this model is the realization of a childhood dream. As long as I can remember, I have had a passion for submarines and more specifically for the German Type VIIc. A few years ago, Revell Germany proposed a very impressive model at the scale of 1/72 that was a nice match for their re-issue of the Matchbox Flower Class Corvette.
A lot of negative things can be said about the Chinese quality and products, but in the domain of plastic scale models, they created a renewal, a revival of that discipline that no American or European companies have been able to even get close to. It started with their Bismarck and USS-Arizona in the scale of 1/200 and they have been relentlessly offering multiple models each time, bigger and bigger. The upcoming Titanic at 1/200 is another proof of their energy and commitment to this form of Hobbies. The models offered, the molding, packaging, artwork of the contents, quality of instructions and the size are absolutely unmatched by European or American manufacturers. Tamiya, being Japanese, remains in the leading group.
Their 1/48 U-Boat U-552 kit is probably the biggest kit that can be found on the market today, at least it is in my small collection. The following shows the box weighing 22 pounds resting against some of my pinball machines:
That model is massive with a length of 1.440 meters, near 5 feet. The kit includes more than 1100 parts and is extremely well presented, packaged and molded as are the modern Trumpeter kits. All the parts are arranged into three large boxes with delicate parts carefully wrapped with bubble shields. The main hull and rear hull are located in their respective boxes, impervious to shocks and mishandling.
Three booklets come with the kit: Instructions for assembly (70 pages), instructions for colors (20 pages) and a flyer for painting and assembling the 50 some crew members.
on the PE side, it is very limited and spartan:
However, two PE solutions are available:
- Eduard with 3 sheets of PEs for the hull and conning tower
- RCSubz with a fantastic offering (slightly more expensive than Eduard but ten times better and more protypical) of PEs, including the infamous Enigma machine in the scale of 1/48 - https://www.rcsubs.cz/index.php/photo-etched-sets/20-sets-for-u-boat-viic-1-48-trumpeter-06801
I have not made up my mind yet, but I am leaning very strongly towards RCSubz which allows to redo the entire deck and part of the hull, in brass. They are currently sold out but working hard to produce other PE kits.
The amounts of parts is overwhelming:
I have not replicated the instructions here, as it can be easily found on the Internet. Instructions are very precise, clear and are leading you step by step, towards a successful completion of that large model.
The hull is provided with a grey side and a clear side:
A lot has been said about that kit and numerous people have built it on the WEB. The best realization (in my humble opinion), being a French modeler who turned that kit into a museum piece with a galore of extra details. His Build Log can be found here: http://www.laroyale-modelisme.net/t20510-u-552-trumpeter-echelle-1-48 (in French):
Here is another shot from a different builder, showing a beat-up and heavily rusty Type VII:
People have been complaining about the clear acetate used to mold the Port side of the submarine and the starboard of the conning tower (mishap!!) and wished that both parts were molded with polystyrene. The Trumpeter kit insists mostly on the inside of the U-Boat and it is clearly what the Chinese tried to do with this massive kit. The Trumpeter kit is an enlargement of the Revell kit and all mistakes of the original Revell kit regarding the hull, have been carried over to the Trumpeter model.
Despite these limitations, that kit remains an absolute must have (for submarine enthusiasts) and offers incredible potential for kit bashing and a level of details rarely obtained in naval plastic kits.
I am not planning to start the building of this kit any time soon (other priorities to take care of) but still wanted to present it to you and perhaps get the motivation to tackle the biggest plastic model of my life.