Roden have released a very promising new kit of the He-51, one of the most attractive biplane fighters of its day, although - in contradiction to the old adage ďif it looks good, itíll be goodĒ - not a particularly successful one in its intended role. It was judged inferior to the rival Arado Ar 68 and, when the He 51 was sent to fight in the Spanish Civil War as part of the Legion Condor, it was at a serious disadvantage against Republican I-15s and I-16s. With losses mounting, it was switched to ground attack missions as soon as sufficient Bf 109s arrived.
Rodenís model is packaged in an attractive and compact conventional box, with the sprues, instructions and decals bagged for protection. Everything arrived totally intact in my kit, which I ordered from Europe. The kit comprises:
86 x grey styrene parts
2 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The moulding is quite impressive, with just a little flash, no signs of any
ejector-pin marks (if Roden can manage this, one has to ask why larger producers canít do likewise), and just a few minor sink marks on thicker parts. These should be simple to deal with and wonít trouble experienced modellers.
The surface finish is excellent, with neatly engraved panel lines and quite a subtle fabric effect. On the fuselage, in particular, it looks nice and tight - just as it should be on a well-maintained airframe.
Iíve done a quick dry-fit of the major components, but Iíd also recommend following Steffen Arndtís excellent Blog in the Forum
. The fuselage lines up neatly enough in my kit, but I found the lower wing joint will need some adjustment. Basically, anyone with experience of products from smaller producers should have few problems, but this isn't a "shake 'n bake" kit.
A Few Details
The cockpit is nicely furnished with 17 parts and only really lacks a seat harness to look very effective. The fuselage sides include stringer detail, and the interior framework is moulded as thin as you could hope for. The control column is very delicate, so youíll need to take care removing it from the sprue (Iíd recommend using a fine razor saw - and this is true of all the small parts, some of which are moulded beautifully true to scale).
The instrument panel is crisply moulded - although rivet counters (or should that be bezel counters :) ) will spot that some of the faces have merged together. Iím sure thereíll be aftermarket replacements soon, but the kit version will look perfectly adequate tucked in the recess of the cockpit, especially if dressed up with Airscale decal faces and placards.
The wheels are unweighted, with crisp hub detail and a subtle tread pattern. The spats look good, and I like the way Roden have tackled the faired gear legs to give a simple, sturdy assembly.
The radiator has an effective pattern and, although thereís no engine included, Roden have neatly moulded the front of the crankcase integrally with the nose cowling. The prominent exhausts are intended to be fitted early, held in place by a section of cowling, but this will make painting difficult, so itíll be easier to trim off the mounting blocks and install them from the outside later. Purists will want to open up the ends of the pipes for a better effect - a fidly chore, but the result will be worth it. The propeller looks fine, but youíll need to fill a couple of sink marks if your kit is like mine.
The windscreen isn't the clearest I've ever seen, but you could always replace it with clear plastic. Thereís a separate entry door so you can show off the cockpit and this is moulded quite thin for a good scale appearance.
Finally, the kit includes a drop tank with a very delicate rack and sway braces.
Instructions & Decals
The instructions are clearly illustrated and break the assembly down into 23 stages. I have to say they initially are somewhat idiosyncratic in the way they dart about, tackling various subassemblies in no particular order. Admittedly, this is very much the way I build kits(!), but thatís usually in spite of a makerís suggested construction sequence, not as dictated by it. However, things get much logical around stage 18, as the pre-prepared elements come together.
Colour matches for Vallejo paints are included for most details, along with RLM references where needed.
The only disappointment for me is that thereís no rigging diagram, but the boxtop illustration is very clear and will serve as a useful guide.
Decals are included for two Legion Condor aircraft:
1. He 51B-1 "2-24", flown by Oblt. Herwig KnŁppel, 4.J/88, Tablada, December 1936
2. He 51B-1 "2-98", flown by Lt. Kurt StrŁmpell, 3.J/88, February 1938
Roden suggest RLM 02, but other references specify RLM 63 (very similar, if not identical according to some sources), and I've seen different interpretations of the camouflage on StrŁmpell's aircraft.
Iíve been wary of Rodenís decals in the past, but these actually look very good, being thin and glossy with a crystal clear carrier film, and printed in sharp register. Iíll certainly give them a try.
Rodenís new He-51 is a neat little kit that promises to be a more straightforward build than the limited-run Classic Airframes model. That said, I'd still say beginners may find it tricky.
The only problem for UK modellers is the very high import price (an eye-watering £37.99) which will almost inevitably put many people off. Luckily, itís cheaper on the Continent, and I bought my kit at Modelimex for just Ä25.25 - which works out at £18.23 - basically, half the UK price.
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