Savoia Marchetti SM.75 (early version). This was my first review article for Scale Aircraft Modeller International, written in 2002.
Kit No. MS-81
Panel Lines: Recessed
Status: Revised Tooling
Type: Limited Run Vacform & Injection Moulded Plastic
Parts: Vacform 30, Clear vac 20, Injection 33 (duplicated).
Decal Options: None
Obtain in UK via: Aeroclub
True to Broplan form, they've managed to cram a large kit into a relatively small box measuring just 23cm x 13.5cm x 5cm. The kit consists of six vacform sheets for the main component parts, all of which had a mixture of raised and engraved panel lines of varying quality, a duplicate set of rather soft flash-heavy pale grey injection moulded detail parts and a clear vacform sheet for the canopy and side windows. Glued on the top of the box is a colour laser showing the plane in "Ala Littoria" markings whose ivory colour scheme has been reproduced as a bright canary yellow. Don't use it as a guide whatever you do.
The instructions are printed on both sides of a single A4 sheet with aircraft details and 2 colour schemes on one side and an exploded view construction diagram & parts breakdown on the other. FS numbers are supplied for colour reference purposes. Despite the minimalist approach, it's quite easy to follow.
First task was to free all the parts from their vacform sheets and prepare them for assembly, a process that took up an evening or two... or three. All the injection moulded items were removed from the sprues to clean up all the heavy flash and prevent any hold ups during construction.
There is a detail drawing showing the arrangement of the cockpit parts, which was limited to two 4-part pilot seats (which look as if they have been made out of scaffolding poles), a two part instrument panel with raised surface detail and two control columns. There's no other internal detail except for a cockpit floor and bulkhead. The overall interior colour is presumably a pale grey and the seat cushions are likely to be brown or black leather with canvas backrests.
With the fuselage windows having already been opened up during the preparatory stage, including the cockpit windows, the side windows were fixed in place with expoxy glue to prevent them from being dislodged during construction. The view through each window is very poor, so it isn't necessary to do an immaculate interior.
The raised panels lines on the rear fuselage parts were used to aid alignment of the separately moulded rear section, some of which would be inevitably lost after filling and sanding the subsequent join. Even though the recommended procedure of adding reinforcement strips to the fuselage interior was followed, the thin flexible plastic made it difficult to get an absolutely smooth seam once the fuselage halves were mated together. More reinforcement may have helped. The gun turret parts were consigned to the spares bin, as the version I chose to model did not have one.
As commonly used on other Broplan kits, the wing support spar was a very useful structural feature which doubles as dihedral alignment when joining the large wings to the fuselage (in this case hardly any). Some filler was used along the bottom join, despite care taken to ensure a good fit. The horizontal tail surfaces fit quite well, with only a touch of filler needed. The overly thick support struts needed a fair amount of cleaning up and thinning down, so maybe Contrail strut would be a better bet.
The rather basic injection moulded radials have the correct single row 9-cylinder Alfa Romeo layout and when painted over and given a wash of dilute black, any detail is revealed quite effectively. The 3 part cowlings are made from an injection-moulded front section, with two vacform halves taking up the rest. They assembled together very well. The fuselage engine cowling has a slightly different appearance to the wing mounted engine cowlings, which in turn were handed (the starboard engine had the exhaust placed away from the cockpit to prevent the flame from interfering with the pilot's vision). The engines are glued to cones which are moulded as part of the wing or fuselage, the cowlings just sliding into place over them. A very neat and elegant solution and is a vast improvement over the integrally moulded cowlings used on their previous Savoia S.74 model. The crudely moulded propeller blades needed to be thinned down a great deal and there are parts provided to model them with or without spinners. It was normal practise to leave the blades in natural metal (or pale blue in some cases), with only their rear surfaces painted black to reduce glare.
There is a small detail drawing guide for the undercarriage. The vacform doors helped to hide the rather crude appearance of the injection moulded struts and there was a slight problem centering the vac form wheels. The tail wheel follows the usual Savoia design, as used on the S.74, S.79 and S.81, but Broplan have supplied only a wheel, so a strut was scratchbuilt to fix it in place.
Looking at various reference photos shows a few detail items missed by Broplan. They included the rather prominent blade antenna, a loop aerial and a row of what appears to be vents along the top of the fuselage. One of the last tasks was to add the cockpit windows (which were added individually rather than as a complete unit) and finally the large mass balances for each aileron, which are easily lost!
The actual aircraft had a span of 29.68 meters, a length of 21.60m and a height of 5.10m. The kit has a 414 mm span, a length of 300 mm and a height of 70 mm, give or take a millimetre. This means it scales out perfectly and, in view of the finished size of the model, is a commendable feat by Broplan. They have succeeded in capturing the rather graceful but still purposeful lines of the Savoia extremely well.
There are two suggested schemes on the instruction sheet. They are for an ivory coloured "Ala Littoria" civilian aircraft, which had large black I-LOBI registration letters on each wing and rear fuselage, a tricolor on every empennage, a tricolor band around the fuselage, plus various badges dotted all over the fuselage. All in all, a very colourful scheme, especially when compared to the other rather drab Regia Aeronautica commandeered aircraft which was overall Oliva Verde Scuro 2/Grigio Azzurro Chiaro, the civilain code I-BIVA appearing in small white letters just aft of the white fuselage band. Although the Ala Littoria scheme was tempting, the lack of decals meant it was going to be very difficult to do well, so I researched other possible schemes. A decision was made after discovering a set of Red Cross symbols in the decal bank which are perfect for a hospital/rescue aircraft. The tricolor rudder and wing stripes were sprayed using Humbrol 3 for the green and a 50/50 mix of Humbrol 19 & 20 for the red. This was after having sprayed the complete airframe Humbrol Satin White. The windows had been previously masked with Maskol (which was removed with great care afterwards). As grey primer was used, careful (and I mean careful!) scribing through the white showed the panel lines off to great effect and helped to break up the monotony of the white very well.
Conclusions and Recommendations.
Because this was such a successful and widely used tri-motor aircraft, this is a very welcome issue by Broplan. Along with their "late" SM.75 model, their future floatplane version SM.87 and the AviationUSK SM.82, the whole family can now be displayed together. Despite the fact that large dimensions v thin plastic is not terribly successful and the limited run nature of the kit meant that some of the detail parts are quite crude, this model can still be safely recommended to all experienced vacform modelers, especially those with an interest in either Italian or civilian aircraft.
Many thanks to Broplan (and Aeroclub) for the review sample.