Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Airfix O-1F Bird Dog

Right after I got done with the C-46 I quickly got going on another Airfix favorite of mine: the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog. My original one was built in 1976, and I have strong memories of taking it with me to an overnight stay at a hotel in Los Angeles for a wedding my family and I attended. I painted that original one O.D. with South Vietnamese Air Force markings like the cover art. But for this rebuild I chose to model the USAF version in semi-gloss light aircraft gray. Humbrol 166 was the perfect color for it. For such a small model, it took me a long time to build mainly because Humbrol paints take forever to dry, and I had to do a lot of re-touching to correct errors. It's a fun little model to have again, and brings back memories of that trip to L.A. with Elton John & Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" playing on the car radio.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Williams Bros. C-46 Commando Early USAAC Version

I've mentioned several times throughout this blog that I rarely saved enough money when I was a kid to buy the more expensive, challenging model airplane kits. The Williams Bros. C-46 is an exception. I wanted it badly in 1977, and one day that year I finally had enough cash to plunk down and get it. I was still in my pre-airbrush, fine-finishing days, and that first C-46 looked, well, not so good. I used Testors silver to make the all-metal 1944 version and it had lots of streaks. That plus the some of the advanced construction requirements such as having to cut out the landing gear doors from the main lower wing half piece was a bit past my skill level. But, it was a prized model in my collection for years afterwards.
For this rebuild, I chose to do the early U.S. Army Air Corps version. In fact, the decals provided for this version by Williams Bros. replicate the first C-46 delivered to the Army in 1942. I'm a sucker for early versions of airplanes because they represent an original idea, and often look much cleaner over later versions which tend to have more stuff having from them such as antennae, bulbous radomes, and gangly weapons pods. To do this for the C-46 model, one has to scrape off the stiffeners on the rear fuselage below the vertical stabilizer. The easy parts however are the navigation dome on top of the fuselage can be ignored, antennae are at a bare minimum, and you don't have to drill out the gun ports on the side windows.
I came close to airbrushing this model because Testors does not make Neutral Gray in a spray can. I did however find some made by Tamiya. So I sprayed the underside with the Tamiya Neutral Gray, then masked the lower surface with paper cut to shape, and raised ever so slightly from the model surface with yellow tack tape, then sprayed Testors Olive Drab on top surfaces. The result is as good as I could have done with an airbrush. I only had to clean up a few spots of O.D. overspray. The brilliant thing was, the Tamiya gray is a lacquer, so a Q-Tip lightly soaked in enamel thinner cleanly wiped away the O.D. without affecting the gray one bit.
When set next to the other Williams Bros. kits such as the Boeing 247 and the B-10, one quickly realizes what a huge airplane the C-46 really is. I remember seeing the one on display at the Pima County Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona for the first time. When I walked into the hangar, I was immediately stuck by the huge size of the Commando. I'm glad to have this large scale model back on display in my collection. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Third-place winner! Williams Bros. Northrop Gamma

When I bought the Williams Bros. 1/72 scale Northrop Gamma sometime back in 1977, my modeling skills had finally developed to the point I could successfully tackle such an advanced kit. After all, I'd had over fifty models under my belt by then, maybe more. I remember building the Texaco Sky Chief Phase II version, like the painting on the box top. I chose the same version to rebuild, because it requires the least modifications to the parts. The major one is cutting out the rectangles for the windows in the fuselage sides. Other than that, the kit is pretty much straight forward. My original one was hand-painted with Testors silver, complete with streaks and fingerprints. For this rebuild, I sprayed it with Testors Aluminum buffing metalizer from a can. Then I power-buffed it with a Dremel tool with cloth polishing wheel. Like the Boeing 247 I did earlier, it took a lot of buffing to get the shine. I had to recharge my Dremel's battery more than once. It's one of those things where you just want to keep on buffing because you think you're going to get a better shine. But I think I got the best I could get. The original Microscale decals went on perfectly using the Micro system. A local I.P.M.S. collector's show was coming up at the Evergreen Aviation Museum, so I decided to enter the Gamma in the "Civil/Sport, etc." category. I won third place! I really like this little kit, and I'm looking forward to completing my Williams Bros. collection with the C-46 Commando, which should be the next entry on this blog.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Williams Bros. Colorful 1/72 Martin B-10B Bomber!

