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  1. 1:32 Messerschmitt Bf 109H conversion Alley Cat Catalogue # AC32037C Available from A2Zee Models for £20 Have you ever wanted to try something different when it comes to large scale Bf 109 models? The endless stream of Emils, Friedrichs and Gustavs can become a little samey, even to ardent Luftwaffe fans. Alley Cat have never shied away from producing conversion sets to help the modeller create something a little more unusual when it comes to the Emil (with A, B, C and D conversions available), and now they've turned their attention to the new Revell 1:32 Bf 109G-6. This set will let you build this sleek aircraft as the not-quite-so-sleek Bf 109H, high altitude fighter. Before the advent of the Ta 152, this was Messerschmitt's solution to intercepting the massed bomber streams that flew high above German towns and cities. Basically, this machine was an adapted Bf 109G, which had a taller tail section, pressurised cockpit, and an extended wingspan. The latter was achieved by adding a new un-taped, centre wing section which extended the wingspan of the 109 by over 3 metres. The whole project was cancelled before production began, due to the prototype being destroyed in an air raid, and newer aircraft coming on-stream. Alley Cat's conversion set is packaged into a small, sturdy box that has a colour label depicting the product in profile format. Inside the box, two Zip-lock wallets hold a total of FOURTEEN parts, cast in light grey resin. The largest of these, the wing centre section, occupies its own wallet. A series of laser printed instruction sheets are included, as is a mask set for the scheme. What this conversion sets out to do is actually very simple and logical. The regular Bf 109G wings remained unchanged in their format, with the exception that the under-wing radiators were moved into their original locations, which now lay on the new centre piece. I don't know Messerschmitt's logic for doing this, but of course this means we need to erase those radiators from the kit wings. The wing centre section is impressive, and is cast with the new location for the undercarriage strut on the outboard side of the panel, giving the aircraft a wide-track undercarriage instead of the narrow one it is always seen with. Detail on this section is excellent, with cutaways to install the new radiator positions. A small resin pouring stub exists on forward point, where it connects to the engine cowl. This is totally unobtrusive and will cause no problem when removing it. As with the rest of the Revell kit, the exterior is devoid of rivets. What again will make this aircraft look unusual is that this new section is without any dihedral. The kit wings, when fitted to this, will have their regular upward angle kept 'as is', creating a most unusual looking bird. To remove the radiators from the kit wings, a blanking insert is included. New radiator parts are included for the extra wing section, complete. As the kit wing itself contains the centre fuselage section, you will need to cut this, and the instructions clearly show how you go about this. It's suggested that you perhaps pin the kit wings to the new resin panel, and I think that's a pretty good idea in the circumstances. New resin radiators are provided for the new section, complete with internal grilles. Those radiators are handed, so ensure you fit them correctly. This new wing calls for the split, trailing edge flaps to be reinstated on the new section, and resin parts are supplied for this, clearly identified on both the casting block and instructions. You will need to use the forward, adjustable shutters on the kit radiators and fasten them to the new resin ones, in the same location. The next major change comes with the removal of the entire tail section from the kit fuselage. Careful measurement is needed here, and this is given on the instructions sheet. It still always pays to take the last fractions of a millimetre off very gradually so that you get an even and perfect match between the plastic and grafted resin part. The new tail is very different to the standard 109 style, and this comes with a separate rudder. Revell did sort of drop the ball on the kit gun troughs. This conversion supplies a corrected gun trough, but oddly enough, not the corrected Beules or spinner. For these, you will need the buy the G-6 correction set we reviewed HERE. There is a small dark mark on the upper piece, but this appears to be a little dark resin, and will cause no problems when I build this. I really can't complain about the quality of the resin parts. They are flawless, easily identifiable, and any casting blocks will easily be cut away. It's also not greasy, and no visible signs of mould-release agent can be seen anywhere. Perhaps just lightly scrub them to be sure. Masks are supplied on a sharply cut vinyl sheet, and look superb, with no shrinkage. Only the fuselage codes and swastikas are supplied, as you will use the kit markings for the Balkenkreuz. Three colour-printed sheets are provided for the instructions, with photographs and clearly notation. I would have perhaps liked to have