Spitfire 22 - building the 1/72 Xtrakit by Neil Crawford

Since many of you may have bought the 1/72 Xtrakit Spitfire 22 as it has racer decals, heres a short review.

First is the question of which late Spitfire to buy, and the answer is really……any of them. The Admiral kit has better wing shape, but poor cowling bulges. The new Airfix has poorer surface detail than the Xtrakit , but the Xtrakit has fit problems, and a poor spinner. On the whole I don’t think it matters a lot, they are all very good and all will build up into a nice Spitfire 22/24. Since the Xtrakit was nice and cheap and has decals for racers, that’s the one I chose.

The Xtrakit Spitfire 22 is dimensionally accurate, my only complaint is that the wing tips need squaring off a bit, which is easily done. Surface detail is lovely, amongst the best I’ve seen. The biggest problem is poor fit, some filling and sanding is necessary, but everything is relative, it’s a lot better than the Fujimi kit, which I thought was wonderful a few years ago.

The reviewer in Scale aircraft modeller international mentioned that his Spitfire ended up with a bent rear fuselage, so I was extra careful when I glued that up, but I can’t say I see any crookedness, it’s perfectly straight.  The rudder doesn’t match up to the fuselage for some reason, maybe I screwed up, but I had to do add a bit of plastic and sand to fit, to avoid a gap. 

The prize is taken by the propeller and spinner, it’s made up of a dozen small parts, and they don’t fit. I was building a HobbyBoss Mustang at the same time, and the difference in parts count is stunning, but that’s just something you have to accept, if it keeps the kit cheap and accurate, fine by me, and HobbyBoss kits are fun too, in a different way.

The canopy needed a lot of carving to make it sit nicely on the fuselage, I should have replaced it with a vac canopy, as it’s the weakest part of the finished model.

There are three photos of the same Spitfire PK542 flown by Jeffery Quill in the Kings cup race 1951 on the net. Apparently they changed the style of marking during the race or between races.  I built the one with white squares behind the number, at least there is a photo of it, I still haven’t seen one with the red circle, like  the box-art,  how do they know it’s red not dark yellow anyway?  What looks very wrong is those four beautiful canon, on the net photos they look like it had the later four canon stubs. In fact I found more photos of  PK542, it did a photo flight with the Supermarine Scimitar prototype, and on those it’s obvious that it had the short canon stubs. So I’m sorry, but those had to go.

The Spitfire 22 had 4 inch longer u/c leg, and raked forward a bit more than most Spitfires . I’m not sure if I got mine right, as the Xtrakit certainly didn’t have a well engineered  undercarriage fit, it was a bit of a happening!

Decals are super thin and nicely printed, though I think the small black texts turn out a little dominant. Something to think about is that they stick very well, but also very fast, after 2 seconds they can’t be moved.

For painting, I tried something new,  I mixed Klear/future and SNJ powder, sprayed on, this gave a very fine and tough finish. To liven things up I painted some panels with Alclad white alu and Alclad semi-matt. The nose panels are darker on photos, I thought the nose might be in natural metal,  it’s difficult to see on photos, so I did a sort of compromise, by first covering with kitchen foil, and then brushing and buffing on SNJ powder, it takes the shine off the foil, but you can still sense the aluminium underneath, it worked rather well I think.

I see this kit is still on sale at Hannants for £6, that’s a bargain in my opinion!
/Neil

"All wrong" - How to build a model of "Meteor" based on the Lindberg 1/32 scale kit.

by Marcin Matejko

In the beginning was going to be easy, building the Lindberg  model  out of the box with just a few modifications, at least that was the idea. After closer inspection it turned out that this kit needed a lot of work; new metal and the linen structure on the fuselage as well as scratch building an all-new interior, engine and landing gear.

To make all the modifications I started off with the drawings and pictures and of the plane by Paul Matt. I enlarged these drawings to match scale 1/32, and when I put the model on them I experienced a shock! All big, bad shapes of great simplicity, this model essentially needed to be modified 100%!. Were it not the "Meteor" is such a beautiful machine I for sure would not have started the construction of the model from a Lindberg kit. I thought about the whole thing and came to the conclusion that you can always make a model using less of the kit.

Read more: "All wrong" - How to build a model of "Meteor" based on the Lindberg 1/32 scale kit.

