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1:32 Desktop Bf 109F Imcth Catalogue # IMCZ-003 Available from Hobby Link Japan for ¥30,000 This is one we have seriously been waiting to see for what seems like ages, yet it was only a few months ago that Imcth announced they were releasing a Messerschmitt Bf 109F in their amazing 'Desktop' series of all-metal kits. If you've been living under a rock for those last months, check out our reviews of the jaw-dropping Desktop Mustang and Desktop Zero. I do warn you though, prepare to have your wallet seriously dented in the process. Admittedly, these kits aren't cheap, but you are paying for quite a niche item, and one which will never let you see these aircraft in the same way ever again. When you buy something from Imcth, you are getting something which they have obviously poured their heart and soul into. First impressions are everything, and the packing box in which this kit came was also adorned with their 'Desktop Bf 109F' logo, hidden amongst the various address labels and invoice sheets. This study box, once opened, revealed the actual kit box, produced in a glossy white cardboard, with a metallic product sticker on the lid. This rather substantial box is then opened via a large side flap which then lifts the lid to reveal a number of other boxes within. On top, two smaller boxes contain the various white metal parts, wire, vac form canopy etc. These are safely held in situ by a couple of rolls of bubble-wrap around the internal box perimeter. Remove all of these, and underneath is a much larger box, securely fastened with tape, and containing the instruction manual, and various large sheets of stainless steel photo-etch parts. If you've read our previous reviews on the Mustang and Zero kits, you'll know that these aren't simply a flat, two-dimensional affair.....they are actually STAMPED to curve wing panels and fuselage sections! I don't recall seeing any other kit that includes such an innovative idea as this. Whilst we are in this particular box, we'll start to take a look at the various components on these sheets, interspersed with any specific findings on the instruction sheet which might help to colour things in a little for you. Then we'll work onto the white metal parts and other accessories in this release. The PE sheets themselves are quite fragile due to the pre-shaped parts, but thankfully, these are separated from each other with plenty of bubble-wrap. The flat sheets are packaged into a clear sleeve, protected from each other with tissue paper. SHEET A One thing you will notice with these kits is that the stainless steel PE sheets are actually a thicker gauge than you will be used to. This is obviously because it's more to scale with this being a 1:32 model. Whilst I'm explaining this, I will say that there are various parts within this kit, more namely bulkheads, which you will build up from laminated parts in order to achieve the desired thickness, but I digress. This first PE sheet contains wing components, and is laid out so that it is obvious that one half of the sheet is port, and the other starboard. Every wing rib in the 109F's svelte wing is immaculately recreated here, all individually. There are full ribs, sub-ribs to allow for wheel bay placement etc, and also partial ribs where they weren't full depth in the real aircraft. In short, if you could really peel back the skin on one of these iconic fighters, then what you would see, has been beautifully recreated here. This sheet contains the dual upper/lower inboard radiator flaps too, which will actually move on this model, so you can pose them as you wish. The landing flaps are built up from an exterior metal skin and a number of rib-lets, whilst the ailerons start life as a single piece of PE in which you need to twist the various ribs 90 degrees to the upright. As these are still too thin at the leading edge, they will be supplemented with white metal upper and lower frames which will give these parts their aerodynamic shape. Simplicity, but neatly executed. A wing needs spars of course, and this is where you will find them. Wing tips are actually supplied as cast metal parts, and we'll look at those later in the review. These comprehensive wings will eventually be fitted with ammunition, wing slats and slat actuators etc, all from white metal. SHEET B We take a break from the wing at this point and look at a sheet which contains the lion's share of the fuselage parts. All formers are presented here with various notches into which longerons and stringers are inserted. I did mention earlier about laminated formers. You will find these here. These notable go to the front and rear of the cockpit module, and the middle lamination of three is notched to allow the external framework tabs to slide into the recesses cut into the middle lamination. Everything is extremely well thought-out during the design process. This sheet contains those longerons and stringers, as well as various frameworks that exist within the fuselage, and also items such as the sloping plate to the rear of the pilot's head. Whilst we are in that specific region of the aircraft, the cockpit module itself is formed from a single piece of PE which starts at the cockpit wall, bends to form the floor and forward bulkhead, then back on itself to produce the upper framework, extending to the rear cockpit fuselage frame. This clever way of creating the basis onto which every fits, ensures that all the various extra frameworks and internal details should fit perfectly. SHEET C Now we're talking! I mentioned those pre-shaped PE parts, and here you'll most certainly see them in the form of upper and lower wing panels. These contain the caps to the wing ribs and other major wing structural elements. The curvature of the wings is superbly captured here. Apart from the wing panels, spars and ribs are also supplied here for the horizontal stabiliser, as well as a couple of vertical fuselage formers for the construction of the vertical fin. SHEET D This is the last of the PE sheets in this kit, and again it contains pre-shaped parts, namely the fuselage belly, cockpit module side frames, and undercarriage doors. Other parts on here include the elevators and rudder, supplied as per the ailerons with twist ribs and a structure that will be 'bulked' with white metal castings, as well as exhaust plates, nose radiator meshes and a number of other smaller airframe detail, as well as seatbelt buckles. All