Massive ‘Mighty Delta’ update
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
As usual, we have plenty of exclusive information to bring you in this latest edition of our blog, with a massive new tooling update serving as our high-profile headline feature. As far as Airfix modelling news goes, it is difficult to imagine anything bigger at this moment in time than our new 1/72nd scale Avro Vulcan B.2 project and this significant model will be taking centre stage in this 131st edition of Workbench. In a double update scoop, we will be bringing you pictures of the first component test frames produced by the newly developed tooling blocks, in addition to a further batch of images which will showcase the first test build undertaken by the project’s product designer, using parts from these first test frames. Both sets of images are being revealed exclusively to Workbench readers before the rest of the modelling world get to see them.
Following on from our Vulcanfest, we delve into the world of 2020 Gift Sets and some truly classic model releases, looking first at a ship which must be considered one of the most famous in maritime history and one which happens to be celebrating a significant anniversary this year.
We end by featuring beautiful new box artwork and full scheme details from an impending release which will immortalise three of Britain’s best loved historic aircraft in a spectacular 1/72nd scale Gift Set, one which is surely destined to become one of the most popular releases in the second half of this year. Packed with exclusive imagery, sit back and prepare for your latest dose of Airfix blog indulgence.
BIG news from a very big model project
An exclusive first Workbench look at the test build 1/72nd scale Avro Vulcan B.2 using the very first plastic components produced by this exciting new tooling
With everything that has happened in 2020, last year’s Scale Modelworld show may seem like a distant memory to many Workbench readers and indeed to us here in the Airfix office, however, time and modelling progress wait for no man and many of the projects we showcased at this prestigious event have continued to hurtle headlong through their various development phases and onwards towards eventual release. One project which most of our readers will be keen to receive an update on is the one we unveiled at last year’s show, a model which has the enviable distinction of being the most requested addition to the Airfix range (by voting Airfix enthusiasts) over the past few years, the Avro Vulcan B.2 in 1/72nd scale. You will be pleased to hear that we are now in a position to bring you a major update right now.
It is hard to believe that this coming October will mark the 5th anniversary of the final flight of Avro Vulcan XH558, arguably the best loved aircraft to have ever taken its place on the UK historic aviation scene. Wherever this aircraft displayed, legions of enthusiasts and general admirers would flock to the venue and surrounding area, just to catch a glimpse of this icon of the British aviation industry, an aircraft which was christened ‘The spirit of Great Britain’ by its operators. The overwhelming affection in which this flying mighty delta was held is clearly illustrated by the millions of pounds donated to the ‘Vulcan to the sky’ project over the years, both by large corporations, wealthy individuals and perhaps most significantly, the great British public, as we all did our bit to ensure this unique aircraft could continue thrilling Airshow audiences for as long as possible. Indeed, it could be argued that Airshows have not been quite the same since the passing of the Vulcan, but at least we all have our memories. For an aircraft type which is loved by so many people, it came as absolutely no surprise that our latest Scale Modelworld new tooling announcement proved to be such an overwhelming success.
When looking at the rather futuristic delta profile of Avro’s mighty Vulcan bomber, it can be difficult to appreciate that development work on this magnificent aircraft actually began back in 1947, just a few short years after its famous predecessor, the Lancaster, had proved decisive for Bomber Command during WWII. At their Chadderton facility near Manchester, the A.V Roe design team began work on this significant project, in response to Ministry of Defence requirement B35/46, which called for an aircraft which must possess an operating range in excess of 3,350 nautical miles, be capable of speeds approaching 500 knots and have an operating ceiling of 50,000 feet. Importantly, the aircraft was also required to carry a ‘special’ payload of 10,000 imperial pounds in weight (a nuclear device), as it was intended to serve as a flying deterrent to any future threat against the UK. An extremely tough design brief, these specifications represented a 100% increase in the capabilities of any previous bomber aircraft in RAF service.
