1/72 CAC Avon Sabre

Review by David Edwards


The CAC Avon Sabre has a special place in my heart. This was the first aircraft I ever witnessed break the sound barrier (at the 1966 RAAF Laverton Children's Christmas Party), the first jet I ever sat in (A94-901 at the old Mildura Warbirds Museum), and the last aircraft I ever did any "hands on" work on (A94-901 again!).

A few months ago, David Harvey paid a welcome visit and casually mentioned that he had the latest boxing of Highplanes Avon Sabre for me. There was a catch though – I would have to write a review of the kit. A small price to pay!

The latest issue provides decals for Sabres from 3, 77 and 79 Squadrons in the 50s and 60s, and also includes the required parts of Academy's kit.

The build stalled somewhat when my digital camera died, but once my wife bought me a new one, all was well.

As usual, I started with the cockpit, as supplied with the Academy kit. There's a reasonable amount of detail there which can be brought out with careful painting, and the seat will benefit from the addition of straps. The instructions call for a black on black colour scheme, which may well be correct for some Avon Sabres. The 6 or so aircraft that I've seen all have a grey cockpit with black side consoles and instrument panel. My best guess is that early aircraft had the black cockpit, and the grey scheme occurred later in life after depot level maintenance.

Once the cockpit and fuselage halves were painted, it was time to make them fit. This is the sixth Highplanes Sabre that I've built, and mating the cockpit and fuselage halves has been a little different each time. On the earlier builds, I had given the fuselage halves a bit of a sand on a flat sheet of wet and dry. I now think this was probably unnecessary. What was required though was careful trimming of the cockpit bulkhead, the nosewheel bay, the fuselage decking behind the cockpit and the side consoles. With lots of dry fitting, all was well. I tacked the cockpit into place, and added a blanking plate for the dorsal vent in front of the fin. One final check, the addition of a lead weight behind the cockpit and I was ready to join the fuselage halves. Once dry, I added the nose fairing. Just about every seam needed an application of Tamiya filler and Mr Surfacer, including the wheel well. Some of the lovely surface detail was removed in the cleanup, which I tried to rescribe with varying success. There are several vents on the underside of the fuselage that can be added, as Peter Malone did with his 1/48 example shown on Hyperscale.

Time to assemble the wings. The Academy kit only provides some Korean War style drop tanks, and I couldn't find any photos of these fitted to RAAF Sabres. There are no inner Sidewinder or bomb pylons either. Many modellers will be happy to have their Sabre nice and clean under wing, but I do like hanging stuff off my models. Fellow 1/72 RAAF modelling victim Haydn Neal was able to supply some Heller drop tanks, and an army of Aussie Modellers came to my rescue with photos of the inboard bomb pylons. Other options would have been to rob the Sidewinder pylons and drop tanks off the old Hasegawa kit. The Fujimi kit also includes Sidewinders and pylons – still the older style drop tanks though.

Most photos of Sabres on terra firma show them with flaps extended, and this stage would have been a good time for me to separate the flaps. Instead I foolishly waited until the wings were mated with the fuselage. This was also when I discovered that Academy things that the hinge line for the flaps is at the same chord as the ailerons, rather than being further aft. A couple of strips of plastic card and some Mr Surfacer fixed that, but I was surprised that I hadn't seen any mention of this in reviews of the Academy/Hobbycraft kits. I had trouble getting my little strips of card completely flat, so the gaps from wings to flaps is a bit over scale, dammit. To add to the fun, I didn't notice some sink marks on the flaps until after a primer coat of course.

Joining the wings and fuselage only required a bit of trimming, some careful filling and a bit of rescribing. Adding the tailplane halves was simple once the mounting holes in the fuselage were opened up a little.

Time to add some more fiddly bits. The fuselage air brakes could be glued closed, but again most photos of Sabres on the ground show them extended. To get the correct angle, the lower arm on each airbrake needs a couple of mm trimmed off. The actuating struts mount a little lower in the well than shown in the instructions, which is shown well in Shane Wier's excellent walkaround on Aircraft Resource Center.

