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Folland Gnat T Mk 1

Scale: 1/48th
Manufacturer: Airfix
Ref No: A05123
Material: IM
UK Distributor: Hornby Hobbies Ltd
UK Price: £16.99

Kit Review
Having done the Gnat recently in 1/72nd scale, it was great to see this new 1/48th scale version announced. I am not a huge fan of the Hawk, but a Gnat, that is an entirely different thing, so this one went onto the work bench as soon as the parcel arrived.
The packaging is typical of the recent kits, with good artwork adorning the very red box. Inside, all packed in one bag are the light grey-coloured sprues, with the single clear one within a separate bag that is in the main bag. Surface detail features nice fine engraved panel lines and fasteners etc., but little in the way of rivets. The cockpit tub makes up quite easily, although I used one fuselage half as a jig to ensure the correct angle of the rear (#A6) and front (#B13) bulkheads whilst the glue dried. The instrument panels have raised detail, over which goes the decal and these are OK, but nothing that detailed. The ejection seats are multi-part and here is where I had the first problem, as the top box on one main unit (#C16) was short-shot, so I had to replicate the missing area using the other example as a template. The kit gives you the option of seats without belts, so you can add the crew figures, or with them, so that you don’t have to. This is a great idea except for one thing, the panel for the headbox area comes with (#B7) or without (#B6) belts, fine, but there is only one of each part and you need two of each; I doubled-checked and I could find no sign of them on the sprue? When you set the bulkhead (#A2) onto the front seat, use the tub as a jig to ensure the correct angle while the glue hardens. The separate side bulges and undercarriage bays fit nicely, although use a slow-ish setting liquid cement to allow you time to get it lined up. The intake trunks assemble easily and they fit snuggly, but make sure the undercarriage bays and side panels are completely set before attempting this, otherwise they will push them out of line. The exhaust nozzle has a prominent injector tree in the middle, so take care removing this, or you will damage the pipe itself. Before you join the two fuselage halves in stage 25, don’t forget to add nose weigh, as this is not mentioned at all in the instructions. The wings have separate ailerons and flaps, but I must admit to securing mine in the neutral positions in both instances. The wing to fuselage joint is OK, not perfect and I found the rear worse than the front. A little more trimming and test-fitting may have got it to fit better, but hiding the joint is going to be an issue whatever you do and I did find a bit of surface detail got eradicated in the subsequent sanding. The wing tanks are also not the best of fit, mainly because the diameter of the nose cone (#A21) seems to be different to that of the main body (#A10/11 and B33/34). Quite a bit of sanding was therefore needed around the front but I found that Mr Surfacer 500 was sufficient to deal with the side joints. The tanks were not fitted at stage 35 as stated in the instructions, nor were any of the stages from 32 onwards undertaken until the painting and decalling was completed.
You have two options in the kit the first is the white/red/grey scheme of No.4 FTS, RAF Valley, 1973, whilst the other is the aluminium with fluorescent orange panels of a machine from the Central Flying School, RAF Little Rissington, 1964.
I opted for the latter, although the ejection seats in the kit are actually not suitable for either option, as they depict the type used at a later stage in the Gnat’s career. That aside, I first primed the model with Mr Surface Primer 1200, then once dry, polished this back. All the areas to receive the orange colour were then primed with white (X-2), thinned with Mr Color Levelling Thinners to ensure a smooth surface, then a coat of Lemon Yellow (X-8) was applied. Once this had dried the panel lines were picked out in Clear Red, then the orange was built up using layers of Clear Orange. This takes a while, as you have to build the layers and you must not let the paint pool anywhere, but the overall effect is one I like. Initially I had intended to try the Tamiya enamel silver (X11), but a disaster on another project (due to my own stupidity), meant that this one was initially done in that colour, but then over-sprayed with good old Alclad II White Aluminium. Once this was dry all the panel lines were picked out with Jet Exhaust, also from Alclad II, then another fine mist of the base White Aluminium was applied to reduce the start contrasts between the two colours. The ant-dazzle panel was masked off last, and I used NATO Black (XF-85) for this, as pure black would be too stark. The whole model was left for 24 hours for the paint to fully cure then an overall coat of Johnson’s Klear was applied and left for another 24 hours to harden.
The decals are standard fare for Airfix and although a little thick with visible carrier film they do settle down quite well. I did the mass of stencils over two evenings, and once each was removed from the backing paper it was dipped into Humbrol Clear and then applied to the model, with any excess removed with a piece of dry cotton cloth; this seems to reduce the likelihood of silvering with these small markings. The main markings went on in the usual manner and I did use the new Mr Mark Softener from Gunze-Sangyo to get them to settle into the recessed panel lines. The only thing you will find when doing all those stencils is that the diagram in the instructions does not match the panel lines on the kit, mainly down to their location and/or size, plus the panel lines themselves are not consistent in location on either fuselage half and/or match those shown in the instructions. This all leads to a bit of artistic licence with their ultimate locations, so just be aware its not you, it’s the instructions and/or the parts.
Final Assembly
With the decals done and all the masks still in place the model was given an overall coat of Xtracrylix satin varnish. The canopy was marked with a combination of Aizu 0.4mm tape for the perimeters and Vallejo masking fluid for the large areas, then it was sprayed black, followed by the same White Aluminium of the overall airframe; it too then got a coat of satin varnish. The undercarriage is nicely done and I am glad to see the axles are just plain stubs, none of this locating pin stuff so the wheels fit only one way (great, but if you remove the wheels to paint etc. and don’t have a way of identifying them, you run the risk of them being put onto the wrong oleo legs and thus the flat no being in the right place!). Hub detail is good and this was picked out with a Dark Wash prior to the final coat of varnish. I painted the pitot (#C9) with gloss black then Chrome from the Alclad II range, as it was a plated part in reality. The separate blade antenna are welcome, and I admit that I did not bother with the decals for the upper ones, instead I matched the colours to paints in the Vallejo range as best I could and painted the bands on each by hand (it was just easier than trying to get the decals to wrap round them). Drops of Clear Red or Green were placed into the separate clear top lights before they were attached and the inner cockpit screen (#D7) was attached with thin Gator Glue. I did find that neither the separate nose door nor the main canopy needed to be secured in the open position, as their locating lugs are sufficient to keep them in position. I should have added replacement ‘D’ shaped firing handles to each seat, as the ‘B’ type are for the later seats, but I forgot - sorry!
Very nice indeed, a few niggling things like the short-shot, the error in the seat parts and the wrong type of seat to deal with, but nothing that is insurmountable so overall this is a great kit and one that I am sure will be built in large numbers as it wore some excellent schemes. I certainly fancy a Yellow Jacks one in the collection and the fact I will build another tells you just how enjoyable the overall product is.
Highly recommended to all.
Paints used;
Alclad II
White Aluminium
Jet Exhaust
Tamiya Color
X-1 Black
X-2 White
X-8 Lemon Yellow
X-25 Clear Green
X-26 Clear Orange
X-27 Clear Red
XF-19 Sky Grey
XF-85 NATO Black
Satin Varnish