Mr. Mulligan - Building Dekno's 1/72 Scale Kit by Wayne E. Moyer

Benny Howard’s immortal Mr. Mulligan, DGA (Dammed Good Airplane) -6, shouldn’t need much introduction to SIG members; the only airplane (tail number, not type) to win both the Bendix and Thompson Trophy, the only multi-seat airplane to win the Thompson, and the only successful American racer to be developed into a successful commercial airplane, the Howard DGA 8, 9, 11, and -12, which were scaled-up (38 foot span instead of 31’8”) Mulligans with different engines and interior arrangements. In spite of the airplane’s fame, there has been only the ancient Hawk/Testors kit of Mr. Mulligan, which isn’t too bad but is the wrong (1/48) scale for me. The lack of kits isn’t hard to understand - - there are no alternative schemes; Mr. Mulligan at the 1935 NAR is it. And it’s not an eye-catcher; high-wing cabin airplane that doesn’t look out of place today in an overall white scheme with no flashy graphics. So when Dekno began their series of 1/72 air racing models I immediately put in a request for Mr. Mulligan. Albert indicated some interest so my friend Geoff Hays and I sent him everything we could lay our hands on, including the Paul Matt and Cleveland Model plans and the decal sheet from the Dumas stick and tissue kit. The result is what you see here; sometimes you DO get what you wish for.

This is a resin kit (Photo 1), period! Just 32 parts, 26 in Dekno’s now familiar blue and six clear resin windows and windscreen. The castings are as good as any I’ve ever seen, with just a “ragged edge” along the wing leading edge (Photo 2), some thin flash in the side windows (Photo 3) and more edges to be sanded on the fuselage halves. Some care is needed in cutting the small parts from the pour blocks, but the “joint” is very thin. I make multiple cuts AWAY from the part (Photo 4) and was even able to cut the thin control sticks loose and sand them smooth without damage. I didn’t try that for the tiny vertical wing strut braces, though; it was quicker to make them from 0.5 mm brass wire. This is the first resin kit I’ve seen with slots and tabs for the horizontal tail, gear legs, and wheel pants. The tabs for the legs and pants are cast at the correct angles for easy alignment too.

After cleaning up the parts I checked them against the Matt plans which I’d reduced to 1/72 scale with Photoshop to avoid “Xerox stretching” errors. The wing (Photo 5) looked to be a bit long; calipers and calculator confirmed it was 0.2 inches (that’s 14 scale inches) too long. That was easily fixed by sanding the tips to the correct length and shape (Photo 6). Given the size of the one-piece wing and resin shrinking variables, I’d recommend checking your wing before grabbing the emery board and sandpaper. Everything else (Photo 7) laid right over the plans.

After reading the really excellent Paul Matt history of Mr. Mulligan (HIGHLY recommended, Historical Aviation Album Vol. XIV) I decided to make a change to the cabin. Dekno includes the rear seat but Benny and Gordon Israel flew the Bendix with a large fuel tank and oxygen bottles in place of the seat. A kluged-up multi-tank (and valve) arrangement and lack of oxygen led to a forced landing and damage that put Mulligan out of the 1934 races but Benny had everything right for ’35. The oxygen bottles would have been removed for the Thompson race, but it’s doubtful that the big tank would have been pulled. Entering the Thompson was a last-minute change of plans and the empty tank wouldn’t have weighed much. Even if the tank were pulled the seat wouldn’t have been installed; it was probably back in Chicago anyway. Using the Matt plans as a guide and checking the fit, I built the tank (Photo 7) from balsa covered with 0.010” sheet plastic. It’s not perfect, but it fits (Photo 9) like the plans and few photos show and you can’t see much of it once the model is closed up anyway.

I believe that Albert will include the tank in future castings and I’d bet he’d send one on request. I mixed a mahogany color from Tamiya Brown and Red (all color references are for Tamiya paint, by the way) for the cabin sides, used Model Master “Leather” for the seats, and flat black for the panel with gloss black on the raised instrument faces. I glued the rear of the fuselage together with thick, slower-setting “Super T” CA glue which gave me time to make sure the sides were aligned properly. When that set the front was taped together and a bead of Hot Stuff CA was run along the fuselage seams (Photo 10). I filled the small seams with brushed-on coats of thick primer and sanded them smooth. Before gluing the clear resin side windows in place with Kristal Klear (Photo 11) polished them with 3200 through 12000 grit cloth and dipped them in Future.