seen a photo of the completed model, or at least with the wing having the inboard slit trailing edge installed. You really shouldn't have too much of an issue following these instructions. The last sheet contains the line drawings of the 109, with the scheme applied to the side profile. Conclusion Alley Cat has produced another superb conversion set for a version which you only occasionally see in smaller, short-run kits/conversions. The finished 109 will look a little clumsy and ungainly, but that is part of the attraction for this machine. There isn't provision for creating that pressurised cockpit, so for that area, you will have to check out online references for similar machines, or at the very least, conjure up your own solution. I also assume the engine had some differences, but externally, you won't have seen them. That would only really apply if you wanted to add a resin engine. In all, a really good, solid conversion set that should be manageable by modellers who have worked with resin parts before. A good, first conversion perhaps? Very highly recommended My sincere thanks to A2Zee Models for this review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link. James H
  2. 1/32 Bf 109G-6 Upgrade Set for Revell kit Alley Cat Catalogue # AC32027C Available from Alley Cat for £15.00 The Revell Bf 109G-6 kit The Revell Bf 109G-6 promised to be the definitive plastic model of this version of Messerschmitt's long serving fighter. However, when released it revealed a series of minor, though frustrating, flaws which were in need of attention. The Large Scale Modeller review covers almost all of the shortcomings found in the kit and all those covered by the Alley Cat upgrade set. Introduction to the Alley Cat Upgrade Set Alley Cat is a range of resin kits and accessories produced and sold by A2Zee Models. The Alley Cat upgrade set is aimed at addressing the bulk of the issues found with the Revell kit whilst exacting the minimum amount of effort from the modeler. Many parts are a reworked kit part, which means they should be a simple drop fit substitute. All parts, except the two photo-etched brass scribing templates, are moulded in a medium grey resin which if the same material as other Alley Cat releases is easy to work with. The parts come in a single zip lock bag along with the instructions in a sturdy cardboard box. No parts were broken or damaged n my sample. The parts are cleanly cast with a very small number of pin holes (I had only 3 in 51 parts). Casting blocks are small and thoughtfully located, removal and clean up shouldn't pose any problems. Note that all my photos are of the parts as they come. Contents: 47 parts plus 4 spare parts (2 exhausts, 2 air scoops) and two photo etch scribing templates. What's in the set? Spinner parts and prop blades Spinner and props – The Revell spinner has a good shape and the correct teardrop shaped openings for the props. Unfortunately, to achieve this the spinner is separated at a point where no joint existed. To make matters worse, the assembly method required spinner and propeller blades to be assembled prior to any clean up or painting. The Alley Cat parts use a novel method to allow the blades to be added after assembly and painting. As well as a new spinner, three replacement blades with a much better profile than Revell's parts are included. Blades are a marked improvement over the Revell parts The new one piece spinner, engraved back plate is visible Exhausts – Revell's engineering made the modeller fit the exhausts prior to closing up the fuselage halves. This meant that without modifying the assembly sequence, painting of both the exhausts and area of fuselage around them would be tricky to say the least. With the upgrade set we are provided with three parts to go inside the fuselage, two parts which fit into the exhaust locations and a third part which helps hold them in place. These are all keyed to ensure positive location. The individual hollowed exhausts (2 spares included) can be put in place right at the end of assembly. Each exhaust 'ejector' has a pin which fits into a hole in the previously assembled parts. This will ensure correct spacing, although care will have to be taken to ensure they are properly oriented. Exhaust parts Air scoops – We were all surprised that Revell hadn't hollowed out the small scoops that cool the oil tank and spark plugs (Hasegawa's much older kit featured hollowed scoops). While the kit scoops can be hollowed, it is a delicate and time consuming job that can easily go wrong and leave a ruined scoop. Alley Cat provide six scoops (2 spares) that simply require the existing ones to be sanded of and these carefully removed from their pour stubs and attached. These are delicately formed parts and should look really nice in place. These will also allow the staggered scoops; apparently characteristic of some aircraft batches to be reproduced. Difficult to photograph! Air scoops are wafer thin and will look good in place Beule – The undernourished beule, the blisters covering the breech and ammunition feeds for the MG 131 machine guns, are one of the most mentioned and visible shortcomings of the