The Buccaneer is one of the great success stories of British aviation history. Conceived and built in an era when the guided missile was expected to become the chief exponent of “modern” warfare, the tough, reliable and thoroughly competent Buccaneer defied all odds to become a success. With a high sea-level top speed and the ability to hug the terrain for long periods without breaking the teeth and spines of its two-man crew, the “Bucc” exemplified good design and engineering.
Entering British service in 1962, the Bucc would end up serving most of its life with the RAF, rather than the Royal Navy who started the project. However, like many post-war British designs, it was hoped that the Bucc would be an export success as well as finding a ready market at home. The need for a tough sea-going striker wasn’t as prevalent as the need for jet fighters though, so the successes of the Meteor, Hunter and Canberra were not repeated. However, there was one nation that did have an interest in the maritime-themed Blackburn: South Africa.
With a long coastline to protect, a long-legged modern aircraft is exactly what the South Africans needed. Thus, the folks at Blackburn undertook a special development of the Bucc just for them. The result was the S.50, a superb machine that was destined only to be delivered to the one customer, and only in small numbers. All that entered service (15, since one crashed en route to South Africa) served with 24 Sqn, the “Coast Guards”. When the British government severed ties with the Apartheid regime, it closed the door on the Bucc’s foreign career. However, the South Africans managed to keep their S.50’s running for a long time, using them in anger over Angola and Namibia. Finally retiring from the SAAF in 1991, the Buccaneer lasted only a bit longer with the RAF; the final RAF Bucc flights were in 1994.
Even though the Bucc wasn’t a huge export success, it was a major player in numerous wars in Africa as well as the Gulf War of 1991. It has always been a popular aircraft, especially in Britain, and thus there have been many kits of it in the past. However, as always, I like to take a look at the more unusual ones. So, I’m going to skip the oft-covered Airfix and lesser-covered FROG releases, and go right to the 1/100 Tamiya kit from the 1970’s.
For full details of this kit, I encourage you to take a look at the Out of Box Review for the 1/100 Buccaneer that I did a while ago. It will give you a good idea of what’s in the box.
To put it simply, though, the kit is very nice, especially given the age and size of the model. There are a lot of fine, raised panel lines, though, and these need to be etched. How many you etch is up to you; I didn’t do them all, but I did do a number of them.
Building the Buccaneer:
Due to the fairly low piece count, the construction of the Bucc is pretty straight forward. The weapons bay, however, may cause you some headaches. It’s designed to rotate when finished, which is cool. However, this means that you can’t install it easily after the plane is done. With careful masking and so forth, I’m sure you could work this just fine, but I have to be honest and say that I don’t really care if the thing rotates or not. Thus, I decided just to glue it closed. This was a good idea, since the bay door doesn’t quite meet up with the fuselage sides, leaving some noticeable gaps. Simply pouring a bit of Ambroid ProWeld into the gap, however, caused the plastic to melt enough to seal it up, while still leaving a panel line.
Another thing to be aware of is that there’s no separate cockpit tub. The tub is very sparse on detail (consisting of… a tub) and has no instrument detail, instrument panels or control sticks. Still, it’s better than the FROG Uhu that I used for my what-if project; at least the Bucc’s tub has a floor! The only adornment in the cockpit is the seats, and these are very simple. I used some thinly slit masking tape to make my own belts and then washed the entire seat in Citadel Delvan Mud and Baddab Black washes to dirty them up a bit.
Everything about the kit is clearly done with quality in mind, while also striving for simplicity. The only thing that’s a bit hokey is the nose weight. Either my MiG-19 or my Beagle (cant’ remember which) came with two metal balls for weight (okay, stop laughing!), but the Bucc only has a sorry-arsed lump of PLASTIC. Yeah, a PLASTIC nose weight. Seems like a recipe for failure, right? I’m sure it was, so I used lead shot, like I always do. This worked fine, and the gear is stout enough to handle any weight you’ll throw in there.