I  When that was dry they were masked with Bare-Metal foil and the tank, front seats, and sticks were added (Photo 12). After tacking the wing in place and making sure it was square in all directions, I ran a bead of hot stuff along the joint. My sanding had created a small gap at the trailing edge which I filled, but more careful “fit and try” could have minimized that. Be sure to clean out the slots for the gear legs (Photo 13) and tail surfaces and check the fit before applying any glue.

I made one other addition to the kit: there are five tubular braces that run from the back side of the firewall (or maybe the engine mounts?) to the front side of the wing spar. These are difficult to see in many photos and hard to recognize in most plans, but the old Cleveland plans show them clearly. I drilled holes in the underside of the wing (Photo 14) to accept 0.5 mm brass wire, cut pieces to length, and glued them in place. After adding the gear legs (Photo 15) and wheel pants (both easy to do with the slots and angled tabs) I masked the cabin, sprayed on a coat of primer, and block-sanded that smooth. Other than the small wing root gaps I created, no putty was needed anywhere.

After airbrushing on several coats of white lacquer I mounted the engine and cowl before applying the decals. Three of the four ways you can mount the engine are wrong; one cylinder should be at 12:00 (Photo 16) with the lowest two making an inverted “V”. A small round air scoop should be on the outside of each of those. Fitting the delicate exhaust collector and pipes is a bit fiddly but it looks good when done. There’s a lot of detail on the engine that can be picked out but much of it will be hidden when the cowl is in place. Although I polished and dipped the clear resin windscreen it still was a little cloudy so I used it to vacuform a new one and added the white center cover strip with a piece of decal. I’m not really happy with my replacement, either; the kit part did fit much better. If anyone knows how to make these clear resin castings really transparent, please share the technique!

The crisply printed decals are thin and very easy to apply and the instructions show exactly where they go. Metallic decals usually are difficult to work with but the gold registration numbers went on very easily. I thought the background of the Gulf decals was too pale and replaced them with decals from my model cars spares box. After fitting the struts I used more brass wire (Photo 17) to make the vertical braces and added the prop. I’ve been critical of some of Dekno’s props but this one is exactly right in all respects. My finished model (Photo 17) really looks like the real thing and there’s enough detail (Photo 18) to make it very realistic; can you tell this is a 1/72 scale model? There aren’t a lot of decals but they’re accurate and correctly proportioned. I was surprised at how big Mr. Mulligan was; the Gee Bee wasn’t a really small airplane, but Mr. Mulligan makes it look that way (Photo 20).

It’s been a long, LONG wait for a 1/72 scale kit of the 1935 Bendix and Thompson winner but Dekno’s model fills that empty hole in my collection beautifully. HIGHLY recommended.

Benes-Mraz Be-550 Bibi & VEF Irbitis I-12 Kora 1/72 scale resin kits.

Anders reviewed these two kits in Bent throttles (see  BT #30 May 2004 in the BT section for the racer version OK-BET of this kit [red]), and liked them, so when I was able to get them for a decent price I didn’t hesitate. Unfortunately neither of the issues I bought were racers, so they don’t really belong here, instead look at this as a short update to Anders article, as a guide to what to look out for when you build the real racer versions!


Both kits are really nice, cream coloured resin, and beautiful surface detail, vac-formed cockpit canopies, rather lacking in the interior, they have paper instrument panels to glue on, and a few odds and ends to glue in place. All you need in the kit is there for a good basic replica, but not up to the latest standard of modern plastic kits.


Building resin kits is about the same as plastic kits, except you need to use CA or epoxy glue, I usually use a combination. Vac-formed canopies are tricky to get on nicely,   I try and make a kind of shelf or edging where it glues on, and this was easy to do on both these models, the actual glueing was done with white glue. Fit and general construction was free of problems on both models. Drilling and pinning of control surfaces is always a good idea, but on these small kits, you can probably get away without.

 

  I don’t have a lot of references, so like Anders I can’t judge accuracy well, but comparing the finished models with the photos I have, they certainly look correct.


