Heller 1/400 S/M Daphne Kit Review
Review by Felix Bustelo

You can see this model in the Photo Gallery

The Daphne class of submarines entered service between 1964 and 1970. These attack submarines were powered with conventional diesel engines and has 8 torpedo tubes, four in the bow and four in the stern. Eleven ships were built for the French Navy and this design was a popular export with units built in French shipyards and sold to Portugal (Albacora class), South Africa and Pakistan. The Spanish Navy's four Delphin class ships are Daphnes built in Spanish shipyards with French technical assistance.

Two of the French ships, Eurydice and Minerve, were lost with all hands apparently due to leaks in the snorkel system. A third ship, Flore, was almost lost due to the same flaw but a quick thinking crew saved her. All of the ships in French service have been decommissioned but the ships in the other navies are still active as of this writing.

The Heller kit of this submarine is a very simple kit. While the box states that it contains 28 parts, the instructions give the correct count of 31 parts. The hull and conning tower are one-piece and come in two halves. Two versions of the bow, again in halves, with different radomes are provided. The original design had a smaller fin-like radome at the leading edge of the bow. An updated bow, with a more prominent and rounder radome set back a bit from the bow, is provided as well. I am not sure if all ships in this class were refitted with this new radome or if just some of the newer ships were. While this gives the modeler some options, you will have to deal with hiding the seam where the bow section joins the main body of the hull.

The level of detail is very poor and not up what I have come to expect from Heller. The hull has none of the square limber holes and there are only some panel lines and the torpedo tubes. Some of the smaller parts are a bit overscale, but that is expected in a plastic kit of this vintage.

A decal sheet is provided with conning tower names and hull numbers for nine of the ships (the Eurydice and Minerve are omitted) as well as a decal for the your choice of nameplate. A French flag is also provided. If you wish to build one of the other versions, you will need to acquire or make alternative decals.

Because of the kit's limitations, I decided to convert the model to a waterline version of the submarine Venus. Using my razor saw, I removed the bottoms of the main hull halves and the bottoms of the older radome bow halves. Just I had suspected, joining the main hull halves and the selected bow section resulted in some seams and gaps that required filling and sanding. I glued on the aft side and stern torpedo tubes, again filling and sanding the seams. At this point I drilled three holes - one in aft edge of the sail and into the deck in the aft portion of the deck - for the models very basic rigging. I painted with model with Floquil Grimy Black darkened a bit with Testors Model Masters Flat Black. The Grimy Black is closer to a very dark gray so by darkening it a bit I was able to get a slightly weathered black color. I decided to use the two periscopes provided but discarded the grossly overscale radar. The radar did not look right and the sail did not have the opening into which the radar is stored when not deployed. I painted the periscopes Testors Model Masters Aluminum on the bottom halves and the top halves with an overall Testors Model Masters Neutral Gray with Tamiya Field Blue splotches for the disruptive camouflage.

I did encounter a problem with the decals, which I would attribute to the sheet being old. I applied the hull number and name for the Venus to the sail. A few weeks later, when I was able to return to some modeling, I airbrushed some Testors Dullcote to finish the model off. To my surprise, the decals had an adverse reaction to the Dullcote and they bubbled up and melted. I also realized that I had discarded the rest of the decal sheet when I cleaned off my workbench. Thankfully, after posting an urgent plea on the Ship Modeler's Mailing List, Mark Leonard was kind enough to send the rest of his old sheet. I removed the damaged decals without a problem, successfully applied the new set and finished the model off without further incident.

While this kit is one of Heller's poorer offerings but I was able to make the best of it. The model captures the unique silhouette of this class of submarine but it does lack detail. I purchased this kit at a model show for only a couple of dollars, so I guess in the long run I am happy with my little diorama.

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