The Bristol Blenheim started its existence as the Type 142, a six-seat executive aircraft built for Lord Rothermere, owner of the newspaper Daily Mail. A strong proponent of aviation, Lord Rothermere wanted to prove that Britain could build an aircraft as effective as Douglas' new DC-1. When the Type 142 first flew in April 1935, the twin-engined aircraft was 50 mph faster than Britain's newest fighter prototype.
The RAF seized on the design, and the resulting Type 142M became the now-famous Bristol Blenheim Mk.I. The Mk.I was powered by two Bristol Mercury VIII engines rated at 840 hp each.
Longer range requirements led to a longer-nosed version with increased internal fuel capacity, strengthened landing gear, and powered by the Mercury XV engine of 920 hp. This new version was initially designated Bolingbroke Mk.I, but became instead the Blenheim Mk.IV.
When the fighting began with Nazi Germany, the RAF had already replaced the Blenheim Mk.Is in its front-line units with the Mk.IV. Mk.Is soldiered on in allied air forces as well as with British forces in North Africa.
Blenheim Mk.IF and Mk.IVF versions became nightfighters, carrying a bellypack of four fixed, forward-firing Browning machine guns. These aircraft would also become test and operational platforms for early airborne radar as well.
Classic Airframes' Blenheim kits are easily one of the best they've done to date. Molded in light grey plastic, the aircraft features finely scribed panel lines and details, nicely detailed cowls, flattened tires, and solid mechanical mounting points for the fuselage-wing joint.
This kit is also Classic Airframes' first to feature injection-molded transparencies (all previous releases featured vacuform canopies). The nose is molded in two halves, incorporating the nose structure and the 'glass' in each half. This permits a more solid installation of the nose without endangering the clear portions. The top turret transparency is also injection-molded. The only part that is provided as a vacuform transparency is the Frazer Nash FN-54 early-styled underside turret.
As with all Classic Airframes kits, this is a limited production kit, so the injection molding process is not as 'tight' as the high production run molds, meaning that the kit has a hint of flash on some of the parts. The ejector pin marks in this kit are actually stubs of plastic, but none of them are present in any visible area of the kit, and those that will need removing during assembly of the kit are easily snipped and filed into oblivion.
One very impressive area of this kit is the resin parts bag. It is loaded with details that will make this kit an instant winner. Not one of the parts I examined had an air bubble. Only a couple of gun barrels were slightly warped, but these are easily straightened.
First and foremost out of the resin bag are the beautiful maingear wheel wells. While they need to be carefully trimmed and fitted into the wing halves, the interior detail of the wheel wells is outstanding.
Next is the great array of parts that make up the cockpit interior. The detailing is as nice as the Tamiya Mosquito (which this kit will look great parked next to). The sidewalls, instrument panel, control yoke, pilot's seat, bombardier's station, etc., are all sharply molded.
The Mercury engines are equally nice, complete with an array of exhaust stubs to link the engine with the cowl/exhaust collector ring. The propeller hubs are also resin which serve as the mounting points for the plastic propeller blades.
The kit features a number of detail options, included a retracted or extended dorsal turret, two different defensive ventral turrets (or the nightfighter belly gunpack), and optional tropical air filters.
This kit incorporates some nice construction engineering too. One example are the engine cowls. They feature bulges that clear the cylinder heads, but the bulges near the seam halves are molded separately. This allows the builder to remove the seam without sanding down one or both adjacent bulges. Good show!
Markings are included for two Blenheims:
Mk.IV, 105 Sqn, CB-X, V6374
Mk.IVF, 68 Sqn, WM-Z, Z5722
I think that this is the best kit that Classic Airframes has put out to date (though the Defiant runs a very close second place). With the complexities of resin parts and the skills needed for any limited production kit, this is not a project for the novice (though the novice may want to stash one away in his/her collection for the day when their skills are ready).
As I said earlier, this kit is a natural to be sitting next to the Tamiya Mosquito and Beaufighter on your shelf.
You may have heard rumors of a Beaufighter kit coming from Japan in 1/48 scale, though don't hold your breath. As with all such rumors, we'll probably see the long-rumored Tamiya 1/32 A-10 and 1/32 FA-18 kits before a 1/48 Blenheim.
We will have a build-up review of Classic Airframe's first Beaufighter release, the Mk.I, in the very near future. Our own Will Riepl is already on the project. I am also looking forward to working on one of these variants as well.
This release marks the second of Classic Airframes' Blenheim trilogy. Next up, the Blenheim Mk.V! Stay tuned!
My sincere thanks to Classic Airframes for this review sample!