photo etch is produced to the very highest of standards, with no defect. I'm particularly impressed with the loop tags that Imcth now use to hold the shaped parts on the frets. The previous straight tags could break, meaning a small piece of tape was added to hold the part in place. These looped ones are designed to open up when the fret is stamped into shape. Now, onto the white metal parts. All of these are supplied in grouped bags in one of the smaller boxes. All white metal parts are expertly produced by Model Factory Hiro, who produce some of the very best castings seen in our hobby. There are no horrible pitted textures here, and poor, soft detail as seen on white metal undercarriage legs that we see from a particular manufacturer. These are sharp, smooth and perfect. Nowhere on my sample did I see any parts bent out of shape either. A little clean-up of parts will be required. Some cast parts will have the faintest of mould paring lines that a quick tickle with a fine grade sanding stick, will eradicate. The cloudy appearance of the parts is also only mould release residue, and a polish with a rotary tool will show these parts to be as sharp, if not sharper, than contemporary plastic kit equivalents. E – Propeller Parts This is a simple packet containing just three parts. These are a full piece propeller and boss, and a main spinner with a separate back plate. The propeller locates to the rear spinner plate by means of a cast pin. As with the majority of these white metal parts, you will need to open up most locating holes with a small drill bit, as indicated on the instruction sheet. A hole in the rear plate allows the hub cannon aperture to seat neatly, and the spinner itself falls neatly over the top of everything. You will need to open up the central hole in the spinner as this is cast closed. A little clean-up of the prop edges will be required. F – Engine Parts There are FIFTY-TWO parts which go to produce the Daimler Benz DB 601E engine. That's pretty impressive, as is the design of this area. All parts are split between THREE bags, stapled closed. I would use some cheap zip-lock bags to store the parts, until you come to use them. Of course, you need to check everything to ensure it's all there, and you don't want those parts rolling loose in the box. A very traditional method of assembly is used for the engine, and one that plastic modellers will immediately recognise. What is particularly neat are the cylinder banks. These are supplied as halves, with the cap casing separate. The banks themselves are designed so that the inner half inserts within the outer, meaning there is no horrible and awkward joint line at the front and rear. Another example of how Imcth are evolving their design work. The breakdown of the engine is very traditional, with supercharger intake, engine bearers, oil and glycol tanks, fuel injector block, supercharger induction pipework, ignition conduits, magnetos, hub, prop shaft, and split crankcase. Some parts are supplied on casting blocks with a paired part. These are easily identified as left and right parts with L and R being cast. Even the fragile looking engine bearers are die-straight with no bending. Congrats to Model Factory Hiro for getting this so darn right! G – Main Wing Parts All of the structural elements of the wing that can't be reproduced with PE are here, as well as parts to give the ailerons their correct profile. The latter is achieved by means of adding a half aerofoil section to both upper and lower faces of the flat PE ailerons. This specific group contains TWENTY-THREE parts. Here you will find wing slats, slat actuators, wingtips, radiators and housings, wing ammunition bay, control surface horns, and aileron mass balance etc. H – Cockpit Parts For the detail connoisseur, the cockpit is always a main area of focus, and I think Imcth know that, because this rather detailed and busy group of white metal contains no less than FIFTY parts. In all fairness, not all of them are strictly in the cockpit, but are more concerned with what can only be described as the cockpit module, incorporating the undercarriage unit and forward weapons bay. This kit actually comes with two sets of undercarriage legs; one for deployed, and the other for retracted. You CANNOT change these once you install them, so you need to decide how you will pose your model when complete. Those legs include the bracket/pivot assembly as part of the leg itself, and this is what dictates this move. As it comes, the PE cockpit tub is devoid of any detail except for a number of holes which are used to locate the various white metal components. It's now you really begin to see the level of detail afforded to the modeller. There are THREE bags of white metal included here. These include forward ammunition bulkhead/feed, machine guns, oleo scissors, control column, rudder pedals and rudder pedal spacing bar, foot plate, fuel tank, various instrumentation and avionics units, two part pilot seat, two part trim wheel (to be supplemented with PE), lower fuselage support framework, and instrument panel. That is by no means a comprehensive list, as you'll see from the photo of the parts. The instrument panel is so designed that two colour printed paper inserts fit into a recess from behind to form the dials. On top of this sits a plate depicting the rear instrument area. Those instruments themselves are better than the previous release. The larger panel is very good, but the smaller could do with some Airscale decal magic. I – Tail Parts The TWENTY-FIVE parts included here are concerned with the rear fuselage, right down to, and including, the tail area. Detail in this rear fuselage area isn't often depicted, unless you super-detail using resin aftermarket sets, but here, absolutely everything is included. Here you will find two bags containing compass, radios, compressed gas bottles, choice of retracted or extended tail gear leg, tail fin and stabiliser parts including the elevator and rudder surface profiles, junction boxes and socket plates. All I think could be added as a little extra is some lead wire to wire things up. That's the end of the metal parts. Now we look at the last box in this kit. J – Sheeted Parts & Rubber Parts Vac-form parts are supplied for the canopy. Please don't let that put you off as these are exceptionally clear, and with superb frame line definition. Rubber tyres are provided, but they don't look quite right for a 109. Perhaps these can be