1/48 Vector Lavochkin La-5 (Early Version)
Gallery Article by Floyd S. Werner, Jr. - December 28, 2008
Plane Type: Propeller; Plane Name: La-5; Scale: 1/48; Kit Manufacturer: Vector
Stock Number: BBVRK-48-001 Cost: $90.00
The La-5 was the amalgamation of the Lagg-3 airframe with a M-82 bomber engine. The resulting airplane took a mediocre airframe and turned it into a match for the Luftwaffe. The new airframe was heavier than the Lagg-3 but the additional power made the La-5 an outstanding fighter plane with good developmental potential.
Vector is a new company out of Russia, distributed by Buffies Best. Vector has made resin aircraft engines that are the ultimate in detail and accuracy. The La-5 is their first full resin kit. The kit is molded bubble free in straw colored resin. The details are exquisite. All the parts are easy to remove from the pour gates. There is no flash anywhere. The panel lines are fine, crisp and very nicely presented. You are treated to four vacuformed canopies. Two of each type for those of you who, like me, are heavy handed and still want to pose them open. The decals are nice and offer options to do three machines. They aren’t as crisp as Western decals but appeared to be useable. Considering that they were painted on the real airplanes by unskilled laborers they may be more accurate. You will need to scratch build three things, the antenna masts on the spine, tail and pitot tube. These are easily done and should cause no problems.
I got an early production version of the kit and the wings and ailerons were one piece but my later production version had separate ailerons, which I thought were a very nice addition. My early production kit had rubber wheels from Avia Equipage that I couldn’t bring myself to use (except for the tail one), but the later versions have resin wheels, which are more accurate than the Squadron ones.
The instructions are on one sheet of paper and are pretty basic. Good thing everything is numbers on the instructions. Remove the parts one at a time and attach them and you won’t have any problem. You are given an acetate instrument faces to add to the back of the panel.
Construction begins by carefully washing the parts in Dawn dish detergent to remove any mold release agent from the parts. Be careful as some of the parts are only attached by tiny pour gates.
Once that is done, I removed the fuselage pour gates. Take a scribing tool and just scribe along the spine and nose. Once you have it thin enough you can break off the pour gate. Flat sanding just the top with some sand paper and the fuselage is ready to put together. Repeat the process for the other half and the one piece wings. Ensure you retain the airfoil shape of the wing leading edge. This is the only cleanup required. Everything else when removed will be ready to use. You may have to touch it with a sanding stick just to clean it up. I had the whole kit ready to assemble in less than a half hour. I can’t do that even with a Tamiya or Hasegawa kit. Heck they take me that long just to fill mold marks. The quality of Vector’s casting is impeccable and the engineering excellent. I don’t know how they do it.
Now that the fuselage halves are ready, the cockpit is easily assembled by following the instructions. The cockpit is very complete and needs nothing other than throttle handles, which are not provided. I didn’t add any keeping the kit OOTB and it still looks great. The seat has the harness molded on and looks great. I assembled everything except the instrument panel and painted the whole interior Model Ensign VVS Wood Aerolak Primer. The instrument panel was painted flat black. The instrument acetate was attached to the back by Future floor wax flooded on the acetate sheet itself and then positioned properly. Once dry, the back of the sheet was painted white. When dry paint over the white with flat black, as the back will be visible from the top. Details were painted with Apple Barrel hobby paints. An oil wash and light gray dry brush is all it takes to finish up the interior. All easy, all painless, and best of all quick. Except for the throttle handles you have to add nothing.
The fuselage once cleaned up is pretty anti-climactic. You flat sanded the surface so they are ready to go. Make sure you glue the cockpit floor into one half before joining them, as the armor plate behind the cockpit won’t fit otherwise, likewise for the instrument panel. I used superglue to join the halves and fill the seam. Clean up is quick and easy. Being of wood construction there is no seam.
Wings and tail-
The wing is a sold piece affair. Like I said, the early one had molded in ailerons and the newer ones has separate ones. No big deal either way. You will note that my stick in the cockpit is offset to correspond with the aileron position.
The tail unit is two pieces, left and right. Fit is perfect.
Both were attached with super glue and accelerator. Just the slightest filler was needed on the front part of the wings.
The landing gear fit solidly in the wings. Nothing difficult here. The actuators fit onto the leg perfectly. The whole arrangement is very sturdy and solid. You can assemble the landing gear before painting, as they are the same color as the underside of the airplane.
One key thing with a resin kit is to prime the kit with an enamel or lacquer primer before painting. This gives the paint, whether it is acrylic or enamel, something to stick to. I used Alclad Grey Primer and Microfiller. It works well for me. After fixing up some minor sand marks it was time to paint. There are not many panel lines to preshade so I would have to rely on post shading for my panel variations.
The color of “White 15” is open to discussion but the current school of thought is that it was never flown in combat and only used as a presentation aircraft after the war. After the help of Wes Stachnick and the VVS website (http://vvs.hobbyvista.com/) we determined that the color of “White 15” with its large bass mouth, too ugly to be called a shark mouth was painted in AMT-12 a dark gray. I opted for the Gunze color for this. I added a little white to the color and painted the flight control surfaces this color to break up the bland gray color. I know the controls and the wings were fabric cover wood but call it artistic license. The lower color was from the old Aeromaster line and approximated AMT-7. It is a little pale but looked good to me. “White 15” did not have the aluminum panel behind the exhaust typical of the other La-5s. Yellow was added to the tail and the spinner. Don’t forget to cut masks for the mouth pattern on the decals. I painted the area semi-gloss black.
