By Tim Blanchard - images & text © 2002
The Sienar Fleet Systems TIE Bomber was the first TIE varient to be introduced into the Star Wars universe in The Empire Strikes Back, and unfortunately was only seen on screen for a few precious seconds. This fact has not prevented this mystery ship from achieving a certain cult status among scratch builders and studio scale fanatics.
Image: More detail parts
Image: More detail parts
Image: Cockpit and canopy parts
Image: A closer look at the pilot
Image: Instructions and paint guide
Image: That big base
I was aware that Rolando Gutierrez of Backlot Studios first released this kit back in September 2001, but had "forgotten" about it until I accidentally stumbled upon his site a few weeks ago. I quickly decided that this kit was something I had to have, based upon the recommendation of another who already owned one, as well as the buildup pictures on the Backlot Studios site. Rolando originally built this model from scratch, and then started over and remastered it once he had decided to turn it into a kit.
I placed my order, and two short weeks later I had my kit. It arrived in an over-sized box stuffed full of styrofoam peanuts with the kit box burried deep inside. A sturdy cardboard box contained the 62 piece kit: 59 of them are resin for the main pieces, including a large (large!) base and a brass tube for mounting. Solder wire for forming the tubes on the pilot's flight suit complete it. Everything was packaged extremely well with peanuts and bubble wrap in the kit box itself. The icing on the cake was the vacuum-formed protectors in which the wings were tightly encased. Since these large, mostly flat wing pieces were cast in resin, any lesser packaging would have resulted in a possibly battle-damaged unit. Nice touch.
The parts are cast in a gray, plastic-like resin that is very sturdy. A couple of the smaller detail parts seem more fragile, but only because of their size. The casting itself is very crisp and detail is sharp, and seems to be evenly done throughout the kit. I was in awe as I looked over the parts for the first time, marveling at the details that had popped out of the mold so nicely. I have to say that this kit reminds me more of styrene than of a resin cast kit because the detail and overall casting is so nice - in fact way beyond most of the resin kits out there I've purchased. Rolando himself casts the bases, while Custom Replicas out in California "injection casts" (trade secret!) all of the main kit parts.
As with any resin kit, there are seam lines on some of the parts that will need the attention of a file and sandpaper, and one or two areas that will possibly need just a small amount of putty. There's only a couple of spots where the detail seemed a little softer than the rest, but a little work with a file or sharp knife will bring them up to par. One area in particular that will need some attention is the edges of the wings. These areas are a little rough, but careful sanding and judicious use of gap-filling super glue or putty will make them right.
There's also a lot of flash to remove, but it's so wispy and paper-thin that one or two swipes with sandpaper is going to lick it. I've only found 3 or 4 air bubbles on my kit, and they're going to be super easy to take care of.
A fun addition is a very nicely done TIE pilot and a cockpit with a control panel. You use the included solder to form the air tubes for the pilot's flight suit, which would probably not have come out of the mold very well otherwise.
The instructions included with the TIE Bomber kit are just another reason for praise. Included is a 10 page assembly guide that covers general kit tips, parts assembly, pilot and cockpit construction and even drilling out a hole for the base. The text is very straight forward, clearly identifying each part and placement. There are just a couple of vague placement details, but reviewing the pictures clarifies any uncertainty. One thing to note is that these instructions aren't mass-produced photo copies, but more like one-off inkjet prints that showcase the details nicely.
Also of note is a three page painting guide in color that details the overall paint scheme of the TIE, as well as the pilot figure and cockpit. The actual color is stated as being a blue-gray, and no details are given for reference or color mixing. This actually isn't a problem, because there are quite a few pictures available of the studio miniature, and every one will look different according to the conditions the picture was taken under. Use the color that YOU think works best. I'd rather mix my own custom color anyway!
As far as accuracy goes, this kit seems to be dead-on. Rolando has used all of the original kit parts that ILM used in construction of the original, including the wings from the ERTL Vader TIE Fighter. In comparrison to pictures of the original studio model (which can be found here on this site), it looks to be completely accurate. Supplemented by other pictures of the studio model around the web, you can get a pretty complete reference for parts placement and detail; if there's anything amiss here on this kit, it's so insignificant that it's not going to present a problem. Again, Rolando did his research here and it really paid off. The kitbashed parts are easily identified now that he's given them to you, and the modelers out there with military building experience will be able to place them.
I guess I should mention some minor complaints just to be objective, but they are minor. As mentioned in the instructions, a mating notch was molded into the body's wing mounts, but a corresponding hole was not included in the wings themselves. This isn't a big deal and can be fixed by either creating your own mating hole or simply removing them from the body and carefully aligning the wings when you attach them. The instructions cover these options.
Included with the kit is a clear, vacuum formed canopy to serve as cockpit glass. While it looks easy to trim and insert, it's a little too shiny and the thickness seems slightly off for the scale. You could easily cut out and fashion window panels from clear sheet styrene and choose something that matches a little better. Although, since the filming miniature never had any cockpit glass (or a cockpit, either!) this is completely subjective and the best course of action should be determined by the builder.
This sucker is solid cast in the body, which will make lighting the cockpit and/or engines a bit more of a challenge, but not impossible. I pondered this when my kit arrived, but I've recently seen one individual's work in this area, proving that this will be worth the extra effort, if so desired.
Lastly, as I mentioned before the base is BIG! Perhaps a little too big for the model, but it looks great anyway and provides for a dramatic contrast from the run-of-the-mill wooden plaques I've stained so many of over the years.
If you're a fan of Star Wars ships and well made, accurate kits, then you should seriously consider grabbing one of these! This is one of the best kits out there, in my opinion. At $180 it's not a casual purchase, but the casting quality, detail and dead-on accuracy more than justify the price tag. This is a good sized kit, and there's a lot of resin for the money. Even though this is a resin kit, I don't think I'd have a problem recommending it to someone who's put together a lot of styrene, and is familiar with seam correction and puttying. I can't wait to start on mine!
Many thanks to Tim's wallet for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 3000+ readers a day? Contact us!
This page copyright © 2002 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 2 August 2002.