replaced with an aftermarket item. For your information, the hubs are separate to the tyres. Some resin parts are supplied for the wingtip lights and gun sight reflector. These are milky in appearance, so I would look at replacing these with clear plastic. The box also contains a fabric material which is for the seatbelts. The parts are pre-cut, but as the sheet is a little thick, I would perhaps use some HGW or RB Productions seatbelts here. As well as the instruments printed sheet, there are two self-adhesive foil sheets which are pre-cut, and contain the canopy framing. These also have laser etched riveting on them. This can be a tricky area, hence the reason you have been supplied with two sheets of parts. Take your time. This sheet also contains gun barrel jackets, designed to be wrapped around wire. Again, I would replace these with barrels from the MASTER series of products. The last remaining parts in this box are some lengths of piano wire and some tubing. Instructions These are about as comprehensive as it can possibly get. Firstly, there are A3 two sheets which contain parts maps and also an explanation as to the different fold styles employed. The assembly drawings have different symbology which refer to things such as 'valley fold', and 'mountain fold', referring to whether parts are to be internally or externally folded. Instructions are also given on how to eradicate any pouring nubs and paring lines on the cast parts. As for the constructional sequences, there are MANY! Whilst this project isn't quite as complex as the Mustang and Zero with regard to airframe (nature of the beast!), it is still a complex model which deserves your time and patience. Construction is broken down into various areas, such as engine, wings etc, as you would imagine, but there are TWENTY-FOUR pages of A4, double-sides diagrams which you need to carefully study, and explain all aspects of that construction, including memos for when you need to fold, drill and file etc. The drawings themselves are actually very clear when you look at them in relation to the parts, and start to mentally visualise the skeletal form of the model. Model Stand My sample was sent with an acrylic stand which simply plugs together. The clear acrylic is protected by paper sheet which needs to be peeled off. Bearing in mind that the narrow undercarriage is white metal, this would probably be a good idea to use, and of course, it's unobtrusive. Conclusion As I just mentioned, the Bf 109F airframe doesn't have the same level of overall complexity as that of the Mustang and Zero, but it is faithfully reproduced here for you in mindboggling detail. You still have a LOT of work to do to complete this model, and the results, from the finished images we have, or staggering. Yes, I would replace the seatbelts, barrels, and the clear resin parts, but that is something and nothing. The wheels and hubs seem simplified too, but there are so many accurate and cheap ones on the market that these can easily be replaced. My only other minor niggle is the lack of weapons tray for the MGs mounted on the upper fuse. This area is faired off with a cowl panel. If you wanted to make something representative here, which I may just do, you'll need to employ a little scratch-building. You may not bother too much about this, and it certainly is no deal breaker for this amazing kit. Where else can you get something which contains all this detail such as fuel tanks etc? Also of note are the wing to fuselage connection points. These employ lugs and pins, as per the real aircraft. The level of detail is simply that good. This is a brand new release, and it just seems that Imcth are getting better and better. If you liked the Mustang and Zero, this will blow you away! VERY highly recommended James H Our sincere thanks to Imcth for this review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link.
1:32 Desktop Zero Imcth Catalogue # IMCZ-001 Available from Imcth Here at LSM, we also like to look at kits/projects which are a little more left-field of the regular injection moulded or resin release. We are of course no stranger to photo etch detail sets, but a whole model built from photo etch? With the exception of white metal detail parts, that's what we have for you here today, in the form of Imcth's 'Desktop Zero' kit, and we are extremely proud to be able to bring you not just this, but a couple of EXTRA sets for the same model. Imcth really have spoiled us here, so it's only right we bring you a fully detailed review of these extraordinary sets. Here's what we have for you: 1:32 Desktop Zero, 29,800¥ JPY 1:32 Aluminium Planking & Decal Set, 15,730¥ JPY 1:32 Droptank, 4,200¥ JPY Acrylic Plinth, 630¥ JPY It's true that some modellers actually quite like to build projects with internal structures, whilst some really don't like the approach and would rather just see the clean external lines of whatever aircraft they choose. Those that do like the engineering aspect of what makes these warbirds tick, have been pretty low on choice when it comes to representing this sort of detail. We can of course add detail sets which can show radio sections within fuselage etc, and the closest we've come to seeing skeletal models has been the Zoukei-mura kits, but their internal structural detail is only representative, and certainly nowhere near accurate. Take a look at the wing structure in their P-51D or He 219, for instance. Quite disappointing if you like actual accuracy. Photo-etch is really the only way to go here. Desktop Zero Firstly, if you haven't already seen the review we did recently for Imcth's Decktop Mustang, you really should take a look as this will pave the way for this follow up review. The Zero was actually Imcth's first 1:32 aircraft release, and it has now been re-released following the ongoing success of that Mustang kit. These guys have style. Everything about the packaging and presentation is sumptuous as can be seen from the rather tidy looking satin white box with its side opening flap and hologram label. Inside this box are two small boxes containing white metal and clear parts, and surrounded by a protective layer of bubble-wrap. Lift these out, and there is another, larger box. In here you'll find the various stainless steel photo etch sheets, pre-stamped to shape key parts. Plenty of bubble wrap is placed between these sheets in order to prevent any damage to the delicate shapes. That's right, you did read that correctly. The photo etch