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Vector's 1/48 scale
LaGG-3 Series 66

by Brett Green

 

LaGG-3 Series 66

 


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Introduction


Background

The LaGG-3 was born of the urgent requirement to build a fighter from non-essential materials such as wood. Within a remarkably short period, the design team of Lavochkin, Gorbunov, and Goudkov (hence the LaGG acronym) delivered a prototype which was immediately ordered into production.

The first LaGG-3s to enter service suffered from being overweight and underpowered, poor manufacturing standards and slow climb performance. Its pilots were also endangered by a deadly high stall speed. The first versions of the LaGG-3 were inferior to the Messerschmitt Bf 109 F in every aspect of dogfighting except in the horizontal plane, and even then the Bf 109 could simply break off combat and climb to safety. The LaGG was so mistrusted that its pilots dubbed it the "lakirovanny garantirovanny grob ("guaranteed varnished coffin").

 



Despite these shortcomings, the LaGG-3 showed promise thanks to its very heavy armament and robust survivability. Even after being shot to pieces, a LaGG could often limp home to its base.

Later versions of the LaGG-3 were far superior machines with more more powerful engines, leading edge slats (eliminating the high stall speed), lighter weight and overall performance superior to a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G. Later still, the airframe was further streamlined with measures including retractable tail wheel, and stripped of additional weight.



Vector's Late Version LaGG-3

Vector has chosen one of these late versions, the LaGG-3 66 series, as the first kit in their 1/48 scale LaGG family.

The kit comprises 58 parts in grey-green coloured resin; 1 clear vacform part; printed acetate sheet (instruments); and markings for three aircraft.

The resin is perfectly cast and beautifully detailed. It is amongst the most impressive casting that I have seen.

Being a largely wooden aircraft, surface detail is minimal but it is subtle and appropriate where present. The recessed rivet detail on the engine cowl is incredibly fine. Fabric detail on control surfaces is convincingly restrained.

 

 

Construction

 

With most models, especially resin kits, parts preparation is the first step. In the case of Vector's LaGG-3, this is a very quick job.

The wings are supplied almost ready to use, with no casting blocks or strips to remove. There are a couple of raised circles on the mating surfaces of the fuselage halves only take a few minutes to remove. A few swipes of the fuselage halves against some medium grade abrasive paper, and these major parts were ready to assemble.

The cockpit comprises nice deep sidewall detail cast onto the inside of the fuselage, a separate fuselage floor with structural detail, and a very nice pilot's seat with the harness cast in place. The instrument panel is resin too, with a separate sheet supplied with printed acetate instruments. Nothing else is required.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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I spent a bit longer than usual painting the cockpit because the detail was so nice.

The cockpit paint job commenced with a coat of Tamiya Flat Black followed by Tamiya XF-66 Light Grey, which seems to be a reasonable match for VVS Interior Blue-Grey. This colour was misted in several thin coats onto the parts at a high angle, leaving natural shadow areas in black..

This was followed by an oil wash using a heavily thinned mixture of Raw Umber and Lamp Black. Next, details such as straps, knobs and buckles were picked out with acrylic paints and a fine brush. The next step was applying wash of Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black acrylic paint to the edges of framework, piping, electrical wiring and harness straps to add further depth to these structural features. A fine brush was used for this precise task. Finally, chipping was simulated here and there with a well-sharpened 2B pencil.

The whole cockpit finally received a coat of Polly Scale Flat.

It took me a little while to figure out the exact alignment for all the cockpit parts. The single photo of this area in the instructions did not answer all of my questions. The third thumbnail photograph (above) is a side view that might help other modelers in this respect.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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I damaged the delicate canopy rail in the area under the port side window while handling the model. I sliced the remaining section of the rail off, and replaced the entire length with thin plastic strip.

The small side windows behind the cockpit are not supplied, so I cut out the approximate shape from the waste of the kit's vacform sheet. This material has the advantage of being quite thick, and therefore offers a decent surface to accept adhesive. The windows were trimmed and sanded to shape, dipped in Future and, when dry, secured into their enclosure with superglue. I was quite apprehensive about these windows, but in the end they were unexpectedly easy.

The balance of construction was incredibly fast.

The exhausts were glued in place, and the main components test-fitted. It looked like there would be a small gap at the leading edge of the port-side wing root, so I installed a spreader bar from plastic sprue to slightly widen the fuselage in this area. The result was a perfect fit at the wing root, but a new gap at the bottom of the nose. This was later easily eliminated with a smear of Milliput.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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The wing root intakes were solid, but my reference photos suggested that they should be hollowed out. I started out by drilling holes at each end of the intake, then carved out the opening with a sharp hobby knife.

No more than a swipe of Milliput and Mr Surfacer was required before the model was ready for paint.

 

 

Painting, Decals and Weathering

 

Paint

Before painting, I referred to the VVS camouflage Bible, Erik Pilawskii's excellent "Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941-45" to determine colour matches. If you have the slightest interest in VVS camouflage and markings, this book should be on your shelves.

All paint was applied with the Testor Aztek airbrush fitted with the fine tan coloured tip.

Prior to camouflage, the rear windows were masked and the frames sprayed Flat Black

Next, the lower surface was painted Light Blue. I mixed Tamiya XF-23 Light Blue with approximately 20% X-14 Sky Blue to obtain a fairly vivid shade. Once the entire lower surfaces were covered, I mottled the base coat with 100% XF-23 Light Blue to obtain a subtly irregular effect.

