Kits: Avro Shackleton MR. Mk 3 and Avro Shackleton MR. Mk 2/AEW. Mk 2 Scale: 1:144
Kit type: Resin Decal options: (MR. Mk 3, six) WR975/F, No. 203 Sqn, Ballykelly, 1960; WR987/R,
No. 201 Sqn, St Mawgan, October 1958; XF730, No. 120 Sqn, Kinloss, May 1965; and 1716-J, 1722-P and 1717-0, No. 35 Sqn SAAF, June 1957; (MR. Mk 2/ AEW. Mk 2, six) AEW. Mk 2 WL795, No. 8 Sqn, Lossiemouth, August 1980, in all grey or grey and white scheme; MR. Mk 2 WR966, No. 37 Sqn, Khormaksar, March 1959, or No. 205 Sqn, St Athan, January 1972; MR. Mk 2 WL793/0, No. 204 Sqn, Ballykelly, 1960; MR. Mk 2 WR960/X, No. 228
Until now, the only available Shackleton models have been an ancient 1:72 Frog tooling – a homage to the mushroom-head rivet – and a 1:144 vacform.
CMR has now rectified this situation, albeit in the more manageable 1:144 scale. Three versions are available to date, the MR. Mk 1Д. Мк 4 kit having been reviewed in the July 2005 (27/5) issue.
The first, striking, feature is the quality of the product. The superb resin castings are packed in a stout box with an excellent colour profile; the resin parts are separately bagged, with white-metal components for the undercarriage and exhausts, duplicated vacform transparencies, a very large and comprehensive sheet of decals, and pages of instructions complete with clear photographs of the Shackleton preserved at Duxford. (The Duxford example is of course the jet-assisted MR. Mk 3/ Phase 3 that is the one version that cannot be produced from the kits. Most details are identical, however.)
Initial examination reveals delicate detail (almost too delicate after painting) and very few obvious snags save for a slightly inaccurate cockpit layout. The two kits I had exhibited some interesting differences in the way the engine units were cast, and in the design of the tailplane attachments. It was also apparent why duplicate transparencies are provided, since they are wafer-thin and very delicate. The changes needed for the two marks are catered for with appropriate wings, undercarriage and transparencies, and of course the AEW radome.
Construction commences with a fair bit of work to get the cockpit parts settled into the fuselage halves. If you are building the nosewheel version make sure you include enough weight at this stage, since it is a serious tail-sitter.
This is a good time to check the various window openings and install the blister windows from the inside. While an attempt has been made to provide a tongue-and-slot fixing for the wings, I found that it is not very deep or positive, and I had to cut a further slot to enable the insertion of a reinforcing spar made from brass rod.
In the first version I tackled (the MR. Mk 3) the tailplanes were designed to fit through a slot in the fuselage, meeting on the centreline. This had changed by the second model to a shallow slot and butt-joint approach. Neither gave a perfectly aligned result at first attempt, but on the whole I preferred the former method.
The remaining problem before joining the fuselage halves is the centreline roof hatch. A suitable square is provided on the vacform sheet but I just couldn’t see how it could be made flush without falling through. In the end I super-glued some thicker clear plastic (from an old canopy in the spares box) into one half. This provided a useful key for joining the other half, and when set was filed and polished to match the fuselage profile.
Optional raised or lowered ‘dustbin’ radomes are included, so the aircraft can be depicted airborne. In either case there is a mounting section to mate with the fuselage before the radome. Both feature fairly hefty pouring stubs, so care is needed to get a good join. With this done the fuselage is complete, and the flying surfaces can be added.
With wings and tailplane on, a Shackleton begins to emerge, and it is time to turn to the engines. Here again there were differences in the castings. One kit had the front face (intake) detail as a separate item; the other included it on the casting for the engine body. Both ideas are perfectly valid; the problems came later when trying to add the power ‘eggs’ to the wings. Before this, however, there are eight, handed, white-metal castings for the exhaust assemblies and eight sets of resin cooling gills to add. The location for all these items is rather vague and, given the very small size, cleaning up and fitting absorbed a fair amount of modelling time.
The Griffon ‘eggs’ are essentially cylindrical and mating them to the wings should have been straightforward. Leaving aside the fact that two of mine were oval in cross-section (to be fair, my copy was an early test-shot), the more fundamental problem was that the design of the wing and engine castings left pouring stubs facing each other and made lining up the parts unnecessarily difficult. Eventually I drilled out the engine castings so that I had a more positive male/female joint. This is the one area of the kit’s design that I would suggest the manufacturer take a second look at for future editions.
