Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vc Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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This Spitfire will be in post-war Greek markings. Mr. Color #5 was a good match for the blue in the Greek roundels. The natural metal finish almost did me in on this one though, as the soft Airfix plastic scratched easily and the Alclad made any scratches jump right out. I ended up buffing out scratches and re-shooting the Alclad a couple of times.
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Everyone agrees that several of the Malta Spitfires were oversprayed in blues, but there is little consensus as to what blues and to what extent they were covered. Here I have layered on two USN colors, Intermediate Blue and Blue Gray.
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For a darker blue Malta scheme I used Model Master Insignia Blue. I still have some stocks of the MM paints, although they do not age well and I often discover a few unusable bottles during every build.
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The last will be another Greek Spitfire in the more usual Temperate Sea scheme. This one will have the hybrid markings with RAF Type B roundels on the upper wings and Greek roundels in the other positions.
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A group shot all glossed up and ready for decals.
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This is the ugly stage of a “sludge wash” to bring out the panel lines. The sludge wash is a diluted dark gray acrylic mixed with a little dish soap. This is best applied over a gloss finish with the excess wiped away before it is completely dry.
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Here the excess has been removed with a damp cotton swab. Always work in the direction of the airflow and any streaking will add depth to your weathering.
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The finished batch. I borrowed some spare Type B roundel decals from the Eduard kit as the Xtradecal sheet didn’t have enough to do every subject I wanted. The only real flaw with this kit is the center sections of the canopies are not as clear as they should be, I replaced what I could with spares from Eduard kits which are much better molded. Overall though I am happy with these kits as they go together well and are fun builds.  In total I spent 26.5 hours on these, or about 6 hours and 40 minutes per kit.

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vc Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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The fuselages fit together well with no surprises. I am intending to display two of the models with open canopies, and have removed the door pieces from the fuselage side.

 

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The wing assembly left a bit of a gap at the wing roots.

 

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There were also gaps around the filter. This problem was not present on all the models to the degree shown here so this may have been an error on my part.

 

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Perfect Plastic Putty is ideal for filling these sort of gaps as any excess can be wiped away with a moist cotton swab without damaging the surrounding details. Another trick is to go around the canopy mating surfaces with a black Sharpie. This will prevent the plastic color showing through at the joints and the Sharpie ink will not inhibit the glue from bonding.

 

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While I do love canopy masking sets some manufacturers are now demanding ridiculous prices for the convenience. On a simple single-seat aircraft I would rather mask by hand and save the money for additional kits.

 

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A coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 revealed a few seams to address. Always a good idea to check as I inevitably have some errors show through.

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vc Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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This is the Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc, kit number A02108 released in 2020. This is a new tool and very much in Airfix’s home court as it replaces their older tools and, well, it’s a Spitfire. I’ll be building a small batch of these, hopefully as a painless build before trying something more involved.

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I was really pleased to see that Xtradecal issued a decal sheet targeting this kit, and it one with several interesting options. The Airfix kit has two decal options provided, one in U.S. markings and one in South African. I think at least one of the kit options should have been in Royal Air Force markings as this would have provided examples of the most common national insignia for the Spitfire.

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On to the sprues! The kit is molded in the soft light blue plastic we now expect from Airfix. The panel line detail has come a long way and this kit features finely scribed recessed panel lines. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how nicely these were rendered. There are also optional upper wing parts for the clipped wing version, no cutting needed.

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On the smaller parts sprues Airfix has provided the builder with a number of options. Both the Rotol and DeHavilland three-bladed propellers are provided along with their associated spinners. The Vokes tropical filter as depicted on the box art is included, as are parts for the standard nose panel and filter. Exhausts come with or without the gun heater tubes. The modeler can also choose to show the landing gear up and the canopy either opened or closed.

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The cockpit is well-detailed and builds up as a tub to be inserted into the fuselage. You must do this before joining the fuselage halves but it fits nicely.

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Here are two tubs assembled and painted. Seat belts are not included, I have made mine from masking tape. The instrument panel is the kit decal which is fine given what can be seen.

