Thursday, April 29, 2010
When I built this kit for the first time in '75, all I had was a tube of glue; no paints, and no tools. At the time, I didn't know decals don't adhere very well to plastic covered with greasy kid fingerprints, dirt, and glue smudges. In fact, I completely gave up on the TWA decals, and asked my Dad to paint "U.S. Navy" on the fuselage with my Mom's ceramic paints. 35 years later though, things are different. In keeping with the spirit of revisiting my childhood model airplanes, I built this Constellation with a minimum of tools and paint. All I used were the recommended items in the "tips and building" section of a 1975 Revell kit catalog: knife, scissors, tape, surfacing putty, 500 grit sandpaper, a couple of jewelers files, tube glue, liquid glue, Micro Set, and three paint brushes. The instructions called for white, silver, light gray, and black colors to be used. I had to take the liberty however of using an additional product. In order to ensure the original beautiful TWA decals adhered to the surface, I used Micro Sol for that "painted-on look." In rebuilding these old kits, the Microscale system is crucial if one wants to use the original decals. Fortunately, I did not have to use Micro Liquid Decal Film, even though a couple of the decals broke apart during application.
For a beginners model, this is a very easy one to build. However, if one wishes to paint it, that's another story. A fair amount of masking is required to get the silver and light gray panel effect on the wings to look right, along with the black de-icer boots. And there's the white upper and silver lower surface on the fuselage. I spray painted most of these surfaces and brush-painted the black boots on the tail pieces.
I enjoyed building this kit again; it brought back a lot of memories, mostly of the days when I would rush through building a model so I could immediately play with it outside.
When we moved to Lancaster in late 1974, our house on J-5 was not finished yet. So, we lived in a motel on Sierra Highway. It was only for a few weeks, but it seemed like months to me. The school year had just begun, and I was in the fourth grade at El Dorado school on Ave J and 5th Street East.
One day, in class, I could hear the rumbling of some large, propeller-driven airplane getting closer, and closer. I couldn't stand it; I just had to run out and see what it was. As I got up, my teacher warned me to stay in my seat or face the consequences. But I didn't listen. The plane was so close, and I couldn't control myself one second longer. I ran out of the classroom, looked up, and saw flying at treetop level, a Lockheed Constellation! It had some funny-looking bulges on it, so it was probably an Air Force EC-121, or a Navy WV-2 (or something of that type.) It was late 1974, and there were still a few of these flying with the reserves. Perhaps I saw one of the last ones before it was sent to pasture.
What does this have to do with model airplanes? Well, I'm sure this sighting was the reason I got the Revell TWA Constellation at Gemco.
This picture represents a turning moment in my life. My Dad snapped this photo within minutes of me gawking at the first C-141A Starlifter I had ever seen fly overhead - real low. It was shooting touch-and-go's at Palmdale Air Force Facility a few miles away from where we were standing. The house in the background is our new home on East Avenue J-5, in Lancaster California. Dad was transferred from Rockwell Intl. Space Division in Downey, to Palmdale to begin work on the Space Shuttle.
There were other airplanes flying overhead that day too: a Flying Tigers DC-8-61, and C-130s. I was hooked on airplanes from that day forward. As soon as we moved into that house, I started building models. Most of the kits I got were from Gemco, the largest department store in Lancaster at the time, and a pretty good one too. They had a great selection of model kits, mostly the 1973 & '74 Revell and Monogram releases, plus some Entex, and Aurora kits as well. Thrifty Drug and Discount Store had the Lindberg kits, and K-Mart had mostly Revell and Monogram kits.
I don't remember what the first model airplane was that I built when we moved, but it was either the Revell TWA Super-G Constellation, or the Aurora C-141A Starlifter. I guess I'll start with the Revell Connie.