Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DC-8-61 Dress-Up

After several months on the shelf, I found I really didn't like my Revell DC-8-61
built last year without Flying Tiger colors, so I found a replacement Revell/Lodella sheet on EBay. I took a big risk being as old as they are, but thankfully they were in perfect condition and slid nicely off the backing sheet onto the model. I used MicroSet and found the acid in that stuff slightly etched the polished aluminum metalizer around the decals. It's not exactly what I wanted, but oh well - lesson learned. You can't really see it from a distance. Next time I apply decals to highly polished metalizer, no products, just water! Nevertheless, she looks stunning in her Flying Tiger Line trim and reinforces the memories I have of these slender giants flying overhead in Lancaster.

Another Williams Bros. Northrop Gamma!

I built another Williams Bros. Gamma into the Ellsworth Phase One version. Not much to say about the whole building experience other than it was fun to modify some of the pieces for this version. Painting was a little simpler in that Ellsworth's Gamma was not as shiny as the Texaco version, so not as much time was spent buffing the Testors aluminum metalizer. Decals went on perfectly, and the whole thing took less than ten hours.

Monogram 1/48 Northrop P-61A Black Widow

I really like the Monogram 1/48 scale airplane kits which came out in 1974. Monogram was growing with the kids who bought their simpler models in the 60s, and knew they wanted more detail and a more challenging building experience. That's why I really like the TBD-1 Devastator because it's a kit you can really sink your teeth into and enjoy without a lot of frustration. The same goes for the P-61 Black Widow which came out around the same time as the Devastator. Both models were preceded by the excellent 1/48 Dornier Do-335 Arrow, but I have never built that model. Maybe some day though.
Originally, the Monogram P-61 was given to me as a gift by my Godmother in 1977. It was one of the few gifted airplane models given to me which I really liked and was excited about. I know that sounds ungrateful, but as I've admitted earlier in this blog, I was very picky when it came to model airplanes. But I really enjoyed my first building experience with this model. Because it's molded in black, I didn't paint my original, and it looked fine that way. I did however paint all the interior detail in accordance with the directions, and the P-61 (B version) sat proudly on my bedroom shelf for a long time.
I bought the one pictured here several years ago and when it finally came time to open it up and get started on it, I was thrilled. I debated on what version to make it - olive drab - black - A or B - top turret or no turret - and finally decided on a black A with no top turret, factory fresh. I had seen a color picture of a turret-less A sitting on the Northrop ramp right out of the paint shop, all glossy and nice, and knew that is what I had to do. Even though the top gun turret is a prime feature of the Black Widow, the fact that it was temporarily deleted from both A and B versions due to buffeting is historically interesting. Along with that the airplane is a little sleeker looking to me with the flat top.
Construction was straight forward in accordance with the instructions - for that "sleek" look I glued all gun and engine access panels closed, as well as canopy hatches. I didn't like that Monogram molded the right engine cowl flaps open, while the left are closed - you have no options there and it doesn't look right unless you are making a diorama. So I cut between each cowl flap and pushed them inward to the closed position as best I could. I made sure I gave the model two weeks to dry after spraying it gloss black overall to prevent finger prints and smudges. The original decals were brittle, so I only used the small emergency and maintenance stencils. I used a Microscale P-61 decal sheet for the red tail boom numbers and the red wing top walkway lines. It was so much easier using the one-piece aftermarket decal for those red lines on the wing than doing Monogram's original procedure of cutting them to size and fit yourself from a large strip of red decal. That and the open cowl flap cowling are the only beefs I have with this model. Otherwise it's a beautiful, classic kit from Monogram you can still buy today online and at hobby shops.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Blue Neptune! Building Hasegawa's Lockheed P-2V-7 for the First Time