Gunze H422 RLM 82 was then applied to the upper surface. This colour was close to the FS equivalent for the Soviet upper surface green. With the first coat in place, the base colour was heavily thinned and mixed with approximately 15% XF-4 Yellow Green for the disruptive mottle. The objective here is for the variation to be barely noticeable once the model is finished, so subtlety (along with a willingness for trial and error) is the key.

Black can sometimes look stark and unrealistic on a model, so I mixed 50% XF-1 Flat Black with 50% XF-64 Red Brown for a "scale black" colour. This was painted according to the appropriate camouflage pattern in Erik Pilawskii's book. The camouflage was sprayed freehand (ie, without masks), but in a tight, semi-hard demarcation to match the finish seen in wartime photos.



Weathering

A very thin mix of Tamiya XF-64 Red Brown and XF-1 Flat Black was sprayed along selected panel lines. I focused on the metal nose and the wing reinforcement strips.

Light streaks and spots were also sprayed onto the larger areas of the wings and the fuselage to represent subtle staining of these wooden surfaces. The key to this technique is to slowly build up the effect it is very easy to go overboard!

A thin wash of Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black acrylic paint was applied with a fine brush to selected panel lines.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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Decals

The model received a coat of Polly Scale Gloss acrylic before the markings were applied. I used the kit decals except for the fuselage stars, which were from a generic Aeromaster sheet of Soviet national markings.

All decals proved to be opaque and free from silvering.

The completed paintwork was sealed with a two thin coats of Polly Scale Flat acrylic.
 

 

Finishing Touches and Decals

 

The vacform canopy supplied with the kit is quite nice but the frame detail is a little soft.

Falcon's Clear Vac set no.37 WWII Fighters Part Two includes canopy parts for the old LTD kit. I cut the canopy out out of the clear sheet and test-fitted. The fit was pretty good but the sliding section was not quite tall enough to completely cover the canopy rails. In fact, the kit canopy is the same height as the Falcon replacement and therefore suffers from the same problem.

I decided to extend the height of the canopy by gluing a section of plastic strip to each side. I thought that this would also provide a more robust join between the fuselage and the canopy. In fact, the plastic strips slotted snugly into the canopy rails. If I had wanted, I could have left the canopy workable, but I eventually glued it in position.

I glued two short lengths of fine copper wire to the fuselage section above the instrument coaming. These acted as positive locating points for the thin vacform windscreen.

Now the canopy sections were masked with strips of Tamiya tape and sprayed the upper surface camouflage colours.

Following a final coat of Polly Scale Flat, masking was removed from the canopy.

 

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The smaller details are just as impressive as the larger parts. To their credit, Vector has supplied resin wheels in their latest two releases. These are noticeably nicer than the vinyl tyres included in their first two kits.

The undercarriage gear was painted and weathered with an oil wash. The gear doors were further dirtied up by spraying fine lines of my weathering mix. Both the wheels and the undercarriage doors also were treated to a pastel dusting with Tamiya's pastels applied with the "cosmetics brush" supplied in the set.

 

 

The fit of the main undercarriage parts was quite positive, although I did have to trim the top of the upper gear doors before gluing them in place. My references were not specific enough to tell the exact position and overlap of the covers for the gear legs and the wheels.

The tail strut attached via a single narrow point. This is not sufficient to hold the weight of the rear fuselage. The tail wheel sank further and further into the wheel well until it eventually disappeared. I removed the tail wheel and added a short, narrow plastic block in front of the top of the strut. This was superglued into the wheel well, resulting in a more robust fit.

I was concerned that the resin aerial mast might be too flexible to maintain tension on the distinctive twin aerial wires. I drilled out the base of the mast and installed a short length of wire as a locating pin to improve its chances of at least staying on top of the fuselage. I used nylon monofilament (invisible mending thread) for the aerial wires, secured with a spot of superglue at each end.

The exhaust pipes were brush painted in a 50/50 mix of Testor's Metalizer Gunmetal and Burnt Iron.

The very last task was painting the wing tip navigation lights in clear red and clear green.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Resin casting technology has reached a level of sophistication in 2007 that has seen some very ambitious full kits hitting the marketplace. In the best of these releases, cleanup of parts before assembly is easier, the main parts are thinner and less prone to warpage, and detail is world-class.

Vector's 1/48 scale LaGG-3 meets this high standard. It is, in my opinion, even better than Vector's excellent predecessors, the La-5 and La-5F, thanks to the absence of casting strips and the improved appearance of the resin.

I suppose comparisons with South Front's recent 1/48 scale LaGG-3 early version (4th series) are inevitable, even if they are somewhat moot. It is apples versus oranges. The Vector kit depicts a very different variant, occupies a vastly superior detail universe and will be much, much easier and faster to build. The only round that the South Front wins is cost, at around a third of the retail price of the resin Vector kit. So, the decision is one of philosophy - price versus quality, detail and ease of construction.

 



Myself? I like apples and oranges. I have happily built both - but Vector's kit was a faster, easier and more detailed experience!

If you are a modeller with limited experience, but you have dabbled with resin accessories and are considering your first full-resin kit, Vector's 1/48 scale LaGG-3 will be an ideal choice.

Thanks to Buffie's Best for the sample kit.


For a detailed look at the contents of Vector's 1/48 scale LaGG-3 Series 66,
see my FirstLook review elsewhere on HyperScale.

 

Additional Images

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

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Model, Images & Text Copyright 2007 by Brett Green
Page Created 12 January, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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