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Constant Commitment to Excellence

Impressions of Czech Modelling Ingenuity

n by Mark Davies


My Introduction to CMR

I built my first Czech Master Resin (CMR) kit some years ago; it was a highly detailed 1/72 scale De Havilland T.22 Sea Vampire. This might seem a tricky choice given its twin-boom layout and the fact that it was only my second resin kit build. The build actually proceeded in a very straightforward way with no real difficulties. More significant was my overall impression of quality and value for money, despite it being somewhat more expensive than a similar sized mainstream injection kit.

More CMR kit purchases followed, confirming my good impressions formed with the Vampire, and my level of interest in the brand developed. I had the opportunity to correspond with one of the two partners behind CMR, Petr Buchar; so I took the opportunity to ask more about the company, its background, philosophies and how it actually approaches a kit development. Petr proved to be very friendly and only too willing to share his company’s history and approach to product development, something I will try to now do here.

CMR Origins

CMR came about after the founding members of Czech Master Kits (CMK) split when the owners decided to pursue different approaches to model manufacturing and marketing. Essentially the difference stemmed from two views for the future:

Both business visions were equally worthy, but clearly would lead to different paths. In fulfilling the more mainstream vision CMK became a brand of MPM Group, and is the resin detail parts and accessories arm of that company. The enthusiast vision was continued by Petr Buchar and his business partner Radek Kazda, adopting the brand name of Czech Master Resin or CMR. CMR became a world leader in 1/72 and 1/144 aircraft kits. As an aside, staff of both companies remain good friends and in regular contact.

The similarity of names, CMR & CMK, does sometimes lead to confusion in modelling circles and even review kit websites, but remember if it is a complete resin aircraft kit in either 1/72 or 1/144 you are reading about, it will be made by CMR.

CMR Ikarus IK-2, one of the more esoteric aircraft subjects issued by the company

Czech Modelling Ingenuity

Czechoslovakia from the 1920’s always had a very strong aviation industry; and in terms of continental Europe as a whole, it was rivalled by Holland and Poland, and probably only exceeded by France and Italy. It is hardly surprising then that despite the post WW2 constraints of communism that there were many aviation enthusiasts keen to model the objects of their interest. In the 1970’s & 80’s Czechoslovak modellers were essentially limited to locally made KP kits (good for their time) when available, and exchange kits from the other side of the Iron Curtain through pen friends where possible.

This environment led to a very high degree of resourcefulness amongst Czechoslovak modellers, who turned to resin as a means of duplicating and converting existing kits, as well as developing entirely new models from scratch-built masters. Similarly, photo-etched details and vac-forming became highly developed amongst a talented group of modellers. Of course there was also a real need for good research and pooling of information. Aside from his skills with developing resin models, Petr Buchar was very talented as an archivist of aviation research material, and he has compiled a considerable research database and archive through local and international networking.

The Velvet Revolution of 1990 saw the formation of the Czech Republic and subsequently an explosion of Czech kits, accessories, decals and reference books that has only gone from strength to strength. Not everyone would agree, but I for one would argue that the Czech Republic has come to lead the modelling world. Part of that leadership involves CMR’s consistent position at the forefront of resin aircraft kit design and manufacture. This has been achieved through a commitment to research, quality, innovation and accuracy; sometimes leading to kit part improvements and even complete kit replacement. Some examples will be outlined in the remainder of this article.

CMR Today

There was considerable inquisitiveness on my part regarding how a small company from a small country (only recently free to pursue a democratic and capitalist path) came to lead the World in resin aircraft kits. This prompted more correspondence with Petr Buchar who explained to me just how CMR works. It turned out to be an interesting story of aviation passion, expert research, global friendships, and constant innovation and improvement.

The CMR partnership consists of the more “public” face of Petr Buchar who essentially provides the marketing, product development and sales element. Radek Kazda is more in the background providing important skills and business infrastructure for an export business with a global reach. As this article is intended for modellers it means quite naturally that from here on it will be Petr who tends to get mentioned!

Product Range

Czech Master Resin has established an impressive range of kits over the years. These cover all manner of subjects from all eras of aviation history. In some cases provide the only kit of a rare subject, or the only kit of a more widely used but previously un-kitted subject. In many cases CMR simply provides the definitive kit of a subject in its scale. It’s also interesting to see that in several cases extremely successful CMR kits have been followed fairly quickly by mainstream injected kits (the Wyvern and Gannet are two subjects that spring to mind here).

