My fascination with building World War II Russian aircraft shows no signs of slowing down! It’s a part of aviation history I’ve not learned much about in the past, so it’s been fun doing research for these builds. One of the aircraft series that I’ve found particularly interesting is the Lavochkin fighters.
While the LaGG-3 did not astound everyone with it’s performance, designer Semyon Lavochkin went back to the drawing board, and after adding a radial engine and some other improvements to the fighter, came up with a winner. The La-5 was the first in this series of radial-engined Russian fighters.
The kit itself is really impressive. This was my first time building a model from Zvezda, a Russian manufacturer. I have been very impressed with the quality of the moldings, the detail of the kit, and it’s overall fit. I’d been a bit apprehensive about trying this brand, because I’d made the assumption that it was like some of the ICM kits I’ve built, which while buildable are certainly no cakewalk. Happily, Zvezda is a much better quality. In terms of out of the box detail, I’d rate this kit with any top-tier 48th scale kit from any manufacturer. The buildability of the kit reminds me of Accurate Miniatures- very buildingable, though with a few fiddly places that require attention. It all fits together well, but does require reading the instructions thoroughly. And speaking of instructions, they are very clear… always a good thing with a highly detailed kit.
The interior is really nice. The internal structure is well represented, from the engine all the way back through the aft fuselage. Because the Lavochkin fighters, like many fighters, were of mixed wood and metal construction, the interior ribbing and framework detail is added in in very convincing fashion. Much of the cockpit is built on top of the lower wing piece, creating a framework structure that will eventually slide right onto the completed fuselage.
Sidewall detail in the fuselage is very thorough and quite convincing. Zvezda did a great job of casting very delicate parts in styrene, and I applaud them for not filling the cockpit with needless photoetch when injection molding can do the job quite nicely.
The engine looks very nice, though the exhaust tubing is a bit complex to add on. When I had the basic engine built, I did some test fitting and realized that none of the exhaust work, except for the stubs peeking out of the fuselage, would be seen. So I left all the exhausts parts on the sprue, and simply added the small stub that is seen after the fuselage was closed up- I just cut the part, slid it in, and added some glue. Of course, if you want to leave the cowl open, you’ll need to build that section.
The fit of the fuselage is good, with only a few areas needing attention to fully hide the seams. The cowl is a multi-part assembly, but it goes together quite naturally. I glued on one piece at a time, allowing for each to dry a bit before adding the next, and made a few adjustments to alignment as I went, and had no problems.
The wings fit together well without much fuss. A little work will be needed on the leading edges to hide the seams. Also, the join of the wing filet to the fuselage is not perfect, but adding some Tamiya Basic Putty, smoothed out with nail polish remover, handled that area nicely. All control surfaces are separate parts, so you can position them as you like. The aileron fit was not perfect, so I got around it by deflecting them a bit. (Remember if you do that, they must be positioned opposite- one up, the other down.)
The model was painted in the AMT-4/6/7 colors, using Akan acrylics that correspond to those colors. Some silver chipping was done, but make sure you research what parts were wood and what parts were metal before you get too “chip happy”. For wear on the wooden areas, a darker yellow color works nicely.
I decided to use aftermarket decals for this kit, using decals from Print Scale, Lavochkin La-5, Pt. I (#48-018). The decals worked very well, and I would recommend them. The scheme I chose was one I thought was quite interesting. While it’s quite common to see VVS aircraft with Russian slogans, I found this one interesting because it was in Spanish, the pilot being a Spaniard who flew for Russia. However, after they were on and dried, I did find out that the slogan is not correct Spanish… but I figure I’m a modeler, not a linguist.
Some light weathering was applied with Tamiya Deck Tan for fading, and a mix of Tamiya Hull Red and NATO Black for shading. After the landing gear and other small items were added, the entire model was given a flat coat of Vallejo Matt Varnish.
I have to say I am very pleased with the quality of this kit, and would highly recommend it to others. It’s not shake and bake like a Tamiya kit, but it’s certainly comparable to the latest offerings from Airfix in terms of buildability, and in detail and casting reminds me of Accurate Miniatures. Best of all, it’s an affordable kit, priced at a very attractive $22.23 at ScaleHobbyist.com. I am looking forward to building more Zvezda kits in the future!