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ESCI's 1/48 scale
Macchi MB326H

by Brett Green

 

Macchi MB326H
76 Squadron RAAF

 


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Introduction

 

ESCI 1/48 scale Macchi MB326 kit dates from at least 1983, but it is fundamentally a nice little kit with crisply engraved and very petite panel lines, minimal moulding problems, straightforward construction and good fit.

Italeri recognised the value of this old kit by re-releasing the Macchi MB326 under its own label in 2004. It is still widely available today.

The area that most noticeably lets ESCI's Macchi down is the cockpit. The rudimentary tub, blank instrument panels and side consoles and oversimplified seats will be severely lacking under that large clear canopy. Surprisingly, in more than 20 years since this kit was first released, there has never been a resin cockpit update set offered.

Until now.

 

 


OzMods of Australia manufacture resin accessories in and multimedia kits in various scales, with a particular focus on Australian subjects. Their latest release is a replacement cockpit for ESCI/Italeri's 1/48 scale Macchi MB326. The configuration is best suited to one of the 97 Macchis that served with the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy.

For more information and many images of the Macchi MB326H in Australian service, see Darren Mottram's excellent three-part Reference Series from 1998 elsewhere on HyperScale.

Here is Part Two focusing on the cockpit and seats

and Part Three, Exterior in Detail

 

 

Construction

 

OzMods' Cockpit in the Box

When I received the OzMods sample earlier this year I decided that my ESCI Macchis had lingered in the garage for long enough.

OzMods' 1/48 scale Macchi cockpit comprises just nine parts in grey resin. All the parts were well presented with no casting imperfections present on my sample. The biggest component is the one-piece cockpit tub. This is ready to use, with the casting tub already sawn off the bottom.

Side console detail is very well done. Similarly, the instrument panels feature deep and authentic detail - a vast improvement over the ESCI plastic parts. The seats are another highlight. They are dressed with the various RAAF cushions and packs, but they are lacking any harness straps and ejection pull handles. These should be added using lead foil and wire (or similar materials).

The remaining pieces are control columns, canopy brace and canopy support.


 

Starting with the Cockpit...

Surprisingly, upper sidewall detail is not addressed in the OzMods cockpit so the first task was to measure and mark the interior sidewalls, then add some detail using plastic strip and wire. I also fabricated four oxygen hoses by wrapping very fine wire around slightly thicker wire.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

[../../photogallery/photo00030871/real.htm]

Next, harness straps were added to the seats. I wanted to dress the seat with the harness straps off the seat (stowed beside the seats on the consoles), so I used lead foil to permit me to position the straps after everything else was painted and the seats were installed.

I painted all the components black. The various black panels were masked off with Tamiya tape before the cockpit tub and instrument panels received their coat of Gunze Barley Grey. This might not technically be the correct colour, but the slightly glossy light grey looked appropriate.

Details were picked out with a fine brush. Decals were also used for more precision in tricky areas such as the instruments and fuse panels. Many of these punched and cut out of the relatively ancient ESCI decal sheet.

 



A number of Reheat placard decals were also applied. Washes were used only sparingly to maintain a clean look in the cockpit.

The fit of OzMods' cockpit components was perfect. No trimming, sanding or adjusting of the kit parts or the resin cockpit tub was required. There is also plenty of space for weight in the nose and under the cockpit to prevent this model from resting on its tail skid.

I spent more time on this cockpit than on most, but I was pleased with the result.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

[../../photogallery/photo00020128/real.htm]

 

General Airframe

In addition to their cockpit set, OzMods also offers the big 90 gallon wing tip tanks almost exclusively used on all but the very earliest Australian Macchis, machine gun pods, flaps and replacement nose gear for ESCI's old kit. I used all of these resin parts except the gun pods.

Casting of these parts was not up to the standard of the cockpit. The wing tip tanks suffered noticeable crazing and some misalignment along the centre line. Even so, this set was better than a second pair that I also had in my collection, so I slathered the affected areas in putty and sanded the surface smooth. The tanks eventually looked fine under a coat of primer.

 

 

One of the resin flaps was warped, but it was quickly straightened after dipping in hot water, followed by a second dip in cool water to freeze the corrected shape.