Revell kit. Some of us have managed to wrestle the more correctly proportioned Hasegawa parts onto the Revell cowl, but this is time consuming as they don't fit exactly and require filling and sanding. The corrected parts provided by this set include both the standard and 'G-5 type' starboard beule. They look much fuller and feature flange detail on the rear part of the beule. This means the flange Revell have moulded onto the cowl has to be removed. Alley Cat have given us 'standard' and the often seen 'G-5 type' breech and ammo feed covers It is apparent in this view just how much fuller the Alley Cat parts are Supercharger intake – Revell's intake fails to depict the flange for attachment of the air filter on the opening, resulting in a too thin lip to the opening of the intake. The weld bead that runs down the outside of the intake fairing is also absent. Alley Cat replaces the two part Revell offering with a single part that reproduces both these features very nicely and has the added bonus of not having a seam to clean up inside the intake. Seam line and thicker intake lip are (just) visible Undercowl oil cooler – The Alley Cat part has given us a very nicely refined version of the Revell part here. It features more of the curviness of the original part and deepens the whole unit, much more prototypical. Also greatly adding to the look of this part, Alley Cat have narrowed the intake and exit – the original radiator face parts still fit. Much better front profile, narrower intake, curvier sides and deeper overall From the top, curves in all the right places Cockpit – For whatever reason, Revell depicted the harness moulded onto both the seat pan and the rear wall of the cockpit. The effect certainly isn't up to what many of us would want and using better replacement parts requires taking the detail off the parts. This is a drag, especially on the bucket seat. Alley Cat have performed this chore for us. Both parts are basically cleaned up kit parts so fitting is just a case of substitution – easy! Also included is a nicely detailed replacement control column featuring a couple of details omitted by Revell. Side by side with the kit parts - one tiresome job taken care of Ailerons and elevators – Revell scored a bit of an own goal on these parts. For the most part detail is petite and very convincing. However six of the eight parts were 'marred' by disk shaped details which are meant to depict the reinforcements around the drain holes on the real aircraft. There are 42 of these to carefully remove, again, a drag. The Alley Cat parts are devoid of these, are single parts and as a bonus have addressed the dodgy trim tabs on the elevators. Disks gone and a neater trim tab, tiresome job #2 taken care of Tiresome job #3 - history Other parts – Also included are a nice new ETC rack for the drop tank, two parts representing the air vents inside the cockpit that can be used to re-locate the inaccurate port one (starboard one is correctly located), copies of the Revell machine gun barrels with opened out ends, a copy of the propeller shaft, again with a drilled out muzzle for the engine cannon, and finally two photo etched scribing templates – one to re-scribe the port cockpit air vent, the other to correct the location of the fuel filler on the port fuselage behind the cockpit. This second template is actually redundant as Revell corrected the location of the fuel filler in the released kit. Alley Cat Bf109G-6 14 – The final detail parts, including on the left a replacement control column Instructions – The instructions consist of a photographic overview of the parts and a series of short descriptions of some areas of construction. Particular attention is given to assembling the spinner and props and the exhausts as these are significantly different assemblies to the kit parts. For the rest of the assembly the user is left to merely substitute the resin parts for the Revell plastic, a satisfactory approach I think. So What Do We Think? This set has addressed most of the concerns that were highlighted during the various reviews of the Revell kit, including LSM's own review. Alley Cat have stepped up and brought a whole host of simple drop fit replacements that will make your Revell G-6 more accurate with minimal effort and hassle. This is a good honest set of parts that for a relatively small outlay will really boost the look of the Revell kit. Quality is excellent and the amount of parts one gets for the £15.00 asking price makes this a real bargain in my book. Very highly recommended. With thanks to Alistair of A2Zee models for this review sample. To purchase directly, click this link. References: LSM review of Revell Bf 109G-6 Matt Low
