If 2021 is to be remembered for anything, it is a year in which complexity took over from the straightforward. Looking back at the kit builds that you see here, there are a few simple projects, but in the main, the projects that were taken to completion pushed personal boundaries, allowing the opportunity to indulge in plenty of detailed work, both in terms of construction and painting.

I doubt that many will remember 2021 with any kind of fondness, the grasping hands of the COVID epidemic and plenty of political upheaval, certainly taking the gloss off a year that if not holding great promise, seemed to offer more than 2020’s year to forget! Still, this is a modelling page, so perhaps we should concentrate on what gives us pleasure, rather than dwelling on events that do not…

If 2021 is to be remembered for anything, it is a year in which complexity took over from the straightforward. Looking back at the kit builds that you see here, there are a few simple projects, but in the main, the projects that were taken to completion (as well as other that are still very much works in progress) pushed personal boundaries, allowing the opportunity to indulge in plenty of detailed work, both in terms of construction and painting. The year will also be remembered as one that allowed diversity to take centre stage, many of the models being different from the usual fare that I like to enjoy, biplanes and cars being notable by their inclusion within a collection that features very few jets, which as you all know, are my preferred subjects.

That complexity of subject has certainly thinned the herd this year as well. Averaging 20+ over most recent years, the last 12 months have seen that number drop as time has been taken up with time-consuming builds that have included additional details and/or unusual colour schemes, all of which have taken precedent over out of the box attention-seekers, that do much to up the numbers, but perhaps little to keep the enthusiasm, high.

Here you will see all of the builds that have gone from box opening to completion. There are a number of models that have not made it that far, so they will no doubt feature in next year’s roll-call. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy seeing these models once more! 

This then is my collection of builds, 2021!

Airfix 1/48 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb

’Buckeye Don’ flown by 2nd Lieutenant Don Gentile, 336th Fighter Squadron, USAAF, RAF Debden, North Essex, 1942.

The first of the 1/48 Airfix kits that I’ve completed, this 1/48 Mk.Vb was a chance to build not only a kit that I missed out on, but also do so in American markings, another first.

It’s a nice kit that’s easy to build and is very accurate. Not as detailed as Eduard’s superlative offering, it is nevertheless more readily available in the UK and offers the same levels of accuracy, ease of assembly and curb-appeal once complete. And those markings? Sacrilegious as it us to complete a Spitfire in non-RAF plumage, it really looks smart in US roundels…

Airfix 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc

307th Fighter Squadron, 12th Air Force, USAAF, La Sénia, Algeria, during November/December of 1942

Another Airfix Spitfire and another is USAAF markings, though this time in 1/72 in the form of a Mk.Vc.

I’d already tackled a Mk.I Spitfire in this scale from Airfix, so was happy to see how their newly released at the time, Mk.Vc would drop together, especially once fitted with the tropical filter that I like so much. It was certainly easy to build, the kit parts fitting well to create a very accurate model. Painting such a small model is challenge though, especially against a one-week deadline, so the niceties of camouflage masking were abandoned in favour of freehand airbrushing. The results were okay, if not entirely in scale. Would I build another? Most definitely…

ICM 1/32 De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth

 G-ANEM, a privately owned Tiger Moth, details of which were found on the Internet.

This was a really fun project! I’ve wanted to build this aircraft in this scale for a very long time and now thanks to ICM, I have a model that I can display of this classic aircraft.

The kit isn’t perfect and there could or perhaps should have been details that are not part of the package. That said, the accuracy of the model once finished, makes up for any deficiencies and to me, that is the most important part of any build. It was also the most complex build of the year, an almost entirely scratchbuilt cockpit adding to the time taken to build and paint it.

Thanks must also go out to Jonathan Mock who helped with this project by creating painting masks for that gorgeous yellow and aluminium colour scheme, an aircraft that certainly looked different from the rather bland offerings in the kit.

Airfix 1/48 De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth 

XL717, Britannia Royal naval College, HMS Drake, Roborough, 1965.

Arguably my favourite build of 2021, the chance to not only complete the superb Airfix kit but also add to the tiny number of biplanes that I have built in this scale, was not to be missed.

This one was memorable thanks in no small part to that colour scheme, made possible thanks to Model Art’s excellent set of decals. Day-glo paintwork is always complex to apply, but when found on a biplane, it seems doubly-so. It was a challenge, but the resulting model is one that I really like and one that I was happy to show-off once complete.

Tamiya 1/48 McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II

F-4B Phantom II, VF-111 “Sundowners”, Squadron Leader’s aircraft, NAS Miramar, August 1972.

