The Gloster Meteor is one of those legendary aircraft that has a firm place in the annals of aviation history. As the first British jet fighter, it was also the only jet fighter available in Europe on the Allied side until the very last days of the war, when a few P-80 prototypes deployed to Italy. While a more conventional design than its “arch rival” the Me-262 (which it was destined never to meet in combat) the Meteor more than proved its worth in hunting V1s over England late in the war.
Because of this, and because it was developed into a large number of long-serving versions that saw considerable export success, the Meteor has been the subject of numerous kits over the years. There have been kits of early, middle and late Meteors, single- and two-seat versions, recce and night fighter versions and of course, conversion kits for even stranger variants. Everyone from FROG to Tamiya and Matchbox to Dragon have kitted the Meteor in the mainstream, such is its importance.
This time around, let’s take a look at a middle-aged version of this famous flyer: the FROG Meteor IV from the 1973/74 time period. You should have known that I wouldn’t choose a Tamiya or Dragon for this review… there’s a lot more to learn from a dodgy old kit than a new one!
The box on the Mk.IV is typical of a FROG box, with big, blocky lettering and a large, colourful band on one end. There is a nice piece of artwork of a pair of Dutch examples overflying some typically low-lying, watery Dutch country side. The art isn’t as dramatic as some (say the Pfeil night fighter), but it’s notable BECAUSE the aircraft aren’t in British markings!! Usually, Meteor kits will show a British machine on the box, even if decals are included for other countries. Given that the FROG is a British kit, this is even more surprising! Gotta give FROG their props; they really knew how to attract attention.
The box isn’t overly colourful, since the two machines are in silver, but like all FROG boxes, the large font and simple layout makes it easy to identify exactly what you’re looking for. There are some model companies today that could take a hint on that front. This particular box is of the traditional top/bottom sort, not the “flip open” type that we sometimes see from FROG. This is a blessing, because it will keep the parts together and take up less space while you are working on the kit.
The back of the box presents a full-colour painting and decaling plan for two machines; one is a Dutch machine from No. 323 Squadron and the other is a British one from No. 623 Squadron. Both are silver. The box advertises “FROG Special Features”, which does sound pretty cool. However, having built some FROGs, I’m pretty sure the features really aren’t that great. Looking on the side of the box, we find that these much-vaunted features include… um… well, how do I put this… a stand. Yup, that’s it. It’s like the very disappointing toy in a very large box of cereal. Not really worth advertising.
The kit itself is typical FROG. It is simple but well-detailed (for the time) and there is a surprising lack of flash. I know Monogram and Revell kits from this era are prone to being almost mummified in flash, but this little guy seems to be very clean. You can tell this kit was being made from a new mould; the earlier (1950’s era) FROG Meteor F-8 was festooned with Airfix-like oversized rivets, none of which can be found on the Meteor IV.
This Meteor came moulded in a medium grey plastic, including the stand (which is sometimes clear on older kits). The cockpit canopy is the only transparent piece, and is a bit thick and distorted. This is no surprise to fans of older kits; that’s just how it was. However, a slight buffing and some Future should help correct this if you can’t live with it. The canopy frame lines are nice and thick, though, so masking it will be easy. There are four sprues in the box, along with the decals and instructions, and a small sheet for ordering extra parts in case the model was defective. I find the last thing very interesting; I have purchased many AMTs over the years that were very bad for completeness (especially in the mid 1990’s) but never had that problem with a FROG or Heller, the two companies that gave “defect” forms. Ironic? Seems like it…
The detail on the Meteor is entirely raised, but it is nice and straight, and should be easy enough to etch while building. That makes the kit a lot more work, of course, but it also helps to update it, and for the extra effort, it makes a world of difference. The model can be built gear up or down, and there are SEPARATE gear doors for both! This amazes me, given the age of the kit. Normally, even much newer kits (especially Dragons from the 1990s) force you to cut the closed doors open if you want wheels down.
Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much detail in the cockpit or wheel bays, and the engine nacelles look pretty empty too. There might be some work required to prevent “hollow plane syndrome”, or you might just chose to build it wheels up or not care. Your call.
The Decals and Instructions:
The instructions are very simple, taking up only one side of the sheet, while the other side provides tips for modellers. The instructions are easy to follow and clear, but they should be since there aren’t that many parts to this thing! My instructions are very fragile and have turned that nice shade of “newsprint brown”. I wouldn’t suggest manhandling them too roughly if you have a copy of this kit. I know kid gloves will be my preferred approach!
The decals are simple, including national insignia and registration numbers, and that’s it. Stencil-hounds will be disappointed, for sure. However, the decals in my kit are so old that I doubt they’re even viable any more. Unlike Matchbox decals that seem to withstand time well, the FROG ones generally don’t. It’s no biggie, though, since there are TONNES of aftermarket decals for Meteors, and I’m sure you can print your own roundels using a Testors Ink Jet Decal Making Set.
The FROG Meteor IV is a pretty simple kit of a very important airplane. There are likely some inaccuracies, but I’m not a hardcore rivet counter, and to my eyes, this thing looks like a Meteor Mk. IV. There are tons of other, better, Meteor kits out there; that’s a given. However, the FROG is a great kit if you want some nostalgia in your modelling. It’s also a good one for a beginner, since it looks pretty easy to get a Meteor-shaped glueball out of this kit.
I love old FROGs; I still think they’re among the best kits of their era, and the Meteor IV is no exception. With some work, I think it can be made to look pretty nice. I guess I’ll have to build it and find out, eh?