  3. 1/32 Arado Ar196 Canopy (for Revell kit) Alley Cat Catalogue # AC32091C £12.99 from A2Zee Models Revell's Ar196 floatplane is an excellent kit in every respect: accurate in outline and dimensions; great detail; fantastic value. Excellent in every respect, apart from the clear parts, and in particular the slab-sided main framework (rather than the windscreen area). The fault is not one of detail or dimension, but one of frustrating parts breakdown. The canopy is quite large, even for a relatively small plane, and Revell must have thought it too difficult to mould the sides and top as an all in one clear part. The result is a fairly logical breakdown into two side panels and a roof one, but they are joined by small tabs on the mating edges. Once put together, the tabs are very visible. Revell parts: sharp and super clear, but.... ...annoying tabs will show up once put together I bought my Ar196 kt a while ago, knowing already the issue with the clear parts, but I confess I had not actually examined the kit's contents. So, on receiving the sample from A2Zee, I thought I had best make the comparison: the Revell parts are wonderfully clear and definition is super sharp, but...but...those tabs! After only a few seconds glance I could see the potential problem, and also the solution (albeit to late): why didn't Revell provide the same parts breakdown, but just without the tabs, and give us a jig or solid frame template for the canopy, and then we just glue the edges accordingly? Well, they didn't. So, Alley Cat to the rescue... Mask set - a bit curly! Nice and simple - three clear resin parts replace nine or so plastic ones The set comprises three replacement clear parts, and a set of canopy masks. Whereas the kit parts look like something from a well-known Nordic store that has managed to convince people that flat-pack is cool, the entire 'glass house' from Alley Cat comprises just three parts. They are cast in clear resin, and each attached to their respective casting block by a thinner fillet of material. I lined up the Alley Cat parts against the kit parts, and also sections of the fuselage, and think the fit should be spot on. No annoying tabs, so all good. I will point out that the clear resin is not as super sparkly clear as the kit parts. The detail is good, but not as sharp as the kit parts. Having said that, the pictures you see are quite literally straight from the box they came in, and not cleaned up or polished at all. I will definitely use these parts, but will give them a good clean in mild detergent (washing up liquid) first, and then probably use a very fine grade polishing cloth. That and a dip in Future / Klear etc and I think they will be good to go. Alley Cat parts: no tabs, good casting The masks are a nice touch - I was not expecting them. The box means that the sheet arrives curled up which is a bit annoying. But in the time you are waiting for your Future to dry, put the mask under a heavy book etc and it should come out nice and flat. The masks themselves look to be the sort that Montex make for canopies: great for flat parts, not so great when faced with curves - so basically perfect for the Ar196. A word about price: spending 50% of what you shelled out for the kit on three small resin parts seems harsh, but the kit is extremely cheap. I also don't think that trying to amend the kit parts is a viable option for most modellers. And you also get a canopy mask, which some manufacturers would charge you nearly £10 for anyway. So all in all, I think the price is fair enough. Conclusion Excellent replacement for problem part of an otherwise superb kit. Could be cast a little clearer, but should clean up fine. I will definitely use this set. Recommended With thanks to A2Zee for the review sample. To purchas directly, click THIS link. Nicholas Mayhew
  4. 1:32 Bristol M1.C Alley Cat Catalogue # ACRK32-10 Available from A2Zee Models for £59.00 The Bristol M1.C Scout was developed as a private venture due to the establishment's deep-seated mistrust of monoplane aircraft. The Fokker Scourge of 1915 must've been easily forgotten in that respect. The performance of the 110hp Clerget powered M1 Scout was also proven during its maiden flight in 1916, and in subsequent test flying. Despite the very promising performance exhibited during flight trials, a number of problems were encountered. A lack of good downward vision due to the wing arrangement, proved a hindrance, and also a lack of good forward vision. Whilst the latter problem was one that couldn't readily be fixed, the wings were redesigned with open panels at the root to allow downward vision. Another more fatal flaw which hindered serious mass production of the M1 was its high landing speed, thought to be unsuitable for forward airstrips in Western Europe. The final production run of the M1, including the main M1.C variant, was only 130 aircraft, mostly operated by training units, or in the Middle East. Armed versions carried a single .303 Vickers MG. Being a recent convert to WW1 modelling, the models I've reviewed or built have fallen into either the angular or graceful category. Perhaps a combination of the two. The Bristol M1.C is an oddity. Whilst not angular, it certainly doesn't look too graceful, despite the very bird-like wings and tapered, streamlined fuselage. The almost bull-nosed spinner, while aiding that streamlining, does look rather awkward. Still, what a hugely unusual subject for a resin model kit, and certainly one which I look forward to building soon after this review. Let's look further into this release. Alley Cat's Bristol M1.C is packaged in