sheets contain SHAPED parts! We'll look at those later though. For now, let's take a journey through the smaller boxes containing the detail and clear parts. Any misconception you might have regarding white metal parts, forget them. The cast metal parts in Imcth kits are produced by Model Factory Hiro, and are quite extraordinary. Unlike some mainstream white metal upgrades you might see for your models, complete with poor definition and an a pitted surface, these are about as perfect as you can get them, and the tolerances of them are so good, that the fitting together of them is what you would come to expect from top end resin sets from the likes of Eduard. Some parts fit neatly without a hint of glue. The detail is also as sharp as quality resin too. There are a small number of seams to remove, resulting from the paring of the moulds, but they are so fine as to be almost negligible. A quick tickle with some fine abrasive paper or buffing tool with eradicate them in next to no time. A number of parts have a very small pouring gate which will need snipping away. These are very tiny. Delving into those parts bags....... PARTS H (Propeller) We start with propeller parts. There are two mini bags within this set. One of them contains a superbly smooth single piece propeller, complete with half hub, and the other bag holds the lower hub which locks into the rear spinner plate, the forward and rear spinner parts, and also governor parts. Dry fitting the spinner and prop parts shows a fit unlike anything I've seen before, with the exception of parts with the Mustang kit. PARTS I (Engine) The Zero's Nakajima Sakae engine has been broken down into six smaller bags of individual white metal components. In fact, there are FIFTY-TWO parts involved in the assembly of this section, inclusive of a small fuel tank, and a number of engine support struts and frames etc. All engine cylinders are cast separately, and this kit includes a photo etch jig/framework which is used in order to ensure that all of these are precisely aligned to the central crankcase parts. Even the jig itself needs construction and is a miniature work of art! Those cylinders, complete with their integral head detail, are amazingly detailed, with very fine cooling fin detail. Again, a number of parts within the assembly of the engine will fit together without glue, although I don't suggest you do this when you come to build your model. That's just an indication of the precision nature of this kit. A little drilling will need to be done with micro drill bits on various parts, but this is by design. Indentations exist so you know where holes need to be drilled for the piano wire pushrods etc. Included in this group of parts are the engine mounting ring and supports, engine cowl flaps (no cowl though as this is part of the exterior Aluminium Planking set), auxiliary equipment, hub and shaft assemblies, and lubricating oil cooler, exhaust manifolds etc. The engine is a project in itself and demands your complete attention at every stage. Whilst there is no deformation in any strut or bracket etc, you'll need to ensure that everything is lined up precisely. This is of course vital, even if you don't intend to use the cowl parts etc. PARTS J (Main wing parts) EIGHT mini bags comprise this section, of which 3 have duplicate bags (one for port and starboard wings). In total, around SIXTY-SEVEN parts provide the hardware requirements for fitting out the photo etch wings. Just about anything which can't be reproduced in PE is to be found here. Two bags contain parts for a number of curved radius parts for wingtips and also aileron joint faces. A Type 99 cannon and its associated parts are supplied, split over two bags. Each bag is per wing as some parts are 'handed'. The guns are broken down into main body, shell ejection chute, ammunition drum and forward recoil gas spring. It's intended that the builder will use piano wire and narrow tube for the barrel and muzzle. Another two packs, including handed parts, are those concerning the undercarriage. Imcth have done a great job with the actual gear legs, and optional parts are included which govern whether you build the model with its undercarriage up or down. You have to choose from the outset, as you cannot change your mind once these have been installed. As well as wheel hubs, there are also the inner cast spoked ring which sits behind these! That is attention to detail. The last two packets contain the wing fuel tanks and various other small wing hardware such as mass balances etc. You will also find a two small plastic sprues which hold the various wing tip lights and other wing based lights. These are moulded in opaque plastic/resin. PARTS K (cockpit) If you are a stickler for detail when it comes to the cockpit of your model, then you'll have nothing to complain about here. There are another SIX packets containing FIFTY-FOUR white metal components which cater to the cockpit and the ancillary equipment in the fuselage space to the rear of the pilot's position. Of course, the cockpit is going to be a focal point of your build, and you want the detail within to be sharp and precise, and that's what we have here, in bucket-loads. Various side console and equipment units are designed to key into the photo etch structural walls, and test fitting them to this, it's clear that they fit perfectly. All cockpit instrumentation is as good as any resin part you might wish for, and certainly as good as the best injection moulded plastic parts you might see in your Tamiya kits. I perhaps should have primed some of these parts for you to see the detail sharply, as my photography lamps shining on cast metal can cause a strange effect. Instrument gauges are cast 'open' so that the card with printed instruments on can be fitted from the rear. Don't worry either, as the panels are recessed from the rear so the instruments sit back with a scale distance. Perhaps also look at inserting some fine clear acetate in there to mimic the gauge glasses. Everything you would expect to see in the cockpit it there, reproduced in the sharpest detail, beautifully cast in flaw-free white metal. The instruments, consoles, avionics, rudder and control column assemblies, fuel tanks, forward machine guns and magazines, radio sets, and various compressed gas cylinders, all looking like perfect miniatures. All looks simply superb. Even the console switches look like they would operate. The pilot seat is a beautiful thing