This kit deserves its reputation for terrible engineering, but it’s a sad indictment of the industry that even among modern toolings, this is far from the worst kit I’ve finished.
Subject: OS2U Kingfisher
Extras: Homecut insignia and markings masks, Eduard canopy masks, Gaspatch eyes for the float braces
Fit: Acceptable in most parts, the problems are due to the engineering more than the parts themselves.
Engineering: Wings attach nicely, and I was surprised that the engine went together at all. Overall however it’s between “laughable” and “non-existent”.
Detail: Quite nice, limited rivet detail but otherwise good
Accuracy: Questionable, especially the weird “diamond painting” inserts on top of the wings.
I’ve done two other KH kits, and found them to be amateurish but not terrible, or at least, terrible in ways that don’t bug me too much. This however is one that has caused modellers I respect to say “nope, not even touching that”. So suffice to say I didn’t have the highest expectations going in. However while this has the reputation of being terrible, which as we will see is quite well-founded, this wasn’t the kit I intended to build. I opened and started Revell’s 1/32 Me 262, but within an hour found the tooling was so poor (it was about the fifth time I asked my partner for opinions on “should it look like that or is that all flash?”) that I put it away and built this instead. And I regret nothing.
The sad thing about this kit is the Kittyhawk were clearly trying very hard to make a high-quality product. They even protected the clear sprue in its own box, which is a nice little bit of attention to detail that gets you thinking this is well thought-out. Then you look at the sprue layout.
As the shortcomings of this kit are many and varied, I’m going to walk you through the build, pointing out the good and bad as we go. I’m also going to ask you to take a look at the post over on Doogs’ Models linked above, because he shows a bunch of nice sprue shots that really illustrate how poorly this is laid out. It’s up to you, but I’m going to assume that you’ve seen the sprues and know just how ridiculous this thing is.
We start with the engine, which is quite poor. The lunacy starts in the very first step, in which two round parts have to line up perfectly, using a single, offset locating pin. At least it had a corresponding hole…
The next step is to place a curved tube for each of the nine engine cylinders. I think these are the pipes taking intake air from the supercharger to the cylinders, and of course every one must align perfectly to meet the cylinders and – of course – there is no keying to assist you in achieving that. I decided to leave them off until the cylinder bank is installed, and it turned out there was no issue in doing that. As always with Kittyhawk, don’t assume the instructions are actually a functional or tested way to build the kit.
Within a couple of instruction steps I had already started ignoring any elements that looked a nuisance, on the grounds that “no one will ever see the back of the engine”. The completed model supports this theory, but of course KH subscribe to the “every panel open” school.
Another notable part didn’t actually seem to fit how the instructions tell you, and the alignment appears to involve putting a round peg in a square hole. So I cut that Gordian Knot (and the peg) clean off. As I found on the Su-34, KH is the only manufacturer whose parts fit is actually improved by removing any locating devices.
Everything behind the cylinders went together really well, and made a solid structure which is surprising considering those engine bearer struts. The cylinders and everything in front did not, and the problem is that these parts all need to be perfectly aligned for the cowl ring to fit. The exhaust manifolds are a sick joke all of their own: despite the back of each cylinder being drilled for an exhaust, only a couple of the pipes have corresponding pins. Worse, there is a strange overlapping arrangement for one cylinder, represented with an extra part that you just have to take a massive guess where it’s supposed to attach to the rest of the manifold.
So each cylinder has two heads, which cap the cylinder and their respective starfish stick. Of course the instructions have you add the starfish after the heads, and I think before would have helped get a good fit. The heads sit in a vague dimple wherein you have to guess at their position and orientation. Also three of the heads have to line up perfectly with the three slots on the back of the cowl ring to orient that. Why three? Maybe someone at KH figured that was the largest number they could reliably get to contact. Then again, I couldn’t get three of them to contact simultaneously, so who knows.
Then it all gets surreal. That weird starfish-looking piece with the sprue gates deep within the arms actually came out very neatly. I got a bit barbarous with it, cut the runners off far from the part and twisted them off, but a quick bit of clean-up with a scalpel and it looked fine. Likewise, the incredible house of cards engine with its flimsy-looking bearers, and the cowl ring that has to (somehow) attach to the cylinder heads that neither fit it now the cylinders, all actually go together and fit in a fairly solid assembly. The most annoying thing here is the cowl flaps, which are attached right at the end of the build and which do not fit at all. There is no reason that they couldn’t be moulded as a single ring rather than the awkward multi-part monstrosity they are, and attached directly to the engine bearers at this point. That would make a more solid assembly and cut out one of the worst parts of the kit.