a very sturdy top opening corrugated box, adorned with a lid label depicting one of the SEVEN schemes applicable for this release. Inside the box there are three bags of resin components, and one which contains various rods, wire, photo etch fret, and a cast white metal undercarriage and tail skid. Whilst the majority of the smaller parts, including the cockpit walls, engine and internals are packaged loose into one bag, the hefty single piece fuselage and wings are supplied in a single bag, strategically stapled to stop the fuselage from rolling around with the wings. The tail plane parts, ailerons, cowl and spinner etc are packaged into the last rest zip-lock bag. In the bottom of the box lie 3 instruction sheets and a single sheet of decals. The model kit itself comprises of SEVENTY-THREE parts, superbly cast in light grey resin; a single clear resin part for the M1.C's windshield, and the white metal undercarriage is supplemented by a brass rod for the axle. As resin models tend to be heavier than injection plastic ones, the all metal undercarriage is a well thought out and welcome addition. A number of resin parts are supplied as options in this kit; both as simple choices, but also for the sake of the different machine configurations which the schemes depict. Two seat options are included. One of these has a set of cast lap belts which look excellent by any standard. The other seat is bare, allowing the modeller to choose his/her own belt solution. As the M1.C can be built as an unarmed trainer, as well as an armed fighting scout, two coamings are included for the upper, forward fuselage. This thoughtful addition means that you don't have to start cutting out and modifying a stock piece in order to fit the Vickers MG. The trainer version also has the optional clear resin windscreen, whilst the Vickers MG consists of a finely detailed main gun part with open muzzle, an ammunition feed and cartridge chute part, and a padded face guard to the rear. The most obvious part when you open the box is that single piece, streamlined, tubular fuselage. This really is a wonderful piece of casting, with hardly a blemish anywhere. A few tiny bubbles reside on the underside of the front section, but they certainly aren't anything to worry about whatsoever. This relatively heavy resin part is supplied with the forward upper cockpit section faired over with a web of resin that needs to be removed. Internally, the side walls of the tube cleanly depict the fabric and frame construction of the real thing, with a recessed slot into which to insert the completed cockpit assembly. Externally, the fuselage detail is superbly rendered, with an accurate depiction of taught, doped linen shrunken over the wooden framework, subtle laced areas, neatly scribed access plates, and very fine rigging attachment points. The tail plane is attached to the fuselage by means of pips which neatly allow a trouble free fitting. This is proven by dry fitting these assemblies. The Clerget engine is supplied as a centre crankcase with nine separate cylinders, supplied over 2 casting blocks, with a spare cylinder as default. There is a slight seam on some cylinders, but again, nothing to be concerned about, and the rocker head detail is very good, with clean connection points for the induction pipes, also supplied as separate parts, with spares too. Refreshingly, the styrene rod required for the pushrods is also included. So many resin kits require you supply your own rod etc, assuming you already have a stash of it. Of course, all this beautiful resin engine will be mostly concealed within the large cowl, and shrouded by the trademark spinner of the 'Bullet'. The cowl comes attached to a shallow casting block that sits neatly within the front of the fuselage. Just check this for fouling the internal cockpit tub. Even though the block is designed to be removed, if you can come to a compromise against the internal tub, then the casting block is a great alignment tool. The prop and spinner and cast as a single part, with the internal prop hub being separate, and connected to the internal spinner portion of the prop. This aligns simply in between pips within the spinner. The cockpit tub itself is superb, and has plenty enough detail to keep the best of us happy. Comprising of the single piece resin side frame, cockpit floor, and a number of cross brace parts, the finished 'box' assembly slips into those recesses within the fuselage tube. Cockpit internals consist of a control stick with integral torsion tube, rudder foot bar, fuel tank and a side console instrument panel. Whilst the instrument locations are excellent, no decals are supplied to detail this area. For a perfect solution, take a look at the WW1 instrument sheets available from Airscale. This is what I will be using for this build. All the interior requires to finish it off is perhaps a little plumbing. This area is a small project within the kit itself, and as there is no upper wing to hide the cockpit opening, make sure you do a good job here! The shoulder mounted wings are cast as single pieces, with just the ailerons needing to be added. A little clean-up will be