I've always liked the Lockheed P-2 Neptune, but never bought Hasegawa's 1/72 model of it throughout it's long life of various issues and reissues. Earlier this year though I picked a sealed one up at a model show in Renton Washington for only ten bucks. It was the original Minicraft U.S. offering from about 1973 in the Dark Blue USN scheme. I figured this would be the easiest version to make since it was one color, and glossy too which would mean no clear coat. Boy was I wrong! This model was by no means easy to build and paint. It required a lot of strategic planning to figure out the best sequence of building vs. painting. I ended up assembling most of it before shooting it with a coat of Testors Dark Sea Blue from a spray can. The engines in their cowlings waited to go on until final assembly because there's all this bare metal area between them and the nacelle roots on the wings - that being the cowl flaps and exhaust plates. I didn't care to go hog wild with the interior detail, since most can't be seen through the clear plastic any ways. I didn't go crazy on exterior detail either since the kit didn't come with all the tiny white maintenance and caution stencils. But I did outline some of the windows and the searchlight dome with gold and silver strips of Bare Metal Foil. I knew this bird was going to be tail-heavy, so I stuffed the lower radome bulge full with clay and fishing weights. It didn't make a bit of difference! The thing is so tail heavy, it needs a pound of weight forward of the engines which there is hardly any room for. But after all was said and done, I'm happy with it, and will enjoy it on my office book shelf for years to come (I hope.)

Monogram TBD-1 Devastator Round Three!

I wasn't really happy with the Devastator I built a couple years ago, which is featured earlier on this blog. The Tamiya yellow on the wings and tail was just not right, and the decals were a disaster. So I sold it on EBay, bought another one, along with a sheet of Microscale decals to make any of the TBDs in pre-war finish. I thought it would be nice to do this third one up in a non-squadron commander's scheme, you know, just a regular bird with minimal markings. The cover of the April 1975 Scale Modeler magazine featuring the kit shortly after it came out was my inspiration. It shows three Devastators flying in formation. I chose to do 5-T-3 shown closest in the front. This meant I only had to worry about two colors. Well, three actually: flat aluminum, chrome yellow, and bright red. The Microscale decal sheet did not come with the wing chevrons, so any color than red would have had to be painted on, and with those ribs on the tops of the wings - forget it! I wasn't about to struggle with trying to get airtight masking over the ribs and touching up afterwards. So I chose the red tail scheme so I could use the wing chevrons that come with the kit. For the chrome yellow wings, I used regular Testors Yellow from a rattle can, which is very close to chrome yellow. It's full-bodied, with a slight orange tint. I even wrapped the yellow over the wing's leading edge like it's supposed to be. It was extra work, but looks great especially with the wings folded. I left the torpedo off, because I like the sleek body shape of the TBD. But I wanted to include the MK13 torpedo somewhere near the plane, so I ordered a resin USN torpedo loading cart from a company in New Zealand. I'm very happy with this model, and I'm keeping this baby for a while to enjoy.

Roscoe Turner's 247D Earns 3rd Place at IPMS Evergreen Show!

I think the judges at these IPMS shows like the Williams Bros. kits as much as I do. My Gamma won last year, and this year my Boeing 247D racer won - and I did a very simple, straight from the box job on it! Maybe next year I'll enter my C-46 Commando.

The Mig-25 Gets a New Pitot Tube!

I wasn't happy with a probe-less MiG-25, so I searched EBay and was delighted to find a company makes turned brass ones for the ICM kit. I figured it would work fine for the Hasegawa one as well, so I ordered it for only $4.95. I sanded down the point on the nose cone, drilled a small hole for the probe, and installed it with super glue. Being brass, it was gold so I painted it with Testors Steel. It's much sturdier than the original plastic probe I broke during main assembly. Now I can sleep at night knowing my MiG-25 has all her parts!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hasegawa Mig-25: The one that got away!

