If you're like me, you've probably got a preconceived idea of what a classic Polikarpov fighter should look like - be it a biplane or a monoplane, it will have a short fuselage with a big radial engine. So the Polikarpov I-3 comes as something of a shock. Based around a licence-built BMW VI in-line engine, the I-3 was a very elegant biplane with a slender wooden monocoque fuselage somewhat reminiscent of Nieuport-Delage designs.
First flying on February 21 1928, the I-3 prototype proved easy to fly but rather too stable for a fighter. After a series of modifications to increase its agility, 399 I-3s were built between 1928 and 1931, the type remaining in first-line service with the VVS until 1933. Although the I-3 wasn't developed further - it's successor, the I-5, beginning the familiar line of stubby Polikarpov fighters - the aircraft holds an important place in Soviet aviation in establishing the VVS on the world stage.
Rest Models' I-3 consists of:
32 x resin parts
32 x etched brass parts plus accompanying film
1 x white-metal part
Decals for 4 colour schemes
Examining the parts proves that Rest Models' beautiful He 112
is no fluke. Once again the same clever design and exceptional resin casting is evident. The surface detail is very smooth with finely scribed panel lines and delicate raised fasteners etc. and exquisite "fabric effect" on the wings and tail.
The first thing you notice is that almost all the parts are cast separately. There are no traditional casting blocks and the pour stubs are very small. With so little preparation needed, one of the main bugbears of resin kits is removed at a stroke - the kit is virtually ready to assemble in the box.
The fuselage is cast as a single thin-walled hollow shell with a separate nose. There are just two small pour stubs on the bottom of the fuselage and another on the nose where the propeller fits. Just the faintest of seams runs around both parts indicating the mould halves were perfectly aligned and the fuselage is absolutely straight - it really proves just how good the guys at Rest Models are at working in resin. Amazingly, the fuselage actually includes some sidewall detail cast on the interior of the cockpit area.
The wings are beautiful! Thin and dead straight with just a pair of small pour stubs towards the tips. The representation of the fabric surfaces is as good as I've ever seen and the trailing edges are so sharp that you could cut yourself of them! Superb!
Construction is broken down into 13 stages in the clearly illustrated instructions which include a useful cutaway diagram of the cockpit and reference photos.
The Interior is very nicely detailed, combining a mix of resin and photo-etched parts. The etched instrument panel includes a film for the instrument faces and the seat is made-up from a resin base with a delicate etched perforated back. No harness is provided, but there's a lovely set of etched buckles to allow you to make your own from paper or thin metal foil.
There are a number of tiny etched levers to add, including a 4-part throttle to attach to the inside of the fuselage shell... some careful work manipulating the parts with a toothpick is gong to be needed here. The instructions include dimensions for a few parts to make from scratch, such as the compass mounting and a neat diagram showing how to insert the completed cockpit details - a quick test fit with the floor shows it's a perfect fit.
With such nice cockpit detail, the only problem I can foresee is painting the interior of the fuselage shell. Perhaps it's just as well that the instructions show everything was a uniform light grey.
The separate nose allows neat sets of hollowed-out exhaust pipes to be fitted from the inside and it matches the cross-section of the fuselage precisely.
The same level of detail seen in the cockpit extends to the outside. The windscreen consists of a clear film part plus an etched frame, while the pair of telescopic and ring & bead gunsights are intricately cast with etched details to add. There are delicate etched side-frames for the retractable radiator and tiny details such as rigging attachment plates.
Fitting the wings is going to be the make or break stage of constructing this kit. The instructions include a template for aligning the cabane struts - and both these and the interplane struts are beautifully cast. It will probably also be worth constructing a simple jig to make sure everything lines up correctly and attaching the wings with slow-setting gel-CA or epoxy adhesive to allow adjustment. My only concern is whether the resin struts will prove up to the task of supporting the weight of the top wing in the long run. I'm sure Rest Models have taken this into account, but it might have been nice if they had cast them around a metal core for some "belt & braces" peace of mind.
The undercarriage is much sturdier with a white-metal main main unit. This is well cast, but will require a little cleaning up (it shows just how good the resin parts are!) - but that's a small price to pay for the solid foundation it will give to the completed model. The resin wheels are cast with a lovely effect of spokes under a canvas cover.
Painting and decals
Four schemes are illustrated on a full-colour painting guide. No details are given about which units the aircraft belonged to, but schemes #1 and #2 are very attractive, the first featuring a large slogan under the cockpit and the latter decorated with a lightning bolt running the length of the fuselage. All four aircraft are painted identically with green and blue camouflage and polished metal cowlings. The colours quoted are Humbrol and ModelMaster paints. Unfortunately, the Humbrol colours have now been discontinued from the range, leaving you to mix the colours from the recipes in their "Colour System". For my own build I'll use the excellent WEM VVS Colourcoats
The decals look to be excellent quality ; glossy and very thin and printed perfectly in register. Two styles of national insignia are provided and there's minimal carrier film around the stars. It is more noticeable around the other designs, so you may want to trim that off carefully to be on the safe side. A small additional sheet contains a replacement slogan for scheme #1 where the original was printed without its while outline on the main sheet.
I came across Rest Models quite by chance and I'm already calling them my big discovery of 2006! The I-3 is another excellent kit of an unusual subject which deserves to do well. Its price of £22.50 is makes it excellent value for money, and places it broadly in the bracket of short-run plastic kits and rather cheaper than most comparable resin kits. Highly recommended.
I bought my model from Neomega
, who are the sole UK distributors of Rest Models. Their mail order service was excellent and the kit arrived within a few days of ordering.
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