Blackburn Roc 1/72 Special Hobby

The Blackburn Roc is famous for being probably the most unsuccessful British design that nevertheless somehow made it into serial production and even saw some limited combat duty. The concept of a naval turret fighter itself was probably not too sound, but Roc was also both underengined and terribly overengineered – with features like an anti-spin canopy, retractable fuselage hump, floating compartments, and a special escape trapdoor for the rear gunner adding extra complexity and weight.

I picked a machine from the 759 Naval Air Squadron from November 1939. It is pictured on the kit boxart (wonderful work by Mr. Hajek as always) and multiple photos are available. Of course, the main attraction is the nonstandard fuselage roundels.

The same as my previous model, the Gloster Gladiator, this is a result of a very protracted build. I started back in 2015, but shortly after, I found out that, a) the Roc presents many wonderful possibilities for surface detailing which I have to do to impress all my peers, b) the kit is a bit dogshit.

As usual, the ambitions of adding all those details and fixing all the kit shortcomings led to total burnout, and the model matured on the shelf of doom in this shameful condition for about eight years:

Once in a while, I tried to continue with the build, usually in a “one step forward two step back” fashion, and then with total disgust put it on the shelf again.

The kit manufacturing quality is actually not that bad, perhaps even slightly above average for a shortrun – the fit is okay, panel lines are nice, decals are good, there is some photoetch and a resin Bristol Perseus engine including all the exhaust piping (the engine looks quite bare, but that’s how an actual Perseus looked like). There are some missing parts and errors in the instructions (more on those later), but hey, nobody’s perfect. The turret clear parts are practically unusable, but frankly, I can’t imagine how to make it better with shortrun technology (because acetate would be even worse).

The main problem is that obviously, the master was made according to scale plans from the Polish MMP book…which are wrong. Some things are missing, made up, or just copied from the Skua. I would think that the master modeler would notice… I mean, I’m not even asking for some in-depth research, just making a cup of tea and looking for an hour or two at the photos (most of them available in the same goddamn book as the scale plans!!) would reveal the discrepancies and prevent most of the errors.☕ Instead, Special Hobby which loves to profile itself as a manufacturer for serious modelers, produces kits like this one, that are about as accurate as something from Hobbyboss/Trumpeter.🙄

Anyway, let’s cut the rant and continue on a more constructive note.😀 Here is a list of all the adjustments and improvements clearly marked in pictures:

Oops, here is the correct one:

1 – As I already said, the original turret is unusable, it’s made of two crude parts and the size and framing pattern are wrong. This is a turret taken from the Airfix Bolton-Paul Defiant kit (the turrets on both types were identical), combined with metal gun barrels made by Master. I deleted one framing line on the top of the turret (which Airfix put there to hide a seam of the two-part mold I guess).

2 – The retractable hump has a wrong shape, a bit too large and angular. I cut it away and remodeled it into a retracted position. I added the circular cover on the rear end.

3 – This is probably the most glaring error copied from the wrong scale plans. For some reason, the boundary between the fuselage and the central canopy part is prominently saddle-shaped, while it should be completely straight. This throws the shape of the whole area off. I sanded it into a correct shape and also cut the sliding canopy part off (this particular airplane is depicted without it in all photos). I scratchbuilt the control stick and some side console details for the cockpit.

4 – The whole wings (and to a much lesser extent the fuselage, too) area is rescribed, as most of the panel lines were copied from the Skua, including all the gun and ammo hatches (Roc had no wing guns and had a similar, but different wing than the Skua), or outright wrong (I mean not slightly shifted but in a completely different place). I used photos as a reference, the result is not 100% accurate (I don’t care), but at least it looks like it tries to reflect reality.

5 – The boundary between the rudder and horizontal stabilizer was very shallow, in reality, there should be a deeply carved ridge and a large hole around the hinge. In hindsight, it would be best to cut the rudder away, remodel it, and glue it back.

6 – These bulging vents are completely missing in the kit – I made them from pieces of styrene.

7 – All around the front fuselage, there should be several pairs of protruding fastener locks. I made these from some Eduard photoetch with buckles and control horns for WW1 airplanes.

8 – This is a pair of release cables for the dinghy and the abovementioned anti-spin canopy, made of stretched sprue, with the ring handles made of copper wire. I am really happy about this part of the model, I wasn’t sure how (or if) to make the cables, and the result ended up far above my expectations.🥳

9 – I thinned down the trailing edges a lot. Of course, I don’t hold the thick wing edges against a shortrun kit, but I think it’s worth extra mention as it improves the general impression so much.😎

*In the unnumbered circles, there are some usual improvements like position light, wing handles etc. I also added canopy sliding rails and other stuff.