required in the downward view apertures, and also the pouring stubs need to be removed from the aileron area. This is places here so as not to foul any exterior detail on the wing. Two pips are cast at the fuselage juncture, in order to facilitate perfect mating and location. Wing surface detail is excellent with more subtle rib and leading edge strip detail, as well as a number of small access ports (aileron pulley access). The rigging points are cast as small hollows into which a rigging cap is inserted over a photo etch plate. Full instructions are given for rigging and with there not being too much work involved, it all seems quite easy. Of course, there are also the control surface photo etch horns which will require a cable adding to the various location points on the fuselage and wing etc. The upper wing rigging lines are tethered to a cabane strut pylon which sits atop the gun platform. The instructions say you must drill a hole in the upper pylon so that the wires may be joined. I would need to check my sources, but presume you may need some sort of sleeving or turnbuckle arrangement for this The horizontal tail plane and elevators are cast as four separate parts. The detail across them is again superbly rendered, and I would look at using some wire to pin the various control surfaces to the airframe, instead of relying on a simple butt-joint. This applies to the rudder and vertical tail plane too. The trainer version windscreen is cast onto a small block which should be easy to remove. Clarity of the part is excellent, but as is normal for me, a quick dip into Klear should improve this even further. Generally speaking, the overall quality of the resin is excellent. There are a few pin-hole bubbles which will require a small drill bit to open and then be filled, but on the whole, this is probably one of the best cast resin kits I've seen in a long while, and those miniscule imperfections won't take long to eradicate. A number of structural elements for the interior, such as spacer beams and side walls, as cast flat onto a casting block 'bed'. There is a resin dead-space below this meaning that a few minutes careful cutting with a razor saw will be enough to free these ready for clean-up. With the exception of the fuselage, whose casting core is deep within the tube itself, the remainer of the parts are secured to either casting blocks, or will simply require casting tabs removing. In all, there's nothing here which looks tricky at all. A single etch metal fret contains the control surface horns, complete with their cable attachment holes, and also the rigging point stiffening plates. The white metal undercarriage parts are cleanly cast with as good a surface as you should expect to find, and very little clean-up will be required. The triple axel is supplied as brass lengths, and are easy to insert into the pre-cast strut holes. Alley Cat produce some superbly illustrated instructions, and this kit is no exception. The Bristol M1.C is quite a straightforward model to build and a single sheet shows all aspects of construction as exploded line drawings, with clear annotation. Rigging is shown, as are smaller exploded drawings of the engine and cockpit assemblies. A double sided, colour printed sheet illustrates the SEVEN schemes which are provided. These vary from simple PC12 schemes to some quite startling schemes which were applied to personal mounts/trainers. The schemes included are: Bristol M1.C, No.72 Squadron Bristol M1.C, C4921, No.150 Squadron, Salonika, 1918 Bristol M1.C, C4907, flown by Lt. Hamilton, No.150 Squadron, Amberkoj, Macedonia Bristol M1.C, C4960, No.1 School of Aerial Fighting, Ayr, April 1918 Bristol M1.C, C5019, unarmed trainer. Bristol M1.C, C5001/83, No.4 Auxiliary School of Aerial Gunnery, Waddon, July 1919 Bristol M1.C, C4940, Turnberry A single decal sheet is included which carries both national and serial markings for each aircraft, plus the occasional motif. The decals are nice and thin and carrier film is minimal. Whilst everything is in perfect register, the blue colour doesn't seem as solid as it should be. This not be the case when applied, but I think for my build, I will be using masks for painting all markings. Some spare decal section colours are provided just in case you have a mishap. Roundels are printed with separate red centre spots. So what do we think? In all, this is a great kit, and one which doesn't cost the earth either. The fine mastering and excellent engineering of the pattern maker is evident throughout the kit, and Alley Cat's casting quality is every bit as good as we have come to expect from them. The Bristol M1.C is a fairly simple model to build, and would be an excellent introduction for an experienced modeller to chance their hand at their first all-resin kit. For an experienced resin modeller, then the sky really is the limit with this unusual and strangely attractive machine. I just hope we see more like this from Alley Cat. Very highly recommended. Our sincere thanks to A2Zee Models for the review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link. James H
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