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Starfighter Kit

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Build Review

By Robert Pollock

Date of Review May 2016 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject Fiat Mefistofele Scale 1/12
Kit Number 4701 Primary Media Styrene, Metal, Vinyl
Pros Unique experience Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $249.00

Build Review

In 1908, Fiat introduced a chain-driven Grand Prix racing car which they dubbed the SB4. It was used in competition and that is where Sir Ernest Eldridge from Britain saw it perform. Impressed with its capabilities and potential, he purchased the car with the intent on transforming it into a speed record breaker.

Powering the car was a mammoth 18-litre engine. Though extremely large, Eldridge desired more. He had it replaced with an airplane powerplant that was liquid-cooled and displaced 21.7 litre. The six-cylinder Type A-12 Bis produced an astonishing 320 horsepower at a mere 1800 RPM. The engine was extremely powerful, but it was also very heavy and long. In order to accommodate the extra size and weight, Eldridge lengthened the SB4's chassis using parts from a London bus. The power from the engine was sent to the rear wheels via a chain and braking was done by a hand brake which stopped the rear wheels.

On July 12th, 1924 the modified racer, now called the Mefistofele due to its ominous smoke and explosions produced by the engine, set the world land speed record in Arpajon, France after achieving a top speed of 234.980 km/h (146 mph). The record would remain for 32 days. However, it is believed that this was the last land speed record set on public roads.

For the record attempt, a second seat was installed. Its occupant, mechanic John Ames, operated a manual fuel pump.

In 1969, the Mefistofele was purchased from Sir Eldridge's heirs by Fiat's boss Giovanni Agnelli. It was then shipped to Italy, where it was treated to a major restoration and added to the company's historic collection. It currently resides in the Centro Storico Fiat in Turin. The museum version of the car differed from the racing type in several respects, including a change to the chassis, the removal of the passenger seat, and red livery as opposed to the original black finish.

Italeri released their 1/12 version of the original 1975 Protar kit in 2014. They state, "This model, which is unique in terms of technology and accuracy, consists of over 500 pieces to be assembled partially with screws. The bonnet can be open to view the highly detailed engine and it has working steering - includes decals sheet, clear sheet, box with screws, rope and other parts."

I've included here a few images of the sprues and other parts, but not an exhaustive list. There are about 24 sprues, coloured as to parts type, that is, red plastic for the body shell, black for the chassis, buff for 'wood' items, and so forth.

My comments here are not a how-to of the build. There are at least two WIP threads on modelling sites where modellers have shown step-by-step progress and their interpretations of the construction. Rather, these are simply observations based on my 200 hours with this kit.

The kit relies on screw assembly for many of its major parts. The kit comes with a neat clear plastic box with compartments for various screw types, springs, cable, hoses, and copper wire. The screws are in three sizes: small, smaller than that, and absolutely miniscule. In the accompanying photo you can see the box contents. Oddly, my own set differed from the one shown here, in both contents colour and type. The one shown here appears to show a larger diameter black tube that wasn't in my set, while mine included green electrical wire not shown here. No screwdriver is supplied. I suggest using a small but chunky type with the tip filed to accommodate the narrow screw slots. While a very small screwdriver might seem more appropriate, you need a lot of 'purchase' to get the tiny screws through several layers of plastic.

The instructions are in an A5 booklet form, 64 steps across 24 pages, in Italian, English, French and German, although not applied to every step, and tending towards the 'apply left and right side' variety. The instruction style is the familiar 'exploded view.' There are errors and oddities in the instructions. I suggest looking ahead a page or two to see exactly where something will go, to avoid unpleasant surprises. A case in point is the engine. In Step 40, the completed engine is shown as sliding into place within the chassis rails. In fact, because of other previously installed items I found it impossible to fit the engine without something being damaged. However, it worked perfectly well sliding it into place from below, and the screw fixing points lined up perfectly; I was amazed.

