Build: Mirage-Hobby 1/48 PZL P.42 Part 1

The PZL P.42 light bomber, based on the PZL.23A Karas’, was built during 1936-1939 at the PZL factory in Warsaw. The design team headed by Stanislav Prauss was working on developing the PZL.23 Karas’.

In this prototype, the design was experimentally altered. It was fitted with twin vertical tails and a retractable under-fuselage cupola for the bomb aimer/gunner. This improved the effectiveness of the rudder, particularly when diving, and improved the field of fire of the upper rear gunner. The cupola, when retracted, reduced the drag considerably. It was lowered on its rails under the weight of the bomb aimer when he entered it and retracted automatically on rubber cords when he left.

The aircraft was first flown in April 1936 at Warsaw Okecie airfield. The concept proved successful, except for the cupola lowering-retracting mechanism. Experience gained with this design was used when developing, in 1937, the new PZL.46 Sum reconnaissance bomber, the planned successor of the Karas’.

The sole example of the PZL.42 was delivered, after completion of testing, to the 1 Pulk Iotniczy (1st Air Regiment) in Warsaw, and then to the Szkola Podchorazych Lotnictwa (Polish Air Force College) at Deblin, where it was used as an instructional air-frame. The aircraft was destroyed during bombing of Deblin by the Luftwaffe in September 1939.

It is noteworthy that by the time of its destruction the aircraft had been repainted in a standard air force colour scheme, with Polish national markings on both sides of both fins. (PM)

A Note From H.G.

I’m not going to criticize nor glamorize this kit or Mirage Hobby. Any comments are for your benefit as a building aid and hopefully will help the manufacturer in future efforts. Considering the amount of thought which went into this replica and how rare the subject is it was nice of them to take on such a project. Many thanks to Mirage Hobby and Paul Tosney for sending this kit my way so that you could have an interesting read and perhaps pick up some pointers.

Preparation:

The first thing you’ll want to do is triple read the instruction manual. Personally, I call it a Builder’s Guide, but that’s just me. The reason I say triple read is because you’ll find doing some steps out of order will greatly help in fitting parts and painting sub-assemblies. Once your plan is in place then you can label your sprue trees and eliminate the unused parts to avoid confusion. It will also help to read this article in its entirety then revisit it as you need. With respect to tools and supplies, I’ll mention those throughout the build process. I don’t have every tool on the planet for hobby work, yet my draws are reasonably stocked. What was used are the items I found which would do the best job. The greatest tools of all, of course, will be your patience and care.

 

The build:

 

I always cut or photocopy the paint call outs and have them taped to my workstation. It so much easier to glance to one side for a particular colour than to be leaving through the manual. Mirage Hobby has listed a few paint manufacturers so it’s easy to find a match depending on your paint preference. For this build, I’ll be using several brands.

You’ll begin by assembling the spinner and propeller. The inside of the base calls for aluminium so I hand painted it with Testors and later filled it with BluTac before priming and paint.

Some filling and sanding are needed for these sinkholes. The designers made the fit in such a way that it would only seat in the proper position, but these rear gullies would definitely be noticed unless taken care of. For this, I used Tamiya grey putty which I found out later did not like the additive Mirage Hobby put in their plastic.

With step 1 being set up you’ll need to clean the parts for step 2. You’ll some nice detail in the engine assembly which was painted with Tamiya X-10 Gun Metal. This worked out well with taking Tamiya Black Panel line Wash and XF-16 Flat Aluminum for the dry brushing.

All the parts were first primed with Mission Model Paint Primer which adheres very well while not covering any detail.

The engine cowling bezel had quite a few sunken areas which I can only assume were molded this way to represent a weathered and used look. However, I ended up filling what might have been purposely designed dents. I’ll wait for a reply from Mirage Hobby about that.

XF-1 Flat Black went on the propellers and then a few mist coats of Vallejo Premium Matt Varnish sealed things up. Later the engine bezel will get a light touch of 50/50 thinned X-19 Smoke to warm it up enough to look closer to the paint guide. A thin gap is present where the propeller assembly meets the engine, but it’s so minor I didn’t bother making it flush. Ultimately that’s your decision.

 

Next, we tackle some of the interiors in step 3. It’s important to note that the sprue gate connections are not consistently molded. Some are wide and actually on the parts while others are thin and barely touching. Normally I’d keep the flat end of my GodHand side cutters about 2 or 3mm away from the part, but the plastic is very soft it would draw the cutters into the part. That meant more filling and sanding, so turn the cutters the other way and snip half a centimetre away. Another option I used was testing out the best way of cutting on the unwanted parts. It won’t take you long before you figure what works for you the best, just remember there are very delicate parts you’ll be working with.

