Czech Resins 1/72 Gloster Meteor F.8/FR.9
The F.8 variant of the Meteor was a major redesign based on the F.4. The F.4 included numerous improvements on the first Meteors but had accumulated ballast in the nose to counterbalance such things as heavier engines and equipment housed in the rear fuselage. The F.8 incorporated a forward fuselage extension housing extra fuel and a larger, redesigned tail unit. The no-longer necessary ballast weights were ditched and shorter wings and powered controls brought about a faster roll-rate. An ejector seat necessitated a new sliding canopy and more powerful engines in later marks brought about large intakes.
1,183 F.8s were built and served with the RAF as well as many other foreign air forces. F.8s saw combat in Australian service in Korea but those in RAF use saw no action. However the F.8 proved to be a versatile aircraft and among other uses went on to take part in probe and drogue in-flight refuelling trials, target towing duties, advanced training, ground attack duties and much more.
The FR.9 was developed from the later production F.8s and differed mainly in the nose; a camera on a universal mounting could be aimed out of one of three windows in the nose. Full armament capability was retained. 126 were built but the short wings of the FR.9 were not suitable for high-altitude reconnaissance and soon the PR.10 variant (based on the F.3/4 with longer wings) superceded the FR.9, though the FR.9 was directly replaced by Hunters or Swifts in RAF service. However, the FR.9 continued with foreign air forces and the last one was only retired in 1979, having seen service with Ecuador for many years.
First impressions of this one are good. The kit is entirely resin bar the vacform canopy (2 different ones supplied, my spares being missing) and the quality of surface detail approaches that of some of Hasegawa's best efforts. Alternative parts are provided for the definitive fighter variant, the F.8, and a stop-gap recon variant, the FR.9.
Decals are supplied for a 66 Squadron RAF F.8, two 77 Squadron RAAF F.8s (one being a MiG killer) and two Israeli FR.9s (one being a Vampire killer!).
Somebody has really done their homework because it isn't just the different nose that is catered for - different canopies (early F.8s had a larger solid area) and different intakes (later F.8s and FR.9s had more powerful engines with larger diameter intakes) are provided too. Drop tanks, rockets or bombs are provided for the wings and a large belly tank is also provided.
The instructions consist of three sheets of A4, one side of one sheet showing an exploded diagram of the kit and the other side and the other sheet showing scale plans and painting guides. To be brutal, the instructions let the kit down a little - for instance, it's not obvious which of the decal options match up with large/small intakes and there are no painting details for interior parts such as the cockpit and undercarriage. However they have the honesty to point out an error in the decal sheet.
I began construction with cleaning up the various parts. Watch out for the canopy rail and tail bullet - they're very easy to break off accidentally. In the event I did break off part of the canopy rail so removed it entirely from one fuselage half rather than repair it. The nose plug needs very careful removal with a saw lest you crack the area in front of the cockpit. The F.8 nose has what looks like a fracture in this area anyway (the FR.9 nose looking fine), so some careful sanding and filler later on was needed. The F.8's nose gear bay was also a little messy and needed some work cutting out some resin that had flowed poorly. I removed much of the bay roof anyway, as there is no such roof on the real thing - the nose gear is attached to a bulkhead at the front of the fuselage at the point where the kit fuselage halves end.
Next onto the main wings. The intake leading edges need care as some minor holes made them very thin. Fit of the intake blanks and engine exhausts was a little wooly but some reinforcing plastic soon got things bedded down. On the real thing there is a large amount of complex detail in the intake area (but no compressor face of course - the Derwent is a centrifugal flow engine with no axial compressor) but in the interests of laziness and speed I opted to go with an out-of-the-box rendition. Stand 20 feet away from a real Meteor and you won't see that much down the intake anyway!
The top halves of the intakes fitted very well with only minor filler needed. However the front intake halves (I used the larger ones) needed more work. With the wings done, attention moved to the cockpit. The seat is basic but not inaccurate, as is the instrument panel and sidewall detail. The joystick is too tall however and needs cutting down a little. With the whole area painted black (except the olive green seat cushion and tan backrest), the assembly was added to the starboard fuselage half and air rifle pellets glued in as nose weight. To be sure I filled the area in front of, under and behind the cockpit. With both fuselage halves already sanded down to give a nice flat mating surface, they were glued together with brush-on superglue. Detail on each half matched perfectly but a lot of pressure and a little cutting down was needed around the cockpit edges to get it to fit together.
The tailplanes proved a little troublesome; don't snap them away from their block, saw slowly. Once removed you run into the problem - the mating edges are flat, when they should follow the curve of the fin bullet. A little careful filing got it close enough for me. The tailplane sockets on the fin bullet need cleaning up but I chose the easier option of cutting away part of the tailplane plugs to make them fit.
On adding the F.8 nose I found it a little undersized - though maybe this was down to my problems with getting the nose halves to stay together! A little filler soon faired it in though. Matching the fuselage to the main wings looked like it would be simple but took several attempts until I got the wing assembly exactly perpendicular to the fuselage. Some scrap resin was used to pack out one side to get the angle right, and even then the underside join wasn't too great. However this may have been my fault - the brush-on superglue wasn't doing its job too well!
