The Buccaneer was a long-serving anti-shipping and attack aircraft used by first the Royal Navy and then The Royal Air Force. With excellent speed at very low level and a novel rotating bomb bay (like that in a B-57), the Buccaneer was packed with the high-technology of its day. Entering British service in 1962, in chalked up an impressive 32-year history, including service in the Gulf War of 1991, before retiring in 1994.
The Buccaneer has been quite a popular subject for model kit makers, and the British manufacturers of kits dutifully did their part, with FROG, Matchbox and Airfix all releasing various renditions of this stalwart attacker. It makes sense that this would happen for the same reason it makes sense that Heller would kit things like the Mirage IV. What’s interesting, though, is that Tamiya also chose to make the Buccaneer a member of its 1/100 Combat Plane series.
The attempts by Tamiya in the early 1970’s to revolutionize the smaller end of the aircraft modelling scale were abortive at best, and 1/100 never really caught on anywhere other than Japan and a few kits made by Heller in France. That doesn’t mean, though, that the 1/100 Tamiya kits aren’t worth having; they are! Despite being older than many of my FROGs, these Tamiyas are excellent kits, as you’re about to find out!
The older boxes on the Tamiya 1/100 kits are white with a fill-width illustration. This is a typical period-type piece, meaning that the art looks a bit “thick”, for lack of a better term. Like on so many other boxes of the time (FROGs and Airfixes both) there’s a certain visceral appeal to the art; it’s less polished but more action-oriented, maybe a little less refined.
The box is small, about the same size as a 1/72 WWII aircraft from the same era. However, it is a two-part box with a separate lid. The back of some of the Tamiya boxes of this era have a painting guide on them, but this one does not. There’s a write-up of the plane on one side, and three “collect them all” type illustrations on the other side. I actually have the Lightning they show, but not the F-4K/M or Sea King.
The box shows two Martel-equipped aircraft blowing over some kind of greenish background, and a great sense of speed is given. Clearly, the low level handling of the Buccaneer did not escape the attention of the box artist!
Once you pop open the box, you’re greeted by two sprues of light grey plastic as well as the two halves of the fuselage, inside a plastic bag. Inside this is a separate smaller bag containing the one-piece cockpit canopy. At first look, the canopy seems surprisingly clear and distortion free for a kit of this age! You also get a clear stand, should you wish to pose your Bucc’ in-flight. Note that this requires you to cut a slot in the Bombay, though, so it’s not really suitable for planes that have the bay rotated to the open position!
The kit itself has very little to no flash, which is amazing given that this model was first made in 1971 and that the moulds have undergone lord-knows how many pressings. There is some VERY fine detail on the wings and fuselage, as well as the tailplane. This detail is very crisp and straight, but it is also very faint, and if you intend to re-etch the kit, I wish us both luck. I get the feeling this is one where I’ll etch a few lines, but not all of them.
There’s also a separately-bagged decal sheet, with options for two British and one South African aircraft! That’s right, you can do this kit as one of the 16 SMk.50s supplied to South Africa before the British cut off their relations with the state back in the mid 1960’s. The decals seem to be for an early version of the markings, with large fin flashes, and what appear to be British civil registrations for the fuselage.
This is an unexpected surprise, since there’s really no mention made of the South African version on the box! Armament is very complete, including bombs, rocket pods, Martel missiles and two of the distinctive “slipper” tanks. The Instructions look pretty simple; the only catch is that the bomb bay has to be installed before gluing the body together. The cool thing, though, is that it seems that the bomb bay will actually rotate when you’re done!
The Tamiya 1/100 Buccaneer is a nice looking little kit. If it’s similar to the MiG-19 and IL-28 of theirs that I made, there shouldn’t be a lot of work involved in this one. Tamiya touts these kits as being free of unnecessarily fiddly parts, which does seem to be the case. However, simple is often good, and I’m looking forward to getting this one built and on display, especially since it has those obscure SA markings on it!
The price on these kits seems to vary wildly. I’ve seen them for as much as almost $20, which is borderline obscene, and as little as $4, which is more my speed. If you like the Bucc’ and you want a kit in scale to your bigger Gundams, then this looks like a great kit to have!