The CMR range includes the following quantity of subjects by scale and category. In 1/72 scale: 24 for WW1, 27 Inter-War, 45 WW2, 34 Post-War, three Helicopters, and 29 Gliders, not to mention four conversion and three detailing sets. They currently offer another nine kits in 1/144 scale, and focus on some significant but overlooked aircraft in this scale such as the Avro Shackleton and Martin Mars.

More details on CMR’s kit range can be seen at the CMR Website, so I won't repeat them here. These kits are produced in batches to order for CMR’s global distributors. CMR does not sell direct through a company store or web-site, and has been careful in its selection of global outlets. Its conservative approach to distribution development has ensured that their kits are brought to market in a consistent and reliable way by committed stockists and distributors.

CMR Westland Welkin

International Recognition

It is significant that CMR kits have been awarded “Best Kit of The Year in the category of Aircraft Models Produced in Limited Series” at the prestigious Nuremberg Hobby Exhibition (for the applicable scale) in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Regular product reviews on websites such as Hyperscale , Modelling Madness and Internet Modeller (to mention some English language examples) only reinforce this type of recognition. So just how does CMR consistently achieve these types of accolades?

Global Research Network

A global network of aviation experts and enthusiasts collaborates with CMR to assist in providing photographic, dimensional and historical information on the subjects it kits. The Internet age has enhanced this process, and effectively gives CMR a team of people providing almost instant access to aviation museums, in-service aircraft and warbirds virtually anywhere in the world.

CMR’s decision to remain a company of enthusiasts when the CMR/CMK split occurred has meant that there are plenty of people willing to collaborate and assist with research for the love of the hobby, something that they might be less willing to do gratis for much larger and more mainstream companies. Interestingly, CMR’s considerable research archive is also used to assist other small Czech modelling companies as Petr maintains many strong friendships within the Czech model manufacturing community, and is a respected source of information. For example there are several 1/48 scale resin and injected kits by other Czech companies that have benefited from the research Petr has done for his 1/72 scale kits.

Constant Product Innovation

Producing resin kits was itself highly innovative, with CMR being at the forefront of resin kit pioneers. CMR’s product improvement started with a change from generally solid fuselages to thin shell-type construction very much like injected styrene injected kits. Similarly a move away from the early method of casting small details on scab-type pours to block casting has seen better defined and more easily removed details.

I noticed that this change in technique has been applied retrospectively to older kits when a friend of mine obtained an Opel Sander RAK 1 rocket glider. The kit I built some years ago had the small details on a flat scab, whereas his had improved small detail parts on thin casting blocks. Also his kit came in an attractive box, whereas mine had been bagged.

Box art of the Opel-Sander RAK.1

Such improvements are introduced without fuss or fanfare, and the kit still had the same CMR number and was not hailed as new release. In fact all kits are now provided in boxes, and the very early releases that lacked decals are now provided with these as well.

A more recent casting change has been a move to wafer-thin attachment to casting blocks. The ease of removal is such that a kit such as a Spitfire is literally ready for assembly within a few minutes of separating the blocks and cleaning up any edges. Resin is surprisingly strong, and the more I build the less I treat it any differently strength-wise then I do styrene. However CMR recognises that in some instances the need to maintain scale thicknesses demands the use of special-strength resin for undercarriages and struts in some instances. This is usually a black resin that seems to be stiffer and a bit harder than the cream resin CMR usually uses for main components.

Multi-media injected styrene kits have been with us for some time, but CMR has led the way for resin kits. Collaboration with various leaders in their field such as Eduard for colour photo-etch details and laser cut canopy masks, has seen these third-party items first added to CMR’s more hi-tech kits (e.g. Buccaneer and recent Spitfire releases), and now they are being added to kits that previously had only resin details as well as most new releases.

In fact, quite a number of sub-contractors and suppliers are involved in taking CMR’s research and development and applying their specific skills and products towards the finished CMR product. These include various free lance modelling masters who produce the master parts from CMR’s plans, art-work developers for box-art illustrations, instructions and colours & markings guides; decal manufacturers such as MPD Decals and Tally Ho.

