Reviewed: Mar 2021
I've often heard it said that whoever releases a new tooled 1/48 Lancaster will have a license to print money. Well it's been 46 years since the 1975 release of the venerable Tamiya 1/48 Lanc kit and we finally have a contendor. Most of us will be well aware that HKM has previously released a new tooled (the first) Lancaster in 1/32 and it seemed logical that they would eventually scale this down to 1/48 (and possibly even 1/72 at some point).
The new kit comes in a deceptively small box with all the sprues neatly packaged separately with the critcal clear sprue receiving its own cardboard backing. The 24 page assembly guide is printed in color on large format glossy paper and as a bonus HKM have included a nice color poster which will look right at home on the wall next to your modelling bench to provide inspiration during your build.
Duplicating the 1/32 release schedule, the first release by HKM in 1/48 is the Lancaster B Mk.I. These original Lancasters were produced with Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines and SU carburettors. Minor details were changed throughout the production series – for example the pitot head design was changed from being on a long mast at the front of the nose to a short fairing mounted on the side of the fuselage under the cockpit. Later production Lancasters had Merlin 22 and 24 engines. No designation change was made to denote these alterations. If you chose to leave the engine cowlings on you could also build a B.III from this kit as it was indistinguishable externally from the B.I, being fitted with Packard-built Merlin engines. The Packard Merlins used Bendix–Stromberg pressure-injection carburettors, requiring the addition of slow-running cut-off switches in the cockpit.
It's natural to expect that HKM would simply scale down their 1/32 kit to 1/48, but as I found, this new release is much more than just that. HKM have been listening to feedback from modellers (both active and armchair) and refined, tweaked and corrected many issues found in their initial 1/32 releases.
Sensibly HKM have also made the effort to substantially simplify the engineering of this new kit from that found in 1/32. To illustrate this point, the 1/32 kit contains 824 parts whilst in 1/48 this has been reduced down to 362 parts. Much of this reduction has been achieved by combining multiple parts in 1/32 to a single piece in 1/48. Obvious examples are the wings and fuselage but this same principle has been applied to many of the sub-assemblies across the whole model. Fuselage windows for example are each separate in 1/32 but have been combined onto a single clear runner in 1/48.
I don't have the full 1/32 Lancaster kit, but do have the smaller 1/32 "Nose Art" kit and was curious as to what the differences would be in the level of surface detail between the 1/32 and 1/48 parts. As you can see the answer is "no difference" with the delicate panel and rivet detail scaling down to 1/48 perfectly.
Like most, I was also curious as to how this new HKM tooling compared to the older Tamiya kit. I have the 2009 re-boxing in grey plastic and whilst this review is NOT going to focus on a comparison I felt some side by side photos may be relevant and helpful. The immediately obvious difference is of course the use of raised detail by Tamiya vs the use of recessed detail by HKM. Whilst it's true that Lancasters have raised rivets I suspect that Tamiya's use of raised detail is more about when (1975) the tooling was made and less about them going for maximum accuracy.
Closer inspection of the real thing shows that neither HKM or Tamiya are 100% accurate as that would require overlapping panels and raised rivets. The closest I have seen to this level of accuracy is on the test shots of the (now canceled) Wingnut Wings Lancaster.
A quick comparison of the wing details shows a similar story to the nose section above. Tamiya focusing on raised details, including all access hatches and the very noticeable life raft compartment near the wing root. By contrast, the HKM detail is very subdued.
Consulting once again the real aircraft, I feel that the Tamiya raised detail is overstated and that HKM would be the better choice in a 1/48 scale model. Its upto each modeller to decide for themselves of course.
Each fuselage half is molded as a single piece, which is quite practical in 1/48. I was super impressed when inspecting the interior ribbing and found no (zero) ejection pin marks. That's quite an achievement for such a large part and will save considerable cleanup effort for the builder. The exterior surface detail is quite subtle, but at the same time very sharp and precise. I believe that under some paint and suitable weathering this model will really shine.
The wings are designed to interlock (almost without glue) with a series of alignment posts on the inside. Indeed, when you first open the box the wings are already assembled as you see here and the fit was so good that I initially thought these were molded as one piece. Separate landing flaps are included and as these are commonly seen open on parked Lancasters its a welcome option.
The aileron control surfaces on the Lancaster are fabric and as you can see here the wing surface (top and bottom) is covered in distinctive lines of raised rivet heads. I know that many modellers get hung up on raised vs recessed but I am of the belief that in 1/48 and smaller recessed surface detail is the best way to go. In 1/32 and larger there is a visible benefit to try and accurately reproduce the real aircraft surface finish.