The pilot’s seat and controls have some nice detail and the PE belts bend easily. The foot pedals are not the kit part because this is where I discovered turning the side cutters in the opposite direction was the best way to separate them and not have plastic projectiles which will be lost forever. Trust me, I searched for an hour… well maybe more than an hour.  Luckily the part was well represented in the instructions to scratch build a counterfeit. Vallejo Sky Blue was used for the canister with Tamiya for the remaining colours.

Moving on to step 4 you’ll have a choice of ammo canisters and some remarkably cool but challenging Photo Etch to work with. These machine guns were not difficult to build, they just need patience and a very fine pair of tweezers. I went to the extent of filling a set down to needle points and had my Optivisors on 3.5X magnification. Some thin rubber went in the teeth on the alligator clips of my Third-Hand Holder so that I wouldn’t damage these very fragile guns.

I used Gorilla Brand CA glue for this, but I caution you not to do the same. This brand has a good shear strength, but “Blooms” cloudy and looks crusty if not painted. Currently, another brand is on order. Great care must be taken to hollowing out the barrels. Even my .30mm drill bit was too large and I had to use a needle. They were then sprayed with Mission Model German Grey. You’ll find out in a future step why one has the flat canister. Also be aware that there is a noticeable burring of the sprue tree which throws off the parts. After sanding this out the barrels are extremely thin and will snap with even a nasty word. A very light touch of silver was then dry brushed.

Step 5 builds up the rear dorsal gunner component of the interior. Again, some very delicate parts need attention and PE attached. This is where, as with all parts, test fitting and test fitting again are important. They have to be as illustrated or it will throw off their placement down the road.

When planning for the priming and painting stage it’s wise to not attach the seat or gun assembly to the cradle. They will simply be in the way and likely to break off when masking. Get them ready for the final assembly though so you can cross them off the build list.

The spare ammo canister assembly in step 6 has two points to remember. First, the carousel has a notched connecting pin, but the interior frame has no hole to put it in. Snip the thinner part of the pin off or drill an appropriate hole. Second, the thin wider ammo canisters will not fit properly in the crescent-shaped slots. In the parts guide, Mirage Hobby have you discard the more narrow fatter ones but these do fit properly.

Step 7 is by far the most complex section of the build. Consider this like you would a full plate of food and take one bite at a time. For starters, the detail is pretty good and deserves a steady hand when painting. Mirage Hobby printed a very nice colour guide to assist you and with all the different colours and instruments will make for an interesting item to show to friends and fellow modellers. I used The Scale Modellers Supplies (SMS) brushes for the fine elements because the materials they use are very forgiving and the grip is excellent for long periods of work on a project. They ship internationally from Australia and have an online store at www.scalemodeller.com.au.

I wasn’t being lazy or forgetful by not painting the side walls a medium to dark grey. In fact, the colour of the plastic was ideal and would look terrific with a panel line wash and dull coat. Note that the connecting framework does get painted silver later and you need only one machine gun for this part of the assembly.

On the topic of machine guns, the starboard gun heat shield is a stretched sprue and rolled Photo Etch. Unless you have a PE roller I found it very difficult to make this part round and look realistic. If the PE was thinner then maybe it would have turned out better, but as is it looks close. It is a shame that only a few millimetres will be seen for the time that went into making it. You’ll also have to be exceptionally careful when handling this component in the future.

A real treat of the project was the instrument clusters. The pilot instrument panel decal went on like a dream and conformed perfectly. I keep my filtered water in a small bowl resting on a coffee mug warmer. Micro Set is applied to the part then the decal is added and let sit for five minutes after the excess fluid is removed with a paper towel and cotton swab used to help it conform. Then another coat of Micro Set is applied and let dry before I gently brush on Micro Sol. The frame of the panel is painted with X-25 Clear Green and while the image is a little out of focus the effect is really cool. The rear instruments are a combination of PE and decals. This section is a little fiddly to get the PE in place so you’ll have test fit and test fit again, but well worth the effort considering it will be in the exposed area of the upper gunner.

Now the fun begins with bringing this all together. It goes without saying that test fitting is required, but I’m going to take this a step further. Each and every piece has to be placed and tested separately and on both sides. For example; the connecting framework both have to be level with each other or the underbelly section of the wings will be off and need a lot of sanding, filler and more sanding. You’ll need to trim the flash from their slots to make this happen. How properly they go in will ensure the right placement of the pilot section. I used tape, elastics and BluTac to keep the two haves from falling apart while test fitting everything else, yet the true challenge was about to be seen.