The belly tank covered some of the underside join but filler was still needed to get it perfect. Filler along the wing roots and tailplane roots was also needed. By this point I had made a decision on which Meteor to do, and it was to be the last flying F.8 - VZ467, otherwise known as 'Winston'. This aircraft was in use as a target tug and acquired the name because it was chosen to represent 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron RAuxAF in a flypast on Winston Churchill's birthday at some point in the 1970s. Painted up in false 615 Squadron colours, the flypast never went ahead because of the fuel crisis, but the aircraft kept the paint scheme when it resumed target tug duties.
Winston was kept in service by the RAF until 1982 when it was retired on cost grounds as spares were supposedly becoming problematic to find (despite the Dutch AF having donated a hangar full of such spares!). It passed into the care of the RAF's Vintage Pair display team (a Meteor and Vampire duo) but was never flown by them, and stayed in storage until sold to a private owner. Overhauled and brought back to airworthy condition, the paint scheme was renewed during which the camouflage demarcations changed radically and the wing roundels were moved further outboard, but the target tug modifications were kept. The most noticeable of these are a target-attachment shackle in the rear of the belly tank and a small fairing underneath the fuselage roundels - this houses the shackle release electrics, and I added it from scrap plastic carved to shape. The aircraft's aerial fit differs a little from many F.8s too and these were added from plastic card.
Back to the model then - with main assembly complete, I next began painting the undercoat. At this point I realised from my few photos of Winston that the camouflage diagram for a normal F.8 differs somewhat from Winston's version! Thankfully the aircraft lodges with Delta Jets at RAF Kemble and Delta kindly agreed to letting me have a good look around the aircraft to make some drawings of the camouflage scheme. Armed with this and some extra photos, I got back to the paintbrush and thinners. A few minor bubbles in the resin were spotted when the undercoat had been applied but some disappeared under a blob of paint and those that didn't disappeared under spots of PVA glue and more paint. I used Xtracolor paints for the camo coat and they went on well though I had some problems with them drying too quickly because of the horrendously hot weather we've been having in the UK recently! The visit to Kemble had revealed that Winston had a few more quirks - light grey undercarriage legs, interior green cockpit sills and a black fairing over the cockpit decking behind the ejector seat (the fairing being part of the canopy itself). I added the fairing from plastic card curved to shape and began work on the undercarriage. This goes together well and seems quite strong, certainly chunky enough to support the weight of my model with no problems. The main gear matches the real thing well (the Czech Resin people have obviously inspected the real thing closely - more credit to them) though you have to be careful to get the mudguards and their supports angled correctly - check against pictures of a parked Meteor. I had thought they'd got the angle of the main gear caliper wrong but on checking found the aircraft I was comparing against was engine-less and therefore very lightly loaded!
Next I started to dig through my decal collection to try and get Winston's paint job finished off. Yellow rescue markings came from a Tornado kit, as did the ejector seat triangles. I used the roundels supplied with the kit itself, and these went on well though one of them had some spots where the ink hadn't taken and they needed overpainting. The shade of blue isn't quite right but I left it alone - I may fix it in future if it bugs me enough! Winston lacks underwing serials, which was a plus (less work for me!), but the fuselage serials had to come from a Modeldecal set of generic numbers and letters. The side-bars to the fuselage roundels are larger than the blue/white ones supplied for the kit's 66 Squadron option but I applied them as a guide and overpainted them to enlarge them. Feeling brave I also hand-painted the interior of the bars, though I may go back to these and use carefully cut-out decals instead as my efforts aren't entirely even! No-tread areas on the inner portion of the wings are also different on Winston, but I could at least make use of the main rectangle supplied with the kit. Another area aft of the airbrakes was hand-painted though again I may go over these in the future with lines of black decal. Winston also sports some orange trestle markings which I didn't quite feel brave enough to attempt with a brush!
After that it was time to dip the canopy in Klear (Future), as it's not fantastically clear and this helps a lot (though imperfections in the moulding are of course unaffected), attach it with superglue (having popped an etched brass ejector seat handle on the seat top first), paint the canopy frame and add the gear doors and various small aerials. The nose gear's forward door needed cutting down a little at the top to get it to sit at the correct angle and extension. Both the nose gear and main gear doors could benefit from having their retraction jacks added though I have yet to do so. The spent ammo ejectors for the cannon had become lost somewhere in my carpet so I fabricated new ones from an old F-4 weapons pylon cut into bits, believe itor not.
A final coat of Klear to seal the decals and give the entire paintjob the same finish, and we're all done. The finished article sits at the right angle and looks every inch a Meteor - surely the best you can say about any kit. Accuracy-wise the kit is minutely too long (maybe 2 inches scale) and the wing span is about the same amount too short - I'm quite happy with that.
This was my first full resin kit, and I'm delighted with the result. I hope they'll all be of this quality but somehow I doubt it! Czech Resins are to be heartily congratulated on what is certainly in my opinion the finest rendition of the Meteor in this scale. My thanks to Glen Moreman of Delta Jets and Peter Buckingham of the Midland Air Museum for their help with access to Winston and background information respectively.
Now, no prizes for spotting which bits of the kit I forgot to paint until after I'd seen the photos...
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