The fit of the tailplane is exemplary, and the intake trunks are very good. However, the underside of the wings are a bit dodgy, and some extra care is needed to integrate the underside “chunks” of wing with the rest of the wing. I found I had to use some putty and a lot of sanding and CA in this area. Not bad for a kit this old, but still surprising.
One disappointing thing is that there are no separate exhaust nozzles. There really should be, but this isn’t an option on this kit. I toyed with using drinking straw to simulate the slightly protruding jetpipes, but I decided it was easier just to not bother. Few people will really notice, and I wanted the kit to be fully “out of the box” for displaying at shows.
Unlike the wings, the stores fit very nicely. Both the rocket pods and the slipper tanks go on beautifully. I didn’t test fit the Martel pylons, but they’re likely just as good a fit. It’s interesting to note that the South Africans didn’t use Martels, but they did use AS-30s. While they are not identical, the two missiles are relatively similar, and you could pass them off as each other at this scale. However, I want to save my Martels and use them to arm my 1/100 F-104 in Marineflieger paint. They also look a lot like Kormorans, so they’re very flexible, and it’s nice that the kit comes with 4 of them.
Painting and Finishing:
One key part of a plane kit is figuring out where to put the stick. “What do you mean?” you ask. Well, for me, at least, I like to have the main airframe mounted on a stick, or some other convenient handle, for painting and general handling. For jets, it’s often easy just to jam a stick or something into an exhaust nozzle hole, and for props, it’s usually through the hole in the nose where the prop goes. However, because the Bucc doesn’t have separate exhaust nozzles, that’s not viable. To solve this, I drilled a hole in the wall behind the rear seat. I figured (correctly) that the seat would cover it, and I could use the hole for jamming in a stick. It worked like a charm! I used one of those single-use wooden shish kebab skewer; perfect fit and round too boot! The pointy end made it easy to stick the plane into a block of styrofoam for drying, too.
The South Africans used three different paint schemes on their aircraft, according to the Wings of Fame article in Issue 14 (1999). They were all very similar, using shades of dark grey on the top with blue undersides. From what I can tell, the grey is Dark Sea Grey, and the blue is often called out as PRU Blue. The Tamiya instructions don’t call it out that specifically, and I just went with colours that got close to the photos and drawings I had. All colours were done with Testors Model Master Acrylics, except the white, which is a mix of Testors and Tamiya. Yes, that is possible!
For the upper surfaces, I used F-15 Dark Grey. This colour is AWESOME for British kits. It is very similar to Dark Sea Grey and has a hint of purple. You’d think Gunship Grey would be better, but it’s a bit dark and a bit too brownish. The underside turned out to be a dead ringer for the base colour I used on my F-13B Typhoon What-If! It was a modified MMA Intermediate Blue. The black anti-glare patches were done in MMA Aircraft Interior Black, and the nose in Radome Tan.
I primed the body using Wal-Mart’s Colourplace grey primer, and then painted the gear bays by hand. To highlight the corners and small amount of detail in the gear bays and on the legs, I used very thin Light Ghost Grey as a wash. I then did the nose. I masked the nose, and then painted the black. I then re-primed (to cover the black overspray) and painted the blue. With the underside masked, I painted the grey on top. Unmasking proved to be quite a challenge, as I had several layers of tape over one another.
The hardest part of all was masking the canopy. Like so many aircraft I’ve built (especially Japanese kits) the frame detail was very fine, but almost impossibly so. I could not mask it easily, since I couldn’t see the detail through the Tamiya tape to cut the panels to size. Thus, I had to undertake my least favourite of all modelling chores; etching glass. Etching a fuselage or wing is one thing, but scribing panel lines in clear plastic is SAVAGE. There is NO ROOM for error, and a bit of CA isn’t going to fix a slight slip and scar.
It took me 4 hours to do it, but I did it! I had to sand all the etching down, too, so I sanded the canopy with 280, 320, 480, 2000, 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12000 grit before giving it a coat of Future. Once this had dried, the masking job became much easier. The new lines on the canopy were much deeper and the Tamiya tape was easier to cut. It was a ton of work, but I think it was well worth it. I’m getting progressively more used to having to do this, but most people (my brother included) think I’m nuts when I rescribe clear parts. Maybe I am!