I'm on a bit of a Williams Bros. kick right now; in fact right after I finished this Martin B-10B I started on the 1/72 scale Northrop Gamma. I never had the B-10B as a kid, but I remember seeing it at Peterson Hobbies. I was never really interested in the airplane - it looked kind of ugly to me. But I picked this one up a year ago at a model swap meet at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon for ten bucks. I figured if I ever got around to building it fine; if not, I'd re-sell it. But after building and making-over the challenging Boeing 247, it seemed to me this B-10B would also be a fun challenge. I really like these old Williams Bros. 1/72 scale airplanes because they are for skilled craftsmen who know how to manipulate styrene plastic. You have to do a fair amount of cutting, scribing, chopping, and scratch-building to get the desired result. Plus, the Williams Bros. give you several options of aircraft versions to choose from. For this B-10B, you get to choose from the first USAAC gloss olive drab & chrome yellow scheme, to the middle cobalt blue/chrome yellow version, or the late 30s, early 40s silver-metallic painted scheme. I chose the middle one because I like the glossy blue/yellow contrast. It was easy to do as well because the fuselage parts are already moulded in the correct color, except for the vertical fin, which must be masked off and painted yellow. I already had a bottle of Testors gloss French Blue enamel, which is very close to Cobalt Blue, so I brush painted it on the fuselage and engine nacelles. You can't even see any streaks - it went on beautifully! Testors does not make chrome yellow in a spray can, so I used regular yellow, which is darn close too. The wings are moulded in what appears to be a chrome type yellow, but the plastic was too thin and translucent, so I sprayed them with Testors white primer, then the gloss yellow. The original decals went on beautifully. Interestingly, the Williams Bros. recommend in the instructions using thin colored chart tape for the canopy and blister framework. I had a roll of Pactra blue racing trim tape, so I though I'd give that a try in order to abide by Williams' recommendation. The color of the tape matched the Testors French Blue perfectly, and it looks great. It took a little longer to do than painting, but was worth the effort.
I'm still not a big fan of the B-10B, but I love having this model to round out my collection of Williams Bros. first four model airplane kits in 1/72 scale. Next up - the Northrop Gamma and Curtis C-46 Commando!

Williams Bros. Boeing 247 Makeover

After sitting on my office shelf for a while as a USAAC C-73, looking rather drab in its natural plastic gray, I decided to give my vintage Williams Bros. Boeing 247 a makeover. I wanted her to have the United Airlines markings the kit originally came with. So, I bought a new kit with good decals, removed the Turner racer windshield and installed the airliner one. The paint job was the tricky part. The Williams Brothers recommend an anodized metal surface appearing gray. The problem with this color is, what does it really look like? Photos of early United Boeing 247s before they were painted gloss gray are difficult to determine what the original metal skin surface looked like. In some photos the aircraft appear dark, while others appear light. Turner's racer 247D apparently had the unpainted surface, at least at first, and that is what the box top art shows as well. So I decided to model that using Testors Dark Anodonic Gray, brushed on with a wide sable brush to replicate the grains in the aluminum panels. Then I lightly buffed the surface with a tissue. After that I burnished the metalizer into a nice glossy metallic finish using a Dremel tool with cloth buffing wheel. The trick was to buff the surface hard and fast enough to bring it to a gloss without pushing too hard and melting the plastic. What I like about this method is the surface doesn't require any sealer, because the paint has been rubbed so hard into the plastic, it becomes quite durable. A couple spots are lighter than the rest probably because the paint was brushed on too thin. Next time I do a finish like this I might brush on two coats before power buffing.
I don't know how old the replacement decals are, but they held together during application, and you can't even see the film around them - they're perfect. The ship's interior was already painted French Blue with aluminum seat frames, so no changes were needed there. The airliner cockpit has a rather nasty seam running down the middle, but I wasn't in the mood for filling and sanding during this makeover, so I left it as is. All-in-all, I'm happier with it now, and may in the future build the Turner racer version because I have all the parts and decals for it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Entex 1/100 Douglas DC-3

Here's yet another model airplane I never had as a kid, but studied the box every time I went in to Gemco or Peterson Hobbies. It was cheap enough then; why didn't I buy it? Who knows, but it was really fun to build it almost forty years later.
Entex used Nitto moulds for their North Central/C-47 version marketed here in the U.S. It's very accurate in shape, but some of the pieces had a surprising amount of flash. From at least a foot away, this little DC-3 looks real nice - better than Monogram's more toy-looking DC-3 from the 1950s.
A good friend of mine pointed out to me the model on the box top is actually an Airfix 1/72 C-47 with painted on stripes and "North Central" applied with what might be dry letter transfers or scrap letter decals. Perhaps Entex marketing people were instructed to come up with box artwork before any parts and decals arrived from Japan. At any rate, I was very attracted to that model on the box top because it reminded me of the North American Aviation company DC-3 my Dad used to fly on during the early Apollo days. In fact as I was building this model, my backup plan was if the decals were unusable from age, I would put simple stripes on it to replicate a privately owned DC-3.

