Blue Max's 1/48 Bristol Fighter
By Ernest Thomas
Ah, there's nothing like the feeling when you know you're loved. And getting the new Bristol Fighter from Blue Max as a Valentines Day gift is a sure sign of that love. Doesn't matter that I handed the Squadron catalog to my wife with that model circled in red.
First, a bit of history gleaned from the back of the box. Captain Frank Souter Barnwell designed the Bristol F.2b in 1916. This design was the first aircraft to use the new 190hp Rolls Royce V-12 (later dubbed the Falcon 1). The Falcon 1 represented a 50% increase in performance over the engines currently available in 1916. The increased power made the concept of a two-seat fighter a reality.
The first F2.b's (Biffs) arrived in mid 1917 and over 5200 were eventually produced. Biffs served in the airforces of Belgium, Greece, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Spain, Poland, Ireland, U.S.A., Canada, New Zealand, & China, and Great Britain, of course.
In addition to the Rolls Royce Falcon engines, the Sunbeam Arab, both 200 and 300hp Hispano-Suiza also powered Biffs, and there were even plans to produce the design in America using Liberty engines.
Many of these aircraft survived the First World War to soldier on up until the 1930's.
The Blue Max Biff is a welcome addition to the growing selection of high quality injection molded 1/48 scale WWI aircraft. The 33 plastic parts and 18 white metal parts allow for either Falcon 1, or Sunbeam Arab version.
My sample has fairly clean and crisp parts in both the plastic and the metal. Flash is minimal, though the sprue/part junctions are a bit thick and chunky. But that would be my only complaint with this fine, but slightly pricey kit. As with the Blue Max Camel, I'm impressed with the representation of the rib tapes. These important though often overlooked details are molded onto the flying surfaces and are one of the features that make this a nice kit. All the other details are also sharp and nicely done, in particular, the white metal radiators.
The Falcon/Arab option is represented with choice of cowl/radiator/prop assemblies that attach to a common rear fuselage section. No engines are provided with the kit, only the exterior pipes/manifolds. The stitching on the rear fuselage is sharp, well defined and not overstated. Cockpit detail consists of a plastic floor board, white metal seat and bench, panel, stick, pedals, sidewall structure, and Lewis gun w/mount. The landing gear struts are white metal, but all wing/cabane struts must be cut from plastic strut stock provided. Templates for cutting the struts are also provided. Both wings are in three sections, just like the real thing. Decals look good and the register looks to be dead-on. The only thing it could use is a few photo-etch bits from Tom's Modelworks around the gun mount.
A brief test fit of a few parts shows that fitting some parts may require a bit more attention than the typical fall-together Tamiya or Hasegawa kit. This is due to the limited run cottage industry product that it is. The assembly instructions consist of only 2 exploded view drawings (one for each version) with no step-by-step or part numbers. Though the painting instructions and color info is abundant. A note on the exploded view recommends using the Bristol F.2B Datafile as a reference, which I wholeheartedly agree with.
All in all, while I don't recommend this kit for the novice builder, those experienced modelers will enjoy building this model. It's a good looking aircraft with plenty enough struts, wires and sticky-outy bits to satisfy any detail junkies and, it's an important addition to any WWI model collection.
Well done, Chris Gannon!
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