Revisiting Past Efforts

In addition to constant improvement with new releases, CMR is always ready to re-visit previous releases when new information provides the opportunity for improvements in accuracy. Examples include a completely new kit of the Latvian Irbitis I-16 almost 20 years after the first CMR kit was released. This followed the release of much new information on this aircraft from Latvia. New fuselages have been provided for relatively recent kits such as the Typhoon Prototype, Mk IA and Mk IB, and similarly for the Albatross CIII. Another example is the Seafire FR 47 kit which got a new wing and increased optional payload. Such are the benefits of resin kit technology, these types of improvements can be achieved far more cost effectively than is the case for injected styrene kits.

 

CMR Supermarine Seafire Mk. 47

 

Detail sets and Conversions

Opportunities to enhance (rather than correct) existing kits are evidenced by the introduction of the Seafire wing-fold set. The introduction of the Avro York C.1 offered an interesting conversion opportunity for fans of the Lancaster family. It is planned for this to be followed by a York C.2 kit. A bi-product of this kit will be the offering of complete wings and Hercules radial engines to produce a Lancaster Mk II.

Multi-Media Masterpieces

CMR has led the way amongst resin kit manufacturers by including Eduard coloured photo-etch detail arts and Eduard laser-cut canopy and wheel paint masks (made from the same material as Tamiya masking tape). Increasingly, these are extras are being added to previously issued kits as well as all new releases.

One of the more commendable efforts of the company, the Hughes H-1 set contains two neatly packaged complete kits allowing the modeller to build both versions of this elegant racer.

These additional Eduard-sourced items first appeared in multi-media masterpieces such as the Buccaneer and Spitfire Mk IX kits. The term masterpiece is not used lightly here, so let’s examine just what is offered in a kit like CMR’s Buccaneer S Mk.2 kit:

To assist the modeller is a plethora of information and guidance provided on clearly printed A4 paper. There are no less than seven pages of instructions, 12 pages of colour schemes for the markings options that cover the plane’s service life with The Fleet Air Arm. Added to these a further four pages of airframe stencil guides.

Each of the painting and markings guides provides a 4-view of the subject. In addition to these are a further three pages of tabulated paint guides for all areas other than the main airframe such as weapons, undercarriage bays, cockpit and even the aileron horn pushrods! These details are cross-referenced by part number to each of the 12 main colour schemes. Where applicable, there are notes explaining various features applicable to each version. This is followed by three pages of weapons fit details by pylon location and aircraft colour scheme option. To cap all of this information off there is a 6-page photographic walkaround and photo of each aircraft covered by the decal options.

Features as comprehensive as these have yet to be equalled by mainstream injected kit manufacturers, and the kit parts have not even been mentioned yet - so let’s see what’s provided:

The resin parts provide highly detailed airframe components with parts to complete every modification associated with the S Mk 2, 2c, 2D from 1965 to 1978. Other options include closed or deployed flaps and air-brake (choice of two styles for the latter), folded or fixed wings, open or closed nosecone and vac-form canopy, plus two different models of ejector seats.

The weapon options provided is a tour de force with 16 payload options, including Bullpup and two types of Martel missiles & data acquisition pod, rocket pods, various practice and live bomb options, different pylon styles, two rotating bomb-door options, refuelling pod & pylon, slipper tanks and the Red Beard nuclear weapon.

Coloured PE set with instrument and side-console panels; seat harnesses, firing handles, and two styles of seat thigh guards; canopy jettison handle, detonation-cord, windscreen wiper and rain-duct; and nosecone hinge and wiring conduit.

The package is rounded out by laser-cut canopy masks, making finishing the model that much easier. Like all CMR kits, two vac-form canopies are provided for the sake of practice and test-fitting if needed (Thinks: why don’t more limited run kit manufacturers do this?).

Tried & True Formula for the Future

CMR is a mature kit manufacturing company and world leader in its field. A commitment to in-depth research and continuous improvement has kept their kits at the forefront, whether as rare subjects like the Irbitis, the definitive Spitfire Mk IX in 1/72 scale, and the definitive Buccaneer in any scale. Perhaps incredibly, it has managed to achieve and maintain this position whilst remaining true to its modelling enthusiast roots.

This last fact has enabled Petr to build and keep a global network of researchers only too willing to contribute to its success, and I count myself privileged to be one of these, albeit through modest contributions. I for one eagerly await the growing range of CMR kits and the many happy hours of modelling that will result.

Czech Master Resin Spitfire LF Mk. IXe, currently the best Mk. IX Spitfire available in 1/72 scale.

© Mark J Davies, 2007

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