I've been reviewing a few Aeroflot models recently, which illustrates the increased interest in Soviet-era airliners in 400 scale over the past few years. There's none more interesting than the world's first successful jetliner - the Tupolev Tu-104. It may be a typical Soviet style airframe, which had some dubious handling characteristics, but it had a solid career. Retro Models has had something of a stop start history but I know the owner has worked hard to get the models to market so let's take a closer look at one of the latest pair.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
I reviewed the original Retro Models CSA Tu-104 release back in January 2019 and I was very pleased with it. If anything the new releases are even better. Getting a Tu-104 in 400 scale is still an impressive feat considering the relative disinterest in older aircraft in the scale and until recently Soviet types as well.
The result is a very fine mould which captures the look and feel of the turbojet well. The nose is well shaped and has the classic asymmetric shovel style shape at the nosecone, which has the glazed cone printed on rather than added as a separate plastic piece (in a similar manner to the later Panda Tu-134). The long port side strake to the rear of the cockpit is also understandably printed rather than moulded.
The wings have the correct downward profile towards their tip and the rather thick chord leading towards the engines. The wing/fuselage join is very discrete and well moulded. The rear fuselage has no issues and it is a nice detail to see the prominent tail bumper added under the rear fuselage.
In terms of aerials this Tu-104 had five grouped closely together forward and the three spike shaped ones on the model, including the lower aerial close to the forward landing gear door on the port side. The larger aerial is maybe a little too wide but if it weren't I don't think you'd be able to actually put it on the model at this scale.
The only area of real criticism that has been levelled at the mould is the forward undercarriage. The maingear is well placed and sized however the forward nosegear tyre was originally the same size on the model as the rear, which is incorrect. It ought to be smaller and to be fair it does look a little smaller on this version. The other issue was the nosegear bay doors which were too short by a few mm at the rear. This has been remedied with the new releases and the gear doors are now the correct length.
This mould was created at the Inflight factory and they have done a superb job in no small part, no doubt, thanks to the hard work of Kamran at Retro Models, who has made the necessary modifications from the first release too. I want to thank him for all his travails as the journey to create this delightful mould has not been smooth. Previously I scored the mould a 9 but I think that with the changes there is no reason not to score it a 10.
SCORE - 10
PAINT & LIVERY
This all silver scheme was the delivery colours for Aeroflot's Tu-104s and pleasingly the aircraft chosen to be represented here, CCCP-L5415, was the first production Tu-104, built in 1956 (there were three pre-production aircraft registered from CCCP-L5412-5414). The aircraft served with Aeroflot until being damaged at Kubinka in 1961. It became a ground instructional airframe and, in what now seems a grim irony, joined the State Aviation Museum at Kiev, Ukraine in 2003.
It looks very much to me that rather than leaving the mould a natural metal it has been painted silver. In extreme closeup there is a sparkly effect but to the naked eye the finish is very pleasing. There aren't a lot of colour photos of Tu-104s in this scheme about but there is a shot of this very airframe on display at the museum in the excellent book "Tupolev Tu-104: Aeroflot's First Jet / Red Star Volume 35". I will use that to judge the model here.
The overall scheme looks great. The colours match nicely with the red, white and blue of the pinstripes either side of the windows looking fabulous. Likewise the flapping gold outlined red flag on the tail is accurate.
The main titles use the correct font and the classic winged hammer and sickle sits resplendant but small amidships. On the image above the logo is higher but on the photos of this airframe they match the model's lower position.
The realisation of the Tupolev logo on the nose is great also. My only criticism is minor in that the black anti-glare at the nose is a little too large and so the distance between the lower pinstripe and it is too small.
SCORE - 9
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Attention to detail with the printing on this model is commendable. These old Soviet jets didn't have belly cargo holds so there are no doors present on the lower fuselage. That hasn't stopped good print detail being added though - such as the dots for the long but incredibly fine lateral aerial on the starboard forward roofline. It would be impossible to add the aerial in this scale so the suggestion of the aerial with the points where it touched the fuselage is great.
When I got the model I was concerned that there was a print issue on the nose as there s a grey circle in the black anti-glare. I needn't have worried though as checking photos I can see it is present on the real thing too. Additionally the unusual window layout, with several high circular windows, presumably for galleys and bathrooms, is perfectly replicated too.
My only criticism of the finish is not the print but the paint. The tyres are overall black and could do with some dark grey hubs. Also perhaps the insides of the engine intakes could be darker as they were on the original release. These are minor points.
The model is well constructed and nothing is out of place. One observation is however the standhole. It looks as though it was drilled by hand and has not been drilled centrally, being off to the left somewhat. It doesn't really matter or have any real impact on the model.
SCORE - 8
This model, and the Alitalia/CSA version released alongside it, are a triumph of perseverance. In a sea of A320s and 737s it is important not to forget the history of aviation and let's face it a Tu-104 looks way cooler than modern airliners. I know that there are only four or five other Tu-104 schemes that can be made but I hope that this isn't the last we see of Retro Models or this mould. Well done to everyone involved. It has been a long wait but from where I stand it has been worth it.
FINAL SCORE - 27/30
I'm Richard Stretton an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale models. On this page I take a detailed look at new releases.
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