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Paul Brown

Special Hobby 1/72 A. W. Meteor NF12 (SH 72360)

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Special Hobby 1/72 A. W. Meteor NF12
Modeller's whose thing is post war RAF will have been anticipating this release with some expectation. I don't think they'll be disappointed. The Meteor needs little introduction to aviation buffs and there always seems to be great affection for the night fighting variants with the unfeasibly extended proboscis. These versions have been served before with the somewhat maligned Matchbox effort. I've seen some very nice models built from the Matchbox kit, but to be perfectly honest when you see the effort required in order to get a result that's even remotely passable, then you begin to understand the reputation. Matchbox generally had a reputation for producing well engineered kits with few fit problems. Sadly their NF Meteor wasn't one of them. There was also the issue of one of the alternative nose options being overly long, but we won'y get into that here. So what do we get with this Special Hobby kit? Firstly off the box art, which I find curiously evocative of a bygone era. It doesn't look like CGI, it looks like good old-fashioned artwork. I like it.
Opening up the box you find it's not completely crammed with plastic, but there's enough there that should get the modelling juices going. Frame A provides the fuselage halves and tailplanes. Panel lines are fine and very restrained and whilst this may not best please those who like to employ panel/pin washes it does appear to very prototypical as per a typical Meteor airframe (I was well acquainted with one at our local ATC squadron).
Frame B is the two full span wing pieces, gear doors and engine rings. The latter are marked 'do not use' on the instructions and are indicative that other boxings of the kit are in the pipeline. As with the fuselage the panel lines are restrained and fine. Not noticeable with a casual inspection, but showing up in the photos are whispers of flash. It's a very small amount, won't take much effort to remove and doesn't really detract from the overall moulding quality.
If anybody comes up with etched airbrakes you will have a considerable challenge in routing out the recesses. Frame C caters for the engine internals, undercarriage and underwing tanks. The engine detail is not extensive, but quite sufficient at this scale to give a good effect with the centrifugal compressor fronts and turbine blades/vanes at the rear. Absolutely no see-through effect. The wheels have tyres with nice flats moulded in and I like the one piece nose gear which I think is perfectly acceptable and won't collapse on you. I'm less impressed with the main gear which is joined at the knuckle and previous experience with this arrangement is not good. Apart from the simplified (but barely visible) compressor fronts the level of detail is good and the parts are finely moulded.
Frame D consists of the remaining engine pieces and the cockpit internals. There is no detailing on the fuselage sidewalls, you get to build a tub, seats, scopes, panels and controls from separate pieces and considering we're looking at a 1/72 kit this is very impressive. The resulting tub will look very busy and whilst I'm sure resin sets are on the way, you may well ask yourself if there is much point? A PE set may provide some enhancement and I think a lot of modellers would want to at least add seat harnesses, but again a lot of the plastic provided looks perfectly acceptable. The only other thing I would concede apart from harnesses is panel fronts, because there are no decal instruments to add to the panels, which in this day and age is a bit of a shortcoming. 
Last of the plastic is Frame E and Clear Parts. Frame E is mostly optional parts for the different versions that will be appearing in due course, but a couple of them are required for the NF12. Clear Parts do mostly what they say on the instructions, they are clear, the flat panels being distortion free but the curved shoulders are always going to be a problem. The rear part of my canopy is slight soapy, but everything is usable.
Onto the decals. These are typical of what you might expect from a Special Hobby kit, extremely competent, but not quite drop-dead gorgeous (which means they're pretty good). With this variant of Meteor there's not much to choose from other than gree/green camouflage and a black radome. The colour is in the heraldry of which comes aplenty. The 64 Sqdn diamonds and the 46 Sqdn arrows look pretty good, but the 25 Sqdn bars are a fail (I do have a solution, more anon). My references indicate these should be silver (somebody say if I'm speaking out of turn), but are printed a pale bluish grey on the sheet. The remainder of the sheet looks good, with comprehensive stencilling and wing walks, but as mentioned above no dials for the panels.  
Somebody in the art department must have slipped up, because you get a little addendum sheet with characters for the nose gear doors and a couple of stencils.
Here's the front sheet of the instructions (I like these little glossy handbooks), the instructions themselves are well illustrated throughout and shouldn't give you any trouble during assembly. As well as the paint guides, the instructions provide reasonable colour notes. Paints quoted are Mr Hobby and Mr Color.
Before wrapping up, about those 25 Sqdn bars. The solution is...wait for it...Modeldecal Set 92. This set has the requisite bars, not to mention sets for another seven squadrons. Not all those illustrated are for NF12s but you can do any amount of mixing and matching to get a result. The beauty of using this set is that the kit decals have the serials that are not included on the Modeldecal set for WS665. While you're on the Hannant's website you might also want to order set 93 and get another seven squadrons worth of RAF heraldry...They're a measly £3.99 a pop, post free. I bought mine years ago, been waiting for the right kit to turn up.
Set 92
Set 93
Get them before they disappear!
OK, back to the main plot. I like the look of this kit very much, but as ever the real proof of the pudding will be in the building. This kit has several similarities to the original MPM/Special Hobby F8, for instance the one piece lower and upper wing halves and the breakdown of the undercarriage. That particular kit required a lot of care to mate the wing to fuselage and it will be something to look out for. As for the remainder of the kit, the internals are some way ahead of the F8, or any other 1/72 kit that I can think of. Without the benefit of actually building one I'd suggest that this is probably the best available Meteor kit of any mark in 1/72, so for post RAF Tifosi this is a must have, probably in multiples. With other NF variants still to come there is also the possibility of trainers. I doubt will see any more single seaters, they're already covered in the MPM/Special Hobby catalogue. Apart from the aforementioned Tifosi I'd also recommend this kit to anybody who likes playing around with tiny but detailed cockpits and for those who enjoy colourful heraldry on their display shelving.

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