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Dynavector De Havilland Hornet F.1/3

By: Drewe Manton


de Havilland's Hornet is arguably (unarguably in my case!) the most beautiful piston twin ever to take to the air. While some may say the Tigercat takes the honours, and whilst that aircraft has the look of a thoroughbred about it, for me the flowing lines and inline engines of the Hornet make it the clear winner.

Just like the other famous DH twin, the Mosquito, the Hornet started out as a private venture in late 1941. It was eventually given official sanction by the Ministry of Aircraft Production when DH received an order for the construction of two prototypes under specification F.12/43, which was basically written around the aircraft. Although successful in testing, it entered service just too late to see action in WWII and was ultimately another victim of the dawning jet age. Notwithstanding this, official records indicate some 380 were produced in seven versions and it did see combat in Malaya. Although it suffered some problems throughout its career it was universally loved by pilots as a flying machine, and has the distinction of being the fastest piston twin ever to see service: level speed was 485 MPH.

The last Hornets were broken up for scrap in around 1957-8 (some with less than 10 hours on the airframe!) and it is to the eternal detriment of aviation history that not a single intact airframe survived- not even in static condition. This then is the subject of the latest 1/48th model from the Dynavector stable.

The Kit

Dynavector's Hornet comes on two stout sheets of plastic card (approx .060") with two crystal clear canopies and a bag of quite exquisitely cast white metal. Detail on the vacuform parts is very well defined and the model certainly looks accurate. Decals are provided for one F.1 and a pair of F.3's and look to be very well produced with accurate colours and good register. Instructions are very comprehensive and informative, and are certainly the product of having built the model - everything is well explained with diagrams and words, and these instructions are the kind that it would appear the modeller will be well served following almost to the word. As with all Dynavector kits it comes in a sturdy cardboard box which should withstand most shipping "incidents"!

Freeing the Parts

Obviously the first thing that needs to be done is the chore of cutting out and sanding the parts from the backing sheet. Most modellers use a pencil line to gauge how much material to remove, but I always lose the line somewhere along the way! Due to this, I actually paint around the parts with matt black paint to provide an indicator - it's a little more permanent. Although a chore, I managed to cut out and sand all the main airframe parts in one 4 hour session. These days I wonder how I ever managed before I discovered John Adam's T-Al method: with one piece of T-shaped aluminium extrusion providing the hold for the model, and another piece with some 80 grit wet and dry attached, sanding is quicker and more accurate than ever before. In no time at all I was ready to move on to actually beginning construction.

All areas of plastic that need to be removed are very clearly marked with hatched lines and simply scoring along them with a knife blade and snapping the waste out is the simplest method.

Interior Construction

Taro suggests that you should drop a piece of plastic card into the fuselage and glue it to stiffen the fuselage up. He further says that this is only needed in one fuselage half. To my surprise and delight this method stiffened up the fuselage very nicely, but being a cautious soul I added two stiffening pieces to each fuselage half in order to maximise stiffness. The cockpit interior consists of a plastic tub into which are glued white metal details (be careful here: the instruction would have you put the port console on the starboard side and vice-versa; a quick look should tell you what goes where). Fit of these details into the tub is precise and only a drop of superglue is necessary to secure them. I also reinforced some of the deeper drawn parts of the tub with superglue and microballoons. Again, I'm not sure it is necessary but I like to feel my models arenít going to fall to bits as soon as my back is turned.

This same reinforcing method was used in the wing root and tail areas of the fuselage halves. There is an insert provided for the cannon ports, but I chose to let some plastic tube directly into the fuselage for a finer and sharper appearance; this is a fiddly job requiring care and patience but the results are worth it. The shell ejection ports were also cut out and backed with plastic sheet. With this part of assembly finished, the interior could be painted.

For this I used Halfords matt black decanted into an airbrush jar with a little white added to kill the harshness and shot it through my Badger 200. The interior was then drybrushed with a mixture of raw umber oil paint and Extracolor Aluminium mixed together. If you've never tried this give it a go, it imparts a very slight sheen, barely metallic, that gives parts like these a scuffed but not battered appearance. Controls were drybrushed various colours as was the instrument panel. The dials on the panel were then glazed with five-minute epoxy and the whole lot assembled into the fuselage along with the tailwheel bay. These parts were tacked in place with superglue and then I ran a goodly amount of five-minute epoxy around them to keep them in place (like I said, I'm a cautious soul and have had a cockpit tub come adrift after fuselage assembly once too often for my liking!)

