Click the thumbnail images to see what Jim was able to accomplish in 6
hours. Remember, the scale of this model is 1:1200 !
The Italian battleship Roma, laid
down in 1934, was one of four Littorio
class battleships. A handsome ship of 46,000 tons, the Roma carried nine
15", twelve 6" , twelve 3.5" high angle , and twenty 37mm guns along with
smaller AA units. The Littorio's firepower and surface armor were the equal of any
ship afloat, but they suffered from weak underwater protection. They fared poorly in
WW2, having been bombed, torpedoed, and bombed again into submission. The Roma
was sunk in 1943 en route to Malta, gaining the dubious distinction of being the only ship
sunk by German guided weapons, in this case three Fritz X glide bombs.
Battleship Roma, 1942
Esci of Italy makes this 1/1200 scale kit. This is a SNAP TOGETHER kit! Retail is
around $6.00, if you can find one... it's an out of production item. This kit was given to
me by a local pro-Italian model builder, who thought I could make it into a good looking
model. I considered his opinion to be pie-in-the-sky optimism, but in the spirit of
good sportsmanship, I built the model during a model club meeting. That is to say, I
cut the parts off the sprue and snapped it together. I wasn't thrilled with the
result - it seemed toylike, the scale was unfamiliar, and accuracy was questionable. At
home it "fell" into the remainder bin, destined to be forgotten.
Rob Mackie paid a visit to show off some of those awesome 1/1250 metal ship models on the
Warship web site. This scale is evidently very popular with European collectors, but
it was new to me. I could not believe my eyes! The detail is astounding- and
what a great scale this turned out to be! These models were little jewels.
Well, this visit rearranged my thinking. I wanted one of these, but the $50-100
price range is beyond my budget. Wait a minute-wheels turning- don't I have an Esci
Roma in the box, I thought? Right around this scale too. Hmmm, why don't I
give it a second look and see how it turns out? An intriguing prospect, perhaps I
could approach the look of the expensive metal models. So that turned out to be the
challenge - transform a cheap, snap-together kit into a desirable display piece and do it
Pluses and Minuses
The molded-in light AA guns are a big weak point. I could have scraped them off and
scratch-built replacements, but I figured they would be acceptable with proper painting.
Another weakness is the circular plates on the hull sides. Porthole
applique armor, perhaps? I left them on, they do add interest, but they should(?) be
replaced with portholes. The "B" turret AA platforms, represented as simple
round columns, were also a problem but not a big enough one to make me replace
them. They stayed.
On the plus side, the anchor chains, stairs, and other deck details are well done. An
advantage of 1:1200 scale is that railings are unnecessary. It was nice not getting
bogged down affixing tiny etched brass bits.
Assembly and Painting
I unsnapped the parts and cleaned up the mold lines marring every part. All the snap
holes were opened up a bit, as they are too tight for a proper fit. I superglued the
deck to the hull, cracking it in several places due to overly tight clamps. This
plastic is quite brittle. I worked my way up, painting the deck first. The bow has
those really cool barber-pole red and white recognition stripes. White went on
first, then masked and sprayed red LIGHTLY several times. Go light so the paint does
not seep under the tape, ruining the white. The deck was painted Testor's wood tan
enamel, and the quarterdeck gunship grey acrylic. The ship itself, overall, is an
ash grey, which I interpreted as a light shade of grey. I mixed 1:1 Polly S ocean
grey with white. I could have used a "whiter" grey in this scale.
Disruptive hull splinter camo effects were applied with a brush, using a 1:1 mix of
gunship grey and sea blue. A darker shade would have been more "correct",
but it works in terms of scale effect. The overall light grey color was misted onto
the hull sides to blend the colors together. Lastly, a thin burnt umber oil wash was
applied with a small brush to all the detail areas on the hull and deck, especially heavy
around the torpedo bulges.
The guns fit with no problems, although the twelve 6" guns should be replaced with
brass wire.. Again, how much time do you want to spend?- I left them as is. I
drilled out the tops of the funnels for a nice "depth" effect. The
bridgeworks were merely painted and washed with the umber thinner. The main mast needed to
be cut and fit to the back of the bridge, and the top was too thick so I cut it off. I
must confess to scratchbuilding a few parts- the upper main mast, rear mast, and the aft
superstructure boat cranes. I used stretched sprue. I also added two small
searchlights, four boat davits fabricated from brass wire, and some launches from the
spares box. The kit catapult is nicely molded, a dark wash and some drybrushing
pulled out the details. Easy!
The planes that come with the kit are very odd- kind of like small Curtis Seahawks- with a
large bubble canopy and long dorsal fin, and no floats. I painted one and mounted it
on the catapult. Weird! I decided to build an Imam Ro-43 naval biplane
that I saw in the Rand McNally Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft . I used the kit
plane's fuselage and lower wing, and added an upper wing, struts, floats, and
propeller. The result is an adequate representation of the Ro-43, a big improvement
at a cost of 45 minutes additional building time.
The model has a lot of visual interest and rigging is unnecessary, but I added some
anyway, using hair-thin stretched sprue. Lastly, I brushed pastel chalks on the hull
sides and added a tricolor Italian flag from a Skywave decal set.
Overall, I spent 6 hours on this model, most of it painting the splinter/recognition
scheme. One could easily spend twice the time correcting, detailing and sanding, but
frankly, the overall look is what counts - and I am very happy with how this snap kit
turned out! All that is needed is a few bits of sprue here and there, and a
better recon aircraft. I must say that the Esci Roma is a surprisingly acceptable
rendition of one of the best looking battleships of WW2. What the model lacks in
refinement, it more than makes up for in character. I think I came close to
capturing the flavor of the high end 1/1250 scale models at a fraction of the cost.
Buy one if you can find it!