by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Ebbro have built up an enviable reputation for quality with their small, but growing, range of 1:20 F1 racing cars. They're not cheap but, with a birthday looming, I thought it was an ideal opportunity to treat myself to something a bit special and make my first acquaintance with an Ebbro kit.
The company was apparently founded by a former Tamiya designer who was involved with many of the latter's F1 car models - and there is an unmistakable "Tamiya feel" to the Lotus 49B reviewed here. That doesn't extend to the box, though, and that surprised me slightly. Used as I am to Tamiya kits, I expected a similar style from Ebbro. Instead, the Lotus arrives in a very compact and deep box. And it certainly needs to be deep, because the lid was still bulging slightly with all the sprues squeezed inside.
Another surprise was a large correction note about a change in the instructions which is the first thing you see when you open the box. In an ideal world there'd obviously be no need for a note at all, but if you have to do it, this way is a great idea, because you can hardly miss it. Full marks to Ebbro for making it so prominent.
Every sprue is packed separately in its own bag and the overall presentation is very good. The bags are a little bit flimsy and have a tendency to rip as you open them, so you need to be careful if you intend to put the sprues back in them while you work on the kit, but they did their job protecting the parts during transit perfectly.
The kit comprises:
27 x white styrene parts (2 not needed)
73 x black styrene parts (1 not needed)
26 x aluminium styrene parts
62 x chromed styrene parts (9 not needed)
12 x clear yellow parts
4 x soft tyres
2 x small screws
5 x poly caps
Decals for 2 x options
The moulding is essentially flawless in my kit, with no flash or sink marks to be seen. There are some ejection pin marks, but the designers seem to have been able to keep them out of harm's way as far as I can tell on first inspection. The chromed parts are beautiful quality and the sprue attachments are small - but, inevitably, there will be a little retouching needed here and there. The clear parts are unusual in being moulded in transparent yellow.
The tyres really are a revelation for me, being among the best I've ever seen. The treads are beautifully crisp and deep, with no sign of a mould line to clean up. Remarkably, the sidewall markings are pre-painted and the result is spectacularly good - much neater than most off us could hope to paint by hand, and far superior to decals. For me, the tyres are the stand-out aspect of the kit.
A Few DetailsConstruction begins with the cockpit, which is quite spartan (as you'd expect) but what detail there is looks nice. Decals are provided for the instrument faces and steering wheel, plus the seat harness. This obviously can't hope to compare with an aftermarket harness with separate straps and buckles. While the decal harness is perfectly nicely printed, it somehow doesn't match up to the overall superior quality of the rest of the kit and I was a bit disappointed by it. Certainly, with everything so open to inspection in the cockpit, it is tempting to replace the kit's seat belts.
There's one major decision to make in the construction, because the kit offers both high and low rear wings, and they are mounted completely differently. You need to choose early on, because along with the different rear wings comes an alternative nose panel ahead of the cockpit.
The front suspension and radiator assembly is reasonably complex and, although it isn't indicated in the instructions, the wheels should be steerable if you're careful. One potentially fiddly part of the assembly looks to be attaching the front wings, because the connecting rod joint is deep inside the nose intake.
Stage 8 in the instructions sees attention turn to the rear of the car, and the engine and gearbox are very nicely detailed, comprising over 30 parts. Details are included on how to add the ignition harness (material isn't supplied). The mesh guards for the intake trumpets are moulded in clear yellow, which may work OK from a distance, but I can't see them looking very effective close up. Perhaps a wash will bring them to life, but it's tempting to replace them with items made from real mesh.
With the gearbox still a separate unit at this point, it's time to build the rear suspension and here, if you go for the high wing, you'll need to do a little minor surgery. I've got to stress it's important to study the instructions carefully, because they could be a bit more clearly laid out on this point. What appears to be a typo in the English text doesn't help, reading "three" instead of what I think should be "there" ("here" would be better still).
After adding the exhaust clusters, the engine can be joined to the body, followed by the gearbox/rear suspension assembly. The ends of the exhausts then pass through supports attached to the rear of the gear box, and they are slide-moulded for a realistic hollow effect.
The last stage sees the superb wheels fitted, along with whichever style of rear wing you've opted for. Finally, there's the unusual yellow-tinted windscreen - actually, a two-layer "venturi" affair, which in real life funnelled air to allow a lower profile (and hence less drag) than a conventional windscreen of the period.
Instructions & DecalsThe instructions are formatted as a slightly clumsy fold-out sheet. That said, the layout is pretty clear (as noted above, just be careful when it comes to mounting the different styles of rear wing), with construction broken down into 16 manageable stages that are illustrated with very well produced diagrams. Notes and colour call-outs are given in both Japanese and English throughout, with matches to Tamiya paints.
The kit includes markings for the cars driven by Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt in two races:
1: The 1969 Daily Mail Race of Champions at Brands Hatch - with the cars fitted with the high rear wing.
2. The 1969 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen - with the cars sporting the low rear wing.
The decals cover two sheets and include the expected items like car numbers and sponsors' logos. The registration is pin-sharp on my sheet. Patches are also provided for the gold trim as an alternative to painting, but I imagine they'll need a fair bit of help with decal solution to convince them to conform to some of the cars contours.
Note: As highlighted in the comments to this review, the kit is a victim of censorship and the "Gold Leaf" text has been excised from the logos on the sides of the car. While I don't want to become embroiled in the debate over any debate over the ethics of tobacco advertising, perhaps a solution would have been to include the text as separate items for modellers to use if they wish to complete the offending logo - much as swastikas are often handled in kits of Nazi-era German aircraft.
ConclusionAlthough I'd have liked to see a better seat harness in a kit of this price, Ebbro's Lotus 49B is undoubtedly a beautiful representation of a classic racer. It's reasonably complex (particularly if you add wiring and hoses), but shouldn't be too much of a challenge for modellers with a little experience. The key will be patience and ensuring clean assembly, because all the detail in the cockpit and engine will be open for close-up inspection.
The Ebbro Lotus should be a hugely satisfying build. As noted above, it's my first kit from this manufacturer and I can now see clearly why their models are so highly regarded. I will certainly treat myself to other cars in the range in due course. Highly recommended.
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