As you'd expect from Tamiya, the presentation is excellent, with the kit arriving in a sturdy top-opening box and the sprues all individually bagged for protection. The kit consists of:
111 x grey styrene parts
4 x clear parts
1 x ball-bearing for nose-weight
2 x steels screws and a fret of poly caps
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The layout of the parts on the sprues seems quite odd as you end up with a fair amount of duplication. Admittedly, a lot of this is down to the choice of how to display the engine (of which more later), but the provision of four main undercarriage legs and two sets of doors seems overly generous by any standards...
Tamiya's Salamander is moulded to the company's usual impeccable standard, with not a trace of flash anywhere. Surface detail consists of precisely engraved panel lines, plus a few raised panels and rivets where appropriate. Maybe it's just my imagination, but the panel lines seem a little lighter than usual for a Tamiya kit - a welcome move as I think the company has had a tendency to overdo them in the past. Ejector pin marks have mostly been kept out of harm's way, but there are still a few to take care of - notably on the inside of the engine covers.
Test fit and construction breakdown
As you'd hope with a new kit from Tamiya, the fit of the main parts is very good. The fuselage halves snap together with a satisfying click and the wings (the only real bugbear with the TriMaster/Dragon kit) are an excellent fit, made even easier by the provision of a simple spar. It's clear from the start that this should be a straightforward build.
As you'd expect, the instructions are superbly presented. There's a detailed 2-page history in both English and Japanese, while the assembly diagrams are beautifully drawn with colour-tags for Tamiya's own paints keyed to most parts. Assembly is broken down into 14 stages:
Stage 1 - A neatly detailed trolley to allow the kit's engine to be displayed separately.
Stage 2 - The cockpit. The kit includes a reasonable instrument panel, rudder pedals and central console which forms the roof of the nosewheel-well. However, the ejector seat is rather odd - the seat-pan lacks sides and the distinctive handles (ironically shown in Tamiya's own sketches in the excellent accompanying history of the He 162). The seat is further let down by a rather unconvincing decal harness.
Stages 3 & 4 - The landing gear and main wheel-well. Again, quite nicely detailed with oleo scissors and retraction springs.
Stages 5 & 6 - Fuselage assembly, including side-consoles and cannon tubes for the cockpit, along with the previous sub-assemblies. Tamiya provide weight in the form of a ball-bearing to keep the kit on its wheels. It's heavy, but it needs to be, because it fits behind the cockpit due to lack of space in the extreme nose. A rather ingenious combined spar/engine locator slips in before the fuselage is closed, with a couple of steel pins provided to ensure a rigid assembly.
Stage 7 - Assembles the tail surfaces and shows how the wheel doors are moulded closed and must be sliced open for use. Oddly, seeing how the doors are moulded, the kit doesn't include an option to display the a/c "in flight".
Stages 8, 9 & 10 - Assembly and attachment of the wings and tail, along with the previously built instrument panel sub-assembly which slots into the completed fuselage. Turning the model on its back, the undercarriage doors and cannon barrels are fitted at this point.
Stages 11-14 - The engine. The mystery of the seemingly spare sprues is solved as the engine is designed to be displayed in 2 states:
- Cowling closed, with basic intake and exhaust details and the engine itself mounted on the trolley from Stage 1.
- Cowlings open and the detailed engine mounted on the airframe.
Rather than try to hinge the clamshell engine covers, Tamiya have simply provided two complete units that can be built open or closed, with both the nacelle or the engine fitting onto the steel pins protruding from the fuselage - the idea being that the units are interchangeable.
The engine itself is nicely detailed, with auxiliary units and some plumbing, but a look at any photos of the full-sized BMW 003 shows there's a mass of extra cabling and pipework that should be added to depict the engine accurately.
As soon as Tamiya released their Salamander there were doubts about it's outline shape - particularly the nose and tail, while some concerns have also been raised about the canopy. The kit's front end is certainly blunter and more bulbous than the TriMaster/Dragon kit, so I compared the parts with the walkaround shots
I took of the preserved machine at RAF Hendon and period photos from reference books.
Checking and rechecking photo after photo, I came to the conclusion that the doubters are right - the nose does seem too blunt, giving the Salamander an uncharacteristically pugnacious appearance. Likewise the tail - the fins in the kit seem narrow in chord compared with the Hendon a/c. The canopy is harder to judge - and, of course, you can always draw attention away from any outline error by displaying it open.
It should be said that the Tamiya kit will undoubtedly build into a great looking model OOB - but purists will be left thinking something "isn't quite right". It might be possible to lengthen and reshape the Tamiya nose carefully but, for me, the TriMaster/Dragon kit still captures the look of the Salamander better and, despite its age and more complicated assembly, is still the model I'd choose.
Painting and decals
Decals are provided for 4 colour schemes. Each is clearly depicted with a 4-view diagram, one being depicted "actual size" in 1/48 scale.
Markings are provided for:
a. He 162 A-2, W.Nummer 120230, "White 23", flown by Oberst Herbert Ihlefeld, JG1, Leck, May 1945
b. He 162 A-2, W.Nummer 120074, "Yellow 11", flown by Oberleutnant Emil Demuth, 3/JG1, Leck, May 1945
c. He 162 A-2, W.Nummer 120027, "White 1", flown by Leutnant Rudolf Schmitt, 1/JG1, Leck, May 1945
d. He 162 A-2, W.Nummer 120277, "Red 1", flown by Leutnant Gerhard Hanf, 2/JG1, Leck, May 1945
The decals are typical for Tamiya - well printed in good register, but a little on the thick side.
Tamiya's He 162 is something of a curate's egg; while it's superbly engineered and will undoubtedly be easier to build than the old TriMaster/Dragon kit, the latter is actually better detailed in some areas and arguably more accurate in shape. So, you're left with an awkward choice and the decision will be down to what you give the greater priority - ease of construction or detail and accuracy.
Tamiya's Salamander costs 18.99 in the UK, making rather better value than many recent Tamiya kits which have suffered from high import prices. Nevertheless, it's still cheaper to buy on-line from abroad - bought from HLJ it works out at just £10.50 plus P&P.
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