When it comes time to attach the wing to the fuselage HKM have provided a clever keyed friction interlock system. From my test fitting this resulted in a near perfect fit which was tight enough to be sturdy but still allowed disassembly with a small amount of reverse force.
The secret sauce of the wing locking mechanism lies hidden inside the wing root. To assemble you slide the fuselage mounted key into the wing lock and push rearwards. This causes the key to lock into place with no visible gaps. This will make painting the Lanc much easier as you can paint as sub-assemblies and bring together at the end. It will also make this large model easier to transport.
From my reading, early production wartime Lancasters were fitted with fabric elevators, with metal being used late/post war. You may notice that many of the museum and flying examples today have metal elevators which I understand have been retrofitted at some point in the life of those airframes. HKM have done their research and provide nicely scalloped cloth elevators as seen on G-George on display in the Australian War Memorial. I would have preferred that HKM provide us with separate elevators to allow them to be more easily displayed slightly relaxed.
The twin vertical tail of the Lancaster was one its most iconic features. HKM have done a fine job of reproducing the shape and surface detail.
In their 1/32 kit, HKM provided four fully detailed engines and bays. If you wanted to close up the cowlings, some effort was involved to align the parts correctly. For 1/48 HKM have taken a different route and assumed (probably correctly) that most modellers will prefer to leave the cowlings closed. However they have anticipated that some modellers will want to open one or more of the cowlings and so have provided pre-thinned cut lines on the interior to make this task almost foolproof.
One place I found plenty of ejection pin marks on the 1/32 Nose Art kit was in the bomb bay. These were very hard to clean up and I was relieved to see they were not present in this new 1/48 tooling.
The quality of the molding is evident from these sprues shots. The raised detail on the main instrument panel and radio stack is spot on for 1/48 scale.
The main wheels are provided already weighted and realistically bulged and the engines have understandably been simplified compared to the 1/32 offering. I would like to display at least one of the engine cowlings open and I'm glad HKM provided Merlins to allow this.
HKM have decided to provide a different bomb loadout in 1/48 than they did in 1/32:
The detailing on the weapons, especially the cooling jackets on the defensive cannons looks very well done. By contrast the tail fins on the bombs looks a bit heavy to me.
In this boxing, HKM provides only the early "needle" narrow blade propellors as fitted to most wartime Lancasters before the introduction of the paddle-blade propellors. The shape (at least to my eye) looks pretty accurate but as usual it won't be obvious until you fit them to the model.
The clear parts are are all provided on a single large sprue. Both styles of nose blister are provided and the framing on the canopy and turrets is sharply defined which will make masking much easier.
Both style of the main canopy side windows are provided (with teardrop and without). This is a great improvement over the 1/32 kit which provided the teardrop bubble as a separate part which had to be glued to the clear part.
HKM provide a total of two (2) marking options in the kit, one of which (S-Sugar) was also included in their 1/32 release. Over the years many aftermarket manufacturers have released decal sets for the Tamiya 1/48 kit and I would see no reason why they would not work well on this HKM kit.
Each paint scheme is provided in full color on glossy A4 pages and color callouts are provided using AK, Tamiya and Gunze/Mr Hobby paints.
Members of No. 106 Squadron RAF gather in front of Avro Lancaster B Mark I, ED593 'ZN-Y' "Admiral Prune II", the aircraft flown by the Commanding Officer of the Squadron, Wing Commander G P Gibson (standing 14th from the left), to mark the completion of his tour of operations at Syerston, Nottinghamshire.
The Duke of Gloucester (2nd from right) inspecting Avro Lancaster I R5868 'PO-S' just before its 100th sortie. 1944.
At the time of my review I had not yet received the kit decal sheet, but given they are printed by Cartograph in Italy, quality is assured. I was pleased to see the inclusion of decals for the main instrument panel in this kit as strangely none were included the 1/32 Nose Art kit !!
Even though I've not managed to do any serious assembly yet of this new HKM Lancaster, what I have so far observed in the box has impressed me.
HKM have clearly taken the time & effort to think through how to improve on their original 1/32 release, listening to feedback, tweaking/correcting their molds and simplifying the design of this new 1/48 kit. We should be so lucky that all kit manufacturers took it this seriously.
I have previously built the HKM 1:32 Mosquito and remembering enjoying it and I have no doubt this new Lanc will afford me the same experience (if not better).
As I mentioned at the start its been a long wait but I believe that its safe to say "The King is dead. Long live the King"
Many thanks to Hong Kong Models for providing us with early access to this review kit, it's much appreciated.