To my delight though, the original decals were as good as new. Micro-Sol saved the day as usual with the fuselage stripes around the nose, and over the door handles. The stuff worries me every time because the decals look so wrinkled after application, but the stuff works as advertised - I love it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tri-Pacer Redux

I was not really happy with that all-yellow Tri-Pacer I did a while back, so I bought another Tri-Pacer on EBay, one that's molded in the correct cream color, and made her up to look like she's supposed to. The color scheme and pattern corresponds to Piper's early to mid-1950s version. Later, less expensive Tri-Pacers had a simplified paint scheme. When modeling this bird, the early body color pattern is a real chore to mask and paint. I kept the background color the original cream-colored plastic, while the red is standard Testors gloss spray. Masking was done using Pactra racing car trim tape, which is expensive, but works really well. You get a large choice of widths to work with, from 1/32 of an inch to about half and inch. The interior was painted red to match the outside panels, but the seats were painted flat red, then covered with a coat of Micro Gloss for a semi-gloss leathery look. I even painted the two hunter figures and dead mountain lion. I'm not big into pilot and crew figures, but these guys are classic! The Civil Air Patrol decals were added to later reissues of the model, but if you put them on and display the aircraft with the hunters, it's an odd combination. Throughout CAP's history many aircraft used in search and rescue were not corporately owned, so its not unrealistic for a privately owned aircraft to be used on a hunting trip with CAP insignia on it.

This is the fifth Monogram Piper Tri-Pacer I have built in my lifetime, and probably my last. This one here is the best of them all-I don't think I could do any better.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A True Classic: The Monogram 1/144 Apollo Saturn V

When the Apollo program was gearing up for the first lunar landing, both Revell and Monogram were quick to offer the public scale models of the Apollo hardware. When it came to the full-stack Apollo-Saturn vehicle, Revell had their monstrous and complex 1/96 scale kit, while Monogram chose to make a simpler, more manageable one in 1/144 scale. Both are undeniable classics because they're still available today in quantity - the 1/96 scale giant from Revell/Germany, and the Monogram one by Revell/Monogram in the U.S.
When I was around three years old, my Dad bought the Monogram Apollo-Saturn, probably from the North American company store in Downey. I have faint memories of him putting it together at a picnic table on our back porch. The finished kit stood proudly in our music room (shown here) and later on the fireplace mantle (probably because me and the other rug rats kept messing with it.)
I've never built the original Revell Apollo, but the Monogram one you see below is my third. It was a vintage kit from 1968, just like the one my Dad built 45 years ago.
Monogram's kit must have been engineered from early plans of the Apollo-Saturn hardware, because the interstage ring has eight ullage motors around it, and the Command and Service Modules appear to be the Block One type. The box top has a nice illustrated painting diagram of the 500F Facilities Test Vehicle, while the instruction sheet guides the builder to paint the rocket closer to what Apollo 4 looked like during stacking in the Vertical Assembly Building. I'm not sure about Apollo 6, but by the end of 1968, the Apollo 8 stack had six ullage motors on the ring, shorter black panels on the first stage without horizontal stripe, and the Service module was silver with some white panels. This is what Apollos 9 through 17 would look like following.
If I'm correct, Monogram never bothered to update their Apollo-Saturn model kit to look like the later vehicles. In fact, the last boxing from 1994 still shows an Apollo Saturn vehicle leaving earth's atmosphere with the old 500F roll pattern on the first stage!
For this rebuild, I chose to make it exactly in accordance with the instruction sheet, which in my opinion, comes out looking pretty close to Apollo 4; except Apollo 4 had American Flags on the first stage, and in some photographs, appears to have a silver Service Module. At any rate, Monogram's Apollo-Saturn is a historical snapshot in plastic of a time when Apollo was still going through development and improvement.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Monogram 1/72 F7F Tigercat

Next off the assembly line is this vintage 1973 Monogram Grumman F7F Tigercat. This was another model kit that I really liked as a kid, but for some reason never bought or received one as a gift. It's taken 37 years to finally build it. About half-way through the construction process however, I discovered it was missing one of the main landing gear struts. Though it's one of Monogram's high-quality 1/72 offerings from the mid-sixties, it was engineered for gears-down only. The main gear doors are permanently molded in the open position on the nacelles. I figured rather than throwing the kit in the trash and getting another one later, I'd just modify this one into a gears-up bird. After all, it came with a display stand. So, using a great deal of thumb and forefinger pressure, I snapped the gear doors off the nacelles, filed and sanded the openings and the doors so they would fit flush, and she looks fine. I gave her a coat of Testors spray Dark Sea Blue because the molded blue plastic was too light and dull for a post-war Navy bird. The original decals went on without a hitch.
In my opinion, the Tigercat is one bad-ass looking twin fighter, and I'm happy to have a model of it (finally) in my collection.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Williams Bros. 1/72 Boeing 247D (USAAC C-73)

