It’s not often you get to sample the wares of a company for the first time, and I have just finished my first Hobby Boss kit, their Fw 190 D-9 in 1:48th scale. To say I am impressed is an understatement. Maybe their earlier kits were more simplified or less accurate, but the state of their art has now equalled the big guys from Shizuoka City, certainly in terms of engineering.
When opening the box of a new kit, one makes an unconscious survey of the contents, making a lightning-fast checklist of what’s there and what isn’t, and this one checked the boxes with ease. Attractive packaging, colour markings guide, no flash, optional parts, engraved detail (of course, that’s standard these days), clear instructions, marking options, individually bagged sprues for zero scratching, crystal clear canopy… Then details peculiar to the subject, such as the engine accessory area visible through the open gear bays of the liquid-cooled Focke-Wulfs. Parts fit is exemplary, and the sprue gates are the best I have ever seen, not just very small, denoting high moulding pressures, but offset from the plane of the part edge so that the plastic scar left from cleanup is not even on the external face of the part!
This model built willingly and cleanly. It is true that Hobby Boss have essentially copied Trimaster’s parts layout from 25 years ago in some respects, especially the sliding canopy mechanism, but it is also true that they have made it work, while Trimaster failed comprehensively. This kit has a canopy that both slides on call and fits precisely and snugly against the windscreen the rest of the time, pretty fair engineering in this scale!
I did not use the kit decals, they looked a bit dodgy with a spotty, irregular appearance in their carrier film, the only real negative I can bring to mind (that and the landing gear suspension being moulded in the fully extended position, as is so often the case, giving the model a stance perhaps a shade too high at the nose). The instrument panel is a decal (rather than raised details, another quibble) and I used this okay, but from the beginning it had been my intention to use aftermarket markings, specifically Superscale 48-1163 to build Rudel’s bird when he was Geschwaderkommodore of SG-2. I had originally planned to use an Italeri (ex-Trimaster) D-9 for this project but stalled because that kit does not feature the ground attack hardware needed for the subject – the Hobby Boss kit does.
By the time construction was done I could already tell it was going to be one of the standout models of my 48th scale collection, easily as good as the Hasegawas and Tamiyas that predominate. All I had to do was pull off a decent paintjob and do the decals justice, and fortunately the process came together without too much drama. I had airbrush trouble along the way and spent time and gas bottle pressure on a great deal of cleaning as I mixed tiny quantities of paint and chased the demarcations and mottle effects back and forth, but at last had an acceptable coverage and the process of clearcoats, panel line accents and decals went very much as expected.
I’m more than pleased with this kit, and will be picking up some more examples. I find myself quite sold on Hobby Boss, suddenly my favourite of the newer brands, with something that bit more precise and professional, even more ambitious, than their Trumpeter progenitor. They have frequent genuinely new releases, are tackling unusual subjects that have been ignored by others, and their quality speaks for itself. I know their research has not kept pace with their technical skills, their F3H Demon kits are let down by a number of inaccuracies, as is their new F-84F, whose cockpit and wheel wells are far enough wide of the mark for after market replacements to be in the works almost before the kit hit the market.
That said, it’s probably a case of evaluating each kit on its own merits. I already have four or five more Hobby Boss kits in my stash and like the looks of what’s in the boxes. I’m looking forward to using Aztec’s decals for Amazonian Mirages on their Mirage III kit, and to putting some AW Seahawks into my FAA lineup, and finally adding the elusive Demon to my USN collection. Hobby Boss is a vigorous and ambitious company – their new 1:16th scale Tiger tank is evidence enough of that – and we may expect even greater things in future from this technically superb company.