I remember hearing about the Viktor Belenko defection on the news back in late '76 and when old man Peterson at his hobby shop showed me an advertisement from Hasegawa of their upcoming model of Belenko's Mig-25, I was thrilled! He told me he'd put me on the list for the first ones to arrive, and a couple weeks later he called, and I got my Foxbat. I think the plastic parts were still warm from the injection molding machine! It was an exciting time for modelers and an exciting model to put together. I was still a few months away from getting my Badger 350 airbrush on my birthday, but I didn't do a bad job brush painting the Mig.
On this rebuild I sprayed it with Tamiya Light Ghost Gray, which is fairly close to the medium gray recommended on the instruction sheet. I checked first though and nobody makes the "medium gray" either in bottle or spray that Hasegawa lists in the painting diagram. At any rate, new and old color pictures of Foxbats show many different shades of gray so who's to say what's right or wrong?
It was fun to revisit this model and notice the crisp clean molding, but many joints and assembly lines didn't quite line up and required much putty and sanding. Perhaps the engineers at Hasegawa were a little to anxious to get this model on the market. At any rate, I had fun building it again, and aside from the nose pitot tube I broke off during handling and couldn't find, I think it looks fine. Belenko's Mig was unarmed when he defected so I left the missiles off on this rebuild.

Another Williams Bros. Boeing 247! This time it's Roscoe Turner's Racer

I like the Williams Bros. Boeing 247 so much I decided to do another one as the Turner Racer shown on the box top. I also wanted it "wheels up" and that saved a lot of time. Yes, I actually used the Williams Bros. clear display stand included with the kit! I also inserted a Roscoe Turner like figure into the pilot's seat. He's actually the leftover pilot from the Italeri La-5. To simulate the spinning props I simply removed the blades from their hubs. Even with gear up though I still had to install some of the landing gear struts into their slots. I sprayed it overall Testors Gloss Gull Gray to replicate Turner's airplane after it had received a gloss gray paint job at some time during or after the race.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Airfix/MPC 1/144 McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 American Airlines

My first ever airplane ride was in a TWA Lockheed L-1011 in the summer of '77. My family and I flew the red-eye nonstop from LAX to Newark NJ. The return flight was from Boston Logan to LAX nonstop on an American Airlines DC-10. I don't know if it was a dash 10 or 30, but I remember the DC-10 being a slightly better ride than the Tristar. I'll explain more about that in a future blog when I build the Revell L-1011. What I remember being really cool about the DC-10 was that it had a T.V. tube screen mounted in the bulkhead in front of our seats. The pilot turned on a closed-circuit video of the cockpit so we could see what takeoff looked like from the flight deck. On all the airline flights I've been on since, I've never seen any other airline do that.
Any way, I've built this MPC DC-10 in memory of that homeward flight at the end of my summer vacation back east in 1977. I also remember seeing a few DC-10s fly the circuit around Palmdale Air Force Facility, but they were outnumbered by L-1011s.
On this model I filled and sanded all the windows, polished the bare plastic to a smooth gloss, then masked and sprayed the gray areas with Tamiya Light Ghost Gray. I added a little more detail by painting the reinforced sections on the tail engine. The rest was sprayed with Testors aluminum buffing metalizer and buffed with a Dremel tool. I buffed lighter on the forward fuselage section to replicate the slight difference in shine on the actual N102AA. I did not use the kit decals, as they just didn't look right, so I replaced them with a set from ATP. Unfortunately it was a used set, and was missing the silver outlined windows. I used regular black window decals from a generic DC-10 set from Draw Decal.
All in all I think she looks good, although there are some inherent engineering problems with the Airfix DC-10. The engine pods on the wing hang way too low, and exterior detail is lacking. I hear Revell's DC-10 isn't much better, and Aurora's is to be avoided unless you want that executive desk model look. Interestingly, no model company has tooled a completely new DC-10 in 1/144 since Revell's in 1971! Welsh models makes a vacuform one, but vacuform and I don't get along very well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A True Scale Model Classic: The IMC 1/48 Lear Jet!

