Czech Model 1/32 F-80C Shooting Star Kit First Look
|Date of Review||September 2009||Manufacturer||Czech Model|
|Subject||F-80C Shooting Star||Scale||1/32|
|Kit Number||3202||Primary Media||Styrene, Resin, PE|
|Pros||Clean, crisp injection-molded F-80; Eduard color PE instrument panel and side consoles||Cons||Typical fit problems of a limited run kit; flight control surfaces and flaps molded up and locked; strange cockpit; barren wheel wells and speed brake wells; overall fit|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
With the sudden appearance of not one, but several different jet-powered combat aircraft in the skies over WW2 Europe, the allies had a problem. More specifically, the Americans had a problem. The British had Sir Frank Whittle proving that his theory of jet-powered flight was practical while the Germans were putting that theory into production. The US had some catch-up work to do. With the loan of several Whittle engines, Bell was given the task of developing the American's first jet-powered fighter. The resulting P-59 Airacomet had unimpressive performance at best.
Kelly Johnson had sniffed out the secret P-59 development and wanted a piece of the action. He proposed a single engine design that Lockheed could get off the ground in short order. When the Army Air Force realized that the P-59 was a dead-end, Johnson was given the green light for the P-80. The resulting aircraft became the first practical allied single-engine jet fighter to enter production, second only to the brief life of the He 162 Volksjager.
Entering service too late for combat, the P-80 was soon redesignated as F-80 after the Air Force became a separate service in 1947. Before long however, the F-80 was transitioned into a fighter-bomber as newer jet-powered fighters were coming online. At the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean peninsula, the F-80C was one of the first fighters available to respond, but due to the lack of allied runways on the over-run peninsula, F-80s had to operate out of Japan, leaving little loiter time over target. Once allied forces began to re-take portions of South Korea, the F-80 was in the middle of the action. In fact, in November 1950, Lt. Russell Brown shot down a MiG-15 with his F-80! The F-80 was replaced in combat by the Republic F-84 and the North American F-86 by 1953.
If someone made a reality TV show about the development of a plastic model kit, one of the better story lines would have been the design and production of this 1/32 scale F-80C kit. The kit was developed using advanced CAD tools to digitally master the tooling design before the first molds were cut. These same CAD tools were also used to produce the instruction sheet which is one of the best laid out and illustrated instruction sheets ever produced. So how does this make interesting reality TV?
About two years before the kit finally arrived on store shelves, a well-known Czech company started the research for a series of kits, the F-80, RF-80, and the T-33, all in 1/32 scale, but as we know with the nice Brewster Buffalo kits, the same design was scaled to render kits in 1/32 and 1/48, with a number of variants released in both scales. During this period of time however, the project changed hands several times. It wasn't until Squadron took on the project that the Czech company was able to complete the job and start producing plastic. It was only fitting that Squadron had an existing product line called 'Czech Models' where kits from several Czech companies were imported and sold under that brand name. The first 1/32 scale kit in the Czech Model series was the nice F2A-3 Buffalo, the second is this F-80C.
Molded in medium gray styrene, the F-80C kit comes on five parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts, a number of resin parts for the ejection seat, wheels, and some small details, and a set of Eduard color photo-etch parts for the instrument panels and side consoles.
If it weren't for the color photo-etched parts, I'd toss the cockpit. The tub is very wide because the ejection seat looks like it was designed for a 300 pound pro wrestler. That is one wide bucket seat! Fortunately there are some aftermarket options available, more on this later.
The surface detailing on the kit is finely scribed, unfortunately the flight control surfaces are almost as finely defined. These will need to get scribed out, or better yet, remove and reinstall them. I had hoped that at least the landing flaps would have been rendered separately to be positionable.
The speed brake wells and main wheel wells are rather featureless. The speed brake wells are barren and the main wheel wells have generic ribbing, nothing else.
I've read a number of critiques on this kit talking about some shape and fit issues. This is a limited production kit and I've run into few that simply fall together without some challenges on the way. That is part of the fun of modeling - to adapt and overcome.
The kit does provide for a positionable canopy, positionable speed brakes, and three types of main wheels, one set in styrene and two types in resin.
Another interesting glitch is the nose gear - the axle is on the wrong side of the strut. On the real T-33, the nosewheel comes off the axle from the left side of the aircraft, the kit has it backwards. You can flip the strut around and build it backwards, but the mounting points for all of the parts will be out of place. The good news is that Scale Aircraft Conversions has a replacement set of landing gear in white metal for this kit that corrects the nose gear and makes for stronger legs for the model.
The kit has three marking options for the F-80C:
- F-80C-10-LO, 49-650, 16 FIS/51 FIW, Suwon AB, Korea, 1951, 'Saggin Dragon'
- F-80C-10-LO, 49-423, 8 FBG, Suwon AB, Korea, 1952, Wing CC's aircraft
- F-80C-10-LO, 49-765, 80 FBS/8 FBG, Taegu AB, Korea, 1950, 'Lil Dottie'
The decal sheet provides a nice set of stencils and a complete set of markings for this project.
With the number of issues that had aired on the chat rooms after this kit was released, it was no wonder that a number of aftermarket corrections have become available to 'fix' this kit. AMS Resin was probably the first on the scene with one of the nicest resin cockpits available with a properly proportioned ejection seat (of course). Scale Aircraft Conversions also produces a set of landing gear to correct the kit's backwards nose gear.
What I find rather odd is that Avionix (Black Box) has released a new cockpit set for this F-80C kit and True Details has released a number items including a corrected main wheel well/speed brake well set. What's odd about this? Avionix and True Details, like Czech Models, are owned by Squadron Mail Order, so after spending around $80 for the kit, you're paying them another $18-20 to correct the wheel wells and $27-$30 to correct the cockpit. While I understand that much of the kit design was completed before this kit became a Czech Model product, it still feels odd that we're having paying more to fix their problems.
When I first heard about this project, I had high hopes to see a nice styrene F-80C in 1/32 scale. What we have here isn't bad, and many modelers won't really care about some of the issues raised above. I'm just glad that I still have my Collect Aire 1/32 F-80C Shooting Star resin kit as it remains the best F-80 kit in any scale, and by the time you spend the money on aftermarket parts to correct this kit, you'll have spent about the same amount on the Collect Aire kit.