The Sopwith 7F.1. Snipe first appeared in 1917 as the intended replacement for the famous Camel. The prototypes underwent a number of major modifications over the following year, including a change from single- to a two-bay wings, replacement of the vertical tail and a redesigned fuselage. Thus it was not until September 1918 that production Snipes flew their first sorties and less than a hundred saw operational service by the Armistice.
Despite its limited wartime career, the Snipe gained lasting fame as the aircraft in which Major W. G. Barker, DSO and MC, won the Victoria Cross following a lone dogfight against overwhelming odds. The Snipe was one of the few types to continue in production after the severe cutbacks following WW1 and the type went on to become a standard RAF fighter, remaining in service until 1927.
It's important to state at the outset that this model is really only suitable for experienced modellers. Although short-run kits have become steadily more "user-friendly" over the last few years, Hi Tech are at pains to point out that their resources do not allow them to produce kits to rival what they call "Accutamygawa" quality.
The kit consists of:
42 Plastic parts.
13 Resin parts.
105 Photo-etched parts on a shared Snipe / Salamander fret.
Decals for one aircraft.
The main parts are moulded in a soft, pale grey styrene and the first impression is rather disappointing, as many parts are surrounded by really heavy flash. It's clear straight away that all the plastic parts are going to require quite a bit of preparation and clean-up.
The surface finish is rather rough in places, with a "textured" look to the parts. That's no great problem; polishing should take care of it but, more seriously, there is a certain amount of shrinkage evident on the wings and ailerons.
The wings and tail have heavily represented rib tapes and stitching on the upper surfaces. HiTech describe these as "rivets"! and recommend they should be gently sanded down for a more subtle effect - to be honest though, I think a lot of this detail will be lost in the process of tackling the sinkage and thinning the trailing edges. Strangely, the rib tapes on the underside are quite delicately represented.
The kit includes a choice of ailerons and vertical tail - the early, small, type and the enlarged Salamander-style fitted to later Snipes.
If this has all sounded rather negative so far on the plastic front, all is not certainly doom and gloom; a closer look at the smaller parts reveals some very nice touches. The fabric covers for the wheel spokes are beautifully depicted, while the undercarriage features moulded-on bungee suspension. The propeller is nicely moulded and matches photos of the original very well.
A kit like this doesn't really lend itself to a full test-fit but, once the parts are cleaned up, the fuselage and separate forward top-decking fit together very neatly; the fuselage halves are thin and straight, which bodes well for fitting the interior parts.
Turning to the wings, I was in for a shock... warping - and a bad case of it at that. The wings are split into separate left and right panels and, in the review sample at least, all were warped upwards. Luckily, the soft plastic makes it a fairly simple job to straighten things out - the accompanying picture shows the result of a few minutes' work on one of them and, a week or two later, it has remained straight. The wings have no locating tabs, so adding some metal pins will help strengthen the joins. The 2-bay assembly is reasonably complex, so a simple building-jig may be a good idea to keep everything square and true.
While the plastic parts leave something to be desired, the resin components are excellent - it's a shame there aren't more of them!.. Beautifully cast in a dark tan resin, the small set includes a neat pair of Vickers guns, but it's the engine that really steals the show; it's cast with a separate crankcase and cylinders, with really excellent detail.
The kit includes a very comprehensive etched fret, which also includes parts for HiTech's Salamander. The quality of the parts is superb - the wicker seat is amazing! The fret also includes a mass of control horns and cable runs - HiTech have included alternative parts to allow you to add your own cables or use the etched parts.
The cockpit is made up of number of etched parts - apart from the seat and harness, there's an instrument panel, plus floorboards which must be folded to shape and rudder pedals. For the Vickers you get cocking levers plus a choice of gunsights.
The only etched part I'm not so sure about is the exhausts - they just looks too 2-dimensional and it's a shame it wasn't included with the excellent resin parts.
Instructions & decals
The assembly instructions are bi-lingual French/English. The first page consists of explanation of the short-run nature of Hi-Tech models and who they are aimed at, along with a very useful list of references for the Snipe.
The main construction is illustrated with a single, sketch-like diagram which isn't the clearest ever provided in a kit. For English-speaking modellers matters aren't helped by the rather idiosyncratic translation of the few notes included (a knowledge of French, even to high-school level will pay dividends here - you DID pay attention in class, didn't you?!).
Two scrap diagrams are included; the first shows the engine construction, while the second shows how to alter the Salamander-style ailerons provided.
Sadly, the instructions don't include a rigging diagram.
Well drawn side and plan views are provided for painting and decal placement, along with a list of colours used which includes FS equivalents and Methuen matches for the exterior colours.
Decals are provided for a single aircraft - unsurprisingly, Maj. Barker's famous E8102. The decals are thin and glossy and printed in excellent register. I'm a bit worried by the proportions of the roundels though - the white areas seem too large by comparison with Hitech's own diagram and photos of Maj. Barker's aircraft.
As HiTech themselves point out, this is a kit for experienced modellers - and I would strongly recommend anybody tackling it has at least a couple of biplane models successfully under their belt. Against this, HiTech's Snipe offers an unusual challenge for fans of WW1 and Golden Age aircraft and the kit will reward careful assembly and result in a model you can be justifiably proud of.
HiTech's Sopwith Snipe is available for $44.96 from MMD-Squadron who kindly supplied the review sample.
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