A kit I would drool over at every visit to Peterson Hobbies was the Williams Bros. Boeing 247. For some reason though, I never bought it, nor asked for it as a gift. Just last month I finally lived the dream: I built the sucker! I found an old opened but complete one on EBay for a reasonable price. The decals were moisture damaged, and instead of buying an aftermarket set, I chose to make it a U.S. Army Air Corps C-73 transport.
According to the history books and a few photographs, the USAAC lifted 27 Boeing 247s from the airlines to serve as personnel transports. This happened some time in 1942, hence the rather high designation number for such an old airplane. One can find about a half dozen decent photographs of C-73s on the Internet. One interesting one is shown on a Boeing advertisement in a magazine from 1942. It shows an olive drab painted C-73 with 1942 style stars, and no other visible markings. Another shows what may be an all metal finish or gray-painted 247 with 1943 style stars and bars. It's hard to know if the C-73s had the forward-pointed windshield or the slicked-back "Turner" windshield, or a mixture of both. I figured the Army most likely had both, depending on whatever they grabbed from United, Western, or whomever was flying them at the time. I wasn't worried either about the accuracy of the color scheme or the stars for my model, since all 27 C-73s could have looked different. I put the number "04" on the tail, to suggest it was an early conscript, and perhaps the fourth 247 to be put into military service. The interior is the standard United Airlines scheme. The few pictures I found of C-73s were taken at U.S. military airfields, suggesting that perhaps these ships were flown mainly within the CONUS as short-hoppers for brass going from base to base for meetings, formations, and such.
Regardless of whether or not my "C-73" is accurate, it was fun to build and I like the way it looks. This was Williams Bros. first full airplane model kit. Before the 247 they had made scale models of vintage rotary airplane motors and machine guns. I can't say it's the most well-engineered kit I've ever put together; there are numerous problems with poor fitting parts. This model, and the ones that followed such as the Martin B-10B, Northrop Gamma, and Curtiss C-46 were intended for experienced modelers skilled at manipulating styrene and modifying small plastic parts. Still, this is one I'm going to keep on my shelf for a while.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Entex 1/144 Lockheed C-5A Galaxy

I started working on this Entex C-5A Galaxy before Christmas! It was a partially built kit I won on Ebay. The wings had been poorly glued together with some kind of cheap adhesive maybe twenty, thirty years ago. The fuselage halves had pits and stains on them. The right half window piece was cemeted in, but the other two clear pieces were missing. Thankfully, the decal sheet was complete and untainted, so I went about restoring the parts to their original condition before assembly. That took about a whole month of disassembling the wings, filling and sanding the pits and flaws, and polishing the pieces.
Once I got started building, things went pretty smoothly until painting. I used Tamiya gloss white spray for the top fuselage half, but failed to put primer down before that. When I masked the top half to paint the lower half Aircraft Gray, the tape peeled away the white! So I had to start over again using some Testors gloss white. Not exactly what I had planned, but it turned out okay. I debated airbrushing the lower gray versus brush painting, and I chose the latter because I was fed-up with masking. From a foot away, you don't really notice the unevenness of the finish. To try and make the surface look more even, I sprayed the whole thing flat, then gloss again for a semi-gloss look. I was worried about the original decals; vintage Entex decals are notorious for breaking apart into a million pieces when disolved in water. But after testing a couple of the ridiculous Pan Am decals included on the sheet, I happily found them to be quite good, and they applied with no problems. Even if the original decals hadn't worked, I would have bought a set from Draw Decal, which makes an excellent sheet complete with door outlines, windows, and walkway stripes.
When I was a kid I couldn't afford this model, and today it's still way over-priced. I guess that's because no model company since Otaki in 1971 has released an updated 1/144 C-5 - not even Anigrand. Entex marketed the Otaki kit in the early 70s, and when they went out of business in the early 80s, Revell got the molds and released it as part of their modern USAF airplane series which included the excellent KC-10, KC-135, and B-52H, all in constant 1/144 scale. Later on, Testors got the molds and released it as a "B" model in Euro-One paint scheme. I believe that was the last time the kit was released. I wonder where those Otaki molds are today?
My copy here is by no means perfect. I suppose if I wanted perfection, or something close to it, I would have airbrushed the whole thing, and used Draw's detail-enhancing decals. But this one definately has the vintage, early 70s "boy-built" look, which fits in well with the rest of my rebuild collection.