1/96 Sunbeam Bristol Britannia (ex-Frog) - Soviet Military Transport
Plastic Model Kit, Box Condition: Fair
Many Frog molds made their way to the ex-Soviet Union, probably in the 1960s. Of them, this one is perhaps the most interesting. This kit represented quite a research problem, but Mark Zandy has provided information from his Soviet kit collection. The manufacture is Jaroslavl Chemical Plant "Lutch" (Jaroslavl is a town on Volga river). "Lutch" can be translated as "Ray", but "Sunbeam" is a better interpretation. Rovex sent this mold to the USSR in 1977 in an agreement between Dunbee-Combex-Marx and Novoexport, but the Bristol Britannia didn't receive the Novo kit number and this kit had been produced only for the Russian market. The price was 2 rubles, which I am told was expensive at the time. The number on the box OCT 17-296-75 refers to the number of an industrial standard for plastic toys production that was established in 1975. The box states "assembly kit of a transport plane" and it is clearly in USSR military markings. The scale is stated as 1/72, which is incorrect. Inside the box is the Frog model of the Britannia, which is 1/96. What the Soviets were doing with a model of the Britannia in Soviet military markings is unknown to me. There are no instructions or decals, but it was easy to determine that the kit is missing one propeller retainer (easy to make or can be left out as it does not show) and is missing four propeller blades. The kit also has a clear windshield and full landing gear, gear doors, etc. The kit has never been started. "Lutch" received 4 ex-Frog molds. For the domestic market kits were numbered: No. 196 -- Hawker Tempest V (bagged), No. 197 -- P-47D-25 Thunderbolt (bagged), No. ??? -- Bleriot XI (bagged) , No. 214 -- Bristol Britannia (you can see this number on the box: Article Jr 085 -- 1 -- 214). At least two different boxes were issued for the Britannia. Dusty Rhodes may have an answer as to how a Britannia could even come close to wearing a Soviet Star insignia - "...you pose a very good question about why anyone would have thought of issuing the kit with Soviet markings. From Woodley, Bristol Britannia (2002), and some online sources, I now think there may be a vaguely sensible reason. Bristol sold four Britannia transportsto Cuba in 1959, under an exception to the US embargo. The state airline Cubana ran these until around 1975, including leases to Czechoslovakia. Some of the aircraft were used to transport Cuban troops and Soviet equipment to communist insurgents in Africa. Castro apparently thought the use of British a/c was a big to do; Woodley (p. 90) describes an instance in which Fidel flew around Cuba in one of the ships and making a radio broadcast. I found no evidence that Soviet military or other markings were even temporarily applied, but as a result of all this, it might not have seemed unreasonable to someone to use red stars on the box art for this kit."