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Friday, October 28, 2011

Airfix Vickers Valiant

I think that one of the great advantages of 1:72 scale is that so many aircraft types have been kitted that you can explore the odd byways of aviation history and even build up little mini-collections of related types that are of great personal interest. In the larger scales there are still many types that haven’t been kitted yet, and this kind of approach is more difficult. I do like doing long-range projects like USAF bombers, global transports, and odd experimentals. One such project is doing all of the RAF V-bombers.

Until this year, there was one rather gaping hole in the series. Airfix had of course done the Vulcan, and Matchbox the Victor. If it had survived, it isn’t too much to think that Frog would have done a 1:72 Valiant to finish the trio. But it did not survive, and the spot was left to vacform kits, with all of the attendant issues that they present. Mach 2 released a kit a couple of years back (demonstrating both their excellent type choices and execrable execution) but there was only minimal improvement over a vac.

And then the rumors began to circulate about the newly revived Airfix releasing a Valiant. Their TSR-2 had apparently been a success and they were looking to follow up with another home-grown most-wanted type. Gradually the Valiant firmed up into an official release (with a gradually lengthening delivery date, but we RAFophiles rejoiced nonetheless).

The Valiant was one of my two must-own types of 2011, the other being Revell’s Halifax. In the age of the internet, I had to watch all of our British associates getting their kits before the boxes ever reached the US, but finally I learned that Sprue Bros had gotten a shipment in, and an order was immediately placed. Shortly, the box arrived and I immediately made time in the industrial production of the 72 Land factory to begin work.

It is a fine example of the current state of Airfix’s art. Some modellers are more skeptical about the company’s efforts than I am. I admit to being a fan of Airfix’s ability to produce solid efforts at wonderful prices. Sure, I wish they would restrain their panel lines at times, but they seem to be getting that under control. The Valiant’s panel lines are restrained. There are some places that could be refined – I’ve heard the kit likened to a Russian tractor – but all of the large tab and slot connections that I could see were well-hidden in the finished model. I think the shape is well captured and the buildability is high. For the Profoundly Average Modeller, those are the stats that count.

For those who are just getting started on the kit, you would be well served to take a look at the build recaps on, especially the long string by General Melchett. He takes a good hard look at what deficiencies there are and suggests solutions for them, always the mark of a useful build review. There are other builds on there as well, which will help you steer by the rough patches.

Not that there are many. I had some issues with the fit around the exhausts, and the instructions could be a bit clearer on the various options (there are a lot of optional pieces that are only correct for particular variants). The bomb bay doors fit pretty well when closed, though clearly designed to be open. The intakes buried in the wing seemed to fit well also. Actually, I would say that there were more issues with the painting (vast areas of white, a notoriously difficult color to spray well) than anything else. There was no masking set available when I built the kit – the dangers of being an early adopter – so I had to do it the old fashioned way. I have to say that due to the small size and large number of windows, a masking set (Eduard 72-299) would certainly have made things easier; probably not one of my best jobs.

While the markings are not extensive, I wanted to follow my usual process and at least take advantage of aftermarket decals. I had bought the Kits At War Valiant sheet before many of the current sheets were out. I’m not sure the sheet is still available since it doesn’t appear on the Hannants list. But right now you have options for different camo schemes from Airdecal and Airframe / Model Alliance; my sheet has only white examples, though this was the scheme I had planned for the Valiant in any case.

Most markings are pretty standard – roundels and serials. The only point of attention is the squadron art, two swords over a white and blue field. No problems with any of the decals. I don't have the sheet to hand and I can't for the life of me remember the squadron number.

I already had a Vulcan in the completed category (along with a what-if project of the “fourth V-bomber”, a camo version of the AMT B-49 flying wing that I named the Vector), so completion of the Valiant makes it three. Next comes the Victor. If I really get ambitious, maybe I’ll spring for the Magna kit of the Short Sperrin, the actual backup fourth V-bomber, in a fit of self-inflicted modelling torture for having avoided the Mach 2 Valiant.

