|Time to Complete:||9 hours|
Every so often, one of those subjects come along that you just have to build. The Mitchell is one of those subjects for me. There have been other options like the big HK variants in 1/32 and Accurate Miniatures’ bar setter in 1/48. But both of those have their own issues that took them off my radar. Then Airfix came out with the C/D model and the Mk.II in 1/72 and I held out hope that a Doolittle Raider would come along. It did, and though 1/72 is outside my normal realm I jumped at the chance to build it.
Over the past year I’ve built two other Airfix kits (the 1/48 Blenheim and 1/48 Spitfire FR Mk.XIV) so I had a bit of an idea of what to expect – soft plastic, flash, an ok (but not great) fit. I was pleasantly surprised to find nearly no flash and excellent fit. Even the clear parts fit almost perfectly.
Before we get into the details of the build I want to take a second and explain how I went about this “unvarnished” build. From the beginning, Derek and I decided that we’d only use a handful of tools. I used sprue cutters, a razor knife, sanding sticks, solvent glue, and a clamp. We’re not filling any gaps so that you can see exactly what you’re getting into when you build this. I also chose to build and document the kit by following the instructions exactly as they are written and I’ll break my review down page by page. Where I found errors, I’ll notate them. In places where you have options, I chose the option that I believe would be built most often. In one case (wing flaps) I was able to show both options by building one wing retracted and the other extended.
With that said, lets get to it.
The first page of the instructions (steps 1-5) deal with cockpit construction. Control yokes are one piece and slot into the floor while also locking into the instrument panel. The bulkheads separating the bombardier and radio operators from the pilots also slot into the floor and fit well. The bombardier floor connects under the cockpit floor and leaves a rather large opening for the wheel well. The instructions don’t tell you yet but this will be important later on when it comes to adding nose weight.
One thing to take note of is that the main floor is slightly warped. This had no bearing on the fit but it is something to keep in mind and watch for so that it doesn’t become a problem.
The second page (steps 6-10) introduces the bomb bay, if you’re building it open, and the first of two wing spars. One of the first things you’ll notice is that this first wing spar, like the cockpit floor, has a significant warp. Again, this didn’t really cause any fit issues but it’s good to be aware of.
You’ll also be installing bombardier seats in the nose here as well as the port side of the bomb bay. These parts feature a lot of nice detail for the scale though it won’t be very visible with bombs included. Of course that also depends on whether you display the bay doors open. If you desire to close them, you can skip the parts in the bay.
Once you attach everything to the cockpit floor it’s time to install the cockpit assembly into the port side of the fuselage. It fits without a problem.
Next up is the second wing spar, bomb bay ceiling, mount for the belly turret, and the first set of bombs (steps 11-17). Unlike the first spar, this one is straight and it mounts to the rear bulkhead of the bomb bay. It slides right into its locating hole and then the bay ceiling slots into this bulkhead and the one installed earlier.
The mount for the belly turret is interesting in that the turret is free to spin once assembled. The turret literally clips into place. Of course, if you don’t want it to spin you can glue it in place but I chose to leave it free here, which I’ll show you shortly.
Being a medium bomber, the Mitchell wasn’t designed for a huge bomb load. Airfix gives you the option of mounting 4 general purpose bombs or 3 GP bombs and one incendiary bomb. I believe the general purpose bombs are 250 pounds, but I’m not sure. Either way, two of them mount on either side of the fuselage. In this step, two GP bombs are mounted. Their fit is a little sloppy in the locating holes, but they stay in place fine with a solvent glue.
During these steps, Airfix also recommends adding 25 grams of weight to the nose to keep the kit from sitting on it’s tail. I added two lead sinkers to the opening in the nose bay that I mentioned earlier. For some time over the next steps it seemed like it’d be enough weight. It was no where near enough. In the end, I had to pack the nose full of weights which I’ll show you later. You’ll need something much more significant than lead sinkers to keep the nose down if you don’t want the bombardier compartment to be full of weights. I’d recommend something like tungsten powder or putty.
The next steps (18-23) are basically just a duplication of previous steps with the exception of the incendiary bomb and closing the fuselage halves. This is also where you would jump to if you decided not to build the bomb bay. I obviously kept it open so I can’t speak to the fit of the closed doors, but judging by the fit of everything else here I’d say they probably fit well.
The incendiary bomb seems has some decent detail and looks the part. Just as the GP bombs, the fit in the bomb rack is sloppy but it works.
The fuselage halves go together without any real issue. Panel lines on the top and bottom both line up well. The top is just about perfect while the bottom is slightly off. Hitting the lines with a scriber after assembly will line them back up.
Wings and the clear fuselage inserts are up next (step 24-29) and I must say, these are some of the best fitting wing-to-fuselage joints that I’ve ever worked with. Like, almost Tamiya quality fit. The wing halves aren’t a perfect fit, but sanding the seams will take care of that problem. Before the halves are together though, holes need to be drilled in the top of the starboard wing. These are for vents that are over the outer flap. I’m not sure these are on all the versions of the Mitchell so check your references.
The clear fuselage inserts are also damn near perfect. They drop right into place and are engineered in a fashion that allows you to glue them without worrying about marring the actual window.
After the main wings it’s time for the tail surfaces and main landing gear struts (step 30-36). The tail surfaces go together in such a fashion that all the moving surfaces can be positioned. I left my surfaces free to move, but it’d probably be a good idea to glue them in position, wherever you want them.
