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1:350 HMS Illustrious from Airfix

By Charlie Scardon
By Tim Kidwell
Published: January 13, 2011
HMS Illustrious Airfix
HMS Illustrious flight deck
HMS Illustrious bow

Product: The fifth warship so-named, HMS Illustrious has served the Royal Navy since 1982. Although smaller than the typical aircraft carrier, Illustrious and its sister ships have proven to be invaluable. The new Airfix kit represents the Illustrious after its 2002 refit.

The kit contains 276 light-gray parts. The detail rates average or better, with the option of waterline or a full hull. If you build the waterline version, you will have to make a base plate. You also have the option to place the hangar elevators at different heights.

The instructions come in a 28-page booklet with 113 steps. You also get a nice  book about the history of the ship. The box art has two large photos of the real ship. The gift set also includes paint, brushes and glue.
The hull halves of my review kit were warped, which made construction a little difficult. Also, the instructions were confusing.

Construction starts with the hangar; then the hull sides go on. From there, the instructions jump to the island. Then you go back to the hull. Due to the poor fit of the stern section, I suggest you concentrate on getting the basic hull and flight deck done first. Once you come to adding the stern, pay special attention to how it fits to the rest of the hull. Even though I was very careful at this stage, it still needed a lot of putty and sanding for a smooth finish.
The superstructure went together well, but also required putty. The main parts have a seam that runs the length of the island. Other seams on the bridge and funnels need to be sanded and puttied, too. None of this construction is difficult — it just requires time and patience.

The small parts on the kit are very good, with finely detailed radars, guns, boats, and aircraft.
The decals are accurate and their registration is excellent, went on well and settled down with little trouble. And just in case you mess up, Airfix gives you some extras. That’s a nice touch!

The painting guide was helpful, but I would have liked to have had other paint colors besides Airfix’s. I didn’t use the paints supplied in the kit, which left me searching for appropriate colors. I settled on Testors Model Master dark and light ghost, and Floquil engine black and hull red. For the aircraft, I grabbed what looked close; Airfix calls out its own paint numbers but does not tell you what those colors are.

I spent 32 hours on the build, most of it fitting, filling, and sanding. The end result is a nice model, and it’s good to see a modern British ship in 1:350 scale. The kit’s details are wonderful, but its fit and engineering are poor. Still, I can recommend it to experienced builders.

To focus on selling a single model, especially in a store with hundreds or thousands of kits, isn’t the wisest use of your day. However, consider giving the Airfix line some time in the spotlight. Since it was purchases by Hornby, Airfix has worked hard to reintroduce its models to the world, while producing fine, newly tooled kits in a variety of subjects and scales. Put together a window display featuring some of the new Airfix kits, including the Illustrious, and run a sale on those and Humbrol paints.

Alternatively, you might take a similar approach, but include WWII and modern ships from a range of different manufacturers. It would be a good way to move sometimes very pricey merchandise and raise awareness for the great ship kits that are available.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to announce your event on your website, in your e-newsletter and on bag inserts.

Product: HMS Illustrious Gift Set
Maker: Airfix
Scale: 1:350
Stock No.: A50059
MSRP: $89.99
Availability: Check with you favorite model distributor

Good overall look and accuracy
Small parts are crisp and clean
Fit issues; confusing instructions