About the engine: it's a work of art, consisting I think of about 200 parts. Again, there are difficulties. For example, each plug lead (x 24) is of five parts, including tiny plastic profiles, 5mm tube sections, and electrical wire. I dutifully followed the steps to create all two dozen units complete and ready to install. However, upon fitting the sections in place, it's necessary to both bend and turn the wire lengths to get them in place - they plug into the engine block at one end, with the lead nipped on to a tiny post along a brass rail at the other. In effect, the tension at one end or the other because of the twisted electrical wire (actual copper wire in a plastic sleeve) forces the tiny parts to part or break. I spent a couple of hours making up the units, and a day having to repair them where they continued to pop under tension. In hindsight I should have glued the sparkplugs in place separately as individual pieces and run the cables from those fixed points, to reduce the tension.

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review

Another engine issue is the arrangements of copper pipe, brass Ts, and tube sleeves. It looks complex on paper, but actually builds quickly. The trouble is that the units when completed are fragile and are shown as set in place while the engine is still under construction. Don't do this. I couldn't, in hindsight, see a reason not to wait and install these after the engine was in place. They look OK but could have been done more neatly if I'd thought about it a bit more.

The spoked wheels look great. Flat sections are overlayed in a sequence, four per set, and screwed together. I painted them with Alclad polished brass and eased them into the rubber tyres. The fit was perfect, and the tyres have a nice looking raised 'Dunlop' feature.

The radiator outer face has 'FIAT' painted on it. An acetate stencil is provided that's adhesive on one side. Simply set it carefully in place and mask surrounding areas. A couple of light passes of matte white with the airbrush on 10 psi produces a great result.

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review

I wouldn't describe myself as a 'car modeller' per se, and so can recommend this to anyone with sound modelling experience who might be looking for a challenging new project. You might also wish to consider Italeri's recently released Fiat 806 Grand Prix, also in 1/12, and a great looking sister kit to the legendary 'Mefistofele,'

Something to note: all the gates are heavy. I used a tiny-toothed saw to separate parts, and the larger pieces particularly need careful attention to avoid damage.

Italeri noted "working steering" as a kit feature. On CAD maybe, or if you're a modelling genius (I'm not.). The moveable cogs in the steering unit fixed to the chassis do move, but once painted not a lot, and the steering column seems to angle-off through the hole in the dashboard to its fixing point on the unit, which forces the steering wheel to sit noticeably off-centre. I had to manually correct this where the shaft met the aperture. The various linkages are nicely detailed, and rather than simply being glued in place, you apply a hot screwdriver tip to melt the join's post tip so that the parts move freely. I will say that as I knew this wasn't something I wanted to feature particularly, I did the work without fussing over retaining the moveable feature (At a show, I'm unlikely to encourage random members of the public to manhandle delicate parts just to prove they work as described.).

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review

The dashboard looks clean, simple and effective. Again, I used Alclad lacquers to good effect.

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review

There are a few other build/instruction issues, with some problems probably of my own making. It may read as though I'm moaning about every step of this build, but in fact this is a highly detailed and therefore complex model, albeit overly engineering in places. There are great touches though: the leather straps are in fact cut from a leather patch provided and fix to the wooden trim with finely cast fittings. The engine as mentioned is the star, so much so that I opted to raise both engine covers, probably not entirely practical or accurate, but it gives the standing model a dynamic look.

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review

The decals are few, but work well. Others may wish to overspray the bodywork with a clear lacquer to lose the slightly raised carrier film but it's not that noticeable. I used car spray lacquers for the main colours (Honda Radiant Red and Gloss Black), and Alclad lacquers on the dash, engine, radiator, etc.

The large exhaust pipe is an unexpected feature. The rope wrapping, stained with inks and powders, adds real character to the model.

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele Review

I wouldn't describe myself as a 'car modeller' per se, and so can recommend this to anyone with sound modelling experience who might be looking for a challenging new project. You might also wish to consider Italeri's recently released Fiat 806 Grand Prix, also in 1/12, and a great looking sister kit to the legendary 'Mefistofele,'

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