In 1977 I bought and built the Testors 1/48 scale Lear Jet. At the time I had no idea it was a reissue of an earlier Lear Jet model by IMC. When I got back into building model airplanes several years ago, I discovered the IMC version while perusing kits on EBay. I found the one pictured here at the Northwest I.P.M.S. spring show in Renton Saturday before last. I built it in just over a week. The Testors reissue seemed to have retained the rubber tires, chrome-plated and colored plastic bits of its IMC predecessor, but Testors updated the fuselage to reflect the newer Lear 25. The IMC kit is an early Lear 24 with the large oval windows. Having built both the Testors and the IMC Lear Jet, I think I like the IMC one better because of the large windows and the fact that it was the first plastic model kit of the Lear Jet. It was fun to build, and I would agree with the box top which says, "This kit is not intended for beginners." The full interior takes much time to assemble and paint, and fitting all the bits in while gluing the fuselage halves together is a challenge - I remember the same frustration from the Testors kit back in '77! After all is said and done though, I'm very happy with it and I look forward to displaying it in my office.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Anigrand 1/144 Lockheed C-141A Starlifter

This Anigrand C-141A is only the second resin model kit I've ever built. The first one was a 1/48 scale Feiseler 103 piloted "Buzz Bomb" back in the mid 1990s, and that was just a single chunk of resin with a clear vacuform canopy. This C-141A is like a traditional injection-molded kit, with many parts and sub assemblies. After having completed it, I can say I prefer regular plastic kits over resin. Resin parts, especially the large flat ones like the wings and fuselage have a strange texture to them, which shows through the paint job. No amount of sanding and buffing seems to smooth them out completely. At any rate, when you look at this model from a foot away or more, the surface texture is hardly noticeable. The reason I bought this model is because I want to build a collection of airplanes I admired in my youth in standard 1/144 scale. The Anigrand C-141A is the only one available in 1/144. Just watch though; it'll be just my luck that Roden, Minicraft, or Amodel will come out with one here in the next few months!
While I admire the classic Aurora C-141A, 1/108 scale just doesn't go with anything else. And painting it in the USAF's gray & white scheme would be difficult due to finding the right decals to go on it. DML's crisp 1/200 C-141A is too diminutive in my opinion. This Anigrand kit is just right!
I won't go into detail about building it. All I can say is I spent a lot of time filling, filing, and sanding. For the aircraft gray, Testors makes the correct color in a bottled gloss enamel and acrylic. But they don't include it in their line of rattle can sprays. I really didn't want to break out the old airbrush, as I'm just too lazy to deal with mixing and cleanup any more. So I found the next best thing: Tamiya spray Luftwaffe Light Blue. It's an exact match to the Testors Aircraft Gray in the bottle. The Tamiya paint is matte, so a coat of clear gloss is needed to bring out that realistic USAF Aircraft Gray (aka. Air Defense Command Gray.) To me it looks fabulous, and sure beats brush painting it like I did earlier on the Otaki C-5A - no streaks! I used Tamiya gloss white spray on the upper fuselage.
Not all the parts lined up correctly on this resin kit, but once everything is painted and adorned with the excellent decals included, you hardly notice the imperfections. I have it in mind to build one more 1/144 scale airplane from Anigrand, and that is the XB-70. Unless of course some fine model company comes out with a styrene one before I get around to buying it.
Oh, and by the way, the reason this model appears on this blog is because C-141As from Norton AFB did touch and go's at Palmdale Air Force Facility
all the time when we moved to Lancaster in '74. It seemed I saw them every day for a year flying overhead with those screaming P&W TF33 turbofans. It's another important airplane to me that fueled my interest in aviation.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Revell 1/144 DC-8-61 The Plane That Started It All!

