Bottom line up front: Let’s just get this out of the way now, this isn’t a Wingnut Wings kit. It’s not a Tamiya kit either. If you go into it expecting it to be one of those, you’re going to be disappointed.
It is a very, very good kit. Not the same perfect quality you expect from either of those two other companies but honestly, it doesn’t have to be. It’s at a price point significantly lower than what they offer and, let’s face it, CSM is a small company. Their Nieuports are all similar enough that they can probably get away with reusing some tooling from the other kits (and the way some sprues are separated I’d wager that is the case) and I’m super excited to build their Lanchester and Romfell armored cars.
Before I get into the build, I want to take a moment and talk about what you’ll find when you get your Nieuport (which you can find on our web store). The first thing you’ll notice is that the box art is absolutely gorgeous and the box itself is solid. I plan on keeping the box art to display on my wall.
The thin “cover” box is overtop of a folding cardboard box that actually protects the plastic. As for the plastic, it’s broken down into 6 trees that you’ll notice are two different colors. In my experience the lighter colored sprues are softer and cut like butter. Most of the fragile parts are molded in this plastic and it allows some flexibility when handling the parts. The darker gray sprues are harder and a bit more brittle, basically what I expect to find in any other kit. You’ll notice that there is a small amount of flash around some of the parts and a mold line almost everywhere. The line is annoying in some places but they do a rather good job of hiding it where they can. Either way, a mold line isn’t a big deal to me since they’re in, literally, every other kit every produced.
Not to be forgotten, there is also a small photoetch fret and acetate film in the box. The PE mainly covers the seat belts and metal frame on the windscreen, but there are also 4 bigger pieces that are used on the wings when the scheme with rockets is chosen. Both the PE and acetate are easy to work with, the PE being nice and thin and the acetate already being scored where they need to be cut. Just follow the line with a blade and they’re ready to use.
The instruction book is even a piece of art in itself. Printed in color on heavyweight paper, the book is heavy in your hands and almost feels like you’re looking at a piece of history. Steps are broken down very well with additional figures and notations right beside their respective steps giving more detail on things like paint, rigging, and alignment.
Let’s get to what you really want to know…
I spent a total of about 4 1/2 hours spread over 5 days doing the actual construction. I didn’t do any rigging, which will add a significant amount of time, but I felt that was more in the spirit of unvarnished. I can easily see another hour or two of work to rig it.
The cockpit is easily the most complex and frustrating part of the build. There are lots of tiny, fragile, parts and their alignment isn’t always apparent. They need some cleanup as well and that’s where most of my frustration came from. Too often pieces were dropped or flung across my bench while I tried to hold a thin, round, piece of plastic while I tried to scrape a mold line. This was especially true on the yoke that is broken down into three parts. I can only imagine that it had something to do with molding, but I see no reason why this part could not have been molded as one piece.
For someone that decides to rig the aircraft, you’ll have to find a solution for the rudder controls. The joint between the rudder linkage and the pedals is almost non-existent and any rigging pressure is going to pull it apart. My solution would probably be to drill and pin the rudder linkage to the rudder pedals.
After the cockpit was assembled, it was pretty much smooth sailing. There are a few spots that could use some filler around the fuselage, but the fit is generally good. Part of the problem could be that I didn’t spend time cleaning up all the mold lines while I was building. The kit does have very tight tolerances, almost too tight in some places, but a solvent glue allows a snug fit.
The tail presents a small issue in that there are raised rivets in an area that will require some sanding. Also an issue is the slight downward bow in the horizontal stabilizer. If the bow is correct, the supporting struts are too long. If the struts are correct, the stabilizer needs to be bent upwards so that the struts remain straight. You can see just how painfully obvious the bow is due to the bend in the struts.
While keeping all this in mind, you also have to be careful around the rudder. It only really connects at one small point near the bottom of the fuselage, and much like the rudder linkage, the joint is very weak.
Like most WWI aircraft, the Nieuport is made primarily of wood. The wooden panels around the cockpit are not a great fit but much like the fuselage surfaces, the fit may be better with more care taken during cleanup. In the end, everything fit the way that it’s supposed to, however there is a noticeable step around the cockpit plywood panels.
The wings are strong and go together easily. At one point, the instructions remind you to keep the top wing aligned as you glue it. That keeps the wing looking like one piece instead of the three that it is. One of my wings went on the center section damn near perfectly while the other left a small step. The shape fits the top of the wing well so I kept that lined up and left the step on the underside. That could easily be sanded out if I was actually finishing the wing.
To join the top wing to the bottom, there is one set of struts on either wing. They connect at a single point on the lower wing and in two spots on the top. The struts fit snuggly, but my solvent glue allowed them to squeeze into place. It fit really well and I didn’t have any problem lining up the various struts with their locating holes. The top wing wanted to pop out on one side so I secured them with rubber bands while the glue dried.
There isn’t much left after the wings are together, namely the landing gear and engine. I’ll touch on these quickly as there isn’t much to say about them. The gear are incredibly sturdy and I have no concerns of them ever causing a problem. The struts almost lock into place on the axle, then they have 4 locating holes in the bottom of the fuselage. You’d have to try to break them to get them to break.
The Le Rhone 9C engine is beautiful. Like, really beautiful. So much so that I was considering leaving it loose so I could build it up and detail it after finishing this review. I decided not to do that but it’s really just stunning. And it fits better than any other radial I’ve ever built. Copper State Models has resin engines that they sell separately (we have a few listed in our store but can get any of them for you) and I’m tempted to get them and build the series. I’m truly impressed with the quality of the Le Rhone.
I didn’t mention this earlier, but this Nieuport was actually the very first biplane that I’ve ever built. I have a few others but this one popped the cherry and it got me excited for building more. I’ll be building their 1/48 Caudron Hydravion in the near future as well as some Wingnut Wings kits. And after building this I’ll probably be building another Nieuport, too. For 70% of the cost and 95% of the quality, I’ll gladly build Copper State’s Nieuports right alongside anything WnW (or I guess Meng, now) puts out. I think you’ll feel the same when you build your first CSM Nieuport.