The main struts slot into the lower wing and half of the engine nacelles are used to line them up properly. The fit here is similar to that of the bombs in the bomb bay, though not quite as sloppy. There is enough play, however, that the nacelle half really needs to be used for correct alignment.
The Wright R-2600 engines are nicely detailed for this small scale and fit together, again, rather well. Unfortunately most of the detail is hidden behind the prop and inside the cowling.
The starboard nacelle goes on next (step 41-46) and this is the first part of the build where there is any real fit issue. It’s not terrible, but there are some small gaps that’ll need to be filled. Using a solvent glue took care of much of gap but some putty or gap filling CA will be needed, especially where the nacelle meets the wing.
The port nacelle assembly (step 47-50) is the same as the starboard side and then the radials themselves get glued to the nacelle (step 51-52). There is some play in the fit between the cowl and nacelle so you’ll need to be careful of alignment here. I tried solvent glue on one of them and CA on the other. I think the CA was the better option here, and would have been even better had I been able to get some accelerator in the joint.
With the engines installed, it was time to add the flaps. As I mentioned earlier, in order to show as many options as possible, I dropped the flaps on the starboard side while keeping the port side retracted. Both options fit well, with the dropped side maybe a little moreso but that might just be an illusion since it’s not flush with the rest of the wing.
At this point it’s time for all the landing gear work (steps 55-66). There is a flap that installs in the tail to protect from tail strikes. It falls into place but was a little bit wobbly. I made sure to keep it aligned while it set up. Landing gear doors and actuators drop right in. The actuator pins into the gear strut and then just has a round end that fits into a notch in the door. Simple, but effective.
Wheels are well detailed and fit together as they should. The tread will need to be restored after gluing the wheel halves together, or a resin replacement could be used. The fit of the wheel to the strut isn’t great, however. It does fit into place, but there is a lot of play. And for something that is heavily scrutinized, it’s just sloppy. I would like to see a more positive fit. I’d also like to see about some stronger replacements for the struts. The Airfix plastic is relatively soft and with the added nose weight, the struts should really be reinforced. After the build was finished I noticed that the starboard wheel is bowing slightly outward.
As with the main struts, the nose wheel strut goes right into place and a small door sits between the strut and fuselage. I had no problem getting the door in, though the area was tight.
The belly turret and crew entry hatches (steps 67-71) are up next as we approach the end of this build. Hopefully I haven’t bored you yet but I promise I’m almost done.
There are lots of options here as the belly turret can be displayed three different ways – closed, turret out, and turret in. If you chose to display the turret closed, you only have to install a piece that covers up the hole. Displaying the turret in means you have to cut a portion of the pin off. Out gets the full assembly and the pin goes into the ring that we installed before closing the fuselage up. The guns themselves are pretty nice, though inaccurate for a Doolittle Raider.
Crew hatches can be posed open or closed but they’re nothing special. They do fit the bill but they’re way out of scale. A photoetch replacement would make them much better. Unfortunately, leaving them open means you can see inside, where there is absolutely nothing to show.
The top turret and front end glass is really all that’s left besides some fuselage windows (steps 72-79). Top turret goes together much like the belly turret thought there is only one option for installation. It just fits.
There is an error in the instructions here in step 76. It calls for a piece “E6” to be installed along the starboard side of the bombardier compartment. This part doesn’t exist nor can I find anything similar on any of the other included sprue.
The glass on the front end are some of the best fitting clear parts I have ever worked with. As I’m sure many of you know, clear parts can really make or break a build and these are absolutely perfect. They’re crystal clear and they fit. I can’t ask for anything more out of them. They’re even engineered in a way that allows you to glue them without worrying about crazing the windows. Every joint is on some sort of framework or fuselage section. I was able to attach all of the greenhouse pieces with MEK and did not have any adverse effects on the glass.
One thing I forgot to mention with this last part was the extra weight I needed to put in the nose to keep her tail off the ground. In these next few photos you can see the number of weights I added to the nose compartment. As I said earlier, it’ll be pretty important to add the proper amount of weight in the nose wheel so it can be hidden.
The very last steps (80-82) put all the finishing touches in place, including the fuselage windows, antenna, and props. As with the other clear parts, the fuselage windows fit beautifully. I did notice two more errors in the instructions with the windows. Two of the windows are called out as “G3” and “G5”. These don’t exist. Parts “F10” and “F11” are the correct part numbers.
The antenna and pitot tubes all fall into their respective holes without a fight. The prop holes are small for the pins that they have to go on in the radials. They’ll need to be opened up ever so slightly. I ended up just chopping down some of the pin and using a razor knife to open the hole. I also noticed that one of the prop hubs is slightly short-shot. I think it’s something that’d be pretty simple to fix, but it’s something that has been pretty common in recent Airfix boxings. Hopefully they can get that straightened out.
Without saying the kit is “highly recommended”, I did really enjoy building it and I’m looking forward to making my own Doolittle Raider out of this boxing. Construction took me right around 9 hours, so I expect with painting, seam clean up, weathering, and markings, the real build will probably take me somewhere in the area of 20 hours. A far cry from the in depth and big builds that I’ve been used to.
If you’re in the market for an early B-25, you don’t want to spend a lot, and you don’t want to spend months on a build, this kit is for you.