Vast Volumes of Vindicators:
A comparison between the MPM, Azur and Pavla 1/72 Vindicators
When MPM released their Vindicator (see the inbox review in the August issue), we thought we had things pretty good. Well, now there's two more Vindicator kits, out, one by Azur and another by Pavla, adding more to the pot. Since the inbox review of the MPM Vindicator had a very complete history, I'll just refer you back to that article for that information and jump right into the kits.
The Azur kit, not surprisingly, is basically the MPM kit, although there are some changes in it. The Pavla kit is all-new and all kits have their merits. Starting with the MPM kit, the inbox review back in August covered this in detail, but I'll repeat the highlights here. Shape-wise the kit is very good, making it probably the best Vindicator at the time of release. Both Meikraft and Pegasus have released Vindicator kits in the past (as well as some vacuform kits, I believe), but the MPM SB2U-3 kit puts itself way ahead of the other injection kits. This isn't to say it's perfect, though. MPM has recently been moving away from including resin and brass details in their kits, and the Vindicator is an excellent example of this "advancement". As a result, the cockpit is poorly detailed and needs some serious work to bring it up to the qualities that resin & brass would have provided. This isn't to say that resin has been completely eliminated from the kit, though. A resin engine face is included, and there are other resin details such as the machine gun. Still, MPM could have included a lot more for added detail.
The one noticable inaccuracy with this kit has to do with the scoop on the upper right cowling. It's completely the wrong shape and size, necessitating a bit of scratchbuilding here. Decal options are for three Marine examples, including one from Midway.
Now on to the Azur kit. The first big noticable change was the holes cut into the wing for the dive brakes. The second thing that jumped out was that the Azur kit has a vacuformed canopy, while the MPM kit has an injection one. Other than the holes in the wings, the plastic parts are identical to the MPM kit, which means its shortcomings also apply to the Azur kit. There are additional resin parts, though, as well as etched brass. Don't get your hopes too high with this news, though, as the additional resin pieces are for the wing air brakes (in the form of inserts), French-style bombs & wing bomb racks, the short stabilizers used on the earlier Vindicators. One of the problems with the MPM kit is corrected in the Azur kit, however, with additional resin cowling scoop, which has been changed in size and shape to be more accurate. But before you think about tossing the MPM kit and just getting the Azur kit for all your Vindicator needs, remember the wing holes for the dive brakes. To do an SB2U-3 you'd need to fill those in and add in the fabric ribbing to match the rest of the wing.
The Azur kit is basically only a French Vindicator, and the decal choices reflect that, providing two options. The first one is a V-156F of No. 10 Escadrille AB 3 based at Hyeres Island during the summer of 1940. This one is finished in the French three-color scheme of brown, khaki and light blue gray. The second choice is a V-156F of No 13 Escadrille AB 1 in January of 1940. This example is overall light blue gray. Both examples carry standard French markings in the usual places. The decals are printed by Propagteam and are typical of that company, being very thin and in excellent register.
The Pavla kit, on the other hand, has been engineered to produce all the Vindicator variants, from the SB2U-1 to the SB2U-3 as well as the V-156 French Vindicators. To get all these variants in one kit, Pavla includes two sets of stabilizers, two styles of tail guns, wing dive brakes, two styles of bombs, and of course decals for all versions. However all of these options come at a price, and that's in the area of detailing. While the MPM/Azur kit seems to have a weak cockpit, it is much better than what is in the Pavla kit. While the Pavla kit has a vacuformed canopy capable of showing off plenty of detail, the best part of the interior of the Pavla kit is the brass instrument panel. There is no sidewall detailing at all, and the seats are basic shapes. You'll need to do quite a bit of work on this kit to get a decent-looking interior. While Pavla does give you two choices of guns for the rear gunner (either a US or French piece), both are injection-molded and are little more than basic shapes.
One very nice piece to this kit is the complete engine in resin, with both banks of cylinders. This is much better than the MPM/Azur resin engine face. Other positive features of this kit are the brass details, including bomb fins and seat belts, in addition to the two-piece instrument panel (not counting the acetate instruments) and dive brakes. The dive brakes are another difficult job in the Pavla kit. While the Azur kit has holes cut in the wing for these dive brakes, the Pavla kit gives you a rough measurement from the wingtip to where holes need to be cut into the wing. Once these holes are cut there are resin inserts for the dive brake wells, with the etched brass pieces fitting into these. In both the Azur and Pavla kits I think getting these inserts to fit will take a lot of dry-fitting and test runs.
Since the Pavla kit gives you the option of building any Vindicator make, they've given you plenty of decal options. There are no less than five choices in this kit, with two French ones and three US ones. The two French ones are identical to the ones included in the Azur kit, right down to the fuselage numbers. The style of numbers are slightly different, and the blue in the French national markings are different, but for the most part they're identical. The US versions offer one choice of each variant. The SB2U-1 is from the USS Ranger in 1940 and is finished in the pre-war scheme of yellow wings and silver fuselage, with Willow Green tail surfaces and light gray metal fuselage sections. The SB2U-2 is finished in blue gray over light gray and is from VS-42 based on the USS Saratoga during the Fall of 1941. The final option is an SB2U-3 from VMSB-241, also finished in blue gray over light gray. This particular plane was lost after attacking the Japanese battleship Haruna. There are both red and pink dots for the US stars to depict painted out ones. The decals are thin and have excellent register.
If you just want to have a Vindicator in your collection and aren't too concerned with interior detailing, then the Pavla kit is probably the best choice to go for. In one kit you have the options to build any variant of Vindicator, making things simple for those who aren't sure which Vindicator they want to model. But if you like detailed cockpits, the MPM and Azur kits offer a better starting point. The downside is that you'll need to decide if you want to build a V-156 or an SB2U-3 before buying a kit, and if you want to build an SB2U-1 or -2 you'll actually need to buy both kits (or get the Azur kit and try filling in the wing holes). Both kits are very buildable, though and either kit will be an excellent starting point for a superdetailed Vindicator.