With all interiors in place the fuselage was glued together a bit at a time using plastic weld. Fit was very good with the aid of some tape and a peg or two. When dry, joint lines were sanded down with 400 grit wet'n'dry and any inconsistencies filled with acryl blue putty (my first experience with this filler; a chap off of RMS was kind enough to send me a tube from the states - thanks Kevin!) This is about the best solvent-based filler I have ever used. It is incredibly fine and feathers out beautifully, and comes in the biggest tube I have ever seen. Should last me years! When sanding this out particular care was taken with the cannon troughs, using 600 grit paper and a brand new blade to work them out until they looked good.

Wings and Tailplane

Wings and tailplanes are next. Taro recommends that you assemble the nacelles and glue them to the lower wing halves before adding the upper wing, so as to make the lower wing adopt the correct aerofoil section and avoid undue gaps around the nacelle edges. All I can say is that it worked; a little filling was needed but nothing dramatic (it is a vac, remember?)

With the nacelles firmly in place stiffening spars can be added to the wings. The instructions suggest using thick plastic from the backing sheet- one piece 7mm x 95mm for each wing piece. I instead decided to use some strips of T-6 (i.e hard) condition aluminium of about 1mm thick for this. Working in aviation has its advantages, and these were epoxied in place in each wing half along with the radiator pieces. When dry, these wings were STIFF!! With this done the wing halves were joined with plastic weld (used sparingly) and then plenty of superglue and accelerator flooded along the joins from the inside.

At this stage I ran across the only real problem I had with the kit: if you glue the forward edge of the wing root beside the radiator together, the wing will not fit over the fuselage fairing. I left this bit unglued and when the rest was dry, I forced the wing over the fairing. This created a largeish gap at the front, into which I superglued shims of plastic card until it was filled. The knock on effect of this was a gap between the radiator tops and wing surface which needed a little white glue before painting to prevent a "see through" effect. This was, as I say, the largest problem (not of my making!) in the kit's construction but was fairly easily overcome.

All joints on the wing were filled and sanded to my satisfaction and then the wings were added to the fuselage. The fuselage fairings still needed a little trimming, especially at the rear, as did the wing roots themselves to make the fit true. When it was as good as I thought it was going to get, each wing was tacked in place with a couple of drops of superglue (no spars are necessary). After checking dihedral was equal on both wings liberal amounts of Zap-A-Gap were flooded into the roots in several applications. Again, I steered clear of accelerator for this job to maximise strength. These wings are staying put!

The tailplanes have a small spar to be put through slits cut in the fuselage. This needed some cropping before the tailplanes would seat right. The tailplanes were glued in place, and it is here that I made a right mess of things. For some reason the starboard tailplane sat lower on its fairing than the port, and this necessitated some heavy filling action. Whilst blending, I lost the hinge line, and made a complete mess of restoring them! Looking at the problem, it seemed the easiest route would be to just remove the elevators and reposition them, so now my Hornet sports jauntily repositioned elevators as a result of my clumsiness: a lesson to us all never to take vac-forms for granted even if this is the cutting edge of them.

Final Fuselage Finish

With all gaps in the main airframe filled, I went into the prime/fill/prime/fill stage to eradicate those little flaws that otherwise always escape you. Halfords grey primer was used for this, along with acryl blue and Dr Microtools red putty (used for contrast with the acryl blue to see just how bad the flaws were!) One thing I did notice was that the reinforcement strip around the fuselage had become a little indistinct over the course of sanding and priming, so this was restored using a strip of aluminium "speed" tape (of the kind used for quick repairs to aircraft - also available in car repair kits) burnished into place. If you take your time it can be burnished around the fuselage curves without wrinkling or creasing and looks great.

The only thing left to add before painting could commence was the windscreen. This was cut out from the backing and the canopy separated from the windscreen with a sharp scalpel. In order to aid the fitting of the windscreen, I had glued some plastic strip to the cockpit coaming. With the screen held in place, superglue was run between the plastic strip and the windscreen. The bond was stronger than it otherwise would have been due to the plastic strip backing. Some blending was needed with filler and fine wet'n'dry and then the windscreen was masked off and the framing painted black prior to the main camoflage being applied.


The kit includes marking for three Hornets, but I wanted something different. The options include an 80 Squadron machine in dark sea grey/dark green camo, with silver doped undersides. This was close but I had my heart set on a camoflaged aircraft with PRU blue undersides, and so the hunt was on! A flick through the Hornet file soon turned up an 80 Squadron machine which was camoflaged with blue undersides, and as this was exactly what I wanted, I determined that this was to be the subject of my model.

