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Build Report: Airfix 1/48 TSR-2

airfix_tsr-2-2When I re-entered the modeling hobby in early 2006, I saw there was a lot of buzz generated about a kit Airfix had issued, a 1/72 TSR-2. What really caught my attention, at first, was the fact that I’d never heard of this aircraft. I thought I was a pretty well-informed aviation history enthusiast, but this was new to me. It seemed every magazine, especially those from the UK, had pages and pages devoted to the aircraft. I suddenly found myself hooked.

Unfortunately it was about the time Airfix went into receivership, and the only place I could find a TSR-2 was on Ebay for a large sum of money.

When Hornby revived Airfix, I had the privilege of interviewing Martyn Weaver, Airfix’s manager. And he hinted that there may be a future for the TSR-2 again.

He didn’t mention it would be a re-tool in 1/48 scale! πŸ™‚

So when I saw it sitting on the counter at my local hobby shop, I snapped it up immediately.

I really appreciated the fact that it was about $50. So often now, when a kit of this size comes out, especially if it’s an unusual subject, manufacturers charge $100 or even more. I know the cost of making a new tool kit is high, but kit costs are getting ridiculous. The fact that Airfix developed such a great kit at a very reasonable rice for it’s size and subject speaks volumes about the company. I truly appreciate it Airfix!

You can read a kit preview I’d previously written. It’s a big kit- the box is about 22 inches long, and the parts inside are massive. It’s hard to believe it’s 1/48 scale- at times you almost think you’re building a 1/32 kit.

As is required by galactic treaty, I started on the cockpit. The level of detail out-of-the-box I’d classify as average. Not bad, but certainly room for improvement. Having recently acquired a punch and die set from Micro-Mark, I decided some discs of various sizes would dress things up a bit on the instrument panels. I tried to add a few things that I saw in photos…. a radar looking thing (the machine that goes “ping”), some dials and so forth. It’s certainly not accurate, but it gives the interior a bit more of a busy look.

I also added some ribs to the interior walls, simply so they wouldn’t look too plain. The ejection seats look nice OOB, but I added some bits of wire for ejection handles, and some lead foil belts. The seats and instrument panels fit nicely into the cockpit tub. The whole thing was painted light gull gray, with some bits and pieces picked out with a 3/0 brush in black paint, and a wash of gray Warpigs Wash from Modelers Warehouse.

After some test fitting, I decided to leave the instrument panels and seats out of the cockpit tub until after I’d glued the tub into the fuselage and the fuselage together. I saw that it would be easier to place the instrument panels correctly after the fact, and would give me the chance to fiddle with the seats a bit more to get them positioned like I wanted.

The fuselage goes together nicely, with the nose gear bay and cockpit assembly nestled snugly in. I added some nose weight just aft of the cockpit tub, but I don’t believe it was really needed- this bird is long enough to stand steady. The fit was good- Tamiya Thin Cement joined things together nicely, and just a little sanding smoothed things out.

In gluing the fuselage together, the instructions call for you to glue the upper air brake inserts in. I wasn’t real clear on where they went, so I grabbed the upper aft fuselage piece to test it. This showed that it was actually easier to glue the air brake inserts into the upper wing piece. When I got to that later, it worked perfectly. Your mileage may vary- as always, test fit.

The fuselage is made up of several large pieces- an upper wing assembly, a fore and aft upper fuselage, and a lower fuselage piece. The gear/bomb bays go in easily. Be sure and put the main gear in before the lower fuselage piece goes on. Trust me….

There are some minor alignment issues on the lower piece. I found these were easily mitigated by careful gluing in sections- line up the rear left side, glue and clamp. Over to the other side… do the same. Since Tamiya cement dries rather quickly, this went along smooth without much delay. You can glue it all at once and sand a bit…. again- test fitting should help you along with your strategy.

The upper pieces had some fit issues requiring minor surgery. The forward upper fuselage, when aligned flush at one “shoulder”, left a 1mm gap on the other side. I used sheet styrene to fill this. Where the upper wing piece joins the forward and aft sections ended up taking considerable sanding and putty to fix. Nothing earth shattering… basic modeling skills. I broke my rule of test fitting- I realized as I was sanding that if I’d glued all three of the upper fuselage pieces together before gluing to the fuselage, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. Live and learn. πŸ™‚ If you’re building a TSR-2, I highly recommend at least testing this theory and see what you think.

Once the the major fuselage pieces go on, the exhaust sub-assembly goes on, then the tail-planes.

At this point, I was ready to paint.

I decided to do a what-if build, giving the TSR-2 the markings of an RA-5 Vigilante from the USS Enterprise in 1975. Never mind that the TSR-2 was probably too massive for carrier operations… I was having fun. I used Aeromaster’s “Valiant Vigis, Pt. I” (AN48731), purchased from the greatest hobby shop in the world, Hayes Hobby House in Fayetteville, NC. (Yes, that is a shameless plug… I love that place.)

First coat was Tamiya white. Be prepared to paint A LOT. It’s a big bird…. I sprayed and sprayed. The uppers were Tamiya Medium Gray. I painted the red/white/blue on the tail. Once all the paint was on, I sealed it all up with a coat of Future.

The decals went on very nicely, with some Pollyscale Decal Softener snugging it all down in the recesses. All was sealed with a final coat of Future.

The panel lines in the kit are recessed, and fairly prominent. Some may grumble, I suppose, but I like it personally. I like doing a panel wash, I like the look of stark panel lines. I used Warpigs Washes from Modelers Warehouse. Gray wash for the lower parts, black for the uppers.

You’ll need to test fit the forward canopy section. On my example, the canopy was a bit short, leaving a small gap that did not close up the recess for the canopy to fit in. If I moved the canopy forward to fill that, it didn’t align properly at the back portion. I slightly altered the slope of the nose to make things fit, and it passes the 2 foot test- it don’t look bad at 2 feet. πŸ™‚ I probably could have come up with a more elegant solution, but I tend to not let the details of a build bog me down…it’s for fun, right?

I also sanded the nose shape down… making it a bit rounded, with no pointy dealie on the end. I thought it looked pretty cool.

Though the gear looks robust, mine has slowly collapsed, especially on the left side. The weakness is where the main wheel assemblies join the main gear leg. I probably could’ve replaced the plastic mounting post with brass. However, I found a simply solution- display it on a high shelf with the right side showing. Much simpler. πŸ™‚

I posed the canopies open, lightly sanding the rear of the pivot area at an angle to give a good join for gluing. You might want to mask off the inside of the canopy and paint it if you plan to display it open, so it doesn’t have that glossy plastic look. I did this simply by masking the outer sections, and pulling the mask off and putting it on the opposite inner side. I don’t know how I discovered that, but it worked.

While this is not a shake-and-bake kit, it is a thoroughly enjoyable build in my opinion. It’s such an unusual subject, and looks so cool, it’s worth the effort. It certainly demands attention when sitting on the shelf- even if it’s the top shelf. Quite a few aftermarket parts are being released for it. If my math is right, you could pay nearly twice as much for those parts as the kit itself, actually. If I had it to do over again, I’d probably get at a minimum the aftermarket gear set.

I’ll admit it- I’m an Airfix fan. I enjoy the tradition and history behind the company, and appreciate the unusual subjects they’ll often tackle. And the TSR-2 is certainly a kit that fits the bill. I recommend this kit to modelers who have a few builds under their belt, and can manage the minor fit issues. Whether you build it as a historically accurate aircraft, or in an endless number of what-if schemes, I believe you will have a lot of fun. I know I did- thanks Airfix for issuing this wonderful kit!