 

Sometimes even the best thought out plans are not enough and what’s called for is true patients and care. For every problem, there is a solution and here is mine for you to use or adapt to make your own. First, use a slower setting cement. I used Tamiya regular yellow label in conjunction with extra thin and worked my way back. Here’s how; the instrument panel support that fits into the side wall square slots don’t have a stop. They slide back and forth and constantly wanted to fall down on the foot pedals. The solution was to hold them in place flush with the outer side of the wall until I could be confident enough to wrap an elastic around the walls and over the slot holes. A small length of sprue was twisted in the rubber band until the tension was right and then was left to harden… all under a very watchful eye mind you. Then the unglued cockpit assembly was married to the side walls and the forward bracing frame then it was cemented after fine-tuning.

The right, or should I say straight side was ready for the middle support brace and radio component frame and fine-tuned enough to pull the left side over to be glued.

Again, using slower setting to start the bond then extra thin to help speed things along.

I certainly hope this warp was just in my PZL P.42, never the less it is something that Mirage Hobby should be made aware of, moving forward.

Rubber bands were put in place along with more sprue rods being twisted to tighten things up enough, but not so much as to throw the assembly off. Please take note that it is easier to have the spare ammo canister and frame out when trying to make these parts fit properly and can easily be added when this section had been allowed to cure overnight.

Steps 8 through 12 deal with the landing gear and give you the option of having the wheel fairings on or off. This personal preference and both require the inside to be painted black. I liked the extra detail and from what I could gather the hanger and this aircraft were destroyed when the fairings were off.

 

Either choice looks interesting and worth some consideration. More test fitting and clean up is required and because Mirage Hobby opted to go without locator pins you’ll have to be careful when cementing the two halves. Be sure to push the struts all the way up to expose the nub that will eventually fit in the underbelly. Please note that a seam line is present at the front of the landing light housing, but with a few extra coats of hand brushed paint will make it look as if it was part of the design. Who knows… maybe it was.

While the belly colour is sky or light blue the primary colour is Khaki. For this, I’m using Tru-Color Paint (TCP-1401) Armor Olive Drab 2 from the years 1939 to 1941. It matches the colour scheme from the paint guide and is a wonderful product to work with. It’s a solvent based acrylic so make sure to have some ventilation. That said, it dries in the blink of an eye, sprays straight from the bottle and looks fantastic. Their website is www.trucolorpaint.com where you’ll find a huge variety of colour selections. Testors silver was painted on the inside of the landing lights and wheels then XF-85 Rubber Black went on the tires with flat aluminum on the struts. Two mist coats of flat varnish went on before the light domes were cemented with Tamiya Extra Thin.

Steps 12 through 16 require careful thought, planning, looking forward and the right tools. The instructions look straightforward enough, yet the actual implementation is far from what’s illustrated.

In step 13 you are to fold the belly gunner’s platform side walls. This is not possible because of the of the thickness of the plastic. It will be too rounded and hang too far over to fit into the underbelly section. The first thing I did after noticing this was to cut off both sides entirely from the rounded floor. I used my fine jewellers saw because it gave a long thin cut.

Then in step 14 you’re supposed to remove most of the sides to match up with the height of the lower observation canopy. Mirage does not tell you how high this needs to be so you’ll have to cut the canopy first to find the correct amount to remove. Making these sides walls flush with the floor pan will take time and if you have a small grinding tool the job will go faster. When this little bit of surgery is complete you’ll be disappointed with the clearance for the gunner and nice detail in the machine gun. I’ll show an alternative later.

This is the reason for selecting the thinner ammo canister I mentioned above. That tiny amount of clearance above it will allow you to see the interior and looks a lot better. This section calls for aluminum with a canvas cushion for the gunner. That combined with the grey and German grey of the gun was too nice to be lost.

 

Once everything was worked out with this sub-assembly and test fitted again I masked off the canopy with Tamiya tape and held the clear part over a flashlight then carefully cut with a new number 11 hobby blade.

This will now be primed and painted then left to one side for the final assembly. The clear parts have good raised detail making them easy to mask, but their clarity is something I’ll talk about later.

Now it was time to address the lack of clearance to view the belly gun. In the photo I’ve seen recently this platform hangs down quite a distance. The problem is the parts won’t allow for an authentic look with lower canopy being the issue. Again, we have the plastic thickness to work out.

Snipping the corner from the PE fret I traced a scoring line to match the rounded part. And yes the Mirage logo will be on the inside. Using a diamond file to smooth the edges it was as good of a solution I could come up with.

Then the plastic was sawed away and the flat end bent a millimetre to have something to hold it in place. You can see by the picture how much more viewing space there is. Once it’s filled and sanded smooth the piece looks pretty good.

And this brings us to the end of page 3 in the builder’s guide and the final step in part 1. Part 2 will have more cosmetic surgery, upgrades and build pointers. Thank you for staying with me and I hope you’ll enjoy the next one.

 

H.G.

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