This is completed model #370, finished in October of 2011.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Revell Republic P-47D

If you were to wander through the 72 Land model dungeon and look at the boxes of unfinished kits, one of the things that would strike you (other than the fact that there are a lot of them) is that I have very few duplicate kits. Oh, there are a couple of favorite types that I have gathered  multiples of – A-4, BAe Hawk, Hurricane, DC-3, and the subject of today’s finished model, the P-47. I have actually completed 22 models in the P-47 project. Most are of the usual bubbletops and razorbacks, though I do have a P-35 and XP-47H to show where the lineage grew from and what it grew into. And there is an Alliance XP-72 that is still waiting in the stash.

Why is the P-47 so attractive? As usual with me, it concerns the markings. While I have no reason to think that there were more P-47s with nose art than, say, P-51s, I would argue that there are certainly more nose art decal sheets for P-47s than any other single type. And I have accumulated most of them in my 26 years of modelling. I could literally build only 1:72 P-47s until the day they wheel me off to the rest home and still probably not use up all my decals. Of course, Tbolts aren’t the only thing I build, so I likely will never reach the point where I run out of either kits or decals.

Every so often a new sheet is published which moves another P-47 to the top of the queue. Such was the case with “Sigma Nu Girl”, one choice on the EagleCal EC107. Besides the large lettering on the side of the fuselage, it was a rare chance to put a late model bubbletop in Olive Drab and Neutral Grey.

I used the Revell kit. While it isn’t the best-building P-47 in 1:72 scale (that honor belongs to the Tamiya version) it is a solid effort that doesn’t miss the mark by much. And in this case I have about a half dozen of the things in the stash. As I said earlier, this is pretty unusual for me.

The Eagle Cal decals are very thin, and require some care when applying them. They do settle down into the panel lines with no problem, and did not require any setting solution. Although there is an error on the sheet – the data block on each propeller blade near the hub is called out in the instructions, but doesn’t seem to appear on the decal itself. Not a huge issue, but you’ll want to source some replacements if that is important to you.

“Sigma Nu Girl” belonged to Greasy Methany, and the reference is to a fraternity at UC Berkeley. It uses the dorsal fin, which is included in the Revell kit, and sports the Curtiss asymmetrical prop. EagleCal notes that Methany’s grandson, Charles, was killed in 2006 near Baghdad, by an IED.

This is completed model #369, finished in October of 2011.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The rise in the fall

There has been a brief lull in the fall production here in 72 Land. Some business to take care of which has been taking my attention, with other various distractions mixed in. I do still have two completed models that need their photos taken so I can feature them on the blog, and have three more deep in the painting stage. As you can see from this picture, they are an F-16, Tornado, and Eurofighter Typhoon. Basic color coat shot onto them this morning; as soon as the paint cures I can give it a light buffing and go for the final surface coat. This will put the Typhoon as likely to be the first to cross the finish line, since the overall Barley/Camo grey coat is all that remains to be finished on that one. The F-16 has another color for its upper surfaces, and the Tornado (which will be in 111 Squadron special markings) still has appointments for a couple of greys.

I've also got the Heller Vampire mostly put together, and the SA Bulldog is slowly working its way through the paint queue.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hobbyboss Hawker Seahawk

I’m still catching up with models that have been completed in the fall modelling campaign. The next one is another in the ongoing series of Cold War British fighters, most recently exemplified by the AZ Models Attacker and the Xtrakit Swift. This is the relatively new Hobbyboss Hawker Seahawk.

It is a very nice kit in the box, though it suffers from the engineering that one usually sees for the Seahawk. The German and British versions have a different tail, so the fuselage is inevitably split to allow both options, giving you an unnecessary seam to deal with. Otherwise the detailing is plentiful. The only area that I messed up on was not giving sufficient attention to the seam directly behind the exhaust cans. The best way to approach this is to not install the actual exhaust pipes until after you have dealt with the seam. Not the way I did it, unfortunately, so I was unable to reach the area that needed the PSR.

