by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
HistoryIn August 1934, the French Ministry of Aviation drew up specifications for a new dual-engine aeroplane. In it's two seater version, the plane was to be a day and night fighter and bomber escort, and as a three seater, was to serve as control plane for single seater fighters. The first prototype, the Potez 630, exhibited outstanding handling and high performance and to top it off was elegant in design. The nationalised company SNCAN built a total of 88 Potez 630, but problems with the Hispano-Suiza 14Ab 10/11 engines led to production being halted in favour of the Potez 631, powered by Gnome-Rhône 14 Mars engines.
At the outbreak of war there were 20 fighter units containing the plane, flying both night and day missions, including desperate attacks on German Panzer divisions. Altogether, the Potez 631 shot down 29 enemy aircraft over France.
After signing of the armistice, the remaining planes served in the Vichy Air Force and after the occupation of France the Germans sold the rest to Rumania. The last three planes survived the war and acted as training planes after 1945.
The Kit's contentUnlike some manufacturers who put a small kit in a huge box, Azur's Potez 631kit comes in a rather small top opening cardboard box (picture 1). The nice cover artwork represents a Potez nightfighter with a colorful Vichy decoration (isn't that paradoxical?) flying over a twilight landscape.
The kit consists of five plastic sprues, two clear plastic components, one bag with resin detail parts, one bag with decals, one photo etched fret and one small acetate film (picture 2). To sum up, everything a modeler needs to be happy!
The plastic parts are nicely done with little flash and are made of a rather soft plastic. You can see the part's layout on pictures 3 to 7. By examining every sprue in detail, it's quite amazing to see how short run technology has improved. In the Potez kit, it is very noticable on the wings parts (picture 8). The quality of the surface and the subtle relief details are amazing! Apart from Eduard (but can Eduard still be considered as a short run manufacturer?), I do not remember having seen such beautiful plastic parts made by a limited run manufacturer. The strengthening ribs are looking fantastic and the engraved panel lines are just perfect. Gone are the days were everything had to be rescribed! At least on the kits produced by MPM it seems. The instrument panel is no longer an injected dummy, the gear bays look as if they are able to accomodate the landing gears, the engine upper nacelles are detailled an will look convincing once fitted with the crispely done exhausts (picture 9). A few years back, these exhausts would have been produced in resin in such a kit, I'm quite sure of that.
So everything's perfect? Sadly no, as I found some problems in my sample. The first one is a rather large hollow in one of the vertical fins (picture 10). Surprisingly, the other fin looks perfect and has no sink mark, maybe I was just unlucky. The other thing I noticed is a small step in the starboard wing. I don't know what caused this, but in both cases, these imperfections will be easy to fix with filler and some sanding. There are also some odd ejector pin marks in the landing gear bays (see picture 9 if you missed them), but in all this is only nitpicking about details, because the overall quality is really good. Just take a look at the pilot's seat and I think you will be convinced (picture 11).
There are not so many resin parts in the Potez kit (picture 12). I guess the quality of the plastic parts made it unnecessary to produce more. So only two engines, the tail wheel with it's fork and some smaller bits are provided. The small (only 700hp) Gnome-Rhône engines are nicely cast with push rods and ignition wires. They will only require a good paintjob and I think they will fit in the cowlings without too much trouble. The tail wheel fork looks fragile so one will have to be very carefull while removing it from the moulding block.
A photo etched fret (picture 13) will allow you to add detail parts in the cockpit area (seat belts) but also outside the plane (aileron actuators and fuselage bottom). For those who fear PE parts, only 20 parts are provided, no big deal then. More difficult will be to make two small windows (forward fuselage) with the small acetate film and the corresponding photo etched parts.
The "greenhouse" is made of one injected clear part (picture 14) and on my sample, the plastic is a little "foggy" and will need some polishing. Unfortunately, there is no way to display the canopy open without torturing the transparent part. Two smaller parts are also provided for the forward landing light and an underside window.
The decals are nicely done and in register (picture 15). The blue dots are separate decals, as the constructor's name and aircraft serial number in case you don't wan't to use the kit's decals for the rudders. The instructions are made out of three sheets of A4 sized paper folded so to make a 12 pages booklet. A parts layout is present and the assembly guide is clear and without surprise. It is possible to choose between four different decoration in this kit:
1 - Potez 631 C.3 No. 162, X-931, E.C.N. 1/13 Nîmes-Courbessac, 1940. This is the plane of the cover artwork. It wears the standard French 3 tones camouflage (Khaki, Dark Brown and Dark Grey over Grey Blue), "Vichy stripes", a white line on the fuselage and a small nose art representing a bat.
2 - Potez 631 C.3 No. 193, X-967, E.C.N. 1/13 Nîmes-Courbessac, 1941. This plane is painted entirely in Grey Blue apart from the engine cowlings and the tail wich have "Vichy stripes". It also wears the bat nose art.
3 - Potez 631 C.3 No. 169, X-938, Calais-Marck, 1940. This Potez was piloted by the commander of French Navy unit AC 2, Maître Dupot. This one too wears the standard (so to speak, as almost every plane wore a different scheme at that time) French 3 tones camouflage. A "Donald Duck" wearing a sailor suit was painted on the rudders.
4 - Potez 631 C.3 No. 49, X-620, G.C. I/8, 1940. This plane also wears the standard French 3 tones camouflage and was decorated with a nose art representing a lion.
On the painting guide, the colours references are given for Gunze Sangyo paints.
The kit's AccuracyI have some references about the Potez 63 serie and from what I have seen, the kit is pretty accurate. This is not a surprise as Azur is a collaboration between French aircraft specialists from Air Magazine and the Czech company MPM. They obviously share their information and it's not uncommon that a book follows the release of a model kit or the contrary.
ConclusionThis is a wonderful looking kit! Apart from some minor problems and the transparent one piece canopy, the quality is top class. If the fit is good (only time will tell), this could be one of the best model kits of the year. Beware, if you open the box, you will hear the plastic whisper: "Build, me! Build, me!" And the resin parts echo: "Now! Now!"
I don't think many will resist to this siren's song...
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