My first major review build of the year saw me tackle the superb Tamiya F-4 for TMMI. Excellent in every way, the kit delighted not only fans of 1/48 aircraft kits, but those with a particular penchant for the Phantom in all of its myriad guises.

Built from the box, including decals, the kit bears testament to the skill of Tamiya’s designers who can seemingly translate any shape, no matter how complex, into a kit that is not only super-easy to build, but that also looks every inch the machine being replicated. In a very crowded field of competition, Tamiya’s kit stands out as the best yet created of this iconic aircraft…

Once A Hunter…

Tamiya 1/35 German Panther Medium Tank

The last of my Legacy Collection builds (at least for now…) saw me tackle the most basic of Tamiya’s ‘Top-5’ best-selling ‘Military Miniatures’ kits, the ancient Panther. Basic, incredibly inaccurate and lacking in detail, this kit is their all-time best seller, so needed to be done to complete the collection. Though I’d put it off until the very end, a ‘Ten Day Challenge’ with my good friend Jonathan Mock, spurred us both on to complete one each for our collections.

As it turned out, rebuilding this model from the ground up, adding detail, and then building a diorama around it, resulted in a set-piece that I now feel represents the Legacy Collection better than all of the other models within it. This really was an example of a silk purse from a sow’s ear!

Airfix 1/48 Canadair Sabre F.4

Canadair Sabre F.4, No.4 Squadron, RAF Germany Jever, 1954.

A tough one, this, because this was a kit I was really looking forward to and when the new Airfix kit arrived, it was something of a disappointment.

With two fine kits to compete with from Hasegawa and Academy (and a third, if you include ESCI’s older package), I was hoping that it would surpass what had already been seen. It did not. Faffy design, half-hearted detail and poor fit, resulted in a project that was more frustration than fun. Having built the kit, I’m more than happy with the resulting model, but that’s down to the work I put in rather than what’s actually offered in the box. It’s accurate and looks every inch a Sabre and the stunning decals supplied in the box, it looks very smart. To turn a phrase on its head: this is a really nice model, but I really can’t say that it’s a great kit and that’s a pity. This was an almost open goal for Airfix, it’s just a shame that they hit the bar and missed out on a great opportunity to take the lead…

Airfix 1:72 Avro Lancaster B.II

Avro Lancaster B.II – ‘Z-Zombie’, No.408 (Goose) Squadron, 6 Group, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Air Force Linton-On-Ouse, Yorkshire, July 1944.

The most difficult build of the year, bar none. Anyone that has built an Airfix Lancaster will know that it is a tough build, but one that results in something quite special in terms of accuracy and poise once sat on your display shelves.

It’s good to have finally added a Lancaster to my collection, but I have to say that the path to completing that goal was not as smooth as it could have been. The problems are really not with the kit per se, but with the awful plastic in which the kit is moulded, construction being more problematic than I expected and thus more frustrating as a result – especially when it came to clean-up prior to painting. But despite that, there is much to admire about this kit, its accuracy being one of those things and let’s face it, who else is going to tackle a Hercules-engined B.II in 1/72? At the end of the day, I really like the completed model and I’m proud to add it to my slowly growing collection of WWII bombers. Who knows, I may even return to this kit one day (a Merlin-engined variant being in my loft as we speak…) take my time and see just how far I can push it as a project, now that I know what I’m letting myself in for…

Kinetic 1/48 FMA IA-58A/D Pucará

Completed as an anodised metal aircraft, code A-593

When taking everything into account, price, availability, accuracy and ease of assembly, this is my pick for ‘Kit Of The Year 2021’. 

The modelling world has waited a long time for a kit of this aircraft in this scale, in plastic. When Kinetic announced that they would be tackling it and the first tantalising glimpses of the parts started to appear Online, we knew that the wait would be worth it.

Having the kit to build and now seeing it finished, I can say with some conviction that Kinetic has created a really fine replica of this aircraft, from a kit that is a joy to build. It’s simple in concept, fits together almost flawlessly and once on your workbench, looks every inch a Pucará. Sure, there are compromises, with the lack of weapons being something that’s hard to fathom, but given its low retail price, those are things that can be dealt with, without further breaking the bank. A fabulous kit and one that is highly recommended!

Tamiya 1/24 Lotus Europa

This is the second classic car that I’ve built from Tamiya within the last year or so and much like the Honda S600 that I completed last summer, I really enjoyed putting together the kit and painting the results. Of course being Tamiya, you expect it to be simple to build and in the main that proved to be entirely so. Detail is similarly impressive and now once finished, the model looks every inch the Lotus Europa Special that it replicates.

