Gremlin Models 1/48 La-5
By Erik Pilawskii
The development of the LaGG-3 fighter took many paths over the course of its production history, and amongst the more successful of these was the switch to a new radial engine for power. A concept machine--the Gu 82--flew as early as 1941, but a proper prototype of the M- 82 powered LaGG did not materialize at Gor'ky until February 1942. To the Lavochkin staff this was the Type 37, and the aircraft entered production in June as the LaG-5.
Many difficulties beset the early examples of this fighter, and Lavockin was asked to make numerous changes to the type on the production lines. The resulting reorganized and corrected models were codified in a new Production Contract during September 1942, now given the title La-5 (which was also applied retroactively to all previous models). An abundance of detail modifications and improvements appeared on the La-5 until it was at last supplanted in manufacture by the La-5F during the early months of 1943.
Yugoslav resin kit manufacturer Gremlin Models has just released a sorely missed early version of the La-5 in 1/48 scale. The kit is cast in some fairly nice, tan colored resin. While not being overly brittle, the resin in my review kit was not overly soft (as some Eastern European resin can be), and responded well both to various cements, and also to working with a knife. This resin sands like a dream, as well, though it does produce some fine dust when doing so (have your mask or respirator at hand). The kit includes some 25-odd parts (I admit that I did not count them before launching into assembly!), two nice looking vacuform canopies, a sheet of masking, and one of decals. My example featured no significant casting bubbles, no surface irregularities, and only one very small casting error (which will be easily corrected). I found the flash surrounding the resin parts to come away easily, though there is some clean up of course. The fuselage is molded in two halves, but the wing is a large single piece, and this will probably contribute to a heavier-than- normal completed model.
The planform and detail accuracy of this model appear to be quite good. All areas compare very well to proper La-5 drawings (from _Sovietskie Istrebiteli_ in this case), and the general 'look-and-feel' of the kit provide for an accurate representation of the La-5. Surface detailing consists of recessed panel lines and rivet detail, and on my example these seem well executed. With a single piece wing there will be no possibility to drop the flaps or move the control surfaces, but this is a minor quibble. In fact, the only minor hint of inaccuracy I could find was in regards to the wing's dihedral, which on my model was a bit too much. However, being a resin job this problem was solved with great ease by running the center of the wing under some hot water and flattening it to the proper dihedral. Problem gone with minimal effort.
The cockpit detail consists of sidewall resin features molded to the walls of the kit fuselage. I think that I would have preferred some separate parts, here, but as well I should note that the detailing is accurate in any case. The seat, control column, rudder bar, and instrument panel are provided, and are rather nicely done. A floor piece seems missing in my kit, but this was easily replaced by a strip of painted box top. As well, the color of the kit's resin (being simiar to wood) lent itself to some outstanding weathering effects in the cockpit by means of thinning or scuffing the paint, and I hope that Gremlin continues to make use of this color resin stock (for this very purpose). I suspect that for a contest entry type model one might want to turn to an aftermarket PE set, or a resin replacement, for better 3D effect and for more detail.
The canopies in my kit are very thin, and nicely detailed. They are both one piece units, and so cutting them apart for an open canopy would be a challenge. The spinner is delightfully shaped, and all of the sundry details seem to be quite good. The exhaust flap doors are of the earlier type with the fairing mid-flap, and this detail is nicely recreated on the kit parts.
One concern I have is that the final model is bound to be rather heavy. Because of this, I fear that the resin landing gear struts might be too weak, and one might give serious thought to replacing them with brass (or similar) tubing.
The decal sheet provided seems to be of fine quality, and one test patch I placed on some plastic sat down very well with solvent. The kit supplied decals include markings for a single aircraft, the beautiful presentation machine (in the name of Aleksandr Chekalin) in white winter scheme shown on the box. Interestingly, all other markings are made provision for by means of masks provided on a sheet of pre-cut masking medium. This novel idea strikes me as very useful, and I will certainly have to give one of these a try. Using these masks (including one for the canopy), a further two schemes are possible.
Overall, I am quite certain that the Gremlin Models La-5 kit will produce a very accurate representation of this wonderful fighter. Indeed, I have begun construction on my own copy already, being unable to resist the temptation to do so. Perhaps not an out-of-the-box fall together kit a la Tamiya, this is nonetheless a fine resin model and I recommend it without hesitation.
Our thanks to Gremlin for the review sample.