Zvezda La-5 – Cockpit and Main Assembly

When I was researching Zvezda’s La-5 prior to ordering, I kept coming across three broad areas of agreement.

  • First, in terms of detail, the La-5 and La-5FN before it represented a huge leap forward for Zvezda and marked them as a kitmaker to watch.
  • Second, in terms of engineering, the kit is…ambitious.
  • Third, fit can be a nightmare.

Throughout the build process, I’ve found two of those three to be true.

The Kit

For the most part and especially where it counts, Zvezda’s kit is extremely well-detailed, with precise and subtle panel lines, seams and rivets.

It’s a shame, really, that so much of the La-5 was basically skinned in plywood, since it leaves vast tracks of the external surfaces smooth. Even there, though, Zvezda managed to work in details. The fabric texture of the ailerons. The subtle swells around the plane’s internal ribbing. Everything is molded in a soft plastic that holds detail and responds to solvents like Tenax 7R extremely well.

The clear parts may be the weakest piece of the kit. Not that they’re bad, but they seem a bit thick and cloudy compared to the best on the market.

Construction

With the La-5, Zvezda seems to have taken Accurate Miniatures’ penchant for over-engineering and turned it up to 11. Relatively simple wings? Let’s make them a five piece affair and, better yet, let’s divide the upper wing surfaces into separate pieces! Relatively confined view of the cockpit? Let’s throw in a good portion of the internal structure, even though nobody will ever be able to see it!

There’s no skipping it, either. Aside from forming the cockpit “cage”, the internal structure is also integral to the construction of the forward portions of the plane.

This kind of engineering is usually a recipe for disaster. With so many pieces in play, one small misalignment is almost certain to steamroll into massive fit issues later in the build.

That’s where the soft plastic comes into play. The Zvezda’s plastic is sufficiently pliable that the internal structure and engine mount can be manipulated into place quite easily. With a bit of patience and a lot of test fitting, I encountered none of the atrocious fit issues that have seemed to plague others.

The Cockpit

It’s hard to really break the cockpit out as it’s own thing, as it had to be built in pieces as the plane came together. Overall, I think this approach is far more natural than the self-contained cockpit “tub” usually presented in model aircraft.

Overall cockpit detail is quite good. The only disappointment was the seat, which was pretty basic. I livened it up with a seatback pad made out of some cardboard snipped from the box, sanded at the corners, and painted. The seatbelts are strips of Tamiya tape painted deck tan. The shiny bits were taken off some Eduard photo etch seatbelts.

Despite the kit’s complicated buildup, I really enjoyed this cockpit.

Stabilizers, Ailerons and Cowl Assembly

Once the internal structure is in place and the fuselage sides are welded together, construction picks up. There’s not too much to say about the various control surfaces, save that they are all molded separately and can be attached at whatever angle you wish.

The cowl was something more of a hassle, and pretty much the only part of the kit that I wish had been engineered differently.

The problem is that the cowl is designed in such a way that it can be displayed open – to show off the engine and guns – or closed. If you’re building the plane closed up, this leaves you with four separate pieces and very little in the way of positive location. There’s the upper piece, consisting of the gun access doors and intake bulge, which extends from the cockpit forward to the front of the plane. Then there are two side pieces, I’ll call them cowl “cheeks”, and the forward cowl ring.

Getting these four pieces in place is something of a battle involving a lot of tape and patience. There’s also a “tongue” protruding from the lower wing that, at least in my case, had to be forced down in order to align with the cowl cheeks.

On top of all this…the cowl area also boasts some of the best and most subtle detailing the kit has to offer, but there’s pretty much no way to join everything together without marring at least some of that detail.

It’s an unfortunate situation that really makes me wish Zvezda had offered some alternative pieces for building the opened versus closed options.

So far, though, so good. Zvezda has really outdone themselves with the La-5. It builds up great and has me eager to tackle their new Bf-109F-2 (not to mention the second La-5 I have in my stash…).

Next up, painting!

 

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