Airfix Boeing B-17E Conversion “THE BLUE GOOSE” in 1/72 Scale

B-17E Flying Fortress serial number 41-2616 THE BLUE GOOSE is somewhat enigmatic due to there being no known photographs of her.  What is known is that the USAAF requisitioned her from an RAF order and that she was given a unique paint job at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  From Fortress Against the Sun, pg 218:

“Interestingly, Waskowitz’ plane, the Blue Goose, was actually painted a bright, light blue.  Perhaps as a test for a new camouflage scheme, B-17E 41-2616 had been given a coat, top to bottom, of Light Glossy Blue Duco paint at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  With its highly unusual color, the B-17 and its crew were soon known to everybody.”

Unfortunately the exact shade is not recorded.  I have included a Duco automotive color chart below, perhaps the paint is one of the blues on this card.  My color is a mix of Mr. Color 34 with Mr. Color 115 (RLM 65) in a 2 to 1 ratio.

The BLUE GOOSE served with the 11th Bomb Group.  She was lost off Bougainville on 29SEP42, shot down by antiaircraft fire while attacking a Japanese cruiser.  None of her crew survived.

The model is back-dated from the Airfix B-17G kit.  Markings are from Starfighter Decals #72-162 “Fortress of the Skies Part 3: E Models”.

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North American P-51D Mustang Comparison Build, Hasegawa, Airfix and Tamiya Kits in 1/72 Scale Part III

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The models were painted with Alclad lacquers and Testor’s Model Master enamels.  All the models came with recessed panel lines on the wings.   Most of these were filled with putty on operational aircraft, so I filled the appropriate lines on all the models.  The natural metal areas were painted Alclad Dark Aluminum, the painted wing color is Alclad Aluminum with a few drops of Alclad light gray primer added to dull it down a little.

SUMMARY

I’ll give you what I consider the pros and cons of each kit, and what I did to get them to the configuration I desired.  The one big caveat is this – what I feel compelled to change other modelers might not give a hoot about or even notice – and visa-versa.  Build the model you want how you want and have fun.

 

HASEGAWA

First is the Hasagawa kit with decals from AeroMaster sheet 72-175.  This is the oldest kit of the three, and needed the most work.  The cockpit and wheelwells were replaced with Aeries resin and the flaps dropped.  The contour of the upper cowling was given a more rounded profile with a file.  The upper wing joint needs filed back a bit at the wing root joint to get some dihedral on the wings.  The ventral antenna should be moved back about 3-4 mm.  I cut the flaps off and replaced them with the spares from the Airfix kit so they could be shown dropped.  The kit decals had creamy whites and orange reds.  I used the instrument panel decal, but it split into four pieces so the rest of the kit decals went into the trash.

On the plus side, this kit has nice surface detail.  There are many additional parts included to allow the modeler to make several modifications and alternate configurations.  Good to have the options.  In addition to the two types of drop tanks, the kit includes both the Hamilton Standard cuffed propeller and the Aeroproducts propeller usually seen on the P-51K.  Oddly, both the Airfix and Tamiya kits provide additional clear parts for the blown sliding canopy “Dallas” hood but Hasegawa does not.  Hasegawa does include both shrouded and unshrouded exhausts and the dorsal DF fitting seen on some Mustangs.  Duplicate parts are also included for the ventral inlet scoops and radiator door, but the differences were not obvious to me.

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“Little Freddie”, piloted by Lt. Freddie Hutchins, 302 FS, 332 FG.  Hasegawa kit, AeroMaster decals.
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The underside of “Little Freddie”.

AIRFIX

This is the new Airfix kit, with markings from Eagle Strike sheet IP7208.  This kit does a lot of things right, the most obvious being the ability to drop the flaps without the use of a razer saw.  Two sets of flaps are provided, tabbed to pose them up or down as the builder prefers.  The second big thing done right is the wheelwells, which go all the way back to the main wing spar, just like the real thing.  The wells benefit from a little clean-up to remove the inner lip and thin the lower wing edge.  They will still be just a little shallow, but only a little.  If you want to paint the wells in natural metal with only the spar in Zinc Chromate like the early “D”, this kit provides your best opportunity.  Fit was good overall, with the exception of the clear parts.

Which brings us to the liabilities.  The problem which gets the most attention on the Web is the panel lines.  Yes, they are wider and deeper than those of other kits.  I have reduced them here with coats of Mr. Surfacer.  It helped quite a bit, at the expense of some extra time and sandpaper.  The smaller parts also present some problems, due mainly to the soft plastic and large sprue gates.  Some parts were molded badly on my example.  The drop tanks have several errors, and are best left off or replaced.  There are some minor fit issues with the forward windscreen.  This is the first time I have built a kit with the clear canopy molded separately from the lower frame.  I gave it a shot, but I have to say I prefer a one-piece canopy and will replace it with a vacuform piece in the near future.

