Italeri 1/72 SM79 Sparviero
Model, Text and Photos by: Dave Pluth
As most folks will know, the SM-79 was used by the Italians as a bomber/torpedo bomber during WWII. Rather than wasting time with a great deal of history, I'll leave it to you (and the reference list at the end of this review) to figure out the details. After all you just want to know about building the kit.
The new kit consists of 105 pieces with an additional 13 clear pieces.
The molding is very nice in most cases. The panel lines on the wings are a bit overdone, but work out nicely for either drawing in or using a wash to bring out the panel lines. Conversely the molding on the cowls is quite a bit under done and will need a bit of re-scribing to improve the finished look.
The kit glass is overly thick and as you'll see later in the review, rather poor fitting. The tree arrangement (especially the ease of removal without damage) is very well done.
The instructions sheet also leaves just a bit to be desired. Locations of many pieces are less than obvious in some cases and will cause you to make errors if you are not careful. I would strongly suggest reviewing and re-reviewing the entire instruction sheet upon completion of each step. If you don't, you will miss something!
My first view of the cockpit left me a bit disappointed. It is extremely simple and there is little detail to be had. The seats are very much over simplified and no seatbelts (decals, molded in or otherwise) are provided. That said, when you complete the kit, you can see very little inside the cockpit (even with all the glass), so I don't know that I'd waste a great deal of time or money on it.
I chose to do the cockpit without the instrument panel decal. You are given an option for either a decal or a panel that you can paint with simple instrument outlines on it. In retrospect, I think I would have opted for this option as it does add just a touch more detail.
The next stage was to assemble the fuselage. This was a bit more difficult than I expected. The first phase was to put in all the glass on the fuselage. Sounded quite easy, but a fair amount of sanding/trimming/fitting is required to get things to fit. While not a huge deal to do, you just need to make sure that you do a lot of test fitting before putting any glue on. Also, I took the opportunity to mask all the glass using Bare Metal Foil before installing. This will save time masking later and is way easier at this stage than when the kit is together.
The biggest fit problem with regards to the windows is the curved windows that go near the upper gun deck. I wish I could tell you how I got them to work out, but frankly I didn't. My recommendation would be to take the extra time before putting parts 27 & 28 together.
The next phase is to put the lower gun bay into the fuselage as well as the cockpit. The cockpit goes in quite easily; however it's kind of difficult to figure out where exactly it goes based on the instructions.
The lower gun tub has a few fit problems as it appears to be just a bit narrow for the fuselage. Spend a bit of extra time here dry fitting the pieces and make the adjustments to the positioning before you glue the halves together. I didn't do this and my gun tub is slightly (very slightly mind you) off center.
In general, if you care careful, the rest of the fuselage goes together quite nicely, in fact the fuselage is quite pliable allowing the assembly to be quite easy as you can glue your way down the fuselage and align as you go.
One other area to watch is the cockpit greenhouse. Be very careful in adjusting to get it to fit. I over-adjusted (sanding off what I thought was an overhang on the top) and ended up having to fill and attempt to sand the area.
Wings, landing gear and more fuselage.
The landing gear is the next step. It is well engineered and fits together very well. It is also quite sturdy once assembled. This subassembly is put into the lower wing before attaching to the fuselage. These fit quite nicely after playing around with different positioning (magically it pops in to a tight fit).
The next step is assembling the wings. This kit does things a bit differently. You glue the lower wing onto the fuselage and then the upper wing on to that. This process actually works out quite well and allows the fit into the wing root to be quite snug.
There is quite a bit of filling to be done on the lower fuselage at this point. Between the gun tub and the lower wing there are some large gaps. I used gap filling superglue for this task. It's actually relatively easy to fill and sand the area as it is almost flat. This ended up being much less of a task than I had originally anticipated and worked out quite well.
The final phase of this stage was adding the elevators and rudder. A bit of filing and sanding is required to make things fit, but the overall effect is very nice once it is attached. The elevators went on quite well and I pulled one of the supporting rods from the parts tree (33B/34B) to ensure proper placement and elevation.
