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Lancaster Kit

Tamiya 1/48 Lancaster B.I/B.III Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2009 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject Lancaster B.I/B.III Scale 1/48
Kit Number 61105 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Still the best Lancaster kit in any scale and the best just keeps getting better Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $98.00

First Look

Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit
Lancaster Kit

The Avro Lancaster design evolved from the less successful Manchester bomber. The Manchester was a twin-engined bomber powered by a pair of Rolls Royce Vulture 24-cylinder engines initially rated at 1760 horsepower each. On paper, the design was sound, but in operation, the Rolls Royce engine had reliability problems that led to the short operational life of both engine and aircraft.

Avro's chief designer, Roy Chadwick, came up with an alternative to the problem, the Manchester Mk.III. The Mk.III replaced the two Vultures with four Merlins mounted on a wider span wing. The result was quite successful and renamed Lancaster Mk.I.

The Lancaster proved to be the heavy lifter of Bomber Command, able to carry not only a mixed bomb load of 14,000 pounds, it could loft the 12,000 pound Tallboy, 22,000 pound Grand Slam, and the dam-busting Upkeep. When the USAAF planners for project Silverplate grew concerns over lingering problems with the B-29 Superfortress, they approached the RAF for using the Lancaster as an alternative delivery platform for the atomic bomb.

In order to suppress and ultimately defeat the German war machine, the USAAF and the RAF divided up the bombardment mission. The Eighth Air Force would strike in daylight, whilst Bomber Command would strike at night. The results were devastating and effective - even though the Germans were producing very advanced weapons, the constant bombardment prevented them from producing these weapons in sufficient quantities to make a difference in the eventual outcome.

Tamiya's 1/48 scale Lancaster B.I/B.III kit has certainly been one of this company's more successful products. This kit has been on the market for decades, yet it remains unchallenged today. The original kit, 61020, was the largest kit produced by Tamiya at that time and the engineering that went into that kit raised the bar on kit designs for the future. While this kit is a reissue of the original 61020 release, it receives a new kit number because it has a few enhancements over the original.

The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on ten parts trees plus two fuselage halves, one tree molded in light gray styrene consisting of the crew figures, and two trees of clear parts. The original kit only had seven parts trees molded in black styrene plus the two fuselage halves, the light gray crew figures, and one tree of clear parts. Tamiya has done a great job keeping the molds in pristine condition as there isn't any hint of mold flash that is common with older (worn out) molds. The detailing is still raised, but it is also fine, not overdone.

The basic kit had a nicely detailed interior for the pilot's station, wireless operator's station, as well as jump seats for the bomb aimer and nose gunner. The bomb aimer's station is a bit barren, but even if you did add some details in there, you'd have trouble seeing through the distortions of the bomb aimer's nose blister. Speaking of bomb aimer's blisters, this new version of the kit has a two different blisters provided, one to replace the kit and one of a different type. The instructions show you which one to use for which variant.

The turrets are designed to be rotatable and to allow you to elevate the guns. These movable features preclude having any real detail inside, but you can busy these turret interiors up with the variety of good online references available. The kit has the standard FN5 turret up front, the FN50 for the dorsal turret, and the FN20 in the tail. What is new in this release is the twin-gunned Rose Rice turret as an alternate in the tail to the FN20.

The kit interior centers around a main deck that extends from the nose to the end of the bomb bay, because if you flip over the main deck, you're looking at the ceiling of the bomb bay.

The main landing gear is nicely rendered along with the structural details that make up the interior of the wheel wells that in turn become the interior of the inboard engine nacelles. The kit does have provisions for building the model gear up should you rather pose your model in flight. What's new in this kit are an extra set of main wheels. Both sets are designed as weighted wheels, but where the original kit had a tread pattern, this kit now includes a smooth tread tire as an option.

The original kit had two Merlin engines provided that went into the port nacelles. The starboard nacelles were designed to work without the engines. What that translated to in the original kit was that you had to build and install the engines whether you wanted them or not as the propeller shafts were on those two engines. The starboard engines had the propeller shafts as part of the radiator face.

In this new release, you still have the two Merlins, but the kit has benefited from the 'Propeller Action' release of this kit as they've now tooled the kit to allow you to build the nacelles and propellers up without the need for the Merlins. What's more, the nacelle doors not come in two types, one with the shrouded exhaust stacks and now also with the exposed exhaust stacks. One other enhancement in this area are the propellers. Now in addition to the original wide-chord props, this kit also has a set of early narrow-chord propellers as well.

The bomb bay doors can be posed open or closed, and if you do keep them open, there are lots of bombs to be loaded in that bay.

The flight control surfaces are all molded in place and in neutral, which is still a common practice with kit makers today. If you want to pose the flaps, elevators or whatever in another position, a little careful surgery and perhaps some aftermarket details will help you along here.

A large sheet of decals are provided for this release for four subjects, one of which is the subject of the second small sheet of nose art. These subjects are:

  • Lancaster B.III, ED888, 103 Sqn, PM-M²
  • Lancaster B.III, ED905, 550 Sqn, BQ-F, 'Ad Extremum'
  • Lancaster B.I, NG347, 424 Sqn, QB-P, 'Picadilly Princess'
  • Lancaster B.I(FE), TW880, 35 Sqn, TL-F

The Tamiya 1/48 Lancaster is clearly still at the top of the pyramid of scale Lancs. Tamiya continues to enhance the kit with these new-tooling additions and they are still keeping the basic molds in great shape.

My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!

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