Thursday, May 31, 2012

FROG D.H. Vampire FB.5

On the heels of the FROG Gloster Meteor (see previous post) is this 1/72 scale DeHavilland Vampire 5. As I mentioned earlier, Al Letcher gave me one of these along with the Meteor kit, and they made a great pair. Back in the 70s, FROG's FB.5 was the only Vampire model kit available. Heller came out with another FB.5 in the 80s, but I have a hunch they got the molds from FROG when FROG went out of business. The FB.5 differed from Al's Mk. III Vampire in that the MK. III had rounded wing tips. At any rate, FROG's little kit was close enough to Al's Vampire and I liked having it in my collection, especially having seen it fly on several occasions at Mojave Airport.
I have faint memories of my original Vampire assembled. I can't remember if I painted it or not, or whether or not I built it wheels down or up. In rebuilding this kit, I chose to do it wheels up in memory of watching this great airplane in flight. The RAF camouflage scheme was hand painted, while the underside was spray painted with Testors silver metallic. I did not have a pre-mixed bottle of dark sea gray, so I tried mixing different colors to get the right shade. It was rather difficult, and after wasting too much paint, I settled with a shade I think is too blue. Nevertheless, a foot away or more it looks acceptable.

At some point in the future I may wish to model Al's Vampire using the 1/48 scale Hobbycraft Vampire Mk. III. It would go well with the Classic Airframes 1/48 scale Meteor N.F. 11. There is a less expensive option however to do both in 1/72 scale since Amodel from Russia has recently released a Vampire Mk. III, which would go well with the Matchbox Meteor N.F.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hasegawa A-4E Skyhawk

The 1/72 scale Douglas A-4E/F Skyhawk was either my second or third Hasegawa model. Judging from Squadron Mail Order ads in old SCALE MODELER magazines, this kit appeared in the U.S. around 1973. The one I got originally like the one shown here is the second issue from 1974 (it's hard to tell though because Hasegawa and their U.S. subsidiary Minicraft never dated anything!) The quality of this kit is far superior to the F-104J and the Mig-21. The parts are cleanly molded in light gray, with hardly any flash at all. My original one from '76 looked pretty good; I left the upper body and wings in the natural gray plastic, and hand-painted the underside flat white. I built the Marine Corps "E" version with drop tanks and two Bull Pup missiles.
For this rebuild, I spray-painted the upper surfaces gloss light sea gray, with gloss white under-surfaces. In homage to my original, I did the same Marine Corps version but this time I left the tanks and missiles off. The Skyhawk is a pretty sleek-looking little hot rod; and although it would have been unlikely for a Marine A-4E to go into combat with nothing but the twin 20MM guns, it's not impossible to imagine a slick Skyhawk going up for a test or training flight. That's the look I wanted - a slick underside to accentuate the plane's hot rod-iness.
A test of one of the original decals revealed they were too brittle to use without Micro Decal Film, so I put some on and they went on fine. The gloss surface helped them adhere without much trouble or additional products.
This is a nice little kit to have on display again, and reminds me of my later days of modeling at the house on J-5. There are only several more kits to go before a major transition comes in the history of my boyhood model airplane building.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Crushed Fishbed! The first of several models that never made it to the shelf

At some point during my time at J-5 I bought a Hasegawa MiG-21 Fishbed like the one shown here. This was another kit I remember working on in my garage while my friend Phil worked on a kit of his own. Phil let me use his Humbrol paints to replicate the camouflage scheme shown on the box cover. The Humbrol colors had a strong odor and were slow to dry. I put the Fishbed on some paper towels to dry, and for some reason, laid it on the garage floor near the doorway into the house. Dumb! While Phil and I took a break inside, my Dad walked into the garage for something and stepped right on the MiG, crushing it. When Phil and I went back into the garage to resume construction, I saw my Fishbed laying there in pieces, tacky, stinky paint and all. I was bummed, but once again it was my fault. This was the second model destroyed by accidental crushing (see Aurora C-141A) and the first of several that never made it to my shelves. I'm covering these thwarted kits for completeness, but I'm choosing not to rebuild them.