MPM's 1/72 Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV
The Bristol Blenheim marks the beginnings of one of the most notable aircraft lines in British history, culminating in the Beaufighter. The Blenheim started out as a high speed passenger and mail plane, but as the overtones of war started moving through Europe, the RAF quickly started looking for light bombers to complement its heavies. The Blenheim quickly was pressed into service as just such a plane, and once the Second World War broke out the Blenheim quickly entered combat.
While the Blenheim was a great plane in the late 1930s, by the time 1940 rolled around it was outclassed by the opposing fighters. With the limited resources available to the RAF, though, there was no choice but to keep using the Blenheim. The RAF wasn't the only people to use the Blenheim, though, with some going to the Free French Air Force and some went to the Finnish Air Force. While the RAF suffered heavy losses with their Blenheims, the Finns used theirs to outstanding effect against the Russians.
The Blenheim, while outclassed early on, continued serving in the RAF and other air forces throughout the Second World War and proved the durability of the airframe. Building on the best qualities of the Blenheim, Bristol went on to build the Beaufort and later the Beaufighter, giving the RAF and Coastal Command some of the best aircraft of the war.
A modern release of the Blenheim in 1/72 has long been overdue, and the MPM kit is very welcome indeed. Like most newer MPM kits, there is little resin and brass, with more and more being provided in injection plastic. The parts are crisp, with recessed panel lines throughout. The clear parts are injection-molded as well, with the front section of the fuselage being provided in clear. This makes the clear parts of the nose easy to do, and the earlier Mk. I variant could be done simply by changing out the clear parts.
The cockpit is fairly basic, and would have really benefited from more photoetch or resin or both. It is adequate, though, and a good paint job should help out a great deal. The fuselage construction in the instructions has you glue the rear fuselage together and then add the front clear parts, although a better fit would probably result if you glued the clear parts to each separate half first.
One nice feature of this kit is the manner of the wing join. The wings are separated into top and bottom halves, with inserts for the wheel wells. Once together the wings fit into holes in the fuselage, resulting in a very clean joint. There might be some slight gaps present, but these will be easily filled with some sheet styrene. The engine nacelles are split in halves and sandwich a resin engine front half. The tailplanes are split top and bottom and are butt-joined to the fuselage.
The landing gear does a good job of representing the Blenheim's gear and is made up of three parts for the main gear strut, with wheels split into halves. The tailwheel is in two parts and butt-joins the fuselage. This would probably be better joined by drilling a hole and inserting the strut rather than the flat joint. The props are made up of resin hubs with plastic blades and will be a bit of fun to put together. I highly recommend making a jig for these to make sure the blades are all at the right pitch.
There are three decal choices given, offering a wide range of camoflage and markings with one RAF, one Free French and one Finnish Blenheim included. The RAF example is the famous Victoria Cross winner Hughie Edwards plane, V6028. Finished in the standard Dark Earth and Dark Green over Sky, this plane has Sky codes "GB-D" on the fuselage sides. The Free French example is a North African Blenheim, finished in Dark Earth and Mid Stone over Azure Blue. The Cross of Lorraine is present on the fuselage sides and lower wings. The final example is a Finnish Blenheim, finished in black and olive green over light blue. Yellow theatre markings under the wings and in a band around the rear fuselage add a bit of color to this plane. The Finnish national markings are included, with the center section of the swastika provided separately to escape the European ban on that image. The decals are printed by Cartograf out of Italy and are in excellent register and look to be thin.
I've been waiting a long time for a nice Blenheim kit in 1/72 and I think we finally have one. While I would have liked to see more resin, especially in the interior, there's really nothing that can't be added with a little scrap plastic, and I wouldn't doubt that there will be some people doing some detail sets for this kit in the near future. With the great decal sheet giving some great choices, you can build this famous plane out of the box quite easily, and undoubtedly we'll see some nice aftermarket decals soon as well.