Roma actual size.jpg (22968 bytes)
(The finished model - Actual Size!)

It's a Snap!
Building the Esci 1:1200 Battleship Roma

Jim Gordon



Click the thumbnail images to see what Jim was able to accomplish in 6 hours.  Remember, the scale of this model is 1:1200 !

Roma 1.jpg (56438 bytes)


Roma 2.jpg (71139 bytes)





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.

Roma1942.jpg (11840 bytes)
Battleship Roma, 1942

The Kit
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.

The Inspiration
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 fast.

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!

klipfontein.jpg (12543 bytes)