The actual colors on this jet seemed a bit on the confusing side, with various iterations of DSG, EDSG, Sky, and White being proposed. I decided to use an old Modeldecal sheet. This is actually for an F1, but I couldn’t see any external differences so I went ahead. If you can’t rely on Dickie Ward for postwar RAF/RN camo data, who can you rely on? I’m sure if there are some physical differences between the F1 and FGA6, some poster on the boards where I display these finished models will let me know.

While wrapping up this model, I got the urge for another Cold War fighter, and started on the cockpit of a Heller DeHav Vampire FB5. This is an elderly kit, with raised panel lines that will need to be eliminated and unusable decals. The detail isn’t too bad for a kit of this vintage, and I believe I have another Modeldecal sheet that featured Vampires, so markings won’t be a crisis.

This is completed model #366, completed in September of 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Italeri Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor

Given most of the types that have been featured in the first 10 months of the blog’s existence, you might be surprised to find that I’m not terribly interested in modern frontline US fighters. I’ve never built an F-18 or F-15, no AV-8s, and my very first F-16 is currently in the painting queue. I can’t say I have any interest in the “my missile is bigger than yours” conversations that seem to go along with types such as the F-22 and F-35. I find myself much more fascinated by the weird little byways of aviation than the best of breed.

Which is not to say that I don’t like experimental types. I had been reading about the Sukhoi T-50 in Air Forces Monthly before the Zvezda kit became available, and thought it would make an interesting comparison with an F-22. Then in the fullness of time Trumpeter announced their J-20, and plans for a mini project were born. The T-50 has already featured on this blog, and the J-20 is currently in construction. But the F-22 has just emerged into the (rather overcast) light of day here in the great northwest.

This is the Italeri kit. I am aware that the Academy version is apparently a better kit, certainly in terms of buildability. But I had the Italeri in the stash, spending was restricted to new kits that I just HAD to have, and the F-22 is just not a type that would cause me to heedlessly throw some bucks around. Going with the Italeri kit does have some minor penalties in terms of fit – there is a seam aft of the cockpit that will turn your hair grey(er). But the detailing on the visible bits like cockpit and landing gear is good and it had the satisfaction of using up something that had been in the stash for years.

Construction proceeded without need for medication, with the main problems other than that seam revolving around the internal weapons bay doors. I have very little interest in ordnance, and have never been one of those who obsesses about what to hang off the pylons. In fact, I typically don’t hang anything at all. That seems to have the effect of concentrating the eye on the airframe itself, primarily the markings. The problem in this case was that the doors for the ventral bay and the two side missile bays don’t fit and are in multiple pieces that are meant to serve both for the choice of open bays and closed bays. In the event I ended up closing the lower bay and leaving the two side bays open. I’m not sure it was the best idea, and I probably should have just built them all closed and resolved myself to some PSR sessions.

Then there was the painting. The overall light grey coat went on well, but my masking for the darker patches on the upper surfaces was pretty mediocre. Plus the dark grey paint sprayed on like that stucco coating they used to apply to Southern Californian houses in the 80s. Even by buffing it down and reshooting it was still rather rough. At this point I was possessed by the familiar demon Impatience and decided to see if the eventual matte coat would solve the problem. Thankfully it did, pretty much, though I still can’t say it is my most technically sound painting job.

Decals were from the kit: the first production Raptor, apparently labeled “Spirit of America”. No problem with the markings at all.

Once I finish the J-20, I’ll get all of the fifth generation fighters together for a group portrait, along with two other large fighter prototypes, the Sukhoi S-47 Berkut and the MiG-1.44.

This is completed model #368, finished in October of 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Zvezda Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA

Next up in the parade of fall model completions is another in the fifth gen fighter mini-project. It is the Zvezda Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA.