The flap sections were carefully removed from the upper and lower wing halves using a JLC Razor Saw and a sharp hobby blade, and the interior surfaces were bevelled to accommodate the new resin flaps.

 

 

The extra time spent in the cockpit and on the flaps was easily compensated by the balance of construction, which was completed in a few hours.

 

 

Fit was very good indeed with only minimal filler required.

 

Painting and Markings

 

All paint was applied with my Testor Aztek A470 airbrush fitted with the fine tan coloured tip.

Painting started with a coat of Alclad Grey Primer. The black leading edge boots and anti-glare strip were also masked and sprayed at this stage.

 

 

Next, the dark grey was sprayed over the entire airframe. I used Tamiya Spray AS-4 Grey Violet for this shade, decanted from the spray can into my airbrush paint cup. This colour looks too dark and too neutral for the Luftwaffe colour, but was just about right for my purposes on the Macchi.

I originally planned to have a slightly patchy finish on a well worn airframe, but I was not happy with the effect after several attempts.

I also started testing the ALPS decals from Hawkeye and found that the white backing decals remained translucent over the dark grey. I therefore painted white underneath some of the larger markings.

 

 

At this point, I was feeling a bit disheartened with the appearance of the model so I set it aside.

Five months later, early this week, I literally dusted off the plastic and resumed with a new enthusiasm.

I eventually decided to abandon the heavily weathered look, and sprayed over the patches. Two coats of Future were sprayed over the model for a glassy gloss in preparation for the delicate ALPS decals.

I wanted to build a particular machine, one of two transferred from the RAAF's 76 Squadron to 25 Squadron in Western Australia. Before transferring this Macchi, 76 Squadron "zapped" their emblem on the fin. The 76 Sqn Black Panther could be seen mauling a pink duck, their interpretation of the 25 Sqn Pink Swan emblem.

Hawkeye Models produced ALPS decals for a similarly "zapped" Macchi in grey/green camouflage, A27-05, but I wanted to depict the overall grey aircraft. I therefore needed new serials and some different stencils.

I sourced decals from all over the place, including the mauled pink swan from Hawkeye, ESCI kit decals, and several Model Alliance sheets.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

[../../photogallery/photo00012932/real.htm]

Polly Scale Flat was sprayed over the newly applied decals. There was no sprayed post-shading on this model, but I did add a wash of thinned oil paint to the control surface hinge lines, and Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black thinned with water in other panel lines.

Smaller parts were now added, including the undercarriage and "disco lights"- the orange strobes on the top and bottom of the fuselage. Other details not included in the kit such as blade and vane antennae were cut from plastic strip and card, and glued in place.

The kit canopy parts are thin and beautifully clear, so I did not bother to dip them in Future. OzMods supplies a cross brace and strut for the canopy, but the exact placement is not shown in the instructions and I could not find a clear reference photo. I hope that I have it right!

 

 

Conclusion

 

ESCI's (and Italeri's re-released) 1/48 scale Macchi MB326 is an underrated kit.

The release of OzMods' 1/48 scale Macchi MB326 cockpit was a welcome surprise and makes a huge visual impact on the bare front office of this otherwise respectable model. You will be further rewarded for your extra efforts in the areas of sidewall detail and seat harnesses.

With the addition of the big wing tanks and dropped flaps, the model takes on an aggressive yet graceful stance.

There are also a huge number of colourful marking options for this truly international jet trainer.



Photography

The model was photographed in HyperScale's studio using a Nikon D70 digital SLR. Illumination was via two studio flash units - one Bowens 250 and a generic 100 flash - on stands and illuminating from a high 45 angle from each side of the front of the photography table.

The camera was fitted with a Micro Nikkor 60mm lens.

 

 

ISO was set to 250, and the manual shooting settings were 1/100 of a second at f.29. The high aperture ensures good depth of field.

For the composite photos, the model was placed on a base of static grass and photographed, then cut out of the image and dropped onto background photos taken at Bankstown Airport close to my home in Sydney. Various tools in Photoshop were used to integrate the model and airport photos.

 

 

Additional Images

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

[../../photogallery/photo00027784/real.htm]

Model, Images & Text Copyright 2007 by Brett Green
Page Created 25 October, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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