to look at, and seatbelts are supplied as printed parts on a separate sheet. If I'm honest, I would perhaps look at using some HGW belts with this. That should make the office as about as perfect as can be. Attention to detail means that the emergency flotation valve, trim tab controls, radio motor, flap/landing gear selectors etc. are intricately reproduced and their assembly should be very simple. High pressure oil tank, antenna, loop antenna, radio transmitter and receiver are just a few other parts which you'll find in this packet. PARTS L (tail parts) This small, single packet contains just TEN parts. These concern the whole rear fuselage/tail unit, and here you'll find the tail wheel leg, elevator edges, arrestor hook and more curved flying surface edges that can't be reproduced in PE form. That concludes the contents of the first small box. The second small box contains: PARTS M Here you'll find a miniature fabric sheet with seatbelts which are laser engraved into it. Perhaps the only area of the kit that needs replacing, along with the small colour printed instruments sheet. I would look at using something from MDC or Airscale here, as the instrument definition could be a little better. Three packets of stiff rod/piano wire Rubber tyres Vacuum formed canopies The tyres are very good, and the seams are almost nil, but of course, you'll need to clean up the sprue connection point. A rubber piece is also included for the pilot's headrest. If vacform parts worry you, then try not to be too concerned. These are beautifully thin, with great frame lines and they are also very clear. To remove from the sheet, consider filling the parts with Blu-tak so that the part is supported, and trim just to the outside of the part. You can use a fine sanding stick to remove the last microns of waste material from around them. Now, onto heavy metal. All photo etch frets (sheets) are manufactured from high grade, medium gauge stainless steel, which impart a superb sheen. Let's look, one by one: FRET A As with the Mustang kit, this contains the various ribs for both port and starboard wings. The ribs exhibit good detail in themselves, with the various open structure ribs and sold ribs looking excellent, with positive slots for wing spars etc. All connection gates to the fret are small. You really don't want to kink any of these, so snip the connection point away from the rib, and file away the last remnants. FRET B Here we have a mixture of wing spars and fuselage formers, as well as the under-wing, central landing flap. The ailerons are to be found here too, and with these, you twist the small ribs by 90 degrees to create the main structure. FRET C More fuselage formers are to be found here, as well as the gently curved stringers which help form the fuselage tube. This is also the home of the jig upon which the rear fuselage tube is created, in order to build it without any twist or warp. FRET D The majority of this sheet contains parts associated with the tail module. You will also see the various parts for the engine construction jig here too. FRET E You must be very careful when handling these frets due to the number of shaped parts contained therein. The upper and lower port wing panels, curved to the wing aerofoil shape, are here, plus the rather complex shape that forms the port side of the forward fuselage/cockpit. It's not unusual for one of the connecting tags to break during the stamping process, due to the metal on the extremities being stressed. This is what we have here, and Imcth have added a small tape tag to secure the part. The part is of course undamaged. This is entirely normal. I really have to say that the shapes which have been created are amazing to see in photo etch form. I did first wonder how you built such a model from PE, until I became acquainted with the style of kit. FRET F This contains the starboard wing panels and forward fuselage sections as with the previous sheet. Here you will also find the complicated bent shapes which form the Zero's wheel well walls. FRET G This last fret holds a small number of frameworks or 'rear engine rings', and these will be used to create laminated rings of a thicker gauge. Adhesive silver framing sheet Imcth have seen fit to include TWO sheets of self-adhesive foil for the canopy frameworks. These are die cut, and include neat laser engraving for the rivets. If you screw up a part, then you have a backup.....just be careful. The fuselage MG cooling jackets are here too, and are designed to be wrapped around wire to create the barrels. I would perhaps opt for barrels from MASTER for this purpose though. This model really deserves it. INSTRUCTIONS There's no doubt that an intensive and complex model will need instructions to suit, and this one delivers. Presented in a plastic sleeve, a series of FOURTEEN single A4 sheets are printed, double-sided. TWO A3 sheet with a parts map, are supplied folded, into which the separate A4 sheets are placed. The drawings for this model are extremely thorough and so minutely detailed. Before you start to assemble this model, I suggest you spend a week of evenings studying the drawings, whilst referencing the various cast and photo etch parts. Familiarity here will be your real champion as you proceed through the MANY constructional phases. Each aircraft section is shown in intricate detail using clear, if not busy, line drawings. All drawings are annotated in both English and Japanese, and parts numbers are easy to source and identify. Some colour ink is used to highlight the placement of certain parts and sections. A small amount of folding will need to be performed on some PE parts, and a key to help you with this (Valley and Mountain folds etc) and other aspects of small work is given. I could easily spend many hours just looking through the plans for this model, and each time see something new and interesting that catches my eye in terms of general construction and detail. Simply amazing....
