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BRISTOL'S SPEEDY "BULLET"
Spin Models 1/48
Resin Bristol M.1C

 

By: Tom Cleaver

 

 

The Airplane

If ever an airplane was a monument to the stupidity of bureaucracy and the ignorance of the men who were supposed to use it as the weapon it was designed to be, that airplane is the Bristol M.1C "Bullet." Technologically it was a generation ahead of the competition, standing head and shoulders over its contemporaries; had it been sent to the Western Front in the Spring of 1917, it could have regained for the RFC the air superiority over the Somme Front that had been lost the previous Fall with the introduction of the Albatros series of fighters. Instead of a tale of glory, however, the history of the Bristol "Bullet" is one of "what might have been."

Designed by Captain Frank Barnwell of the British and Colonial Aircraft Co. in 1916, the M.1C went against the official grain with its monoplane configuration in an era dominated by lightly-loaded biplanes. The airplane was one of those designs like the Me-262 or F-104 that look "fast" sitting on the tarmac. With a top speed of 130 m.p.h. when its contemporaries were lucky to do 100 m.p.h., it was a "speed demon" for its day. First flown in early 1917, it also demonstrated that a monoplane could be just as good a dogfighter as a biplane, though with its speed advantage and diving ability, the airplane would have been an aerial assassin that would have driven its enemies from the sky before they knew it was around, as superior to its opponents as the Albatros D.I and D.II were to theirs when first introduced in late 1916.

Unfortunately, the R.F.C. had some bad experiences with other monoplanes, and decided the reason was that monoplanes were inherently not strong enough to face the rigors of contemporary air combat. Thus, while the Bullet would be produced, it would never serve where most needed on the Somme Front; it would rather make a minor name for itself in the aerial backwaters of Palestine and the Balkans where it clearly demonstrated its technical superiority over everything it came up against, and would find far more use as a trainer at the School of Aerial Fighting than as an actual fighter. It would be another 20 years before the RAF would again have forced on it fighter designs as revolutionary as this was. Luckily for history, the Spitfire and the Hurricane were not as far ahead of their times as was the Bullet - by then even the fighter pilots of the RAF could see that the day of the high-speed monoplane had finally dawned.

The Kit

The Bristol Bullet has, to my knowledge, been the subject of only one vacuform kit in 1/48, that produced by Lone Star Models, which was quite nice but suffered from lack of sales since the airplane it depicted is not that well known. I hope that will not happen to this, the first release of Spin Models from the Czech Republic.

This "Bullet" is a beauty, a monument to the resin caster's art. In fact, I will go so far as to say this is one of the best - if not the best - full cast-resin model it has been my privilege to see. Had it been cast in grey resin, there are those who would easily mistake it for an injection-molded kit from contemporary state-of-the-art Eduard.

The fuselage comes in two very thin halves, with the now-standard photo-etch interior. The wings and tailplane are solid one-piece castings, all acceptably thin; there are injection-molded kit manufacturers who could take a lesson in fineness of trailing edges and crispness of fabric detail. The fabric detail is what one would expect from Eduard, and is in fact an over-representation of a fabric-covered surface, rather than the tight flat surface that existed in reality; however, these surfaces look so good I am not going te register this as a complaint. The casting for the wicker seat is incredible in its detail, while the fineness of the thin-casting for the cowling and large spinner have to be seen to be believed.

Construction

First things first, I painted all the photo-etch framing in "Yew," a yellowish wood much favored for aircraft construction in those days. I then painted the seat and the seatbelts. I also painted the interior of the fuselage halves "clear doped linen," (actually Gunze-Sanyo's "sail color") and painted the molded-in fuselage structure "yew" when the CDL was dry. When all was dry, I fitted the seatbelts to the seat, and then went about folding the photo-etch interior per the kit instructions, being certain to "throw" the controls in the way I had set the control surfaces (see below). This was all much easier than on the usual kit, and the entire process probably took well under an hour, taking away time spent allowing the paint to dry.

While the painted interior was drying before assembly, I went about separating the control surfaces. Cast resin is extremely brittle, and this took some real care, running the razor saw along the demarcation lines repeatedly until enough was cut through that sawing the remainder would be unlikely to result in snapping anything. I then positioned the ailerons, elevators and rudder, attaching them with cyanoacrylate glue.

With the interior complete, I set it in position inside the right fuselage half and glued it. Once it had set, I glued the fuselage halves together. There were no locating pins, so I ran glue along the seam a half inch at a time, working to keep everything positioned. The molds were very well-done and the fit was so good that there was only a very little bit of putty needed to hide the seam.

Wings, elevator and rudder were next, carefully making sure that each was aligned in turn before adding the C-A glue to fix the position. Again, only a very little bit of putty was necessary to smooth the seams and attachment points.

The kit provides photo-etch landing gear legs, which are to be folded over to double them. Even folded over, though, they would look too thin to me, so I replaced them with scratchbuilt gear legs made from airfoil-shaped plastic rod, using the photo-etch "V" of each to allow the axle to be attached. I also used thin rod to replace the photo-etch for the roll-over pylon above the cockpit.

With a bit of sanding, everything was ready. I was amazed that the cowling, which is one of the thinnest resin castings I have ever dealt with, was strong enough not to break while being carefully fitted on position on the nose.

I did use a white metal Aeroclub engine I had in the spares box, rather than the cast-resin engine. Had I not had the white metal engine, the kit-supplied part would have been perfectly acceptable.

Painting

There are three schemes provided in the decals, and here is where I had the only problem I encountered in the project: deciding which one to do. The choices are: a very plain combat bird flown in Macedonia in 1918, another camouflaged airplane used as an unarmed hack at Gosport in 1918 with a very colorful orange dragon on the fuselage sides, and a"circus performer" from the No. 1 School of Aerial Fighting in 1918 that is silver with a red sunburst over the upper wings and horizontal stabilizer, with red cross-hatch over the fuselage, armed with a camera gun and used by the instructors to jump their students. While I was immediately attracted by the last one, I had never used these decals before, and have had experience with Eastern European decals that tend to be very sticky, which would make doing decals over the entire upper surfaces problematic. A friend of mine from the World War 1 list reminded me that "it's a fighter," so I ended up going with the Macedonia-based airplane.

This was painted PC-10 on the upper surfaces and light blue on the lower surfaces, a departure from clear doped linen lower surfaces. Painting was easy, and I futured the model to get ready for decals.

Decals

I needn't have worried with these decals. They went on at least as easily as anything Aeromaster has recently produced for Eduard kits. I used a mild setting solution, and the decals hugged right down on the surface with no problems at all.

Final Finish

Mostly this involved spattering the underside of the airplane with mud, from the primitive conditions it would have operated under in Macedonia. I also sprayed some well-thinned semi-gloss black over the lower fuselage to simulate castor oil staining from the rotary engine.

I used high-E guitar string for the very simple rigging, and the model was finished.

 

Conclusion

This kit is the closest to a "slammer" I have ever seen in limited-run cast resin. Everything fit perfectly, once the very light flash was cleaned off with a razor knife. Truly, this Bristol M.1C by Spin Models is the "Tamigawa" of resin kits! Given its simple rigging as a monoplane, this should be attractive project to those who have put off doing a World War I model because of the rigging hassles.

I hope that Spin Models will reward us in the future with other releases of interesting World War I airplanes - they have already released the Ansaldo SVA.5, and are soon to release the SPAD A.1. If you have been thinking about trying a cast-resin kit, or a World War I kit, here's your chance to do both at once with something that will look stunning when it's complete and sitting on your display shelf.

Thanks to VAMP Mail Order for providing the review sample .




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