Retail price: $18.98 from Squadron Mail Order
While I appreciate the modern technological plastic model gems brought to us divine scale modelers today by Hasegawa, Tamiya, Academy and ProModeler, I admit to a soft spot for those (almost) cottage industry model companies out there that cater to the more esoteric and rare subjects that have never seen the light of day in a commercially available kit. AML is such a company and the Mitsubishi Type 97 Model 2 Mabel is just such an airplane! The subject of a production contract as a hedge against hydraulic system difficulties initially seen on the competing Nakajima B5N1 Kate Torpedo Bomber, B5M1 production was terminated at 125 machines upon the apparent success and increased performance of the Kate in Naval carrier service. The Mabel saw operational service only in the Chinese and Indochinese Theaters, being relegated to second-line and training duties by the end of 1942. Looking somewhat like an oversized C5M2 Babs, the Mabel shared the same, rather ungainly appearance, only accentuated with oversized main landing gear spats. One wonders if this aircraft holds the record for "largest pair of spats lifted by a single-engined airplane in World War Two?"
This AML kit is their second release and follows their Heinkel He-46c parasol-winged, recon/light bomber - another rather unknown aircraft. In common with Czech short run injection molded kits, the moldings are fairly nicely detailed with engraved panel lines and adequate surface detail. Excess plastic abounds however, around the edges of all parts, and especially on mating edges of the parts. Smaller parts suffer the most from indistinct detailing - where does the bomb shackle start and the excess plastic end? Care will be required to separate all parts from the heavy sprue gates, and trimming and sanding are essential to assure a proper fit of mating parts, much like vac-form parts. Also like vac-form kits, copious sanding will be required to achieve realistically thin, trailing edges to all flying surfaces. Ejector pin stubs are prevalent inside all major components, and will require side cutters or a grinder bit to remove. Fortunately, the plastic used by AML is a soft, gray plastic that is easily workable without being greasy or slick. Another feature of AML that is appreciated is their provision of two vac-form canopies for the more ham-fisted of us out there in modeldom like myself who will botch one canopy during assembly. Total parts count is 72, with no etched metal pieces, but there are enough parts to comprise a nice (though not comprehensive), interior, individual aileron horns and aileron hinges, bomb/torpedo crutches, and two piece twin row radial engine. Armament options consist of either a single torpedo, single 800 kilogram bomb, or two unusual, long underwing pylons that hold three 60 kilogram bombs each - hey, its the original Triple Ejector Rack! Completing the box contents are a nice decal sheet with markings for an aircraft of the 33rd Kokutai operational in Southern China in 1942, and a printed paper sheet with interior instrument panels - shades of the original Airfix kits of my youth where you cut and pasted the instrument panels from the instruction sheets! The instructions themselves are very comprehensive for a limited run kit, and the step-by-step illustrations are easy to follow. In fact, while researching this very obscure torpedo bomber, the instruction sheets history on the Mabel was more detailed than the information found in most other references, including the "bible" of Pacific Front enthusiasts: Francillions Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War!!
In summary, this is a unique kit of a subject not likely to sell as well as a Spitfire, but worth the extra effort necessary to bring to fruition as a model should you be interested in the more obscure combatants of "War Deuce."
A Kit Review Post Script footnote: Yes, the skeptical modeler amongst us will deem the B5M1 truly a loser aircraft! For those hardy souls who model to "a different tune," may I suggest an alternate course of action for adding a divine scale Mabel to your model display case? Recently, divine scale modelers have come under increasing criticism and ridicule at the hands of unruly, quarter scale rogues who tout the supposed advantages of 48th scale. I am here to tell you folks, that those abhorring the thought of dealing with an AML limited run injected kit need not fear! A Mabel is as close as grabbing the old Marusan/UPC Mitsubishi Babs, and the Fujimi Aichi D3A1 Val, (both quarter-scale kits being profusely available at the NCT semi-religious Kit Auctions). By combining the cockpit and fuselage of the Babs, the Vals empennage, wings and engine cowling, and both kits main wheel spats, a fairly detailed Mabel will result. But to give it that final finishing touch to accuracy, as well as bringing it to the correct scale, before applying paint or decals, apply the Dr. Kendall Brown heat lamp technique, (a.k.a. DKBHLT), evenly to all surfaces of the model. Not only will the parts anneal themselves down to the correct divine scale, but no interior detail or fidelity will be lost, while the ability to fine tune the wingtip shapes and empennage control surface outlines benefits those who pay particular attention to accuracy! Faithful readers of the NCT FlakSheet unfamiliar with the DKBHLT are referred to the 1995 IPMS-NCT Region VI Contest Judging Video, where actual hands-on examples of this technique are meticulously demonstrated. As Gaston Bernal continues his discriminating boycott of divine scale decal releases, it may even behoove the modeler to attempt DKBHLT with a painted model using one of Aeromasters new Japanese Hinomaru decals!
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