1:32 Desktop Mustang Imcth Catalogue # IMCZ-002 Available from Hobby Link Japan for ¥30,000 The North American P-51 Mustang enjoys one of those places in aviation history, along with the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mitsubishi Zero, Fw 190 and Bf 109 etc. Without a doubt, it is one of the most recognisable aircraft in the history of warfare. Its appearance over Berlin in the latter stages of the war, was lamented by Reichsmarshall Göring, who pretty much admitted that he believed the war was lost to Germany. Designed to a specification issued by the British Purchasing Commission, the P-51 Mustang, designed and built by North American Aviation, rolled from the drawing board and into the air in a little over 3 months. Originally powered by an Allison engine, the initial design had a relatively poor performance in relation to the Merlin powered variant that would eventually see mass production. The bubble-hood P-51D which was introduced in order to rectify the poor rear visibility of the earlier variants. A number of other main modifications were also present in the 'D', including a redesigned wing. This kit represents the P-51D We are all used to seeing a little photo-etch added to a model. Some of us love the stuff, and some of us are a little ambivalent. I admit to having a preference for resin over PE, and that sometimes, I get a little frustrated with the finer details I'm trying to add. Perhaps I'm getting a little more ham-fisted as I get older. I recently tried to break a little of my PE 'deadlock' by building the rather amazing Jasmine Model Horten Ho 229. It looked daunting, but it built like a dream. So what could possibly challenge me further? Let me introduce Imcth to you. Imcth is perhaps not a company you've heard of before, and that would be a shame. We hope to redress that a little here. These guys produce some of the single-most, amazing PE and cast metal kits you've ever seen. If you've often wondered why the hell Zoukei-mura add high detail into their models, only to close it all up, then perhaps the creations from Imcth would be more up your straße. Unlike Zoukei-mura though, the internal constructional detail in the Imcth kits is far more representative of the actual aircraft, and because it is photo etch, is also more in scale than anything that could be achieved in injection plastic form. Imcth currently have a Desktop Zero and Desktop Mustang available, with a Messerschmitt Bf 109F in development. Today, we'll look at the Mustang, and later in the year, we'll publish the Zero for you. The 109F will be next year. When this kit landed here, I was rather surprised by how compact the box actually is, but then you have to remember that this kit isn't restricted by large moulded parts on sprues. The box is still quite heavy though. To say the appearance of the packaging is understated, would be an understatement in itself. Packaged into a glossy black box, with the kit name on the lid, we open this one from the side, with a huge flap which then peels back the lid. Peering in, there are two cardboard boxes, surrounded by a carefully folded bubble-wrap edging. Lift these out, and you'll find a third, large box. Underneath this are the numerous instruction sheets. Opening the first, and lighter of the two boxes, we have a number of various lengths of metal, some coiled solder-style wire in two different diameters, and a vac form canopy. I know that some modellers can be put off by vac-form, but there really is nothing here to worry you. The mouldings for both windscreen and hood and on the same piece of plastic, and are crystal clear. Excellent definition of the parts will mean that it will be easy to accurately remove them from the sheet. What about the frames, I hear you say? Well, these are represented here, and in fine, well-defined lines. The actual framing is supplied as die-cut parts, on a sheet of self-adhesive chrome tape. Instructions within the kit show how this is to be applied. Also on the chrome sheet are the Browning MG barrels. The idea is to wrap this around the pre-determined lengths of wire which are stipulated in the drawings. I'm not convinced I could get the wire absolutely straight, so perhaps you wrap these around piano wire, or even replace them with barrels from the MASTER series. Whilst on the subject of wire, Imcth have made the plumbing of this model very easy with supply and shiny lead-based solder/wire, which you cut to the various lengths shown within the constructional stages. No guesswork leading to any wastage here! A set of rubber tyres are supplied, and these are far better than some I have seen with recent injection moulded kits. Instrument panel dials and gauges are included on a small sheet of colour printed paper, and another small sheet of material is here for you to make your seatbelts from. The parts are printed onto this and will need cutting out. For extra protection, this first box is also lined with bubble-wrap in order to protect these parts to the max. The second small box is far heavier, and also lined in bubble-wrap. In here, we have seven bags of cast white metal parts, labelled F, G, H, I, J, K, and L. Imcth have, for ease of use, grouped specific areas of construction into these bags, and within these bags, the parts are grouped into yet smaller, more group-specific groups. The instructions clearly show these various parts in drawing format. Unlike some companies, the drawings do indeed look like the parts. Full marks! The parts are also numbered, so identification on the drawings will be very simple. I do expect that you have seen some white metal aftermarket parts which look poor. Well, NOT in this release. All casting is done by Model Factory Hiro, and is about as good as you could ever expect to see, especially on such a high-end kit. Generally speaking, all castings are free of any pitting defect, and flash is extremely minimal, and almost non-existent. Across the parts, you might find the odd, hairline seam from where the mould was pared, in order to release the parts. Detail is amazingly sharp, and about as good as some of the best injection kits available. The instructions do say that a limitation in casting means that you will need to drill a few locating points a little deeper. As this is white-metal, this will be very easy. Test fitting some parts, such as the engine cylinder bank halves, shows that the fit is astounding, with little to no gap to be seen anywhere. Any seams will be easily sanded away. Some parts contain a small 'sprue' which you will need to remove and clean up the connection on the part. A number of pouring spout remnants also exist. You can cut these off with sprue cutters and use a small file to eradicate any trace from the parts. These spouts also tend to be on joint surfaces, and not on the actual face of the part. The design of this kit is superbly thought out. If any specific parts are 'handed', then the sprue will contains the letters L and R, in order that you get