Lavochkin’s rather overweight and indifferent in-line engined LaGG 3 gave way to a much improved radial engined La-5, which in turn became a simple but very effective fighter in its final La-5FN from. The lack of a reliable radial engine offering more power than the Ahs-82 FN engine used by the La-5FN meant that any improvement in performance would have to be obtained through weight saving and aerodynamic refinements. These improvements were prototyped with the La-5 ‘206’, and most flowed through to production La-7’s. In this respect the La-7 can be viewed as a refined La-5FN, rather than a new design.
The La-7 was one of the superlative fighters of late WW2. It exceeded the performance of its Bf 109 & Fw 190 adversaries by useful margins at the low to medium altitudes where the Russian front air-war was fought. In addition it offered rugged reliability during its almost constant use from forward airfields. Various versions were developed late in the war and shortly after, including armament variations, high altitude developments and even a version fitted with a rocket motor in the tail. Lavochkin’s last piston-engined fighters, the La-9 and La-11, were in many respects metal-winged developments of the La-5 & La-7 line, seeing service early in the cold war with several nations.
I have not built Eduard kits previously, and was impressed upon opening this boxing of the three-cannon version (although parts for the two-cannon version are still included). Parts appeared well moulded and quite adequately detailed for the scale – Not as comprehensive as say Tamiya’s 1:72 kits, but better than many purely injected kits. I think that there is a “Profi-pack” boxing of the kit, which amongst other things is bound to include Eduard photo-etch that would enhance detail levels in the cockpit and elsewhere. This would not be wasted as the cockpit canopy, of which open and closed versions are provided, is commendably clear. An Eduard vinyl or plastic-type mask is included for the canopy and wheels. A choice of four colour schemes was provided, three Russian and one Czechoslovakian.
The parts fit proved to generally be very good, and at no stage could any parts be considered as poor fitting. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. The kit exhibits some limited run characteristics in so far as the engineering does not ensure 100% automatically correct fitting of things like undercarriage legs, although this was not a problem as such. The canopy masks worked very well, but I found that the small wheel masks lacked adhesion and I abandoned using them. As an aside, I have found Eduard’s masks made of the same paper as Tamiya masking tape to be superb (I used some supplied as part of a Czech Master Resin kit). Eduard also provides a second set of wheel with separate hubs, which at fist glance promised to make wheel and tyre painting a breeze. However, the wheel hubs were undersized, so I chose not to use them.
I decided to experiment with my paint finish and glossed some Modelmaster enamels with a water-based wood varnish (guaranteed not to yellow) thinned with isopropyl alcohol. It worked fine, although it did lift in a couple of places when I trimmed some Bare-metal Foil I used for the metal panels on the fuselage sides behind the exhaust outlets. Despite this, the pre-decal gloss finish was a good one, and I found that Eduard’s decals were excellent, and presented no problems.
My real problem came, when in a moment of over-confidence and madness, I decided to double my experiment and try an artist’s matt lacquer spray that was supposed to be suitable for both oil and acrylic paints. I’ve used this successfully when decanted into my air-brush, but on this occasion I blasted straight form the aerosol can, and left the model’s surface too wet. This resulted in classic crazy cracking of the underlying finish. I considered stripping the paint, but concluded life’s too short. Besides, I needed to move onto to my next kit as it will be my 100th completed 1:72 model plane to move into my display cabinet. Accordingly I polished the crazing out with micromesh cloths, resprayed in a couple of places and accepted a less than perfect result.
I have to say that I enjoyed what proved to be a very quick build over a few nights. I have several other Eduard kits and look forward to building them. If they are like the La-7 they should build every bit as good as they look in their boxes.
Additional images, click to enlarge