The last major piece of fuselage assembly was adding the pieces that would hold the engine nacelles on the wings. These proved to be somewhat testy to put in and required a great deal of fitting and filling to get them to fit. This would be one area that may be simpler if you assembled the wings in the more traditional method (separate from the fuselage) as you could more easily sand out some of the rougher spots. All in all it looked much more difficult than it was.
The engines themselves are very nice. The attention to detail is quite good and the prop blades are very fine. The propeller hubs are a spot that could use some help from a resin maker. The two kits that I have both have some basic molding problems (injection sinkage) that could probably be fixed with some work, but would be a nice opportunity for some simple resin pieces.
There was little else of interest in the building portion of things.
Painting and Markings
The kit comes with markings for four different aircraft with a real variety of schemes available (kitdecal.jpg). The schemes range from very simple green over gray to elaborate dapple patterns.
I chose to use Sky Decals set number 72003 (decal1.jpg decal2.jpg). These markings are actually for the old Airfix kits, but work quite nicely for our purposes.
Sky is probably the single best decal maker out there. They give you 60+ options for markings as well as a very nice color guide to reference various paint types and their Italian names. The decals settle in quite nicely without any chemical (sols or sets) enhancements.
The only downside to Sky Decals is their documentation is very limited. Because you get a booklet with many different schemes, there is little info on decal layout on the wings or any type of supplemental decal placement. Also, as the instruction booklet is black and white, it is hard to discern the real color layouts or what order to apply colors in.
That said, the Sky Decal sheets are probably the best value for your modeling dollar that you can get!
For paint I used MisterKit acrylic colors and a silly putty masking technique. The MisterKit paint is very different to work with than the enamels I normally use. The paint does not grab has hard as the enamels do (duh!) so you have to be more careful when working with the finished product so you don't scratch it. The paints also aren't very opaque. I learned quickly that you have to make several very thin passes to get the paint to dry correctly.
The biggest problem I had with the paint was to find a thinning agent. As the bottles have no instructions I did some experimenting. My first try was with the standard Floquil acrylic airbrush thinner (the blue stuff). This worked pretty well, but didn't offer much bite to hold the paint on. My next try was lacquer thinner, which was a complete no go. The paint wouldn't even mix with it. My final try was with mineral spirits with similar results to the lacquer thinner.
All in all the paint was OK, but nothing special as far as application. The color of the paint is terrific. It matched up with the colors from a couple of the color photo books that I have. The bit of struggle I had with the paint was more than made up for with the colors that they produced.
Using Silly Putty to Mask
As I had chosen a somewhat tiger striped scheme, I decided to use silly putty to mask the kit. Now this sounds kind of strange but the reality is that the putty is very pliable and much quicker and simpler to use than tape or paper masks which I had used previously.
Painting started with an overall coat of the underside color as something of a primer. (paint1.jpg). I then taped off the lower surfaces and sprayed with the next lightest color (paint3.jpg). I then rolled thin pieces of silly putty and laid them out over the yellow paint (paint4.jpg). The green surface (the next lightest color) was sprayed. Next, thicker pieces of silly putty were put on to protect the green surfaces (paint5.jpg) and the final coat of brown was sprayed (paint6.jpg).
The silly putty was now removed (and you can still reuse it, so don't throw it away!) and you can see the result (paint7.jpg, paint8.jpg). One thing to be very careful of is to not put paint on too thick. You will develop ridges that will be trouble later on when decaling. Fortunately the MisterKit paint is thin enough where this wasn't much of a problem.
Overall I enjoyed building this kit. I will say that there are challenges with it (I guess that's called modeling), but you don't get short-changed for the price of the kit. I spent about 25 hours on the kit, which is far more than I expected, but the end result was worth the effort.
My thanks to Roll Models for the review copy as well as the paints and decals for the review.
Savoia Marchetti S.79 in Action - squadron
Wings of Italy, The Italian Air Force in original WW2 colour pictures, Giorgio Apostolo Editor.
Courage Alone, The Italian Air Force 1940-1943 by Chris Dunning, Hikoki Publications.
Regia Aeronautica by Christopher Shores, squadron signal publication.
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