things right first time. It is Imcth's expectation that you will probably leave this model in its unpainted form. In order to maximise this effect, it is advisable to polish the white metal parts with a rotary tool and polishing/buffing compound. You should be able to achieve a high sheen effect using this method. The company website shows something similar HERE. I would advise that polished parts are perhaps coated in a clear metal lacquer so that they don't tarnish easily. The stuff from DIY stores usually works well as they are made with chemicals with low levels of oxygen with them, stopping any future corrosion. Even if you decide to paint the internals, consider polishing before you do any priming. This will remove any minimal mould release powder and oxidation that might be lurking on the surface. No matter how good the fit is of these parts, you will of course need glue. I would opt for medium viscosity CA and longer setting CA Gel for a number of parts. You might also be advised to buy some CA Activator too. I really don't see it being feasible to solder anything here due to the actual material used, and also because it would tarnish a great looking metallic finish. The instructions supply detailed information on how to prepare your metal parts for finish and fit. This information is accompanied by easy to understand English, as well as the writing also being in Japanese. Now, it really would be rude not to take a look through the individual bags of white metal, so here goes: PACKET F This packet contains a further THREE bags, all concerned with the Packard-built Merlin engine. The Merlin is split down into crankcase and cylinders, supercharger air intake and glycol tank for one packet, supercharger and large ancillary equipment in another packet, whilst the last small bag contains magnetos, plumbing, and the smaller detail parts that go to build this rather amazing assembly. As previously mentioned, I test fit a number of parts, and the fit was pretty exacting. Very little overall clean-up will be needed, apart from the occasional seam to be sanded, and a buffing with a polishing disc. PACKET G This contains only one wallet of parts, such as the engine bearers, engine bracket, front nose intake and exhausts etc. The exhausts are semi-hollowed, and would benefit from being carefully opened up a little. Casting really is excellent. The engine bearers are devoid of much detail because you will add internal and external PE detail laminations to this very cleverly engineered and thought-out area. PACKET H By any standard, the largest packet of white metal parts in this kit, consisting of a further FIVE bags of parts. Two of these bags are actually identical, in the sense that they carry one set of extended and retracted undercarriage struts and doors each. That's right, you can choose to model your mustang in a flying attitude, or grounded. The bay doors are single pieces for the flying version, and obviously two-part for grounded. The hinges on the smaller inner door are also in different positions too, to indicate whether the doors are dropped or raised. Those rather large wing fuel tanks are supplied in upper and lower halves, with some beautifully sharp filler port detail. The fit on these is generally excellent, with just one lower half needed to be levelled on a sheet of abrasive paper. Locating pips align beautifully, and these will look rather good when polished/painted. Whispering Death gained its name for the sound air made as it entered the Mustang's gun ports, was channelled inside the wing, and exited through the rear wing area. Imcth have packaged all the weapons bays and armament into a separate packet consisting of the bay frames, Browning MG's, and ammunition belts etc. Two of the six Brownings are 'handed', and they are easily recognised as such with the L and R sprue designation. The last packet in the H bag contains inner and outer wheel hubs, wheel bay detail, undercarriage door clips, and actuated/non-actuated undercarriage deployment hydraulic pistons. PACKET I Two packets comprise this area, and they are both concerned with the cockpit and services area of the Mustang. Very well-represented in one packet are the large internal fuel tank, battery, radio, equipment tray, compressed gas cylinders, control column mount, oil tank, and the rear instrument panel face, which would look great with a little bit of wiring. The second packet contains the meat of the cockpit; side walls, instrument panel, control column, seat and frame components, and the instrument anti-glare shroud etc. What isn't too apparent from my photos is just how sharp the detail is on these parts. The mould release talc somewhat obscures this in the macro photos, and with this removed using a polishing drum, this should shine out at you, literally. If you intend to build this with a painted cockpit, please consider the BarradcudaCals Mustang interior decal set. PACKET J One of the most obvious featured of the P-51 is the huge intake under the mid fuselage. This packet contains all the parts for that assembly, in the smallest of details. A couple of seams will need to be cleaned up, here and there, but in all, the quality again is quite superb. The use of locating pins will ensure that things fit together flawlessly. PACKET K As this model can be posed with the undercarriage raised or lowered, the packet supplies the tail wheel in both extended and retracted positions. Parts for the rudder post, trim tab, tail tips and inner elevator face are included. Where the model cannot be represented in PE, nicely cast parts are included to depict these sections. PACKET L This very last packet contains the propeller and spinner. The prop is broken down into two interlinking parts. A couple of seams will need to be removed from here, and the edges of the blades carefully finished off. The prop parts interlink beautifully at the hub, and then fit easily into the spinner rear part. As you can see, the main spinner part just drops into position. Perfect. Now it's time to take a look at the Photo Etch parts in this rather remarkable kit. FRET A As you will imagine, a skeletal fighter plane in 1:32 is going to need a large number of accurately presented wing ribs, and this is where you'll find them. The ribs are etched with face detail, neat slots for assembly, and the multitude of lightening holes which were stamped into the real thing. The PE sheets in this set appear to be made from stainless steel, which