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“Cripes A’ Mighty”, piloted by Major George Preddy,328 FS,  Bodney, Norfolk, Dec. 1944.  Airfix kit, Eagle Strike decals.

TAMIYA

Last of the three is the Tamiya kit.  Markings are from Super Scale sheet 72-697, which performed flawlessly despite languishing in the stash for years.  The panel lines here are recessed and nicely engraved, the molding is sharp.  If you want dropped flaps with this kit they must be cut loose, but they are molded as one piece with the upper wing panels and can be filled out with a few lengths of half round.  The wheelwells are deep and have some really nice detail, but only go back to the well opening, not to the spar.  In the end I replaced them, but I’m sure many modelers won’t see that as being worth the extra effort.

The Tamiya kit surprised me with a couple of fit issues.  The fit of the main wing can be fixed with some careful trimming at the center of the rear edge, above the radiator scoop where it will be hidden.  Of more concern is the fit of the forward windscreen – it’s about a millimeter wider than the fuselage.  On any future builds I will try shimming the upper cowl out enough to improve the fit.  The main canopy is in two pieces, and I think a vacuform piece would improve the appearance here as well.

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“Honey Bee” Piloted by Capt. Barrie S. Davis, 317 FS, 325 FG.  Tamiya kit, Super Scale decals.

 

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“Daddy’s Girl” piloted by Major Ray Wetmore, 370 FS, 359 FG, East Wretham, Norfolk.  Tamiya kit, Fündeckals decals.

 

 

Airfix Boeing B-17E Conversion “Honi Kuu Okole” in 1/72 Scale

This is a conversion of the Airfix B-17G Flying Fortress kit to represent B-17E 41-9244 “Honi Kuu Okole”, which served with the 19th and 43rd Bomb Groups in the Pacific.  She was one of a group of four B-17Es requisitioned from a Royal Air Force order by the USAAF, the others being serial numbers 41-9196, 41-9234, and 41-9235.  The aircraft were finished in the RAF Temperate Sea Scheme and British markings, the insignia were replaced with U.S. markings but the camouflage was retained.

There was a fad among U.S. aircrews in the Pacific to give their aircraft Hawaiian names.  According to Lawrence J. Hickey’s “Kens Men Against the Empire”:

“Sometime during its combat service with the 19th and 43rd Bomb Groups the aircraft acquired the nickname HONI KUU OKOLE.  Whoever named it thought the name meant “up your ass” or perhaps “kiss my ass” in Hawaiian; a more literal translation of the phrase would be “massage my buttock.”

The aircraft was in the thick of the action, racking up a total of 87 combat missions and an impressive scoreboard.  Her luck ran out on the night of 21MAR43 over Rabaul when she was shot down by a J1N1 Gekko (Irving) nightfighter piloted by SFPO Shigetoshi Kudo of the 251st NAG.  Only two of the crew survived the crash.  Bombardier MSGT Gordon Manual evaded the Japanese until he was rescued by the USS Gato (SS-212) on 05FEB44, waist gunner SGT Robert Curry was captured and executed by the Japanese at Rabaul.  SFPO Kudo would go on to become the first nightfighter ace of the Pacific War.

Photographs of HONI KUU OKOLE focus on her scoreboard.  I have depicted her with replacement parts in U.S. colors and touch-ups in Olive Drab along the locations where the de-icer boots would have been removed, all probable but the specifics are speculative.  Her U.S. insignia are in the sizes and locations of the RAF insignia they replaced.  Decals are from Starfighter Decals #72-162 “Fortress of the Skies Part 3: E Models”.

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North American P-51D Mustang Comparison Build, Hasegawa, Airfix and Tamiya Kits in 1/72 Scale Part II

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Basic construction of the three kits has gone relatively smoothly.  Surprisingly, the one fit problem was with the wing / fuselage joint on the Tamiya kit.  This was a tight joint on all three kits, but you can see how far off the Tamiya kit was in this picture.  The excess is at the rear of the wing piece, not the leading edge.  A few swipes of the Exacto knife cured the problem.   A bonus is any uneven cutting will be hidden by the air scoop.  Removing material from the forward mating surface will result in a step at the wing joint so be sure to take it off from the back when building this one.

