First look: Pilot Replicas 1/48 Saab J 21A-3
My review kit of the new Pilot Replicas Saab J 21A-3 fighter-bomber arrived in yesterday's mail.
I first became aware of this airplane when I received William Green's "All The World's Aircraft: 1954" for my 10th birthday present. I attribute all my "serious airplane geekiness" since to my father listening to me beg and plead for the very expensive book (a whole $9.95 back then) and acceding to the begging.
There, among other marvels, was this strange-looking Swedish pusher fighter (probably the first "weird" airplane I ever liked). I've always wanted a model of it ever since. As they say, all things come to they who wait.
Pilot Replicas in Sweden announced this kit earlier this year on their Facebook Page and got a very positive response. Once I opened the box, it was obvious they had lived up to their promise.
The kit comes on four sprues: wing, fuselage/tail booms, detail parts, clear parts. The parts are all delicately molded with very petite surface detail with very delicate rivet detail that is just fine in 1/48. Quality of design and molding is the equal of anything you can get today from Eduard without being as "fidgety."
I have assembled three-part wing sub-assembly. They very smartly molded the leading and trailing edges to the upper wing parts, so they are razor-sharp. There is a panel line around the lower wing which they used as the mating surface. My parts had some warpage, which was easy to unbend, and when glued together there is no need whatsoever for any putty, which was confirmed for the rest of the assembly with test fitting of the taped-together fuselage with the wing. The clear parts are very clear and distortion-free, including the bulged side panels, as well as being acceptably thin. The main wheels are the "tractor tires" one sees in photographs.
My only complaint is that the rudders and elevators show a strange shape over the ribs. However, the detail photos of the J 21 at the IPMS Stockholm site (thanks much, Martin W!) show these surfaces smooth, so you will have to sand them down, a beginner's task.
Decals are provided for three J 21A-3 fighter-bombers from J 9, J 12 and J 15 units. The colors are excellent and the decals look good.
Overall, this is one of the most outstanding debut kits I have seen in a very long time. Pilot Replicas has hit the bar with a kit that is comparable with anything one would get from Eduard or Tamiya, with close fit and good detail. The warpage may be the result of too much speed in molding and not taking sufficient time, but it is nothing anyone with even the slightest experience of dealing with this sort of problem will have any difficulty solving. The kit is simple in design and should present no problems in assembly. You will want to cram the nose as full of weight as you can, and may want to glue some to the rear of the cockpit bulkhead, ahead of the main gear, to insure nose-sitting.
If Pilot Replicas proceeds to do the rest of the great Saab fighters and other interesting Swedish "native designs," they're going to be well worth waiting for based on this first one out the door.