Problems I did find during the builds were pinpoint resin holes, I think Anders mentioned these on one of the kits, but in fact they were present on both.

Specific to the Benes-Mraz was a problem caused partly by own carelessness, I cut out the canopy around the outside edge, and didn’t check how the real canopy was attached, in fact there is a cut-out where the roof extends into the canopy, so the rear side windows are really canopy extensions. In the kit it’s square right over. Of course I discovered this when I had painted it, and had to fill the joint and re-paint, that was only partly successful. Another question with the British reg. version is that the decals are bright red, and on the box art wine red, I made my own because I thought it would look nicer in wine red, but which is correct is something I don’t know.


So there you have it, a pair of very pretty little models, that are so easy to build that they are almost relaxation. Highly recommended!


The Correct Solution

Building Dekno’s 1930 Thompson Trophy Winner

By Wayne E. Moyer

B.F. Goodrich’s Vice President for Aviation, Lee Shoenhair, made a late (VERY late) decision to enter the 1930 National Air Races to be held in Chicago.  More specifically, he wanted to enter the unlimited Thompson Trophy Race, in spite of the fact that he had very limited air racing experience and didn’t have an airplane. He couldn’t get the “hot” airplane at that point, and veteran racing pilots Frank Hawks and Jimmy Hazlip were already entered in their brightly painted Texaco and Shell Mystery Ships anyway. So he went looking for an airplane, and by the time he talked to E.M. “Matty” Laird only three weeks were left before the start of the race. Laird was already building his “Speedwing” biplanes and felt that the biplane configurations shorter wingspan and strong but streamlined “I-Strut” configuration would allow him to use thinner (i.e., faster) wings with fewer bracing wires (less drag), than the strut-and-wire-braced monoplanes then flying. Shoenhair signed a contract to have a Laird LC-DW-300 airplane just 21 days before the scheduled date of the Thompson Trophy race. Shoenhair stipulated that he would fly the airplane in the Thompson and that it would be powered by the new Pratt & Whitney 300-horsepower Wasp Junior engine (hence the 300 in the designation) which he would arrange to have leased to Laird.

With his full crew working literally 24/7, Matty’s Laird aircraft rolled the black and gold Laird out of the factory door less than 2 hours before the scheduled start of the Thompson race! Shoenhair had never flown a Laird of any type (great planning for a VP!) and so experienced race pilot Charles “Speed” Holman, who’d come to Chicago hoping for some kind of ride and pretty much attached himself to the Laird factory, was asked to make the test flight. The cockpit had been designed around Shoenhair; at over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, Holman’s head stuck out well above the windshield. After a short 10-minute hop Holman landed, noted that the rigging needed adjusted, and that was done while the new airplane was fully fueled. Somewhere along the line Shoenhair’s friends and family convinced him that flying a new, virtually untested airplane he’d never flown before in the country’s fasted race wasn’t the best idea, so Holman squeezed back into the cockpit for the 5-minute hop to Curtis-Reynolds airport and the National Air Races.

Upon landing, Holman was directed to the Thompson Trophy starting line. While Laird’s crew, who’d rushed over, adjusted the rigging once again, someone applied race number 77 with a broad brush and whitewash. Besides the two Mystery Ships, in line for the race-horse start were Captain Arthur Page, who was expected to win in the Army’s one-off parasol-wing Curtiss XF6C-6 Hawk, Paul Adams in an earlier travel Air, and Benny Howard in his tiny “Pete” monoplane.

Hawks and Adams dropped out early, and Page was clearly the class of the race until he wandered off course and crashed on lap 17, the victim of carbon monoxide fumes. That left Holman and Hazlip neck and neck; Holman, with his head above the windshield, was getting a full dose of Wasp fumes and Hazlip had his own problems with a poor fuel mixture that was causing engine problems.  On the last lap Holman, flying a bit higher, dove across the finish line to win the 1930 (and officially, the first) Thompson Trophy race. When he landed, the Laird had less than 45 minutes total flying time!  Nobody but Laird’s crew had seen the airplane of course, but when someone asked what kind of airplane it was, Matty had the answer: “it’s the Solution” to the Travel Air Mystery”!