The other aircraft would be similar in appearance in that it has an ugly bass mouth, but this one was used operationally and is more typical of a La-5. Before painting the camoflage I painted the heat panel behind the exhausts with Alclad Aluminum. After masking this off with Tamiya tape I painted the underside AMT-7. The topside is typical of most La-5 in having AMT-4 green and AMT-6 black. The black is very easy I used Gunze Tire Black as I thought flat black to be too, well black. The AMT-4 is almost a direct match with Gunze US Interior Green so that is what I used. The colors were freehanded for a loose pattern. A coat of gloss and it was off to the decals.
What can I say I’m a sucker for a large mouth bass, okay so they are technically shark mouths. I utilized the Aeromaster sheet for “White 15”. The shark mouth would make or break the kit so I put it on first. No problem everything fit like it was designed. I used Solvaset to make sure everything settled down nicely. The rest of the decals were cobbled together from various Aeromaster sheets. This particular airplane had peculiar stars with yellow surrounds on them. Unique looking to say the least.
I decided to use the La-5 bonus sheet that comes with the La-5F kit. The small mouth bass decal was not a problem. I used the kit decals for the wings and fuselage. They all reacted well with the setting solution but when I overcoated the decals with the gloss coat they crinkled. All of them, except the bass mouth. Thank God. How that happened I don’t know, but I’m grateful. I pealed the Vector decals off with tape. A light sanding with Micromesh reapply some gloss and it was time to apply some Aeromaster decals. The issue with the decals is the only weak spot of the kit.
Over coated with gloss and then a semi-gloss clear (Grey one) and flat (camouflaged one) made the airplanes ready for weathering.
Weathering was kept to a minimum, as the wood surface seems to hold their color pretty well. Besides “White 15” was a display bird anyhow. The other one would have been relatively new and the Luftwaffe shot them down with alarming numbers. Just some burnt umber in the panel lines and some Alclad burnt Sepia exhaust streaks, along with some Mig Pigment mud for the wheels and the weathering was done. If you haven’t tried this weathering medium they work really well. Paint them where you want them and then apply some water to set things up. Or ally water and then the dust and you have some mud. Very versatile.
Adding the front part of the canopy was a non issue, if you were careful when you cut them out the fit is very good. A little white glue and it faired in perfectly. The sliding portion was tacked down with just little bit of superglue to hold it on the tracks. I did have to fashion replacement rear windows from acetate because I screwed up the ones in the kit. I got carried away with the sanding stick. They were all attached with white glue. Adding the wheels and the antenna masts are the final steps. Put the custom built antenna on the spine and tail is relatively easy. No big problem. Time to sit back and enjoy my first two VVS machines in all their big mouth bass glory.
Some people may complain about the cost of the kit, but think about it this way, an injection kit of this quality will cost at least $40. Now you know you have to have an Eduard photo etch set, which you will only use some of anyhow, $15. You like the look of the photo etch seatbelts too, $10. We all know that a resin cockpit set would set it off too, $20. Of course you’ll want to have resin wheels, $5. Don’t forget the vacuform canopy, better buy two, as you will need them both, $10. You are now over $90 already. You typically spend the cost on a kit, just not all at once. Now take into account the excellent fit and engineering of this kit and you have a winner.
I cannot say enough good things about this kit. The fit is fabulous, the cleanup is easier than most injection molded kits, the subject is fresh and exciting and to top it off the engineering makes this a quick build. I absolutely loved it. The only bad thing is the decals and that may have been me. Obviously I liked it enough to do two kits. It is easy to build and looks great right out of the box. Do yourself a favor and try this kit. You won’t be sorry. If you have never built an all resin kit this is an excellent place to start. If you have you will be surprised at how easy this one is.
Now it is on to the La-5F, La-5FN and the new Lagg-3s. When will this madness end? It is a very good time to build VVS fighter airplanes. We now finally have accurate kits of these historically significant airplanes. Why did it take so long? Come on decal manufacturers and make us real happy.
Without a doubt this is one of the finest resin kits that has ever been kitted. Marvelous work Vector.
Thanks to Buffies Best for the review kit and it can be purchased directly from Buffies Best at http://www.buffiesbest.com. Or by contacting them at:
8716 East Frontier Place
Denver, Colorado 80237
- Lavockin La-5, MBI Publisher, ISBN 80-86524-10-8
- Lagg and Lavochkin Aces of World War II, George Mellinger, Osprey Publishing, ISBN: 9781841766096
- Soviet Aces of World War II, Hugh Morgan, Osprey Publishing, ISBN: 9781855326323
- Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941-1945, Erik Pilawski, Classic Publications, ISBN: 190322330X
- Lagg Fighters in action, Squadron/Signal Publications
Floyd S. Werner, Jr.
Floyd S. Werner, Jr.
ARC Air Forum Name: Floyd S._Werner, Jr.
38 Gallery Articles
Photos and text © by Floyd S. Werner, Jr..