When I started building models as a kid, I had no idea what I was doing. Gradually, that changed. And one of the first kits that I actually, legitimately tried at was Monogram’s venerable OS2U Kingfisher.
Since then, I’ve had a soft spot for the awkward floatplane. So when Kitty Hawk announced they would be making a new-tool Kingfisher – and in 1/32 scale no less! – I was thrilled.
When sprue shots and reviews started coming in, I was still thrilled. When I got the kit and briefly pawed through the bagged plastic, I was still thrilled. So thrilled, in fact, that I decided I was going to build this sucker for an upcoming magazine article. I even found a rather battered Kingfisher I wanted to tackle:
Then, I actually got started on it. The front and back halves of the R-985’s cylinder banks didn’t fit together because – get this – the locating pin was too big. Okay, annoying, but no real biggie. Drill the corresponding hole out a bit wider and viola.
And then I looked at what came next.
Really, Kitty Hawk? Really?
Okay. So far, things just seem annoying. And the Kitty Hawk OS2U has two major dings against it:
- Parts that don’t fit very well (cylinder banks, cylinder heads, pushrods that are too long…)
- Awful sprue gating
If that were it…again…just annoying. But look at this shit:
So we already have sadistic sprue gating, mediocre fit and mis-sized locating pins. And with these ingredients, the kit asks you to build an overly complicated engine and mount subassembly that forces you to paint and assemble, paint and assemble, paint and assemble ad nauseum.
But wait, there’s more! The valve covers, which fit the cylinder heads only vaguely, are also the points by which you attach the forward cowl ring. And…they don’t fit the cowl attachment points!
And on the back side, you not only have to attach spindly engine mounts to the firewall, you also have to attach the instrument panel and IP coaming to the other side, and put sandwich all of this between the fuselage halves. I’m sure there’s no chance to fuck up any alignment of anything there! Or that one very slight misalignment five steps earlier could come back to totally screw you at this point!
After you for some reason attach the cowl flaps to the fuselage (WTF), we come to the icing on the cake. Around this janky assembly, you now get to install four cowl panels. Hiding all that work, and all I’m sure without introducing a single gap of any kind.
I would barely trust Tamiya with this kind of a job…and I have every confidence they’d size their locating pins properly. Kitty Hawk, with their track record and with the experience of the opening stages of this kit?
Engineering and Fit
It’s funny. The modeling community at large will obsess over minor points of accuracy, will deem kits with small shape problems to be garbage, but engineering and fit rarely come into play. I mean…there’s a multi-part comparison extravaganza of various 1/32 Bf 109Es up on Large Scale Planes. And it looks at elevator shape and gear bay design…but it never mentions things like, oh, the disastrous fit of the cowl on the Eduard kits.
Eduard accidentally makes their 1/48 Bf 109G-6 a 1/46 scale kit and everyone dogpiles them. HK Models makes some goofs on the shape of the Mosquito B.IV and you’d think they were committing war crimes. Trumpeter does anything and they’re attacked for it.
But when a company screws the pooch with regard to engineering and fit, somehow it’s on us, and shit like “use your modeling skills” gets tossed about to quash any dissent.
If I’m going to pay $90 for a kit, I expect some level of quality. I expect shit to be molded in a way that allows me to remove parts from the sprue without breaking them. I expect parts that fit most of the time. And as bonus points, I’d like to see engineering that takes into account not only the immediate step, but the larger build as a whole. If I have to paint and then assemble, that shit better go together like lego bricks.
Now, I realize that some modelers relish the challenge of a kit like this. Cool, bully for you. I’ll fully admit that building is more a means to an end for me. And that’s certainly driving my frustration with Kitty Hawk and Italeri and others.
But…I have a larger philosophical problem with giving kitmakers a pass for shitty engineering. And it’s a simple one. I don’t like carrying water for others’ mediocrity. If I’m going to invest my time, effort and passion into a build, I want to invest it in a kit that was invested with the same in its design. It’s why I like Tamiya and Wingnut Wings so much. It’s why I’m a big fan of what Tanmodel is trying to do.
And it’s why it’ll be a long, long time before I buy another Kitty Hawk kit.