A fresh pot of Extracolor PRU blue was used on the undersides, but for some reason I just got"bad vibes" whilst spraying it - something didn't seem right. With this dry, I decided to switch to Humbrol for the uppersides and purchased fresh pots of dark green and dark sea grey for this (Humbrol may not have every colour you will ever need but I do trust them implicitly - Extracolor can be a bit more temperamental). With the blue masked off, the dark sea grey was applied and then the dark green (masking was done with blue-tack and maskol).

When this was dry all the masking was removed, and now I was proved right in my nervousness over the Extracolor on the undersides. As I carefully removed all the masking the blue was torn up in large sheets for some reason, and the underside looked terrible! I let things dry for a while and then gently wet sanded all the offending areas smooth before re-spraying the blue. The result was as good as new but I'm glad I switched paint makers for the uppersides, where there were no problems at all. I've noticed this more and more with Extracolor recently, and am getting progressively more nervous about committing them to plastic. In an ideal world Extracolor would have their entire range available but use the chemical composition of Humbrol - we can all dream, right?

Assembling the Undercarriage

I decided to add the undercarriage to the model before adding decals to give it something to stand on. Assembling the main undercarriage looks daunting at first, but if you follow the instructions to the letter and ensure all undercarriage seams are cleaned up, they go together very nicely with a little superglue. When assembled they are too large to slip into the nacelles: don't panic as the nacelle sides, being vacuform and thus thin, have plenty enough spring to allow you to squeeze the undercarriage in with no great drama. Mine was glued in place with 5 minute epoxy for speed.


Whilst I could use some of the kit decals, I was faced with finding new serials and code letters for my aircraft. Most of what was needed is on the sheet but in the interests of continuity I sourced all my serials elsewhere. My underwing serials are actually from a 72nd Fujimi Phantom FGR.2 which had all I needed in almost the right size (they are a tiny bit small, enough to show up if mixed with the kit serials but not noticeable on their own) There were no "P"'s included on the Fujimi sheet and so a little ingenuity was called for: my "P"'s are made from the "1"'s on the sheet, with half an "0" tipped on the side to make it up.

The fuselage serial is straight from the Modeldecal post war black serials and the white "W" on the fuselage side is from a 72nd Microscale F-105 sheet; it's not exactly the right style, but is about the right size and was all I could find! The rest of the markings are from the Dynavector sheet. All decals were applied using Johnson's Klear to bed them in and prevent silvering, after which a couple more coats of Klear were applied with a flat wide brush.

Final Finish

When the clear had dried thoroughly, I could see that the paintwork had a few imperfections in it which, whilst not that serious were annoying to me, and so I very gently wet sanded the offending areas with some well worn 1200 grit wet and dry, followed by more Klear; this I did three or four times until I was satisfied with the finish prior to final varnishing. With this done the whole model was given a light overspray with heavily thinned pale grey paint to "settle" everything down and blend it all in. This is a great method of toning down sometimes garish colours (the decals, whilst accurate, look a little harsh on the camoflage) but if attempted, great care is needed. If you start to see the grey you've gone too far! You should only really be able to see the difference when compared to a similar scheme without the overspray. Whilst the grey was in the airbrush, I also sprayed the pale area on the nose that the photo I was working from showed; I was unsure of the exact colour but this seemed as good a bet as any and looked tonally right when done.

Final varnishing was carried out with Humbrol acrylic flat mixed with a little gloss to remove the "dead" flat appearance. The end was in sight!

Final Details

With all varnish dry any remaining masking (canopy etc.) could be removed and final details added. A few areas around the cockpit opening needed touching up after which the canopy was white glued in the open position. The kit's white metal rockets had their overly thick fins replaced with plastic card, and were then attached to their pylons and glued into the pre-drilled holes. The bombs and pylons on my kit were robbed from the new Hasegawa Typhoon, as many pictures show the Hornet armed with four rockets and two bombs. With a little trimming the pylons fit like they were made for this model and certainly add to the overall effect. The pitot tube is a cut down sewing needle glued into a pre-drilled hole with superglue and the whip aerial on the spine was from stretched sprue. Wingtip lights were silver painted and then overpainted with red and green clear paint when dry. Finally a little weathering was added with black pastel and a fine brush to complete the project.


I can honestly say this is the finest vacuform I have ever made. Everything about it is designed to aid the modeller in achieving a result to be proud of. If you have yet to take the plunge, and the subject appeals, then this is the perfect introduction.

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
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