Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Airfix Britten-Norman Islander

To the best of my recollection the Airfix 1/72 scale B.N. 2 Islander is the last model airplane kit I built before I moved from our first Lancaster home on East Avenue J-5, to a new mobile home on 20th Street East. I remember picking it out from the shelf at Peterson Hobbies and my Dad saying, "Looks like an Aero Commander." That made me want to get it because I liked the Aero Commander. I would see the Rockwell company Commander fly over our house every now and then, and my Dad had great stories of being shuttled around in it during trips between Downey and Palmdale. I would have bought a model of the Commander if there were one available at the time. Comet's little Aero Commander 680 kit along with Aurora's reissue were long since out of production by the time I started building models; and I had no knowledge they even existed until years later when I started trolling through kit auctions on EBay. Nevertheless, Airfix's Islander was the next best thing, and I liked it. I still do.
The kit is molded in bright yellow, so overall painting is not necessary unless you want the model to look more like the real orangish-yellow of Aurigny's old paint scheme. Once the thing is all put together and the decals applied though, the original yellow doesn't look all that bad. Some dark red needs to be applied though on the tops of the engine nacelles, along with flat black de-icer boots. I painted the seats blue as per the instructions, but went a step further and painted the control panel and dash board flat black. Airfix instructions can be rather lacking in painting suggestions.
Build-wise the model is very detailed and accurate in scale, but suffers from poor fit, especially the fuselage halves and wing mount. Airfix decals over thirty years old can be hit or miss as far as usefulness, but the ones of this Islander rebuild were acceptable.
This is a fun little model to have again on the shelf, and reminds me of a time where I transitioned not only to a new home, but to mostly 1/72 scale aircraft.

Monday, August 13, 2012

AMT 1/48 Corsair, P-36, Vega, Temptest, and F9F

My Mom bought me the complete set of AMT's 1/48 scale plastic aircraft kits from the JCP Penny mail order catalog for Christmas, 1976. We were getting close to moving from our first home in Lancaster to a new double-wide mobile home further east of town. I already had the MiG-15, but the set came with another one. I didn't finish building the set before we moved, but I think I finished the F9F Panther because it was the MiG-15's nemesis.
I was very excited to get these models for Christmas, but I wouldn't have bought them on my own. I wasn't very keen on the Tempest, or the Lockheed Vega. For this reason, I'm going to skip over building them again so I can get on to projects that I was more interested in as a kid, and still am today.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nichimo 1/20th Scale Hughes 500 - A Dream Come True!

I'm taking a break in my usual lineup of kits I built as a kid, to show you one I wished I had as a kid. The Nichimo 1/20th scale Hughes 500 helicopter was one of those untouchable model kits displayed behind the counter at Peterson Hobbies. I knew I could never afford it, and that it would probably be too complex for me to build. Thirty-five years later however, the opportunity finally came to procure one of these highly collectible action model kits.
These appear rather frequently on EBay, but for outrageous starting bid prices. In the case of this one shown here, patience payed off when I spotted it complete, but in a tattered box. The seller claimed all the pieces were included, so I took a chance and bid on it. To my surprise I won it for a much lower price than these usually sell for. The box was indeed in bad shape, but I wasn't getting this kit for the box!
This is an awesome model; extremely fun and challenging to build, especially if one chooses the motorized version because there are lots of gear boxes and wires to assemble. There's even a working miniature light bulb for the landing light! The interior is stunningly detailed, with everything from pilot's headsets, magazine pockets in the forward bulkhead, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, vinyl strapping material for the seat belts, and wire tubing for the turbine engine. If you choose to go with the display only version, you can mount the assembled engine into the fuselage and view it through an opening access cover. But the neat thing about going motorized is you can still build the highly detailed engine and display it externally on its transport dolly.
There's a lot of anticipation of the finished working product when assembling this model. There are many steps to completing the motorized workings, and no opportunity to test the thing out until you finally mount the chopper to the control platform. Then, and only then, with a push of a button, the kit comes alive with rotating blades. It's really quite amazing to see the thing work after all the labor involved.
There is a full color painting guide showing five versions, but the decal sheet only includes full body panel markings for one version - the American one. I chose to do the Japanese Kawasaki version, but that meant painting the decorative panels on the fuselage, tail boom, and fins. What a pain that was! I used Tamiya gloss blue, but there was a lot of bleeding through the masking tape that had to be painstakingly corrected afterwards. The original decals were barely usable, not wanting to come off the backing sheet. I had to coat them with clear gloss when they dried to ensure adhesion.

This is a really fun model to have on my office shelf, and goes to show one is never too old to have something dreamed of since childhood.