An icon of the Cold War, the mighty Avro Vulcan would go on to become one of the best loved Airshow performers the British public had ever seen
What rolled out onto the airfield at Woodford in Cheshire on 30th August 1952 must have looked spectacular and was most definitely one of the most distinctive aircraft ever produced by the British aviation industry. As the all-over white ‘Anti-Flash’ prototype aircraft VX770 blasted into the air for the first time, Avro officials looked on with pride at their stunning achievement, whilst members of the public lucky enough to be in the vicinity of the airfield were simply left open-mouthed – the age of the Vulcan had dawned. As the Avro Vulcan entered squadron service with No.83 Squadron at RAF Waddington in July 1957, the Royal Air Force had one of the most advanced aircraft in the world at their disposal, one which was at that time not only the world’s first delta bomber, but also the fastest nuclear capable bomber in the world.
From an Airfix perspective, our talented group of Product Designers always rise to the challenge when faced with immortalising the world’s most famous aircraft, military vehicles, ships and cars as scale kit representations of the real thing, but from the sheer size of this particular project, surely the new Vulcan was going to be something of a monumental undertaking for one of them. Thankfully, Chris Joy, the designer responsible for creating our beautiful 1/24th scale Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, was keen to bring all his experience to bear on the new Vulcan kit and couldn’t wait to get started. We will take a closer look at Chris and his Vulcan project in a future blog, but for now, we are going to jump ahead a little in the development process and bring you exclusive images from a significant stage in the life of a newly tooled Vulcan kit – arrival of the first test frames.
Over the past five years or so, we have brought our readers numerous features detailing how new model tooling projects progress through the various fascinating stages of development, including the exciting day when the first test parts produced by the new tooling blocks arrive in the Airfix office. It is a time honoured tradition that nobody in the office will ever open such a parcel, as this privilege is afforded to the lead designer on the project, even though the excitement is shared around the entire development team. As far as the new Vulcan is concerned, Chris would have been faced with a rather large box to inspect, as this model is a bit of a beast and it would have contained several examples of each individual component frame. What we are showing below are the actual contents of that box, an exclusive first look at the very first plastic component frames produced by the new 1/72nd scale Vulcan tools. These parts have been rigorously inspected by Chris and the rest of the Airfix development team and may well be subject to change before they are released for production, so please be aware of this when viewing the images.
Although these are pictures of the first development test frames containing the new Vulcan components, they are still subject to change and may well differ slightly by the time the new kit is actually released. They do, however, allow us all to see just how impressive this fantastic new kit is going to be
Despite being one of the world’s most distinctive aircraft, the technology behind the Avro Vulcan bomber was highly advanced and as the aircraft settled into service life, a number of unforeseen problems with the original design quickly began to reveal themselves. The most significant of these related to the installation of more powerful Rolls Royce Olympus engines and wing instability when operating the aircraft at higher speeds – this concerned designers so much that a re-design of the wing was initiated. Indeed, of the many upgrades and improvements applied to the Vulcan during its service life, the most noticeable would be this change in wing size and shape.
By the time the definitive B.2 variant of the aircraft had entered service, the wing area had increased significantly and although still classed as a delta, looked quite different from the first aircraft to enter service. To cope with the increased power availability from subsequent engine upgrades and to cure the stability issues associated with the original straight wing design, the B.2 wing had two defined kinks in its leading edge, well forward of the profile of the original. Rather than detract from the simple aesthetics of the early Vulcan’s delta wing, the B.2 actually enhanced the profile of the aircraft, even though these changes were obviously made for reasons of operational effectiveness, rather than improving the aircraft’s appearance.
The service introduction of the Vulcan B.2 in July 1960 coincided with the availability of more capable nuclear weapons for the V-bomber force, both in number and destructive potential. It would also bring about a change in thinking regarding the delivery of these weapons, as significant advances in Soviet anti-aircraft technology now threatened the successful delivery of a free-fall gravity bomb load. A new weapon would have to be developed in order to maintain the deterrent threat of the Vulcan and its V-bomber partners – ‘Blue Steel’. An air-launched nuclear stand-off missile, ‘Blue Steel’ would allow V-bomber crews to launch their nuclear attacks 100 miles away from their intended target, out of the range of Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries and allowing valuable additional time for crews to avoid the resultant blast shockwave.