I found the nose gear a bit of a tricky fit. The small nose gear doors are a little fiddly also and benefit from some added detail. Once fitted, the model actually looked like an aircraft and I was rather pleased with myself.

Finally all was ready for a shot of Model Master primer. This of course revealed the need for some more attention to several seams before another spray job and a careful rub down with 1200 grit wet and dry.

I am trying to model a collection of aircraft from 77 Squadron RAAF, so chose one of the three 77 Sqn schemes included in the kit. Here I made one of my few smart choices while building this model, and sprayed the green wing tips, nose and tail planes tips as well as the black anti dazzle panel first. These were then masked off.

For the overall silver finish, I used a Gunge Sangyo silver enamel from a spray can. It went on with just a little "orange peel" and provided a very bright finish that needs a satin coat to dull it down a little. I picked out the gun muzzle panels in Model Master graphite, and the stainless jet pipe in Model Master chrome – neither colour provided all that much of a contrast to the overall silver, unfortunately.

I approached the decal stage with some apprehension. Highplanes provides a very comprehensive decal sheet that includes most of the stencils that can be found on these aircraft – about 70 or so! For us over 40s, some of them are tiny, too. My preferred approach is to apply these spread over several sessions rather than in one big effort.

The decal sheet itself looks like it's a Hawkeye product, printed in one solid sheet, with separate white backing for the coloured decals. The blue in the roundels and fin flashes looks a little lighter than we're used to seeing for RAAF markings, but has a nice effect once applied. The decals are commendably thin but not fragile, and separated from their backing sheet easily – dip them in warm water for 10 seconds, then let them sit for a minute or so. Use a brush and a little water to position them on the model, then press down with a tissue.

I did find the white panels a little translucent, but it's not that obvious on the model. Some self made dramas with the squadron checkerband on the fin – I neglected to dry fit these, and thought that I had positioned them a little low. I had to cannibalise another set of checks and touch them up. The white backing was a little wider than the checkerband, so I hid the white edges with some sliced up decal. Measure twice, apply once! After completing the model, I found the additional, longer fin markings that Highplanes have included on a separate sheet – one of those forehead-slapping moments.

The green trims on wing tips, tail plane, nose and rear canopy all have a thin white pinstripe just inboard from the edges. To provide this it was out with a fresh scalpel blade and some white decal.

Despite the impressive amount of stencilling supplied on the decal sheet, I still had to resort to some kit decals and the spares box for the rear fuselage. There is a bit of variation on the type and location of stencils from Sabre to Sabre, and even on the same aircraft during its time in service. All I can suggest is to check your references where you can.

After the decal marathon I was ready to fit the seat, wheels, 500 lb bombs from the spares box, fuel dump pipe, pitot tube and canopy. There are variations in the nosewheel hub pattern between Avon Sabres, again references are very useful. Fitting the framework inside the rear of the canopy is tricky and the instructions are a bit unclear. The kit seat is a bit bare, and benefits from cushions, seat belts and firing handles. CMK has recently released a resin interior set that would be worth a look if you're after a more detailed cockpit.

Ideally I would've sprayed a satin coat over the completed model, but I was happy enough with the model as is and didn't wish to risk disaster. It's no competition entry, but I'm happy with the end result and it looks fine using my "1 metre" viewing rule.

To say I enjoyed building this kit would be an understatement. Tackling something that requires a bit more thought and effort than something from Tamigawa, and that provides an accurate model of a favourite subject is something I find very satisfying. Any modeller who has a few kits under their belt and is prepared to give it a go will be able to tackle this one.

If you have the slightest interest in 1/72 RAAF jet aircraft models, then grab this kit and get building. My next effort will be my beloved "901", then it'll be 75 and 3 Squadron Sabres – and a bigger display cabinet!

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