At this point we come to the transparencies. As mentioned, they are very thin indeed, which is good and bad news. The cockpits were no problem but the gunner’s canopy was so flimsy that I eventually filled the rear (solid) part of the fairing with Milliput, which both gave it some support and provided a good way to attach it to the fuselage. Once this had set, Model Master cement for clear parts was run around the clear area to complete the job.
The blister windows are very good, but tricky to install; I actually fitted one set from the inside, which worked better than the other installed from the top. The only odd bit of design is the tailcone. Given the thickness of material used it is presumably too deep to produce in one piece and so has been split vertically – despite the fact that it has a frame line which runs horizontally. This really would be better replaced, as it is impossible to polish out the join.
With the airframe essentially complete, a coat of primer revealed the need for some filling, especially around the wing roots. Incidentally, the grey auto-primer I use is quite close to the Dark Sea Grey topcoat required. At this stage the colour scheme must be decided – not an easy task since plenty of choice is offered.
The MR. Mk 3 decal sheet offers most of the standard colour scheme and marking variations possible for both RAF and SAAF machines, backed by a comprehensive range of stencilling. This latter includes all the wing-walk stripes, with ‘WALK HERE’ admonitions in perfectly legible text in two languages – I assume the non-English one is Afrikaans, to be painted out if completing the RAF version.
The MR. Mk 2/AEW. Mk 2 boxing includes a similar range of options including No. 205 Squadron’s ‘White Knuckle Airlines’ retirement markings (although not, I note, the ‘Piston Broke’ legend I seem to recollect this aircraft sporting). I couldn’t resist the No. 8 Squadron markings – just about as colourful as the Shackleton gets.
Having decided on the colour schemes I took the opportunity to try out Hannants’ new acrylic colours, finding the Dark Sea Grey to be excellent when airbrushed over the primer. The surface finish doesn’t seem to have the high gloss of the enamels, but it dries a good deal quicker and takes decals well. The decals themselves proved to be thin, strong and to have excellent colour density. They settled well over detail with only a little assistance from Micro Sol here and there.
A coat of Klear completed the job and it was then down to the detail, in which of course the devil lies! The guns and a number of antennae have to be scratch-built. Blade aerials are not too taxing, but the nose guns were an interesting exercise in miniature engineering, requiring two sizes of hypodermic needle, some fine wire, two Grandt Line ring bolts, and muzzle flash-suppressors created by filing hardened drops of superglue.
In both cases the undercarriage assemblies are sturdy enough to support the model, since they are sensibly provided with white-metal legs and resin wheels. Resin doors complete the undercarriage bays, the main bays at least featuring internal detail. No colour information is given for the bays, but I can advise you on very good authority that the correct colour is ‘dirty white’.
That brings me to the propeller blades, all 48 of them. In this scale, resin propeller blades are delicate and, despite CMR’s best efforts at casting and packing, some examples were bent or broken. One or two more were damaged during removal from their casting blocks and while cleaning up. This was before I began to tackle the red and white pro-peller-tip stripes.
I very nearly lost the will to live during this part of the build and I still can’t say that I know the answer to the dilemma. Possibly these very delicate parts would be better provided in white metal (a white-metal Aeroclub set is available). Certainly some form of line scribed on the blade would hugely assist in getting the stripes correct (masking simply isn’t an option, so one is reduced to painting by eye). If any reader has a superior technique I’d love to hear it. Meanwhile might I respectfully suggest that CMR considers providing a couple of spares.
On balance I still rate these kits highly – If these are first efforts in 1:144 they are very good ones. There are some detail improvements that would have made life easier, but in terms of value for money these products are outstanding, and any initial impression that they are expensive should be dismissed. I have paid more money for far inferior kits, which turn out to have cheap, photocopied instructions, all the parts loose in one bag, and only an approximate relationship to the real aircraft.
These kits are pushing the boundaries of their medium, so some limitations are inevitable, but I believe that the quality of the whole package entirely justifies the cost. 1:144 scale is an ideal way to cope with large airframes and limited shelf space, and seems to this correspondent at least to be enjoying something of a renaissance – keep it up chaps!
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