Inside the fuselage
Colours are based on early-ish (pre -D model) Corsair descriptions, since both are Vought products. Surfaces in crew areas above the canopy level might be green or black, other crew areas typically Dark Dull Green (as opposed to a tinted zinc chromate) and other internal surfaces in Vought’s unusual “salmon pink” primer (which was zinc chromate tinted with a red pigment, possibly used to denote a second coat).
One part of the fuselage (under the observer seat) took a lot of squeezing to go together. To the extent that I was worried I would terminally deform the plastic. Never did find out why, but the fact that the halves eventually joined makes me think that maybe I just wasn’t barbaric enough back when I struggled with the AMKat.
Finishing the build
This is truly the epitome of all Kittyhawk’s work.
First came installing the wings and horizontal stabilisers. These clicked into place, with excellent fit and sat there with barely any need for glue. Very impressive.
Then I tried to install the floats.
First there’s the big float. You know the one: it’s a huge, prominent float like a second fuselage sitting under the fuselage. Now the thing with that, is that it is also the only ground contact the model will have, via the ground trolley provided, and of course the original has three posts which are in line along the centreline. Would you expect that these will be tough, big mounting points that make the model solid? Well, Kittyhawk disagrees, and provided three tiny stalks that attach to holes you have to open. They look anything but robust. Once joined it seems to have enough surface to provide a solid bond. Unfortunately one of the struts doesn’t quite connect, but are we even surprised? Note also that KH doesn’t mention the quite prominent bracing wires between the big float and the fuselage.
Then there are the wing floats, which give some idea of what it must be like to be a protagonist in an H.P. Lovecraft story. The first thing you notice is that while the instructions for the fuselage told you which holes to open for different versions, the wings do not. Fortunately, the locations of the holes could be seen through imperfections in the plastic and opened from the outside.
The float struts barely hold on the wings, with not enough plastic to secure their angle. Don’t even think about keying: these are tiny plastic nubs going into a drilled hole. The floats themselves are not drilled for the angled inner struts, but the struts don’t have locating pins anyway. What ensues is a horrible floppy mishmash until you finally get everything in a position that sort of aligns and doesn’t have a strut hanging loose. It’s nasty and easily the worst part of this build: like a macabre joke of a model kit.
Then we get to the cowl flaps. Now when Matt did his famous takedown of this kit (linked above) he said that they attach to the fuselage, for no apparent reason. It turns out this isn’t quite correct: there are three (count them!) little stubs a short way down the engine bearers, and the two halves (oh yes: despite the existence of the cowl ring, an annular piece here was beyond KH’s uh… capability. And it would have been so simple: just drop the ring onto the engine bearers on their way to bear the engine.) of the cowl flaps sort of… flap… loosely in the air, totally unsupported except at one end and 1/3 the way in from the other end. Solid this isn’t.
Now you get the joy of closing the cowl covers, which drop in between the cowl flaps and cowl ring. With the only locating assistance being little cut-outs for your exhausts to go in. Yes, those exhausts that you’re not convinced you even attached to the correct cylinders because the instructions are vague. At least how I aligned everything (because who knows how badly I messed up) the cutouts are too small. So they got enlarged, I dropped the cowl covers into place starting with the bottom one located between the exhausts, then the side ones, then the top. The top one turns out to be too small, but some extra barbarity and ham got it… close enough.
No question, this is one of those kits that drains mojo. The other Kittyhawks I’ve built were not too bad, and I enjoyed them enough that I would build either again. Not so with this one.
I painted the kit to represent this rather nice-looking example. There wasn’t much to this: a number “4” cut along with my insignia masks, and that was about all the customisation done. It’s a nice three-tone example showing a fun detail: the upper wing star and bar was originally outlined in red, and has been overpainted blue; now you can see some of the overpainting wearing off to expose the red.
One thing I wanted to represent on this was that the aircraft would regularly get wet when flown, and covered in sea salt spray the rest of the time. I don’t know whether this example flew from a seaplane tender or was a deck plane on a large warship, but that doesn’t affect this too much. It means that you won’t get much dirt and dust, but you will get a lot of salt accumulation and the sooty exhaust stains will be regularly soaked too. Thus I aimed for a more diffuse and patchy exhaust stain along with a lot of pale salt deposits on the upper surfaces. Finally because it was flown from a ship, I wanted to include some “tide marks” on the floats because it was common practice to make an oil slick to give the planes a smooth surface to land on, and some of that oil might stay behind as a grimy line.
One thing that went very poorly was my attempt to recreate the oily lines spiralling aft from the cowl fasteners. I tried dragging oil paint dots along the shape but it just came out too diffuse. Also, when you finally attach the transparencies, you see that you have been directed to paint these weird red lights on top of the wings. They look thoroughly out of place and if you’re building this I would recommend you treat them as part of the wing structure and paint as normal.