From a personal point of view though, I’m sure that if I built another, I would do things differently, a rather scruffy dashboard being a particular bone of personal contention. Though hardly visible within the cabin of the car, the images of it make me wish that I had been more careful with the paintwork and maybe masked and sprayed it, instead of painting the trim and detail by hand. Similarly, the close-up images of the Bare Metal trim around the windows reveal just how easily damaged it is and how many times I’ve had to repair patches that have worn away. I would definitely use paint for these areas should I build another! And finally, though not visible in the images, there is a patch of paintwork where I was a little heavy-handed with my polishing, partly as a result of the softer acrylic’s that I used, and partly as a result of inattention. Again, that’s something to learn from.

Overall though I really enjoyed this project and I am now looking forward to building a small vignette for it to live in. If you are looking for something a little different to built, maybe give one of these cars a go. I’m sure that you won’t regret it!

Tamiya 1/48 Nashorn

This is a very fine little kit that’s a lot of fun to build, paint and weather. More than that though, it offers a subject that can form the basis of one of the most detailed vehicles within this range, the open fighting compartment being ripe for improvement with additional details, accessories and in the right hands, crew figures.

I really enjoyed building this model and would happily build another. Give it a go, because I think that you too will have a blast putting it together and then painting the results!

Tamiya 1/35 Kettenkrad

When this kit was announced I have to say that it was one that I looked forward to building. Now that it’s finished and I can enjoy the results, I have to say that it wasn’t a disappointment.

You expect a certain level of quality from Tamiya and here that is delivered in spades. The kit is well-detailed, superbly designed and thanks to the incredible figures, offers a vignette in a box with little need for additional expense, or work.

This is a lovely new model that can be used either as a companion to a larger vehicle, or as I have done here, as a standalone subject. Either way, you will enjoy building it and I’m sure, take great pleasure from seeing the results of your labours within your display case. 

Absolutely superb!

Airfix Boulton Paul Defiant NF.I

Boulton Paul Defiant NF.I Aircraft flown by Flying Officer Frederick Desmond Hughes and Sergeant Fred Gash (gunner), No.264 Squadron, Royal Air Force Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England, April 1941.

Another involved build saw me tackle another Airfix BP Defiant in 1/48, though this time with added whistles and bells from Eduard and CMK. It was also the chance to have a go at an overall black finish, something, if memory serves me correctly, I’d only attempted a handful of times before, on an SR-71 Blackbird and an F-117 Nighthawk.

Being so detailed, this was a really fun project, that also brought into play modellers from Ireland who had more detailed knowledge of the aircraft being replicated. Some changes had to be made late on with the finish, but it was with it to have a really pleasing replica of what is rapidly becoming a favourite WWII fighter, in front of me.

Revell 1/72 Razor Crest

My last build of 2021 was perhaps the most unusual, being not only a ‘spaceship’, but one that was built from a test-shot without instructions and decals and one that was to be finished in natural metal! This was a really engrossing project, made all the more pleasing thanks to the superb kit that Revell have created. I really loved The Mandolorian, so the chance to build the show’s start piece of hardware, was hard to resist. This was also a quick build as it turned out, then low number of parts, excellent fit and opportunity to built it in large, easy to handle parts, making it one of the more straightforward projects completed in 2021…


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I'm formerly the editor in charge of Military In Scale magazine and latterly, Model Airplane International. Editing duties to one side, I'm now a full-time modelmaker with Doolittle Media, working to supply modelling articles and material for a number of their group titles, including MAI and Tamiya Model Magazine International. I'm also an avid fan of Assassin's creed, Coventry City FC and when the mood takes me, a drummer of only passing skill. Here though, you'll find what I do best: build models and occassionally, write about them!

6 comments on “A YEAR IN MINIATURES

  1. A really splendid catalogue of work Spencer. May 2022s output be at least as good.

  2. Sanjay Lal

    A splendid collection and I love the mini-reviews to go with each build.

  3. baker24earthlinknet

    It is impressive to see your work in such a variety of genres – I have felt for some time that good modelers can build anything, and the really good ones can. You are in that group, and it shows in your work.

  4. Richard Graham

    Superb builds Spence, and something for many of us to aspire too; but also very fair and objective assessments of the kits in question. Best wishes for 2022!

  5. brian wilton

    Excellent collect of models build to the highest standards with great thought for the process and schemes available, thus getting the most from the hobby, congratulations and wishing you all the best for 2022

  6. Wait till you get the F-82G – it will rival the Pucara for you.

    Have a great 2022 (at least as far as modelling is concerned.)

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