Today I received a number of kits of the new Xtrakit 1/72 Meteor F8. This is a version of the forthcoming MPM kit, specially boxed for Hannants.
Let me start with a niggle. I don't like the box! It's the standard box that all MPM/Special Hobby kits come in and is very similar to the current style of Revell boxes. Instead of having a separate lid, it opens a flap at the side. Therefore you can't store the sprues and part made model in the box. It's not really a problem.
The kit is comprised of 77 parts in a grey plastic, with six transparent parts. Not all of these parts will be used. There are alternative intakes - wide and narrow - as well as two canopies. For some reason, the box claims that there are resin parts. There aren't!
The parts have nicely engraved panel lines. Some of the smaller parts appear slightly "soft" but that's typical with MPM kits. There are a number of ejection pin marks, but careful design has placed these where they won't be seen. Cursory application of a ruler shows the main dimensions to be spot on. I have temporarily taped the main components together, and the model certainly captures the look of a Meteor.
The cockpit is quite detailed. It is comprised of 11 parts, which include sidewall, side consoles, control column and pilot's leg rests. The instrument panel has raised detail and appears to be accurate. The seat is another matter. It has three parts, main beam/drogue container, seat unit and parachute/seat back. Sadly there is no detail at all on these parts and the seat will need a lot of work to bring it up to the standard of the rest of the cockpit. It's probably best replaced with an aftermarket resin seat.
The cockpit floor doubles as the roof of the nose gear bay. The bay is quite bare, but given the small size of the opening, I have to wonder how much detail would be seen in here.
The instructions recommend 3g of ballast be placed in the nose. I think this is a bit on the optimistic side, given the moment arm of that long tail. Certainly my taped together build is a resolute tail sitter, even with three3/16in nuts blu-tacked into the nose. I'd recommend packing the nose with as many lead fishing weights as possible.
The wing assembly comes in two main parts - upper and lower. Into this are fitted the undercarriage bays and the engine details. The bays have a certain amount of structural details but they would benefit from further plumbing being added. The engine details at first glance look odd. There is a bulkhead with a representation of the leading edge passing across it. The bulkhead has some details on it but not the turbine face that I was expecting. However, a photo in Bryan Philpott's book "Meteor" shows this to be perfectly correct. There are two alternative styles of intakes and there are separate exhaust units - these *do* have turbine detail. The wings have no facility for drooped flaps or airbrakes (the airbrakes are nicely engraved). However, this isn't a problem. In all the pictures I've seen in the two books I've consulted, not one shows a parked aircraft with flaps or airbrakes deployed.
Each main undercarriage unit is comprised of six parts. There is some nice hub detail on the wheels. The remainder of the parts are nicely formed but lack detail - which is accurate. The real things were huge castings with no subtlety whatsoever. There are sink marks on the main gear legs, but they are not enough to compromise the integrity of the part and due to the lack of detail should be easy to fill and clean up. The nose gear is composed of four parts, with no sink marks. The undercarriage bay doors would benefit from thinning and detailing on the inside.
There are two canopies included - an early metal framed one and a later full view canopy. Both are moulded in one piece with no facility for displaying them open. However, sawing off the windscreen will be an easy matter, especially as the modeller can err on the side of caution, as there will be a spare windscreen available. The transparencies are very thin and clear, so I would advise extreme caution in that operation.
Stores are limited two underwing tanks and a belly tank. This is reasonable as the only pictures I could find of F8s with underwing armament showed RAAF aircraft in Korea.
The decal sheet and markings options present a problem. How do you choose which one to build? The boxtop option is an aircraft of 501 Sqn RAuxAF. This is camouflaged in Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey, with High Speed Silver undersurfaces. The instruction sheet actually gives incorrect colours fr this jet, but the mistake is rectified on an erratum sheet, which also tells you which intakes are required for this scheme - the large ones.
The other schemes are both High Speed Silver (note *not* natural metal). One is of a 600 Sqn RAuxAF jet with red and white squadron insignia on either side of the fuselage roundel. The final scheme is quite spectacular. It is of a 222 Sqn aircraft. It has WW2 style squadron code letters, but the entire vertical tail is covered in red and blue checks. I have wanted to build this scheme ever since I saw a colour profile of it in Scale Models magazine back in the early 80s. Now I can! Both of these hets have the early canopy and narrow intakes.
The decals themselves appear to be very thin. The carrier film is very glossy indeed but is not extensive. The roundel colours look good - the red is a nice dullish shade. There is a quite extensive range of stencils, especially for the prominent wing walkways. Register is good, except for the squadron commander's pennants for the 222 Sqn jet. It's quite odd, but I have never seen these pennants in register on *any* decal sheet. A similar thing occurs with the West German flags on the fin of modern Luftwaffe aircraft. It simply isn't a problem though. Two strokes of a sharp knife will put everything to rights.
I like this kit! I have two weeks before I have to dash off to university for a month and so I was looking for something relatively quick to build (seeing as I've just cleared my workbench). I think this kit will fit the bill.
There is a lot of scope for this kit. If you don't like the markings options, Xtradecal produce a set with no less than 18 other options. To be honest with you, I feel quite victimised. I tend to get obsessed by markings variations and this kit therefore seems to be targeted right between my eyes. The potential for international colour schemes is simply huge!
MPM will also be releasing their own boxing of this kit. However, that seems to be about £5 more expensive than the Hannants boxing. I wonder if that will have an impact on sales.
I'm a little puzzled about the possibility of other variants. MPM have announced an FR9. This would require some surgery on the parts as the F8 nosecone is moulded integrally with the fuselage. Another fuselage moulding to take the differences into account would require a complete new A sprue. It's more likely that we'll get a new nose as a transparency , with instructions to chop the kit nose off at the relevant panel line.
Other versions, such as the trainers or nightfighters, would require new A and B sprues - in effect a complete new kit. But who knows what may happen? I'd certainly be interested in a kit of the nightfighter variants. I have an old Matchbox kit in my Deep Stash so I'll probably experiment with grafting the nose and outer wings onto this kit. Whatever happens, I can see myself building a number of these Meteor kits.
So. what's next from MPM? May I suggest a series of English Electric Lightnings?