This next exclusive selection of images feature the first full test build completed, using the test frame components received in the Airfix offices recently. Building the model from these components allows Chris to further examine both the accuracy of moulding detail and effectiveness of models construction from the parts, helping him immensely as he compiles his project review files. All this information will be discussed and collated at future project meetings and any improvements and alterations suggested, agreed, then actioned. Once again, these images feature the early development stages of the Vulcan project and are subject to change.
The excitement of receiving the first test components produced by the new Avro Vulcan tooling will soon be replaced by a period of feverish evaluation work for the product’s designer, including a full build of the kit using these first part frames. With every aspect of the kit checked and rechecked, the industry experience of the designer will help him spot any areas which may require modification or further design work
The information we have shared above represents a huge update from the new 1/72nd scale Vulcan B.2 project and the latest information regarding a kit which will be of interest to a great many of our readers. As we receive new information, we will include this in forthcoming blogs, including an interview with Chris himself to discuss the project and what he found challenging and rewarding. Until then, we hope you have enjoyed seeing these latest images from our spectacular new Vulcan tooling.
A modelling voyage of discovery
Bringing back happy memories for thousands of Workbench readers, the sight of this original Airfix H.M Bark Endeavour artwork will remind us of a time when securing the latest Airfix catalogue was the most pressing matter in our lives
For Workbench readers who started their modelling journeys back in the 1970s, the enduring popularity of many of our classic kits will no doubt have a particular poignancy for them, reminding them of a time when Airfix kits were possibly the most important things in our lives. In those carefree days before the internet and Wikipedia, our insatiable appetite for knowledge brought about a fascination for the men and machines which took their place in history, from the sailing ships which charted previously unknown oceans in centuries past, to the aircraft which had contested the world’s most destructive war, one which had only ended less than thirty years previously. In those days, our interest could have initially been sparked by a family collection of cigarette cards, or even more likely, from filling in our Brooke Bond/PG Tips card albums, which included such memorable series as ‘Adventurers and Explorers’ and ‘The Saga of Ships’.
Once these seeds of historic fascination had been planted, the Airfix kit range basically brought these ships and aeroplanes to life, as they were a tactile, three dimensional scale representation of the famous modes of transport we had been reading about – to all intents and purposes, these beautiful kits were bringing history to life, committing the exploits of some of humanity’s most impressive people to plastic. Having said that, even though the sailing ships which undertook some of the most historic voyages of discovery in history may have been the most interesting, from a modelling perspective, you would only attempt an Airfix example if you had built up some previous modelling skills - either that, or get your dad to build it!
One of the significant ships involved in 18th century voyages of discovery was H.M Bark Endeavour, a vessel which was captained by James Cook on his expedition to observe the transit of Venus and to search for new lands in the Pacific. During this historic voyage, Cook and his crew charted areas of the Pacific which were previously unknown to Europeans, famously mapping the coast of New Zealand and claiming it for Great Britain, before moving on to do the same in Australia. Originally hailed as a national Hero, Cook and his three voyages of discovery may have been of huge national and scientific value, however, contemporary thinking has begun to question their impact and the potential damage they may have caused.
The new pack artwork for this kit includes details of Captain Cook’s historic voyages of discovery and reference to this being the 250th anniversary year of Endeavour’s arrival in Australian waters
A kit which originally joined the Airfix range back in 1962, the re-introduction of H.M Bark Endeavour into the 2020 Vintage Classics range is quite timely, as this year marks the 250th anniversary of this ship’s and Captain Cook’s historic voyage to Australia. The ship was originally built in the famous Yorkshire seafaring town of Whitby, launched in June 1764 as the merchant collier ‘Earl of Pembroke’ and destined for a busy career as a cargo carrying vessel. Being of particularly robust design, the ship was purchased by the British Admiralty in 1768 for the handsome sum of £2,307, as they were in need of a suitable vessel to embark on an ambitious scientific expedition to the Pacific. In preparation for the voyage, the ship underwent refitting on the River Thames, works which would eventually cost almost as much as the purchase price of the ship itself. Newly commissioned in the Admiralty, the ship was renamed H.M Bark Endeavour, specifically to avoid confusion with the already serving 4-gun cutter HMS Endeavour.