You may remember that I had some concerns about Zvezda’s color call-outs on their instruction sheet. They were designating a dark blue (gloss sea blue, in fact) as the dark color in the camo. I have to admit, that didn’t seem right to me. Everything I’ve seen said three greys. As it happened, as I was pondering the issue, the latest copy of Air Forces Monthly arrived with a nice color shot of the prototype in flight. It was clearly a dark grey, or at least as clear as a nice color photo in a mass-produced magazine can be (for me, pretty clear). So even though I had already sprayed on the first coat of gloss sea blue, I buffed it down and shot a coat of Ocean
Grey over it. Nothing special about that – I had it in the airbrush for the Hurricane 2C – but it seemed to capture the color closely enough for my purposes. I’m happy with the choice.

Construction was not difficult, although there were some moments where it didn’t look like the intake design was going to work. You have to bring a multi-part assembly through the inside and locate it in the right spot for everything to line up. It is not instantly obvious, but a judicious session of dry-fitting eventually got me there. Everything else fit the way it was supposed to.

Decals were from the kit, and worked perfectly. I’m not one of those stenciling obsessed modellers, so I didn’t spring for the aftermarket sheet (Begemot, I believe) that has pretty much every little mark on it. The ones provided were sufficient.

The T-50s project stablemate, the F-22, is complete and will be featured on the blog shortly. I also bought the new Trumpeter J-20 so I can have the trifecta. When it is complete I’ll do a family portrait. Seeing them together in the same scale really shows the variations – and similarities – of a group of designs from different countries where the basic design assumptions were clearly very close. I’ll probably also pose the three fifth-gen fighters with a couple of immediate Russian predessors, the Sukhoi S-47 Berkut and the MiG-1.44, and the recently completed Trumpeter J-10.

This is completed model #367, finished in October of 2011.

As an update to the Airfix Harrier saga, I have received a message from Great Models. I am to return the Bf-110 in a Harrier box to them and they will send out another Harrier when it returns to stock. Not sure if I’m expected to pick up the return shipping, but my primary concern at this point is getting the proper kit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

There's a WHAT in the box?

I don't remember this happening in my long modelling career. Last week I ordered a couple of kits from Great Models in Utah: an Airfix Harrier GR9 and a Trumpeter J-20. I received the package and began rooting through the merchandise. The J-20 was fine, and is currently in the construction phase, and will eventually join the F-22 and T-50. For the Harrier, the outer shrinkwrap and those little Airfix sticker-seals were in place. The instructions and decals were fine. But when I took a look at the plastic, that fuselage sure looked odd for a Harrier. Turns out it was the plastic for the Bf-110!

Since I had already bought and built the -110, the kit wasn't something I was interested in. Unfortunately, when I wrote to Great Models' support email address, they have not answered in the last week. Hopefully I'll hear something quickly so I can send the 110 back and get the kit I actually bought. More as this develops.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Airfix Hawker Hurricane 2C

Now that I’ve tricked you into thinking that the only things I produce are postwar types, here comes a more traditional WW2 entry. It is the Airfix new-tool Hawker Hurricane 2C. While I would prefer that the Corgi-esque panel lines were a bit more subtle (and I do think they have been toned down on more recent kits, like the Valiant), they aren’t bad enough to bother me. I think I’ve sampled about all of the engraved line, modern Hurricanes, having built a dozen of the type so far, and I think this fits in well with them. Nice fit and easy construction.

There is one area that I think would benefit with a replacement, and that is the prop. Even to my non-engineering eye it looks too small, so I have to assume that if I can detect it, it is probably quite wrong. Pavla makes an upgrade set with all three prop types – along with cannons for the 2D and those distinctive underwing tanks – which is set 72015. Quickboost also has sets for the DeHav prop (72211) and the Rotol prop (72215 and 72221). There are also a variety of detail bits that were originally meant for the Hasegawa kits but could probably be used here as well.

