French Air Force, EC 01/010 SPA84, France 1977
This is Eduard’s Mirage IIIC, released in 2004. I built this from the profipack boxing, but didn’t use the extra photoetched parts; they’ll go on my Eduard Israeli IIICJ as soon as I’ve found an Atar 9C (as opposed to the 9B in the kit). I have to say, when I bought this kit (and the CJ) I was very impressed with what was in the box. Metal nose weight, etched seatbelts, some tiny mouldings, two decal sheets and beautiful colour markings diagrams for French, Israeli and South African Mirages. Having built the model I am far less impressed. I have to be honest, there is nothing particularly wrong with the kit, it just didn’t live up to the expectations I had after opening the box.
The detail in the kit is okay. The cockpit is adequate for a closed canopy, although the gunsight looks clunky and the seat uninspiring – even with the seatbelts provided. Nice touches are the exhaust, which is excellent, and a well-detailed undercarriage. By far the most irritating aspect of the build was that the left fuselage half had no scribing aft of the intakes and needed completely rescribing. I had hoped to do a natural metal French aircraft, but once I started rescribing I knew it would never stand up to such a demanding finish, so decided to build this Mirage in the French blue scheme. Rescribing was a pain, especially around the rear wing root, and something that I thought was unacceptable in a mainstream kit costing £30. To ensure consistency between my rescribing and the rest of the airframe, I went over all the kit scribing with an Olfa cutter. The plastic is soft and doesn’t sand that easily – much less pleasant to work with that plastic from Hasegawa or Revell, for example. I believe this problem of missing scribing was solved by Eduard and my other (although earlier) Mirage kit has well-scribed fuselage halves. I won’t be buying another without looking in the box first.
The fit of the kit was disappointing. The fuselage halves were warped and had to be glued together in stages, but once clamped and taped, the seams were fine. The gap at the base of the fin is large and awkward to remove. The moulds on my example were quite misaligned, so the cyclindrical fairing at the base of the fin had a 0.5mm step in it, resulting in a non-cylindrical shape when finished. The intakes fitted quite poorly, as did the front on the wing to the lower fuselage. The fuselage needed spreaders (made from discarded sprue) to minimise the gaps between the upper wings and the fuselage. The wings were slightly warped — the port wing droops a little because of this. The fit of the control surfaces to the wing was not great; I attached the control surfaces to the wing first (removing the locating pins so they would fit) and then attached the actuators, using clamps to bring them into contact with the wing underside.
After getting everything together I replaced the pitot tube with one made from brass wire, tube and superglue, and attached the canopy. This is very susceptible to stress cracks and fitted poorly, as did the windscreen with a significant step between the lower windscreen edge and the fuselage. As you can see, I didn’t really succeed in making the closed canopy very convincing; it would fit better open. The undercarriage was cleaned up (which took a while due to the mould misalignment) and constructed. Decal placards are supplied, which is a nice touch. The model was washed before painting commenced.
I primed the model using Mr Surfacer 1000 which was great, but very grainy near the wingroots, so needed polishing out with Tamiya polishing compounds. Some seams were made good and then the nose and antennae panels were painted black and grey. Eduard suggest Mr Color 337 Blue-Grey for the main scheme, which I used, but I’m not convinced it’s accurate. This was masked off and Mr Metal Color Aluminium applied to the undersides. This paint is buffable and needed sealing with Johnson’s Klear before continuing. My Mr Surfacer coat wasn’t smooth enough; the undersides are quite rough. The Mr Metal Color is not as forgiving as I expected, and will need much better surface preparation in the future if I use it again. Since I was not wanting a shiny metal finish and was going to apply a matt coat anyway, I didn’t respray the aluminium.
Johnson’s Klear was airbrushed over the entire airframe and the kit decals used. They were great, in that they were thin and the carrier film merged beautifully into the paint, but completely impervious to Mr Mark Setter, which made getting rid of the any tiny air bubbles difficult. The main problem is that the yellow was badly out of register — the roundels look terrible. The grey panel for the upper fuselage (which I didn’t spray) is too big for the moulded detail. The final finish is a mix of Pollyscale Satin and Flat varnishes.
Some accuracy questions came up during the build (I’m sure there are many others I’m unaware of, and others I didn’t bother to address — apparently the length of the undercarriage struts is not quite right). The antennae fit is a little confusing. The instructions tell you to fit two spine antennae, as I have done, but the marking instructions and box art only show one. A walkaround, kindly sent to me by Mike O’Hare, of a different Mirage in the blue scheme showed two spine antennae, so that’s what I added. Eduard would also have you paint two underfuselage panels, one in Zinc Chromate (although the paint they recommend is Interior Green) and the other Radome Tan. No photos I could find of Mirage IIIs showed this, so I painted them aluminium like the rest of the underside. The walkaround (and box art) also revealed that the red warning markings around the intakes should also be present on the inner lip; decals are provided for this, but no mention of them is made in the instructions.
Final construction was simply to add the various pitot tubes and the undercarriage, which tested my patience severly.
I am not particularly pleased with this model. For some reason I didn’t really enjoy building it, mainly because my expectations were probably too high, Eduard’s quality control was pretty poor (appallingly bad scribing detail in places, misaligned moulds, out-of-register decals), and it put up a fight in various places in terms of fit. I’m most disappointed with my paint job, which is a bit rough in places, but pretty pleased with the seams, most of which I managed to eliminate. An unexceptional build; given the choice, I would rather build another Classic Airframes Vampire or Hasegawa Harrier II!
Year bought: 2004 (Antics, Scale Model World, Telford)
Year built: 2007 (Caiyuan, Zhengzhou, China)