I built all of the post-war Thompson Trophy winners a few years ago but had little hope of completing a full collection. After all, what manufacturer would invest money in tooling to make an airplane that has only one configuration and color option? Fortunately Dekno Models has the ability to create very accurate masters and RTV molds and the desire to models that no one else has done. The Laird Solution is their 4th pre-war TT winner (their Weddell-Williams represents the 1931 second-place airplane, and will hopefully be modified to make the 1933 and ’34 winners) and it, like it’s predecessors, is a beauty.

After reading the instructions and while trying to figure out what shade is “electric blue” and exactly where it should go in the cockpit (and I happily admit that Dekno’s English is much better than my non-existent Spanish!) I Googled the Laird Solution and re-discovered that the airplane is on display in the new England Air Museum after a restoration overseen by Matty laird himself. There aren’t many photos on their site but a second site led me to a “Laird Solution Today” link at http://www.airminded.net/lcdw500/neamlaird.html. This brings up dozens of excellent photos obviously taken “By Modelers for Modelers” and is an absolute must for anyone interested in this airplane, let alone anyone building one.

Dekno AR 720800 comes in their drawer-style box, with 22 beautifully cast resin parts heat-sealed into individual sections of the plastic sleeve. A nicely done double-sided instruction sheet and crisp decals- - with a better set of Laird emblems in a smaller sheet- - complete the kit. Both wings are one-piece castings that fit onto and into the fuselage, and while there are small, easily removed mold lines on the leading edges, both were absolutely straight with exceptionally thin trailing edges that are a lot thinner than anything I’ve seen on limited-run plastic kits. With the correct cockpit side colors (”Model Master Ford Engine Blue”), photos from the site above, and Paul Matt’s drawings I decided to add a bit of cockpit detail since the transparent sides make the interior pretty visible. Dekno’s panel shape is right, but the thickness of the fuselage halves make it sit a bit too low, so I thinned the upper fuselage from the inside.

Photos show the panel to be a very dark gray with typical black and white gauges, which came from my 40-year old “decal spares” box.  Throttle and trim quadrants were made from bits of plastic, with levers from small pieces of scrap photo-etched “trees” with painted drops of thick super glue for handles and thin wire pushrods. The Solution had rudder bars, not pedals, and more small “connectors” from p.e. trees made convincing ones.

Remember, you’re seeing greatly enlarged monitors on your screens; the interior looks much better in 1:1 scale.

Dekno’s instructions show where the rigging wires should go, something not seen in most kits and much appreciated, so I drilled holes with #72 (two wires) and #75 (one wire) bits in the fuselage and wings surfaces where indicated. 

Both wings needed just a little bit of sanding (a common emery board is my favorite tool) to get a snug fit. Be sure that the upper wing will sit square than seen from above as well and head-on; my kit, needed a little tweaking on the plug to align the wing trailing edges. 

All in all, for a low-run resin kit, the parts are not only superbly cast and detailed, but they fit very well.  The lower-wing/fuselage joint needed just a touch of putty and sanding and the fuselage seams were filled with primer.

Be sure to keep the locating holes for the landing gear struts cleaned out.  The tail surfaces are much too thin to depend on butt joints so I reinforced them with brass wire “butt joints” as seen in my Mystery Ship and LTR-14 articles for Bent Throttles”.

At this point I ran into a puzzle. There are three tabs inside the cowling which serve to line the engine up correctly; the engine, by the way is another excellent casting with only minor flash between a few cylinders. That’s three possible ways to fit the engine inside the engine inside the cowling. The cowling has tiny, crisp panel lines, but they aren’t along the centerline- - one “half” is bigger than the other.  Six combinations. Now there’s a four-sided plug on the back or the engine that fits into a matching hole in the firewall. It’s been almost 50 years since my statistics class but I think that’s 24 ways the whole thing can go together.  Back to the Matt drawings where I found:

1) the engine should have a “Vee” (space between two cylinders) at the top with the bottom cylinder vertical and

2) the larger section of cowling is the top (panel lines below the centerline).

With that information everything lined up just fine and was marked, then the engine and inside of the cowling were painted before the engine was glued inside and the cowling attached to the fuselage and a final primer coat was applied to all the parts and sanded smooth with 3200-grit cloth.