The entire plane was glossed so that I could do the decals. The decals are excellent, but care needs to be taken for which decals you use. I chose the paint scheme I did because it is the earliest one. That is the scheme for which the decals are appropriate. The SAAF used the extremely large fin flash on the planes with the black anti-glare patches and the radome tan noses. They toned the markings down some on later versions with painted noses, and the final scheme is even more subdued. Also, the decal instructions show you putting on a G-2-2 code, which is a British registration for a plane under test in the UK. This is NOT appropriate for a full SAAF-service machine. From what I could see, most SAAF Buccs didn’t display individual numbers. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, the direction of the SAAF symbol is shown differently on the instructions than it is in the Wings of Fame overhead view. The instructions specifically call out particular orientation, with the Impalas jumping away from the centerline. However, the drawing in the Wings of Fame shows them jumping into the centerline of the plane. I went with this way, and if I’m wrong, then I’m sure someone out there will tell me. Most people won’t notice either way.
Once the decals were faired in with more Future, I applied the pastelling to the panel lines. I used ground up chalk pastels to simulate panel grime, and eliminate bothersome preshading. All I do is mix up some pastel that is a bit darker than the paint, and apply it to the line and surrounding area using a Tamiya Extra Small (Triangular) Craft Cotton Swab. Once the powder is on, I can fine tune it with a small brush, and then I Future it in place. The Future, being glossy, ups the contrast considerably, so careful mixing is essential. Basically, if you can see a colour difference between the powder and the paint, it’s going to be too dark. This makes it hard to use this technique without practice, but by holding the plane up to the light, you can see where the powder is for shaping purposes. It takes some work, but it is generally fun to do and very quick once you get the hang of it.
The plane was then flat coated using Delta Ceramcoat Matte Indoor/Outdoor Urethane varnish, cut with water and 99% Isopropyl alcohol. With the plane dead-flat, I then applied a “satin” finish made up the same way, but with some Future thrown in. When everything is dry enough to handle, you have a nice finish that’s quite tough. Within a month or two, though, when it is TOTALLY dry, you have a finish that’s nearly indestructible. You can play with the kit and finish final assembly without waiting the months, though. As long as it’s dry to the touch, you’re good to go. I like to leave it overnight.
Overall, the Buccaneer is a nice kit, and I love that it’s 1/100. I have a lot of 1/100 planes and of course a lot of my Mobile Suits are also in that scale. It really is nice to have a known reference for MS kits, let me tell you! As with most Tamiyas, even old ones, the fit is quite good (save for those under-wing panels) and this kit isn’t a lot of work. The more rescribing you do, of course, the harder it becomes, but that’s up to the builder him/herself.
Unfortunately, because the kit is both old and small, it’s a bit short on detail. The cockpit is empty, but you can’t see much of it anyway, so that’s not as big a deal as if this was a 1/32! Also, the weapons are simple and fairly generic. However, given the scale, they do the job and look cool. One major problem is that while this aircraft has the trappings of an S.50, it really isn’t. I noticed (after I was done, of course!) that the S.50 has two small strakes on the rear fuselage. This kit doesn’t have them. They’re small, so making them in 1/100 might be a bit difficult, but I wish I’d tried. Of course, unless you really know your Buccs, you won’t miss them. I don’t think anyone will notice, really. Heck, I’ve won at local shows with the kit, so it’s not a deal breaker!
This kit is well suited to beginners, because it’s simple. It might be too simple for someone who’s really into Buccaneers and/or superdetailing, but that’s not what this kit is about. This kit is about making a pretty good replica pretty easily in a format that doesn’t eat up a lot of shelf space. For that, I have to say I’m quite a fan.
Would I recommend this kit? Yes, I would, but like I said, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. If you can get by the simplicity and just want a fun build, then I think it’s a good investment.