by: Matthew Robeson [ ]
The USS Guppy is an example of Balao-class submarines, built from 1942-1946. The Balao-class subs were an improvement on the earlier Gato class submarines. The exterior remained unchanged, with internal differences, and the use of higher strength steel on the pressure hull being the changes. The submarines ran on diesel-electric motors, with the diesel running the electric generators, and the electric motors driving the propellers.
The AFV Club kit is, I'll be very honest, my first submarine kit ever. I was attracted by the box-art of the kit, with the SS Leonardo Da Vinci (the other option in the box) passing under a low bridge on the surface. Great art-work and it suckered in this long-time aircraft modeler. Cracking open the end-opening box reveals first the two loose parts of the hull, with the lower hull being cast in red plastic, very close to the needed hull red. After that, you're presented with two sealed bags with three sprues of light gray plastic, all very sharply detailed.
Besides the plastic parts, there is also one fret of photo-etch pieces, containing the railing, and what appears to be some ladders. Also included are one clear part, and one black rubber poly-cap.
The last parts in the box is the tiny little decal sheet, quite a change for me from seeing huge decals sheets coated in national markings and stencils. This one only four numbers, to do either hull number 510 or 511, the two US options in the box. They seem to be printed well, but of course only use will tell how they work.
The instructions for the kit are quite nice indeed. I can't read all of it, since it's in Japanese, but the color call-outs are for Gunze-Sangyo, Humbrol, Revell, and Lifecolor paints, so should be enough for most modelers, since the only colors needed are flat black, brass, and hull red. These can also be sourced from Tamiya (XF-1, X-12, XF-9 respectively). The rest of the instructions are done in exploded parts views over 7 steps, and seems very easy to follow. No problems here, and this should really fall together.
Also included is a nice errata sheet, showing the differences between the different blocks of submarines, between the early and late versions, since the gun and conning tower loads were different between them. For some reason, although the box claims this kit could build an Italian sub, there are no directions or decals for it, so you'd have to source those if you really want to do that version. That's really the only downgrade I've found on the kit.
Overall, this looks like quite the nice kit, and surely a good first product for someone looking to get into ships or submarines. Minus the problem with the decals and directions, it really is a nice kit. The kit is a bit expensive at around 27 dollars, especially considering the parts count, but it sure looks like a great kit, that should just fall together in an afternoon if you're so inclined.