Following the completion of this historic Pacific voyage of discovery and arrival back in Britain in July 1771, Captain Cook would go on to enjoy great public and professional acclaim, embarking on two further historic voyages of discovery, whilst his famous ship Endeavour would be largely forgotten. Refitted as a naval transport ship, she would go on to make three lengthy return voyages to the Falkland Islands, before ending her days in a particularly inglorious manner. Now renamed ‘Lord Sandwich 2’, the former H.M Bark Endeavour was scuttled near Rhode Island in America, in an attempt to prevent French ships from entering Newport Bay.
This beautiful kit, which immortalises one of the 18th century’s most famous ships, will be available for the first time in this 250th anniversary packaging over the next couple of weeks and will be providing modellers with an irresistible piece of Airfix 1/120th scale seafaring nostalgia in the process. Featuring a representation of the original artwork, this 250th anniversary commemorative release includes a fascinating graphic charting the history of the ship and Captain James Cook’s famous voyages of discovery and as a Gift Set, also includes 2 brushes, 8 acrylic paints and one tube of poly cement – everything you could need to embark on your own modelling voyage of discovery. Look out for this handsome new kit arriving in your local model shop, or reserve your example now on the Airfix website.
As one of the most popular sections of the Airfix website, other classic Airfix model kits can be viewed and ordered by visiting our Vintage Classics range - grab these beauties whilst they are still available!
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight ‘Lest We Forget’
Having produced our Workbench blog for over five years now, we know just how popular Airfix box artwork has been over the years and how the current era of Adam Tooby created digital artwork is possibly now rivalling the reputation of the classics of Roy Cross in the affections of the Airfix enthusiast. As if to underline that bold statement, the artwork featured above is about to grace the packaging of our impending new Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Gift Set release, a kit which is destined to be one of our most popular in the second half of the year. Featuring the classic BBMF flypast formation of Avro Lancaster flanked by two single engined fighters, could this beautiful piece of artwork possibly be any more evocative?
In conjunction with the world famous Red Arrows, the aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are arguably the best loved Airshow performers of the post war years, with these classic aeroplanes being in high demand throughout the year. The mission of the Flight is to maintain these priceless aeroplanes in airworthy condition, in order to commemorate those who have fallen in the service of this country, to promote the modern day Royal Air Force and to inspire future generations – they excel in doing all three! In addition to their extremely popular Airshow appearances, the Flight are always an integral part of any state occasion which includes a flying element. They also receive numerous requests to perform dedication flypasts each year and try to satisfy as many of these as they can whilst routing to and from an Airshow or formal display commitment. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the aircraft of the BBMF to complete several hundred display and flypast sorties during a season, with the aircraft being seen by many millions of people over the course of the year.
This fantastic three kit set includes individual model toolings which have all been developed during the Hornby era of Airfix and are fine 1/72nd scale representations of these classic WWII era aeroplane types. With each of the three aircraft possessing fascinating histories, let’s take a closer look at them individually now:
Avro Lancaster B.III, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Royal Air Force Coningsby, 2019. Port side finished in the markings of AR-L ‘Leader’ (formerly W5005), No.460 Squadron. Royal Australian Air Force and starboard side finished in the markings of VN-T, No.50 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Although clearly not a fighter aircraft and certainly not one which was involved in the Battle of Britain, Avro Lancaster B.III PA474 is without doubt the most famous aircraft operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and one of the most significant airworthy historic aircraft in the world. One of only two airworthy Lancasters in the world and the only example flying in Europe, the aircraft not only captivates millions of people with its displays and flypast appearances each year, but also serves as a ‘living tribute’ to the wartime contribution made by the air and ground crews of Bomber Command during WWII, in addition to marking the strong association between Bomber Command and the county of Lincolnshire – It is known to millions of people as ‘Bomber County’.