I used the Sky decal sheet (72053) for Hurricanes, The one I chose was the final Hurricane to leave the production line, appropriately named “Last of the Many”. It would make a fitting bookend to a project I’ve been considering for a while – putting together a prototype from the fabric-winged Hurricane in the Sword (and later, AZ Models) early version. Since that kit comes with the two-blade prop and a separate under-fuselage strake, I think the main conversion work is on the radiator, the exhausts, and the panel lines changes necessary for the elimination of the guns. I haven’t done all that much research yet, though, so there may be other things that need to be changed. It was definitely more of a project before we had a ragwing Hurricane to start from.

This is completed model #365, completed in September of 2011.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

AZ Models Supermarine Attacker F1

The second item in the initial wave of fall modelling to be completed is the AZ Models version of the Supermarine Attacker F1. AZ kits are a bit rougher than the best short run makers like MPM, but they are still quite buildable. And although I don’t feel to compelled to buy every mark of Spitfire that they have been producing (though the PR1 is tempting) I do understand the economic imperative behind it. If it allows them to continue producing buildable kits of obscure types like the F6U Pirate, Ki-54 Hickory, K3M3 Pine, Gauntlet, and those early ragwing Hurricanes, I’m all for it.

There were some fit issues with the kit, which I solved in greater or lesser degrees of success. The fuselage can use some sanding of the edges prior to sealing it up, and the wing/fuselage joint was pretty awful. The tail wheel has no positive location for gluing, and ended up detached and lost in the fuselage before too long. I went ahead and built a replacement using strip styrene that satisfied me, at least, though those with more of an engineering orientation would probably want to do something a bit more realistic.

Painting provided its usual content of drama, given all the masking that was necessary. You wouldn’t think a simple thing like that patch of Sky between the Dark Sea Grey of wings and the upper fuselage would cause issues, but with the vertical tail surfaces also Sky – well, there was a lot of Tamiya tape on this kit in the painting queue. It all turned out well enough.

Given that the markings are pretty generic for the type, I used the kit decals for the most part. The blue in AZ’s roundels looked suspiciously light to me, however, so I replaced them with Modeldecal postwar types I had in the decal vault. As is always the case with these postwar naval types, those underwing serial numbers were a pain where they crossed the various landing gear doors. Blessings upon the decal makers who provide those in pre-measured pieces that fit precisely on the doors themselves. AZ, however, is not one of those makers, and you are forced to cut them out yourself. Never one of my best moments, and I was mostly happy just to see the end of that decaling session.

Nonetheless, I was generally pleased with the way the model turned out. It certainly helps to expand my postwar RAF collection in the display cabinet.

This is completed model #364, finished in September of 2011.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Xtrakit Supermarine Swift FR5

It appears that the post-summer logjam is really breaking. I have no less than 5 completed models in queue, which will be debuting here on the blog over the next few days. And there are a number more in the final stages of construction, painting, and decaling. Looks like the goal of 40 completed models in 2011 in coming within reach.

Tonight’s entry is the Supermarine Swift FR5. It is part of a small postwar British fighters project that includes an Attacker and a Seahawk. It is the Xtrakit, which is a reasonable short run kit, though it does require some extra work to smooth over fit issues. Panel lines are nicely engraved and the canopy is injected. The Swift was one of those types we thought would never get kitted in injected plastic (unless you count the aged Hawk version from when the type was actually in service). But thankfully Hannants/Xtrakit has been making an effort to plug some of the holes in British types.

Derived from the Attacker, by way of the type 510 and 535, the Swift featured swept wings and tail, along with a longer nose for placement of the FR5s camera. It didn’t spend much time in front line service and was replaced by the Hunter in 1961.

Mine is in the red arrow markings of 79 Squadron RAF. The camo is PRU underside, with Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey on top. All paints were Xtracolour and I used kit decals.

This is completed model #363, finished in September of 2011.

You’ll also notice that the Sukhoi T-50 and the F-22 are being readied for paint. They should be finishing up in a few days. And my J-20, to complete the set, is on the way from Great Models. Finally, the last photo shows the current state of the Hobbyboss Seahawk, a P-47, and a revived SA Bulldog.