Monogram 1/48 Hawker Harrier GR.1 Kit Build Review
|Date of Review||July 2014||Manufacturer||Monogram|
|Kit Number||5420||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice kit, simple build||Cons||No external tanks, no RAF armament|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
Monogram's ubiquitous Hawker Harrier AV-8A first hit the market in 1981, and to the relief of modelers, it was credited for being much more accurate than the 1972 Tamiya GR.1 which was based more off the final prototype than the operational GR.1. Nothing looks like the Harrier with its complex engine intake and exhaust system, outrigger landing gear and open cockpit. Monogram tackled a few difficult casting problems of the shapely Harrier design with a bit of elegance and forethought. One of the big engineering problems was the complex air intake system. For a look at the basic kit, please look here.
First you have to remove a tab that holds the outer portion to the fuselage to get a clear intake area. It was placed there to add structural rigidity to that area during the casting and cooling process. A couple of quick snips and it is gone! I also sanded off all the raised panel lines and re-scribed the fuselage and also cut out the rudder. On retrospect cutting out the rudder was not necessary. It added unneeded complexity and caused a few fitting problems later on in the build.
The cockpit is nicely done and very mid 80's Monogram in detail. Simplistic yet it can easily enhanced with some sharp painting or be upgraded with some spare sprue and wire. The molding is very reminiscent of their A-4, F-100 and A-10A. There is a very well detailed Marine pilot figure that looks right at home in the AV-8A. I chose to modify a Black Box AV-8B pit to backdate it to the original layout. A Black Box Stencil ejection seat was painted and put off to the side for later. After carving out enough plastic to fit the new pit into, a quick line of superglue fixed the resin into place.
I was impressed by the very simple landing gear nose wheel well area. Just two halves put together. But the outside of the wheel well was the inner part of the air intake for that giant compressor fan that spins right behind the pilot. This is a very nice piece of engineering during the pre-CAD days of model design. There are small ejector marks on the intake that need sanding and smoothing out. This is easy to do with some sandpaper. Now is a good time to paint up and detail out the compressor blades. I also took this time to cut out tape covers so that I would not have to try to repaint those blades after sanding the intakes and painting. The compressor blade fits directly into the wheel well with no fuss. A dab of glue for the aft landing gear shelve and the airbrake well. I could not get a good fit for the front wheel well area so be ready to fill and sand this area. It was time to zip up the fuselage halves and filling and sanding the seams on the bottom and around the air brake area.
You will notice a loose gap between the fuselage and the curved compressor intake. Do not worry about that. It will not be seen when the intakes are glued into place. I decided to use the Pavla resin intakes. I didn't realize it but I set a time bomb that I will not discover until much later in the build. They took a bit of sanding and filling but blended nicely. I did have to deepen some of the small aux intake doors after sanding.
I decided to leave off the exhaust heat shields until after painting and I also decided to use the Pavla exhaust nozzles but I got to tell you that the kit exhaust stacks are a very nice bit of engineering too. They are molded in two pieces and are easily cleaned up, sanded and painted to be some of the most realistic nozzles out there. You will be just fine with the kit parts in this area. I also left off part #27, an engine vent that is just too easy to break off during sanding and painting. To simplify painting I also left off the landing gear, landing gear doors, and airbrake.
Now you need to make a decision to use the strakes or gun packs on the bottom of the fuselage. The gun packs will give the Harrier a mean muscular look and are a great complement to the kit but I wanted the thin gaunt look of the early Harrier GR.1 so I went with the thin strakes. This was easier said than done. The strakes are very thin and care must be taken when cutting them off the tree or you will bend the thin plastic strips and have a heck of a time getting them straightened back out. They are also very difficult to orient correctly. I ended up using liquid glue to dab a small spot at the front of the strake exactly where I wanted it then let it dry completely. Then go back and get it lined up and "tack weld" with superglue the back end. Once it was dried I could run a bead of liquid glue down each side of the thin strake. Just a reminder that you have to sand the bottom of the fuselage before installing the strakes or gun packs either way.
Onto the wings! The top wing is done in one piece with the bottom wings containing the whole flap and ailerons for the top wing. Again, nice job 1981 Monogram! This is a good time to re-scribe the raised panel lines. I cut out the flaps and glued the wing bottoms to the one piece wing top. Also take this time to drill out the holes for the weapon pylons. It might be advisable to put small brass pins to give a good solid and straight mounting lug for the pylons. Once the flaps were cut out and the area cleaned up I glued the wing halves together and glued the whole wing assembly to the fuselage. The mating surface at the front near the intakes is rough. There are also visible gaps on the lower fuselage to wing mating surface. I was able to take some of the gap out with a piece of sprue used as a spacer between the two fuselage halves. I had to use some sheet plastic to fill in the remainder of the gap and lots of putty. The area around the fuselage and upper wing joint needed a lot of putty and sanding too. Every coat of primer seemed to bring out another area that needed filling and attention. More filling and sanding.
I would leave off part #27, engine vent, until the end of the build. It is just something for you to break off during the sanding process. The tail planes are another item to leave off until final assembly. The same goes for the aft air deflector door/air brake, exhaust nozzles and exhaust deflectors and landing gear. I would put on the small air scoops above the engine intakes, Parts #44. I used the small scoops that came with the Pavla intakes.
