Mister Craft 1/144 Se-210 Caravelle Kit First Look
By Larry Greenberg
|Date of Review||January 2011||Manufacturer||Mister Craft|
|Kit Number||40277||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Subject matter, decal options||Cons||Sketchy fit, shape and engraving errors, skinny landing gear components, some decal inaccuracies|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (PLN)||19,90 PLN (appx. $6.56 USD)|
The first short/medium-range jet airliner from a Western manufacturer, the Caravelle began as a product of the French aeronautical company SNCA du Sud-Est. The design used the nose section from the DeHavilland Comet jetliner and Rolls-Royce Avon jet engines, this being the first jetliner to mount its engines at the rear. The Caravelle prototype first flew in May of 1955, and the first orders for the type came from Air France and SAS. Sud-Est merged with SNCA du Sud-Ouest to form Sud-Aviation in 1957. The Caravelle received its type certification in May of 1959 and the first model, the Caravelle I, entered service with its launch customers shortly thereafter.
The IA followed, featuring a longer fuselage and upgraded engines, followed by the Caravelle III (note that 31 of 32 Caravelle Is were upgraded to Caravelle IIIs). The more advanced VI-N debuted in 1960 having uprated Avons (5 Caravelle IIIs were upgraded to VI-Ns). The VI-R was the result of an order from US customer United Air Lines, this variant similar to the VI-N but featuring enlarged cockpit windows, thrust reversers, and spoilers. The VI-Rs were the final first generation Caravelles; the second generation, the so-called "Super Caravelle" variants, all powered by Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofans, superseded them beginning in 1964.
This is not a new kit by any means. The tooling first saw the light of day back in the 1960s from the now-defunct Ruch company - and if it looks to you like a clone of the vintage Airfix Caravelle, you'd be right, even down to the horseshoe shape of the clear plastic display stand - but it's not a faithful clone. The model does not represent the Caravelle VI or VI-R as the box states, but, like Airfix' offering, is a Caravelle Ia as operated back in the early 1960s by launch customer Air France. This same kit is also available under the RPM brand in Air France markings.
Comparison with the Airfix kit, with the many Caravelle photos found on Airliners.net, and with the Russian scale drawings found on aircraftdrawingsdownload.com, shows a lot that needs to be fixed. The top of the vertical fin, tips of the horizontal stabilizers, and the wingtips are far too rounded. The nose is too blunted, and the tail cone too pointed and too long. What there is of raised panel lines is fairly restrained, but the engraved lines for the control services on the wings and tail are very trench-like, and the shape of the rudder separation line is totally off and rescribing is most definitely called for here. The engines are nearly identical to the Airfix kit they are copied from, and while these are not necessarily terrible, they are also incorrect for the variants the kit represents.
The tailpipes point too far outward, and their distinctive fluted appearance is also missing - also, as on Airfix' vintage kit. The landing gear is also near identical to Airfix, but both kits suffer from tires/wheels that are far too skinny to be realistic in scale. The gear doors and molded-in wing fences are too thick and would benefit from plastic card/sheet styrene replacements. Clear parts comprise several cabin window "strips" and a thin clear cockpit window piece. The fit of parts is not anywhere near state of the art. Fuselage halves and wing-to-fuselage joins are fiddly and will require patience and a bit of filler. The characteristic rear airstairs is separate and "hinged", but a huge circular mold mark right in the middle of the inside pretty mush shouts out "Glue me shut - PLEASE." Note also two strange "bulges" in the left side fuselage dorsal fin strake that will need to be carefully removed.
Now, about BUILDING the kit. Time and effort must be spent correcting the shape of the nose, wingtips, fin tip, horizontal stabilizer tips, and rudder line. It is probably best to glue all the windows in place, including the cockpit windows, fill and sand, and use window decals from an existing aftermarket decal sheet such as one produced by Two Six or Draw Decal. Note that the Caravelle III and VI-N have a narrower shape of cockpit windows more akin to the DH Comet it was derived from; the VI-R having enlarged cockpit windows stemming from UAL requirements. Also, the dorsal fin strake will need to be removed if you are building a United Air Lines Caravelle as these aircraft did not have them. Resin direct replacement engines are available for both III/VI-N and VI-R styles from F-RSIN, and they fit both the Airfix and ex-Ruch kits.
Replacement landing gear in cast metal, including far better tires and wheels, are available from Welsh Models. And of course, if you're not using the vintage Airfix-style display stand, plug up the slot for the stand arm.
The fairly large decal sheet, printed by "Mr. Printer", is well-printed and the quality is on par with most mainstream airliner kit decals in recent years. Four schemes are provided: a Caravelle VI-R (N1007U) of United Airlines (the only US customer for the type) in the only scheme it wore with that carrier (red/white/blue), a Caravelle VI-N (OO-SRO) of SABENA Belgian World Airlines in its second livery (the white circle with stylized "S" on the tail) circa 1972-73, an Air France Caravelle III (F-BJTR) painted up as an AEROFLOT aircraft for a movie shoot circa 1981, and a choice of one of three Caravelle IIIs of SAS (SE-DAH "Torgny Viking", LN-KLI "Einar Viking", or OY-KRF "Torkil Viking") circa mid-1960s through early 1970s.
The "1972" service dates given on the instruction sheet for all four aircraft is spurious at best. The faux-Aeroflot and SAS schemes are good as is, but the UAL and SABENA schemes have errors. The style of lettering used for the small "Caravelle Jet Mainliner" on the UAL cheatline and the "Belgian WORLD Airlines" on the SABENA scheme are totally incorrect, and at the time of writing there are no aftermarket decals available for either. Two windshield outline decals, one with a white background, are on the sheet, but these are not of the correct shape for any Caravelle. On the plus side are black wing walkway lines and separate door outlines. Color information is provided on the instruction sheet with the callouts provided in FS numbers, however, several of these callouts are spurious at best and further research would be seriously advised.
Note that the kitmaker is not "Master Craft" but "Mister Craft." The why and wherewithal of that is still a mystery to this writer.
After all the criticisms I just leveled at this 40-plus-year-old kit, one might think it would not be worth the time and effort to build. Fact is, the vintage Ruch kit duplicates most of the errors in Airfix' original kit and adds a few of its own, so you would have some work to do no matter whose kit you started with. Errors aside, the kit is quite buildable if you are willing to put in the time and effort (or not, if you hope to see a new classic Caravelle from one of the niche manufacturers someday). The real selling point of this kit is not the plastic, but the decal sheet, and if Mister Craft (and Mr. Printer) corrects the errors on the UAL and SABENA schemes, then the buying of the kit becomes a slam-dunk for the airliner enthusiast - that UAL scheme alone would be worth the price of admission.