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Reviews : American : American WW2 Last Updated: Apr 21st, 2015 - 23:52:06

Vultee P-66 Vanguard. Sword. 1/72nd
By Steve Woodward, MM Publications
Apr 11, 2006, 10:09

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I have to admit that before seeing this kit, this is an aircraft I didn't even know existed never mind contemplated modelling! The Vultee P66 Vanguard looks very much like any other radial engine US fighter plane from the end of the 1930s. I suppose the best description would be a cross between a Curtis P36 Hawk and a three-quarter size P47 Thunderbolt. Get the picture?
Of the 144 built, 129 went to the Chinese government to assist in their efforts against the invading Japanese. They proved inadequate for fighter-to-fighter combat, but met with some success when used against Japanese bombers. Three aircraft were originally earmarked for evaluation by the RAF and were painted at the Vultee factory in RAF camouflage and roundels. However, it soon became apparent they were not suitable for the European air war and were diverted to China with the rest of the aircraft. A few were also used by the USAAF for home defence and training but these too were eventually forwarded to the Chinese, who became the only nation to use the P66 in anger.
The Kit
This looks very nice at first glance, and closer inspection was to reinforce this view. It is in the main injection moulded in as hardish dark grey plastic. The parts breakdown is interesting in that the fin, as well as the horizontal tailplanes, are moulded separate from the fuselage. The airscrew too is in four parts, boss and three blades. Detail is good and the panel lines recessed, which always looks better and saves having to re-scribe them on. The main cockpit detail includes a substantial cockpit "tub" with integral bulkheads, radio pack and control column; separate fully detailed sides and a seat. This is all in resin, along with the rear part of the engine. It is supplemented by etched brass instrument panel, seat harness and - a real plus in my view - etched brass undercarriage doors. A decal sheet with three options (USAF, RAF or Chinese) and a neat little instruction/information sheet completes the package.
I managed to obtain a set of 1:48 plans (thanks Bill!) which I scaled down on the office photocopier to 1:72 by simply shrinking to 67% of normal size. The model measured up exactly to these in every way, so it's either accurate or the manufacturer used the same duff set of plans I had access to!
On starting assembly, I realised none of the parts were numbered either on the drawings or the parts themselves. No real problem, but do take care that the parts on the sprue are the ones represented on the drawings. Care and a sharp razor saw are needed to remove the excess from the resin castings. No problems encountered with assembly, but as the cockpit goes together, keep dry-running to check it will fit properly into the fuselage when the time comes to assemble the latter. On completion of the main cockpit sub-assembly, I gave it (and the inside of the fuselage halves) a coat of interior green before adding the pre-painted instrument panel and harnesses. Whether this was correct or whether it should have been Zinc Chromate primer I do not know. To hedge my bets, I did the wheel well interiors in the latter!
With the cockpit assembly in place, the fuselage went together easily, although there was a bit of a squeeze at the front end with the engine in place. There are no locating pins on this kit and I find this makes accurate assembly a lot easier and joint lines a lot neater. I may even start removing them from my mass-produced kits. The wings too went together cleanly and with no effort, and the fit to the fuselage was excellent. The tailplanes and fin were carefully sanded to give a clean fit and were no problem to get on straight and square.
The undercarriage legs are nicely to scale but this means they are thin and delicate. There are no locating holes in the wing to add strength to the joint but it should be easy to add these from small drilled out cubes of plasticard if required. I didn't, and I'm not too sure if the model will survive a trip to the next club meeting on my carís parcel shelf.
At this stage I sprayed the model in Olive Drab and Neutral Gray, having opted for the Chinese version. The instruction sheet did suggest Dk. Green/Light Blue for this version but the information I got with the plans told me otherwise. I had to choose which to believe. My logic was that the aircraft were made in the USA, shipped to India then assembled and flown to China. Some were used first by the USAAF so would be in Olive/Gray. Would the Chinese really have bothered with re-painting them given the situation at that time? Unlikely I felt, but they may well have even flown in both schemes. Who can tell.
The decals were applied with care, as is increasingly the case with modern kits, they are very thin to give a more realistic look when applied. They certainly sit beautifully on the model. A coat of clear matt varnish was applied to finish off, then the vac-formed canopy was carefully cut out, trimmed and applied. I did experience trouble with getting a good fit, but me and vac-form canopies never were the best of pals. Two are supplied in the kit anyway so you can afford to mess one up. In the end mine fitted just, but seems a touch oversized.

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