I used some of Two Mike's Resin Early Harrier Wheels. They are very nicely done and look the part once installed. I drilled out the mount points just a bit on the main wheels and painted them up with my special tire black paint I use so much. Now here is something I have been doing lately. I use a silver Sharpie to "paint" the inner wheel hub. I get a good clean sharp edge on the hubs and they look really good with a flat clear coat on it. I am sure everyone has a different technique to getting those inner wheels done. Try it out if you get the chance. The nose wheel hub seems to be painted white in most of my reference material so a quick spray with Tamiya Gloss White took care of that.
It is important to leave the tandem main landing gears off because you will have to set the outrigger landing gear first. Then the nose gear. The plane will actually sit just on those three points on its own. Then put the middle gear on and let gravity take over. It will rest on its wheels naturally. Good old white glue is excellent for letting the gear slide down into position on your flat surface. The slow drying time will allow the gear to slowly drop to your desk and give you a good contact on all four points. If you don't do this, the center gear will not touch the ground. If you want, you could cut the strut out of the middle main gear and replace it with something a little longer. It seemed more work than it was worth.
The wing strakes were over scale size so I decided to cut them off and cut slots with a razor saw. Some curved plastic was put in the slot with a few drops of liquid glue to get them mounted firmly. After a few hours I started to shape the planks into curved pieces to match my research material. This really adds to the scale look of the aircraft in my opinion and is worth the effort. It also helps in sanding the leading edge smooth.
Take this time to attach the small scoops above the engine intakes and fashion a small trapezoid style bump to replicate the camera window that Monogram inexplicably left off. I did it with some scrap sheet plastic shaped up a bit. I am sure there are other ways to do it but it is a pronounced bump that is missing from the kit. It is a bit tricky to locate it so check your reference material a few times.
Those assemblies got set off to the side and I cleaned off the resin Pavla exhaust shrouds and sprayed them old silver. Many layers of Tamiya red and blue clear coats were lightly brushed on as to add depth to the "metal". Along with some pastels and some Future clear to simulate dripping oil gives that area a realistic look. They are such prominent features on the Harrier; some time here is well spent. The same goes for the exhaust deflector shrouds. These subassemblies were set off to the side as I began to work on the drop tanks and missile canisters that I pilfered from an Airfix GR.1 kit.
I used the kit weapon pylons with just a slight modification by cutting off the AIM-9 bracket from the outboard pylons. They needed a little cleaning up before painting. The drop tanks from the Airfix kit got sanded and ready for paint along with the MATRA 155 rocket pods from the Airfix kit too. I sprayed the canisters silver before putting the nose cones on. I had a real dilemma trying to figure out how to get the weather covers over each of the rocket launch tubes. I couldn't figure out how to do it until I thought of using vinyl caulk putty to fill in the holes. Then using a wetted fingertip, I just wiped off the excess and it looked great!
After spraying Tamiya primer over the entire plane and finding problem areas that were quickly fixed and sanded, I painted the entire plane in ModelMaster Acryl Dark Sea Grey. Something wasn't looking right. It looked too dark. Not the way a well-worn Harrier should look. I reverted to a PollyScale French PR blue and was much happier with the color. I lightened up an Acryl SAC F.S. 34092 Dark Green for the opposing color and Acryl Light Grey for the bottom color. Olive Drab was added to the dorsal panel and tail according to references. Lots of masking. Lots of touch-ups too before getting to the final assembly stage.
Once I was happy with the camouflage, I sprayed Future clear to give it a gloss coat for the decals. I used some of the decals from the Airfix kit. They really went down nice with Micro-Sol but I wouldn't use Solva-Set on them. It is just too hot an emulsifier for the delicate Airfix decals. There were lots and lots of small decals. I think it is tedious and should be done in stages but really makes a difference in the final product.
It was time to put on all the bits and pieces. The heat shields exhaust nozzles, engine vent tube, and external stores, landing gear, tail planes and pre-painted canopy. Speaking of the canopy, I used the Montex vinyl primer chord masks to give the canopy that distinctive look. The clear is molded separate from the frame so I used white glue to glue them together then dipped the whole thing including the primer chord mask into Future. This sealed everything together. I let it dry under a small cup so no dust would embed itself into the wet acrylic. When it was completely dry, I went back and used a clear flat on all the painted surfaces to match the exterior of the plane. A bit of leftover photo etch produced a windshield wiper blade and added some more detail to the windscreen.
A flat coat toned down and blended everything together well. Some extra weathering and touchups were needed. A Master Models metal pitot tube was added for a couple of reasons. One reason is it is much more accurate scale wise than the kits version and the other reason is so I will not break it off a dozen times before putting it up on the shelf. A little blending and repainting was needed on the nose to get a good look. They are a little expensive for such a small part but I think worth it in the end.
This kit looks great after a lot of work. Almost every inch of it had to be worked and re-worked. Re-scribing the whole kit took time. The kit decals were never going to be used and should be thrown away regardless. The backdating from an AV-8A to a GR.1 was just a few small things and very easy to do. Adding drop tanks and rocket pods gave it that mean GR.1 stance that I was looking for.
It was a hard model to get up to modern standards and has more than a few dated details but it still has some interesting engineering and simple solutions to complex parts. I really like the finished kit and it sure looks the part sitting next to some other early British jet fighters.