a different route and assumed (probably correctly) that most modellers will prefer to leave the cowlings closed. However they have anticipated that some modellers will want to open one or more of the cowlings and so have provided pre-thinned cut lines on the interior to make this task almost fool proof.
One place I found plenty of ejection pin marks on the 1/32 Nose Art kit was in the bomb bay. These were very hard to clean up and I was relieved to see they were not present in this new 1/48 tooling.
The quality of the moulding is evident from these sprues shots. The raised detail on the main instrument panel and radio stack is spot on for 1/48 scale.
The main wheels are provided already weighted and realistically bulged and the engines have understandably been simplified compared to the 1/32 offering. I would like to display at least one of the engine cowlings open and I'm glad HKM provided Merlins to allow this.
HKM have decided to provide a different bomb loadout in 1/48 than they did in the 1/32nd scale kit:
- 1/48 - "PLUMDUFF-PLUS" loadout (for Heavily industrial areas) - 1 x Mk.I or Mk.II 8,000 lbs HC containing 6,361 lbs of Amatex, with barometric or impact fuse and up to 6 x 500 lbs MC or GP bombs with instantaneous or long-delay fusing.

- 1/32 - "No-BALL" loadout (for V1 sites) - 1 x 4,000 lb HC, impact fused bomb (Cookie) and up to 18 x 500 lb MC or GP bombs, short-finned with mixed instantaneous and delay fusing.

You can of course use aftermarket weapons to arm your Lancaster how ever you like. Eventually I expect HKM will release a 617Sqn Dam Buster version just like they did in 1/32.
The detailing on the weapons, especially the cooling jackets on the defensive cannons looks very well done. By contrast the tail fins on the bombs looks a bit heavy to me.
In this boxing, HKM provides only the early "needle" narrow blade propellers as fitted to most wartime Lancasters before the introduction of the paddle-blade propellers. The shape (at least to my eye) looks pretty accurate but as usual it won't be obvious until you fit them to the model.
The clear parts are are all provided on a single large sprue. Both styles of nose blister are provided and the framing on the canopy and turrets is sharply defined which will make masking much easier.
Both style of the main canopy side windows are provided (with teardrop and without). This is a great improvement over the 1/32 kit which provided the teardrop bubble as a separate part which had to be glued to the clear part.
COLOURS & MARKINGS - HKM 1:48 Avro Lancaster B Mk.I (01F005)
HKM provide a total of two (2) marking options in the kit, one of which (S-Sugar) was also included in their 1/32 release. Over the years many aftermarket manufacturers have released decal sets for the Tamiya 1/48 kit and I would see no reason why they would not work well on this HKM kit.

Each paint scheme is provided in full colour on glossy A4 pages and colour callouts are provided using AK, Tamiya and Gunze/Mr Hobby paints.

Lancaster B Mk.I W4118/ YN-Y "Admiral Prune II" no 106 squadron RAF 
One of 106 Squadron's W4118 aircraft was named "Admiral Prune" although its ident letter was Z. 
It is believed that the name was the idea of Guy Gibson who flew the aircraft on a number of occasions. The white bomb symbol generally indicated a daylight raid. Because the Squadron often dropped sea mines (known as 'Gardening') and at the time naval officers were attached to the unit, it took a nautical stance with several of the aircraft displaying "Admiral" prefixed nicknames. "Admiral Prune" flew 640 hours before being lost on the Turin raid on 4/5/February 1943.
In late 1942 through much of 1943 No. 106 Squadron named their Lancasters with 'Admiral' names. In the photo below, members of No. 106 Squadron RAF gather in front of Avro Lancaster B Mark I, ED593 'ZN-Y' "Admiral Prune II", the aircraft flown by the Commanding Officer of the Squadron, Wing Commander G P Gibson (standing 14th from the left), to mark the completion of his tour of operations at Syerston, Nottinghamshire.

Members of No. 106 Squadron RAF gather in front of Avro Lancaster B Mark I, ED593 'ZN-Y' "Admiral Prune II", the aircraft flown by the Commanding Officer of the Squadron, Wing Commander G P Gibson (standing 14th from the left), to mark the completion of his tour of operations at Syerston, Nottinghamshire.

Lancaster B Mk.I R5868/ PO-S "S for Sugar".
Lancaster B I R5868 "S-Sugar" is the oldest surviving Lancaster. It was delivered to the RAF in June 1942 and flew for the remainder of the war. 
It originally as "Q-Queenie" with No. 83 Squadron RAF from RAF Scampton. 
Adorned with the famous dig at Goering, "No Plane WIll Ever Fly Over the Reich Territory" tagline. "S-Sugar" flew with No. 463 and No. 467 RAAF Squadrons from RAF Waddington. This aircraft was the first RAF heavy bomber to complete 100 operations (going on to fly 137 sorties). It is now on display at the RAF Museum.

The Duke of Gloucester (2nd from right) inspecting Avro Lancaster I R5868 'PO-S' just before its 100th sortie. 1944.
Avro Lancaster R5868 ‘S for Sugar’ completed her 100th operational sortie in early May 1944 and on her return to RAF Waddington, found almost the entire station and British Pathe News there to greet them. During the previous night, the crew had just fought off ten concerted attacks by Ju88 nightfighters, which seemed determined not to allow this famous aircraft to have her moment of glory, but in the euphoria of the moment, this detail seemed to be of little interest. ‘S for Sugar’ would end the war with an impressive 137 operational sorties to her name, with her final ops being repatriation flights for Allied prisoners of war in May 1945. It is fitting that this historic aircraft now serves as a treasured centrepiece display item at the RAF Museum, Hendon and is reason alone to visit this exceptional museum.

At the time of my review I had not yet received the kit decal sheet, but given they are printed by Cartograph in Italy, quality is assured. I was pleased to see the inclusion of decals for the main instrument panel in this kit as strangely none were included the 1/32 Nose Art kit !!
OVERALL THOUGHTS - HKM 1:48 Avro Lancaster B Mk.I (01F005)
Even though I've not managed to do any serious assembly yet of this new HKM Lancaster, what I have so far observed in the box has impressed me.

HKM have clearly taken the time & effort to think through how to improve on their original 1/32 release, listening to feedback, tweaking/correcting their moulds and simplifying the design of this new 1/48 kit. We should be so lucky that all kit manufacturers took it this seriously.

I have previously built the HKM 1:32 Mosquito and remembering enjoying it and I have no doubt this new Lanc will afford me the same experience (if not better). As I mentioned at the start its been a long wait but I believe that its safe to say "The King is dead. Long live the King"

Many thanks to Hong Kong Models for providing us with this review kit, it's much appreciated.
Gary Wickham

You can see more about this kit and the others in HK Model's range on their website.
To see more of Gary's work then please do go to his website for a whole lot more of that...
Appendix: Instruction booklet