Avro Lancaster PA474 was constructed at the Vickers Armstrong factory at Hawarden in May 1945 and was destined to head for the Pacific Theatre to fight the Japanese as part of Britain’s ‘Tiger Force’, however, the end of the Second World War dictated that she would never see action. After serving as a reconnaissance aircraft and pilotless drone, she was eventually earmarked for museum display, but not before she played a starring role in the feature films ‘Operation Crossbow’ and ‘The Guns of Navarone’. In 1965, the Commander of No.44 Squadron at RAF Waddington (the first Squadron to receive Lancasters in 1941) requested that the Lancaster be placed under his care and following the arrival of PA474, the aircraft began a period of concerted renovation, later flying on a number of ceremonial occasions whilst this work continued.
After operating under the stewardship of No.44 Squadron for several years, care of this magnificent aeroplane passed to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in November 1973, as it was felt the Flight had the time and necessary expertise to keep this important aircraft serviceable for future years and to continue with her restoration to as close to wartime configuration as possible. One of the interesting features of her almost 47 years with the BBMF is that from time to time, the Lancaster has been presented in several different liveries, each one depicting a famous aircraft or action involving a Bomber Command Lancaster, but always commemorating the effort and sacrifice of the men flying and preparing these aircraft for operations during WWII.
Following the completion of the aircraft’s winter 2016/2017 major servicing works, PA474 emerged from the new ARCo Stephenson Hangar at Duxford wearing appealing new markings, ones which commemorated two different wartime Lancasters. The port side wears the markings of W5005 AR-L ‘Leader’ of No.460 RAAF Squadron and include distinctive nose artwork featuring a kangaroo playing the bagpipes whilst wearing wellington boots, highlighting the international mix of the aircraft’s crew members – Scottish, Australian and Welsh. The starboard side carries the codes VN-T and represent a Lancaster of RAF No.50 Squadron, one which was flown by F/O Douglas Millikin DFC on 27 missions of his first tour of operations. Interestingly, F/O Millikin was the grandfather of the Commanding Officer of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at the time of the Lancaster’s repaint, Squadron Leader Andy ‘Milli’ Millikin. Avro Lancaster PA474 was still wearing these popular markings at the start of this rather unusual 2020 Airshow season.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Royal Air Force Coningsby, 2019. Aircraft finished in the markings of R6895 ‘KIWI III’ flown by Flying Officer Alan Christopher Deere, DSO, OBE, DFC and Bar, No.54 Squadron, Royal Air Force Catterick, North Yorkshire, August 1940
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa P7350 is definitely something of an aviation national treasure and has the distinction of not only being the oldest airworthy Spitfire in the world, but also was for many years the only one to have genuine combat history from the Battle of Britain. Built at the famous Castle Bromwich ‘shadow’ factory during 1940, the aircraft entered RAF service in August 1940 and flew in the colours of both Nos.266(Rhodesia) and 603(City of Edinburgh) Squadrons. During the latter stages of the Battle of Britain, the aircraft was involved in combat with Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, which resulted in it being forced to crash land after sustaining damage. Although the aircraft was quickly returned to airworthy status, it is still possible to see evidence of these damage repairs on the fighter.
Spitfire P7350 would go on to see further service with Nos. 616(South Yorkshire) and 64 Squadrons before being relegated to support duties and eventual disposal in 1948. Incredibly, this magnificent machine was sold as scrap for the nominal sum of £25.00, but thankfully, the aircraft’s historic provenance was recognised and it was presented to the RAF Museum for preservation and eventual display. Returned to airworthy condition in 1968, the aircraft was needed to star in the epic Battle of Britain movie, which is still required viewing for aviation enthusiasts to this day and once her filming commitments had been completed, Spitfire P7350 was presented to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Since taking her place in the Flight, she has been referred to as their ‘Baby Spitfire’ and for many years was actually the only airworthy Spitfire in the world which had taken part in the Battle of Britain, both the actual conflict and the 1960s film version!
In preparation for the 2019 Airshow season and following the completion of her winter maintenance program, P7350 emerged presented as the RAF No.54 Squadron Spitfire flown by famous New Zealand born fighter ace Alan Deere, wearing the fuselage codes KL-B and sporting ‘KIWI III’ artwork. Deere was one of the RAF’s most celebrated WWII fighter aces and a consummate leader of men, shot down no fewer than nine times during his flying career and already an ‘Ace’ before the start of the Battle of Britain. Eventually credited with 22 aerial victories, Deere would remain in the RAF following the end of the war and would attain the rank of Air Commodore before his retirement.
