I.A.R. 81 BoPi "Dive Bomber"

Published: January 8th, 2019     
Product Image
Reviewed by: 
Gino Dykstra, IPMS# 11198
Scale: 1/32
Company: Special Hobby
Price: $49.00
Product / Stock #: SH32073

The IAR-80 is the best-known production fighter to come out of the Romanian plant during WW2 and has always had a certain fascination for me. Developed in the 1930s as the Rumanian Air Force was working valiantly to get into the arms race then taking place in Europe, the IAR-80 featured a license-built Gnome-Rhone 14K engine and some various bits and pieces purchased from other countries, including the machine gun armament. Despite the comparative lack of experience in such design work, the IAR-80 proved to be a relatively modern and well-thought-out design, although some fixes needed to be included during its design life, including external bracing for the rear fuselage, which had a tendency to twist during high-speed turns.

The IAR-81 was a fairly modest design change to convert the fighter into a dive bomber, with the inclusion of a trapeze-mounted centerline bombing station as well as strong points on the wings for additional bombs. Although the conversion was relatively successful, some fighter pilots complained about the degradation of performance associated with the change, and by the time of Rumania's capitulation a few were being converted back to straight fighters.

Special Hobby has wisely made a range of IAR-80s and IAR-81s in 32nd scale, and this particular version features nicely defined gray and clear plastic as well as photoetch and some modest resin details. For a limited-release model the detail on this is really outstanding, including photoetch seat harness, fully articulated control surfaces and droppable flaps.

As always, I began with the interior build, and have to confess that I found this a bit challenging. The interior is unlike most WW2 aircraft, as it is essentially an open framework with no real floor. Everything is mounted on a relatively flimsy framework, and even the instruments are somewhat scattered, much like the instrumentation found in many aircraft of the previous war. Care is absolutely called for in the assembly of the interior, but the results are actually pretty impressive, as long as you take your time. It also features a distinct light blue color which may be unique to Rumanian aircraft interiors.

The next major assembly is the engine, and once again the attention to detail is outstanding, although I found the separate push rods to be a bit overscale and more than a bit frustrating to clean up. Under other circumstances I would probably have replaced them with Evergreen rod. However, for all the work you might dedicate to this assembly, most of it is going to be virtually invisible once installed because of the close-fitting cowl. In fact, you will probably find (as I did) that you'll have to shave a substantial amount off the cylinder heads all around just to get the cowl on properly.

At this point I was able to get the fuselage together and the wings on. The machine guns for the wing are provided as small resin pieces, and are best left off until you've fully integrated the wings with the fuselage assembly, which requires a bit of filling and sanding, especially at the wing roots.

An interesting point here - after getting the elevators on, the shape of this interesting aircraft was now becoming clear. That's when I first noticed that this vehicle bears a startling resemblance to Howard Hughes famous H-1 racing aircraft, which came onto the international scene only two years before development of this Rumanian fighter began. Although Wikipedia makes no mention of this similarity, the question does arise - did the one aircraft influence the other?

Final pre-assembly was the bomb load, all of which feature photoetch fins and really look the part. Nice!

Anyway, at this stage most of the serious challenges in assembly are over, and it's just a case of adding the various bits and pieces. I left the tail off to paint separately, but most of the rest of the craft can go together before airbrushing. This is where the fun really begins, as this is one of the most colorful aircraft of the Second World War - yellow Eastern Front markings on the nose, fuselage band and outer wings plus the exceedingly colorful national markings. Two full sets of slightly different national markings are provided, so I'm using the second set for a Hawker Hurricane conversion I've been contemplating for awhile.

The decals proved commendably thin, but their adhesion seriously leaves something to be desired. I used Future floor polish as an undercoat to improve this aspect, and they consequently snuggled down on the detail nicely, responding well to solvents. The only real flaw I encountered is that due to the thinness of the inks used, the blue dot overlying the yellow at the center of the national cockade looked more green than blue. A simple bit of surgery with a punch set and the unused tail markings resolved this issue neatly.

Frankly, I loved this particular build. With the exception of the somewhat persnickety interior the kit offered no serious struggles. The final product is a really dramatic and colorful addition to any collection, and captures the look of the original beast very well indeed. I could recommend this kit to anyone who likes larger scale aircraft and wants something a bit different sitting on their shelf. My thanks to Special Hobby for making this fun model and to IPMS/USA for giving me a shot at it. Happy New Year!

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