is not only very attractive in how shiny it is, but is also of a quite thick, scale gauge. Some parts, as on this fret are also assembled as laminates, making them even thicker and extremely rigid. Tags which hold parts to the fret are extremely narrow, which is great news when it comes to trying to cut through them. Consider a good pair of photo-etch scissors for this project. Other parts on this fret are a small number of fuselage formers, the armoured plating for the pilot's seat....AND....a superbly PRE-SHAPED part for the engine cowl underside. If you were wondering how these curves were achieved, well, now you know. The shaping is seriously good, but I admit it frightens me to hold these frets and lie them down with these attached! Just be careful when handling them, although they do seem very robust. FRET B Again, this one mostly consists of parts for the flying surfaces, but this time the ailerons, elevators and rudder. Spars are included here for the horizontal stabiliser, as are the various mini-ribs for the moving surfaces. A number of parts for the wing gun bays are also to be found on this fret. Flying surfaces have the mini-ribs cast in between the frames, and for these, a quick 90 degree twist of those ribs will automatically create an authentic 3D section. FRET C # This is where you will find the fuselage, in all its perfectly flat, etched beauty. The fuselage is built up from various formers and bulkheads as per the real thing, and some of these, such as the engine firewall, will need to be bent. Imcth has introduced two names to describe inner and outer folds. They have called these Valley and Mountain, and determine whether you fold inward to create a 'V' (Valley), or outwards to form a ridge (mountain). Get used to these, and the symbology Imcth uses on their instructions, and all will be crystal clear. Cockpit and internal floors are included on this fret. Wood was used in the construction of some of these, so if you want to paint, consider Uschi's superb wood grain decal. Those engine bearer external laminates are also here, and again, these will need a subtle bend or two to make them fit to the white metal parts. FRETS D & E These are almost identical except for one containing parts for a starboard wing and fuselage, and the other being for the port-side. A small number of specific parts apply onto to one fret too, such as spars etc. The upper and lower panels of each wing are represented in large, single pieces which are pre-curved to shape the rib profile of the wing, so again, no tricky bending to undertake. Detail on these panels is excellent, and the upper panels have the gun already cut out. A number of protective stiffeners will need to be snipped out first. As the gauge of the metal is relatively thick, using a file to clean up any tags should be very easy. The fuselage side panels, spanning the fuselage from the firewall, though to the tail section joint, are also pre-bent. Imcth really have thought of everything to ensure that this is a very enjoyable build. FOIL FILM 'T' This foil film is self-adhesive, and the canopy frames and Browning barrel sleeves are sharply die cut into it. I have my reservations about the barrels, as previously mentioned, but the canopy framing looks very good, and despite the photo, this film is high chrome finish. I had to tilt the camera to avoid glare, as I did with the PE frets themselves. STAND A small acrylic stand has been included with my sample. I'm not sure if this is standard. It is recommended that the model should perhaps be sat on this stand in order to take any weight from the undercarriage parts. First, you must peel the protective paper from the face of the Mitsubishi-made plastic, and then plug them together. Nice and simple, and non-intrusive so it won't ruin the overall constructional effect of the model INSTRUCTIONS This hasn't been produced in a typical manual-style format, with stapled pages and consecutive sequence numbers. The first two A3 pages are folded, and provide a pictorial view of the parts, with them being numbered for ease of identification in the build sequences. Instructions on how to best use PE and white metal are also included. The actual sheets pertaining to construction, are supplied as individual A4 sheets. The engine's sequence of build starts at '1' and goes through to '31'! From there, the next sequence starts at '1' also. To help you keep track, the pages are numbered for you, so it's obvious what section of construction should come next. Drawings for the various steps are easy to follow, with the images looking a lot like those that Eduard use. Imcth have also used coloured ink in order that you can recognise the various sub-assemblies and new-to-sequence parts. All parts are numbered along the way, and where you need to drill parts, this is also shown. Despite the overall apparent complexity, the actual breakdown looks very simple. In total, there are THIRTY-ONE pages of instructions! Enough to keep you occupied for a reasonable amount of time. Also included are instructions for adding the frames to the canopy, and notation on the best way to assemble the wing with regards to slot sizes etc. Conclusion I've seen some kits in my time, and whilst this is very different to just about every one, it's by far one of the most incredible releases I've ever had the fortune to see. Granted, you can't compare it with a Tamiya or Wingnut Wings kit, as it falls into a category all of its own, but that doesn't stop you being simply overawed at both the complexity and engineering that has been employed here. Not only do you have a stainless-steel skeleton of the Mustang, but also a completely detailed engine bay, cockpit, undercarriage etc. For those of you that have pondered a ZM kit, but the thought of sealing up all that work was simply too much, then consider a Desktop Mustang from Imcth. Not only will you have many enjoyable hours assembling it, but when complete, you'll really never tire of admiring it. I believe that Imcth are developing a metal skin set for this, which provides you with endless opportunities when it comes to using the model for diorama purposes, such as a maintenance scene, or a damage scene as I recently saw for Imcth's Desktop Zero. AND, I can tell you that later in the year, we'll be bringing you a review for that too. Simply outstanding and amazing James H Our sincere thanks to Imcth for this review sample. To purchase directly, head on over to Hobby Link Japan.