** EDIT: I completely forgot – I also deleted the large doors with raised outlines that were located on both sides of the fuselage a bit aft of the turret, where the roundels are. These doors belong just on the Skua (and even there, I think there was just a single door on one side?).  

Continuing with the bottom side:

1 – On the wing, there is a pair of thick, bulged teardrop-shaped protrusions. These are actually supposed to be thin railings for mounting the small bomb carriers. Also, they are misplaced about a centimeter outward – so I made them anew in the right place much closer to the wheel well.
2 – In the kit, the flaps have parallel sides – but should be slightly convergent like this.

3 – The landing gear side struts and their cables and covers are scratchbuilt. I ditched the out-of-the-box photoetch covers because they were hard to work with and not very accurate anyway. The landing gear cover arrangement on the real Roc is very elaborate and I definitely recommend taking care of it before painting.

4 – The rear gunner escape trapdoor, completely missing in the kit.

5 – Catapult spools – in the kit, there is just one, made of cast resin. I modeled and 3D-printed a new pair.

6 – In the kit, the chin intake has a broad, rectangular rear end – I sanded it down into a correct triangular shape.

7 – Both the small and regular bomb racks are visible in just about every photo, but are missing in the kit. I mean, they could have been photoetched parts instead of the nonsense landing gear covers? I modeled and 3D printed my own, these are now available as British Light Bomb Carrier and British Universal Bomb Carrier Mk.II  in both scales under the Airone Hobby brand.

8 – I replaced the original propeller, which was not wrong, but a bit crude (as expected with a shortrun kit), with the 3D printed propeller I made for the Z.506 Airone, with sanded-down prop blade roots, combined with a reversed 3D printed prop hub for C.200 Saetta. Looks reasonably right to me.😅 

As for the paintjob, I used Tamiya XF-80 Royal Light Grey for the bottom and AK Interactive RC paints (Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey) for the top side. In my opinion, the AK paints don’t live up to the marketing hype, they brought me a lot of grief (visible streaks even after varnish, and some lifted paint layers) and I probably won’t use them again.

Two more things worth noting – as clearly visible in almost all Roc photos, the propeller should have natural metal front and black rear sides of the blades, not the regular black with yellow tips as the instructions suggest.🤦‍♂️ Also, there should be a broad, black walkway on the left wing root which is not mentioned in the instructions. I omitted it as well because it is only visible on some Rocs, but later I found a photo, very probably of this particular machine (one of the three pictures shown above), which clearly shows it. Maybe I will add it later.

I finished the model in a hurry to take it to the Moson Show, and of course, the hurry shows (pun intended), but I really wanted to get this model finally off my back. The paintjob suffered from some repairs, especially on the left wing, where I botched the reflector light cover installment and lifted some paint, and then it all went downhill, as you can see, the roundel decal is damaged as well, etc. – the results of a classic repair of a repair of a repair process… Well, it still scored silver in the master category, which is more than it deserved I think (on the other hand, it evened out, as my recent Gladiator scored just silver as well and in my very humble opinion it deserved gold😅).

I’d like to end this article with a big shout-out to the author of this webpage, which is loaded with a lot of interesting information not just on Roc and Skua, but many other niche types as well – it is a work of love. This is exactly the mindset I would rather expect from the kit manufacturers, but hey. I only found the page very late but I still incorporated some of the findings I missed myself (namely the flaps’ shape and the rear gunner escape trapdoor).

That’s all folks, I’d appreciate any comments or criticism as always. Apart from the model gallery, I also offer a small gallery of photos I used as reference (I’d love to cite sources but I have no idea anymore), apart from the MMP book I mentioned above – which is, except for the shitty scale plans, actually pretty good.👍

2 thoughts on “Blackburn Roc 1/72 Special Hobby

  • 1. 5. 2024 at 16:31

    Wow! Outstanding build and research, very well done. Thanks for the detailed summary of mods and fixes, I will unashamedly use on my own future build 🙂

  • 3. 5. 2024 at 1:53

    Roc On Vlad !!

    What an amazing and brilliant piece of workmanship… I’ve long been captivated by the Blackburn Roc for a variety of esoteric reasons, and thanks to Mr. Kafka I now get to see an amazing depiction of “the Roc” in our favorite scale of 1/72

    All the modifications and build details were fascinating to me, and I’m very pleased that it finally crossed the finish line after beginning in 2015 !

    Thanks for another brilliant model


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