The pigments, or metallic particles in all my “gold” model paints looked pretty huge on a model this small, so I bought a jar of Alclad II “Pale Gold” and tested that. Much better, so the wings and tail surfaces were airbrushed with that and allowed to dry overnight before being masked with Tamiya tape. To further reduce the tape’s tackiness, I stuck pieces to my forehead before using them on the model, and none of the Alclad was lifted when the tape was removed. Everything was painted with gloss black lacquer and the decals were applied before a coat of future Floor wax was airbrushed on. 

Now for the rigging - - note the holes in the wings and fuselage in the photo above.  I’ve used stainless steel surgical wire for more than 40 years with great success. 

Once in place it never sags and really looks like steel flying/landing wires. The first step is to measure the length od wire needed; simple dividers work very well.

I put a strand of wire on a piece of flat glass and transfer the measurement to that, adding some extra length if the wire goes into the fuselage (drill fuselage holes clear through if possible) and then cut it off with a sharp (new!) knife blade.

I put a small drop of Micro Kristal Klear in one hole- - if the wire goes into the fuselage, stick it in a ways, put the KK in the other hole and pull it back out until it will drop into the hole with the glue. Another small drop in the other end will secure the wire and the hole will disappear when the clue dries clear- - or you can apply a drop of paint if it doesn’t.

Dekno’s instructions say to glue the I-struts to the upper wing before that is glued in place. That will work if you can be sure you’ve got them the right length, but I didn’t want to sand or cut on one end of these very thin resin castings with the other firmly glued in place, so I waited until after the top wing was in place before trimming and fitting the struts. That made it easier to add the last rigging wires, too. I did have to thin down each end of the struts; with primer and paint they wouldn’t fit into the wing recesses. Getting a good loose fit before the model is assembled would make this job easier.  Since the struts aren’t carrying any load, I glued them in place with Kristal Klear, too; and excess that’s squeezed out can be removed with a damp paintbrush.

I trimmed the cockpit sides and windshield to fit (Dekno provides spares) and glues them in place with (what else) more KK. The flat spots on the upper wing are tracks on which the windshield slid forward so the sides could fold down, so they were painted aluminum- -there should actually be thin aluminum “tracks” under the windshield here, too.

I did make a couple of changes. Dekno’s tail skid is a really impressive and very delicate casting. So delicate, in fact that, that I didn’t think it would survive the normal handling moving, and transportation to meetings and displays that my models are subjected to.  I realized that the master had to have been made from brass sheet and wire; why couldn’t I do the same? As it turned out, with Dekno’s skid as a pattern, it took just a few minutes to solder up a much more durable part.

After painting the prop with Alclad II “Polished Aluminum” I fitted it to the engine, fortunately without glue. It looked small; I checked photos and it really looked small. Out came the calipers and calculator. Matt’s plans said the prop was 8’5” (101 inches) in diameter, but this one scaled out to just 86 inches, well over a foot too short. 

Fortunately my dwindling prop stash had an Aeroclub Hamilton Standard prop (right) of the correct size. Somebody REALLY needs to put those props back into production. Incidentally, if you have one of the first kits like mine, contact Dekno for a replacement.

That’s the ONLY nit in the whole kit.  My finished Laird looks right from every angle, and its decals are right on the money down to the incorrect P and W logo some Laird employee incorrectly painted on the cowling; P&W is the registered trademark.

Span and length both check out right on 1/72 scale, but m ore importantly, the model looks right from all angles.

When it’s placed next to Dekno’s equally accurate Mystery Ship, its more compact dimensions show that Matty Laird really did have the correct “Solution”.

This is as close to a “shake the box” limited run resin kit as I’ve seen.  Clean, crisp, and very detailed castings, no large pour blocks attached to small parts, small mold lines, and excellent parts fit made this a much easier build than I’d anticipated.  It gets a hearty “Highly Recommended”.  Dekno’s next should be one of my favorite race planes, and the only airplane (by serial number, not type) to win both the Bendix and Thompson Trophy races, Benny Howard’s immortal “Mr. Mulligan”.  I can’t wait to show you that one!

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  • Bent Throttles

    "Bent Throttles" was the quarterly newsletter of the IPMS Racing & Record Aircraft Special Interest Group. It was mainly produced by the members but also contains material contributed by well-known authors and draughtsmen, such as Ferdinand Käsmann, Harry Robinson and the late Jack Abbott. It is no longer produced, but the following index shows the content of the published newsletters.

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