On entering civilian life, Deere would become one of the expert consultants advising during the production of the Battle of Britain film during the late 1960s and following his death in 1995 at the age of 77, his ashes were scattered from the cockpit of a BBMF Spitfire, over the Thames Estuary – a fitting tribute to a flying hero.
Supermarine Spitfire PR.XIX, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Royal Air Force Coningsby, 2019. Aircraft presented in the markings of No.81 Squadron, Royal Air Force Kai Tak, Hong Kong, January 1951
Representing an example of the famous Spitfire towards the end of its development, this Rolls Royce Griffon powered PR.XIX may retain the clean lines and distinctive elliptical wing of its famous Battle of Britain predecessors, but this was a very different beast altogether. One of the fastest piston engined aircraft to ever see Royal Air Force service, Supermarine Spitfire PR.XIX (PS915) was produced during early 1945 and was later made ‘operationally ready’ for service by the PRDU at RAF Benson. Too late to see action during WWII, the aircraft was eventually assigned to No.2 Sqn. at Wunstorf in Germany, where she would fly strategic reconnaissance missions over this volatile region.
On returning to the UK, the aircraft joined the famous Temperature and Humidity Monitoring Flight (THUM) based at RAF Woodvale, near Southport, but would eventually be retired from flying duties in 1957. The following few years would see this Spitfire serving as a gate guardian at both Leuchars and Brawdy, before being commandeered as a ground prop on the Battle of Britain movie set. Arguably, the most significant development in this Spitfire’s post service history occurred with its arrival at the British Aerospace factory site at Samlesbury, Lancashire in June 1984. Once there, technicians and apprentices at BAe worked tirelessly to return this magnificent aircraft to her former glory, with their efforts being rewarded in December 1986, as PS915 triumphantly took to the air once more, the first time it had flown since August 1957.
In March the following year, Spitfire PR.XIX joined the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and since that date, has delighted millions of Airshow enthusiasts with its displays of grace and power, serving as a stunning example of a late production Supermarine Spitfire.
Over the years, we have seen how the BBMF have delighted enthusiasts by presenting their aircraft in different markings to commemorate famous aircraft or actions involving the type concerned and this beast of a Spitfire would also be a beneficiary. Following the completion of a ‘Major Plus’ refurbishment carried out by the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford during the 2015/16 winter period, the aircraft emerged from their hangar wearing a stunning new silver livery.
The new scheme selected represented a photo reconnaissance Spitfire Mk.XIX (PS852) which set a world altitude record for a piston powered aircraft in February 1952. Flying with No.81 Squadron out of Kai Tak airfield in Hong Kong, Flight Lieutenant Ted Powles attained the incredible altitude of 51,550ft, which was both an altitude record for the Spitfire and for single engine piston fighters, one which still stands to this day. This magnificent scheme marks the incredible achievement of this late mark Spitfire and the long service record of an aircraft type which made its first flight back in March 1936. If nothing else, this eye-catching scheme makes for a dramatic contrast to the more usual camouflaged presentation of Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft, whilst at the same time helping to maintain the proud legacy of what has to be considered Britain’s most famous fighting aeroplane.
Modelling centrepiece, this new kit release for 2020 will make for a stunning display piece, whilst at the same time allowing us to produce scale representations of three of the most important historic aircraft in the world today, aircraft many of us will have had the pleasure of seeing display
With aircraft which can be viewed by the Airshow-going public always proving popular subjects with modellers, we expect this new three model BBMF Gift Set to be high on the build lists of many Workbench readers over the coming months, especially as we have all been missing these beautiful aircraft during the unprecedented times we have found ourselves in this year. If you can tear yourself away from admiring the stunning box artwork, this attractive Gift Set should be arriving in our warehouse and in all good model stores over the next few weeks, so please keep an eye out for it, or reserve your example now.
We are afraid that’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, however, we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with a further selection of Airfix modelling delights for your enjoyment. If you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition, please use this firstname.lastname@example.org link to contact us.
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The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 21st August, when we will have more interesting features from the world of modelling.
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