Kit: 1/72 Scale LaGG-3 from Toko of the Ukraine
Kit Number: 136
Decals: Five Versions
Review and Photos by Clarence E. Wentzel
I was at the Old Guard hobby shop a year or so when I found a new kit of the LaGG-3, a Russian World War II fighter, produced by a company called Toko from the Ukraine. Toko was a fairly new company in the sense of exporting to the west and they seemed to concentrate on Russian World War II aircraft. I have a couple of their kits of the IL-2 Stormovik and had been favorably impressed. The LaGG-3 was one of the most important Soviet aircraft of the war but has never been offered in a good kit. Based on my favorable impression of the Il-2, I readily picked up the LaGG.
The LaGG-3 was an early offering from the Lavochkin design bureau, being built in 1940 through 1942. It was mostly wood and was only a marginal design but it did give the Russians a modern fighter to throw into the fray. The Russian pilots were not too happy with the LaGG-3, they deciphered the abbreviation 'LaGG' as 'Lakirovanny Garantirovanny Grob' ('Varnished Guaranteed Coffin') due to its inferiority to Luftwaffe's Bf-109. The airplane did, however, give the Lavochkin group experience that would lead them into their next generation of fighters, their La-5 and La-7 models which were much more competition to the Germans.
Upon opening the kit, I found that five different decal schemes were provided. On looking further, five different versions of the LaGG-3, series 1, 5, 11, 35 and 66, can be built. The company included extra parts to accurately represent each version. There are two wing upper panels, three different exhaust systems, three different noses, two spinners, three rudders, three horizontal stabilizers, two radio antennas and two canopies. What a great effort to ensure accurate models!!! Other companies would have either ignored the differences or else told you to modify some parts according to your needs. In addition, Toko have provided a fairly detailed cockpit interior that eliminates the need for aftermarket parts. Even the instrument panel decal comes in three different variations according to the model that you build.
The key questions were how accurate is the kit and how well does it go together? Well, for the first part, I checked the kit against the references that I have on the model; "LaGG Fighters in Action", "Eagles of the East - Fighting Lavochkin" and "Soviet Aces of World War 2" and the kit looks and measures to be accurate. For the second part, I give the kit an acceptable rating but you need to take some care to get a good model.
I chose to build the series 1 model in the markings of L. Galtchenko from the Karelian front. I found that the interior and the basic fuselage went together well. I did not encounter any warpage of the fuselage parts as has been reported elsewhere. The wheel wells, parts 34 and 54 add a nice touch but do need trimming to make fuselage and upper wing fit well and you need to sand the upper wing joint in order to get a good fit with fuselage. I found that some filler was needed at the wing to fuselage joint, the rear of the upper cowl, and the front of the lower wing to fuselage joints. The design of the tail wheel opening is not clear. I assume from the pictures that part 35 is for Series 1, 5, & 11 and parts 36 for series 35 and 66. The instructions indicate that the pitot tube is part 68 and it is mounted below the wing for series 35 and 66 models and to the front of the wing for series 1, 5 and 11 models. The part would have to be modified to fit to the front of the wing and in any case looks to be too thick. I used brass rod for my pitot tube. Finally, the prominent wing root air intakes need to be opened up. These could be painted black I suppose, but it is an easy modification to make and really enhances the final look of the model.
The directions of the kit call for the model to be painted in a grass green and black green color scheme with an aircraft blue undersurface and a white spinner. This corresponded to the profile of Galtchenko’s aircraft in the book "Soviet Aces of World War 2" from Osprey Aircraft Publications. There is, however, a web site, Russian VVS Modeler's Resource Page at www.oz.net/~xopowo/VVS/vvs.htm, devoted to Russian aircraft and markings of the Second World War and they are not very complementary to the Osprey book. They indicate that the aircraft should be painted in a medium green and black scheme and they suggested that the spinner could be yellow. I used Testors Modelmaster Medium Field Green, F.S. 34095, Floquil Engine Black and Aeromaster no. 9074, Russian Light Blue for the exterior colors. The interior was painted in Neutral Gray except for the rear armor plate which was painted Duck Egg Blue.
I was impressed with the fact that the model comes with the cooling outlet panels open. There are parts 33 and 23 or 24. When have we seen a P-51 Mustang model with the cooling outlet panels open? They even provide a radiator to fill the open space in the belly of the model but I missed that part during assembly and had to install a small piece of sponge to fill my model. In spite of the minor problems, I feel that the final result is a very realistic looking model of this significant aircraft. I will be buying more of the kits and making more of the series. Well recommended.
Note – word out of the Ukraine is that the Toko company is getting out of the plastic model business. Stock up on these kits while they are still available. It is expected that the molds will be purchased by some other company but why wait.