So far in this blog I've re-built all the plastic model airplane kits (and a couple spacecraft and airships) I had as a kid growing up in our first house in Lancaster, California. In late 1976, we moved to another home on the outskirts of Lancaster, and I continued my model building there even on the day we moved in, with a Monogram 1/72 scale P-51B Mustang bought from Gemco department store. Many other kits followed including a Revell "Calypso" PBY Catalina given to me as a gift from the realtor who sold us our new home. I'm not going to rebuild all the kits from that era of my modeling days, but I will cover some which are very important to me such as the Hasegawa Mig-25 Foxbat, and the Revell Space Shuttle Enterprise with 747 (posts forthcoming.)
What I'd like to do starting with this post, is go back to that first day in Lancaster when my family and I surveyed our new home then under construction. This would have been sometime in the Fall of 1974. The Flying Tiger Line DC-8 "stretch" flying overhead, doing touch and gos at Palmdale Air Force Facility was the ship I'll never forget from that day, along with a Lockheed C-141A Starlifter. When I started building models, no store in our town had the Revell United DC-8-61 kit on their shelves, so I never bought it. I certainly would have though had I known about it.
Pictured here is a Revell DC-8-61 I've just completed as a straight passenger version with no livery,
in honor of those Flying Tigers ships I saw so many years ago. This kit was actually a Revell/Lodella Flying Tigers DC-8-61F, but the decals were totally unusable, even with the application of Microscale clear decal film. I was kind of bummed by this, but in actuality, it wouldn't have been a correct representation of what I saw way back when. Flying Tigers flew the DC-8-63F in 1974, and the Revell kit does not have the correct engines. Flying Tigers did have one or two Dash 61s, but it's not likely I saw those flying around Palmdale. What would be ideal is Minicraft's new DC-8-63 kit with FDCAL's Flying Tiger DC-8-63 decal set. Unfortunately, they are out of print, and very hard to find. If I ever do find a set, I'll do it up right but for now, this old Revell kit will suffice.
The ship was painted overall Testors aluminum plate buffing type from a rattle can,  buffed to a high shine using a Dremel tool with buffing wheel. I left a forward and aft fuselage plug unbuffed for a little differential effect. I did this with the wing control surfaces and the aft end of the engine fairings as well. The wing panels and radome are light aircraft gray. The windows are from an old ATP generic DC-8 window decal sheet. Thank goodness for that at least!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another AMT Airship: the USS Akron!

In 1976, about a year after they released their famous Hindenburg model, AMT produced another airship kit, the USS Akron/Macon. For me, this is another one of those strange omissions from my youth. I loved airships--especially the U.S. Navy ones. So why didn't I buy this kit back in '76? I have no idea other than I was probably too distracted by other airplane kits and simply didn't have enough money to finance all my wants and desires. To finally build this model all these years later was extremely rewarding and at the same time frustrating. While it looks like AMT tried to make some improvements over the Hindenburg, some of the same glaring errors exist on the Akron/Macon. For instance the exterior surface still has that over-exaggerated phony texture that just doesn't translate well to a model of this scale. The struts and braces for the props and control surfaces are way too thick. The extra bracing for the main fins are to be totally discarded and scratch built if one wishes to replicate this later modification to the real airships. I chose to model an early Akron without the bracing. All-in-all though, it does come out to make a very nice model which goes well as a companion to the Hindenburg. She will remain in my collection permanently.

Italeri Soviet Air Force La-5N

Just before Christmas 2013 I finished this Italeri Lavochkin La-5N Soviet WWII fighter. I originally built one of these over a weekend at my friend Phil's house sometime in early 1977. It was not long after I finished it I got my first airbrush on my 13th birthday. I always thought this was kind of an ugly airplane, and I really don't remember why I bought it the first time other than it was probably cheap at Peterson's hobby shop, or that it was Russian and cool. At any rate, I had fun building it again, because it is an excellent little kit - very detailed and crisply molded. By 1975 when this model came out, Italeri was producing excellent quality model kits in 1/72 scale. To this day, the La-5 remains the only Italeri model kit I've ever built. I do plan on building more however such as their outstanding C-119 Flying Boxcar and YF-12A to name a couple.
The rebuild seen here was painted with Testors Model Master Russian Underside Blue (hand-painted) and Testors Dark Green on top from a spray can. The metal panels around the exhaust is metal foil applied with Micro adhesive. I didn't bother to detail the interior since it can't really be seen through the tiny canopy piece.