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P-51s had a laminar flow airfoil design.  To preserve the laminar flow most panel lines on the wings were filled with putty and smoothed.  The wings were then painted in an aluminum lacquer.  All the kits I’ve seen replicate all the panel lines anyway and these three kits are no exception.  The extra lines can be filled with Mr. Surfacer 500 and sanded smooth but remember to leave the ammo bay panels in place.

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Here is the underside of the Hasegawa kit.  The shallow wheelwells have been removed and replaced with the Aeries resin insert.  The forward edge has been built up with Evergreen strip and superglue.  There is still a bit of trimming to do to make the fill flush with the Aeries insert.

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This is the Hasegawa kit, major assembly completed.  The wing panel lines have been filled, wheelwells replaced with the Aries resin, and the flaps removed.  The flaps will be shown dropped using with the spares from the Airfix kit.  One thing to watch with the Hasegawa kit is the wings tend to have little or no dihedral without some extra attention.  I thinned and sanded the mating surface of the upper wing panels and applied liberal amounts of Testors liquid glue to mine.  I also filed back the upper cowl to reduce the square “shoulders”.

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Here is the Airfix kit.  It went together without any drama, but I have made attempts to reduce the excessive panel lines.  After filling and sanding the erroneous panel lines on the wing, the entire model was airbrushed with a coat of Mr. Surfacer 500. That was sanded down with 400 grit, and then another layer of Mr. Surfacer 1000 was applied and sanded down.  That has reduced the depth of the remaining recessed panel lines a bit, we’ll see how it looks under primer and paint.

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This is the Tamiya kit.  The flaps were removed and their forward edges rebuilt with 0.080 inch Evergreen half-round strips.  Easy.  I debated about the wheelwells, but in the end they were also replaced with the deeper Aeries resin inserts.  All joints were checked with a layer of Mr. Surfacer 1000 and sanded smooth with 2000 grit.

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With major construction complete, it’s time for a look at a few of the fiddlybits.  Here’s a shot of the landing gear components, from left to right Hasegawa, Airfix, and Tamiya.  The Hasegawa wheels lack detail on the inner hubs, but otherwise look OK to me.  The tread pattern on the Airfix wheels is a bit overstated.  A bigger concern is the bend on the gear leg to the left.  It came that way on the sprue, the dorsal antenna was also deformed.  I was able to bend the gear leg straight again, but it may come back to haunt me given the reputation the Airfix kit has for weak legs.  I liked the Tamiya wheels and decided to clone them for use on the other kits, in part because the sharp definition between the wheel and the hub will make them easy to paint.

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This is what you get for stores, the 75 gallon teardrop tanks are in all three kits, and Hasegawa also includes a pair of 110 gallon paper tanks.  The Airfix tanks are a disappointment – the shape is off, there is no ridge along the lateral seam, and for some reason Airfix has the filler cap located on the starboard side instead of to port.  Best to replace these tanks, or leave them off entirely.

North American P-51D Mustang Comparison Build, Hasegawa, Airfix and Tamiya Kits in 1/72 Scale Part I

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Mustang kits are a perennial favorite of both modelers and kit manufactures.  In this post I will be comparing the offerings of Hasegawa, Airfix, and Tamiya in 1/72 scale.  On first impression, the kits are quite similar in detail and engineering.  Here are the fuselage halves from Hasegawa, Airfix (light blue plastic), and Tamiya, top to bottom.  All three have engraved panel lines, and yes, those on the Airfix kit are deeper and wider than the other two.  Airfix gives you a separate rudder.  Both of the Japanese manufacturers give you a choice of two types of exhausts, on the Hasegawa kit you must make the choice early as the exhausts are fitted from the inside of the fuselage.

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This shot shows the cockpit sidewall detail, with an aftermarket resin wall from Airies for comparison.  Detail on all three kits appears too shallow to my eye, with the older Hasegawa details being the faintest.  There is enough to hold paint on the Airfix and Tamiya kits, which was close enough for me this time.  All three kits could be improved either by aftermarket parts or some scratchbuilding.

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The wing undersides show several differences, and again an Aeries resin wheelwell piece is shown at the top for comparison.  All three kits treat the wheelwells differently, and note that all three openings have slightly different shapes.  Starting at the top, the Hasegawa wells are extremely shallow, there is not even enough room for the doors, let alone the wheels.  Not an issue for some builders, but it bugs the heck out of me.  The forward curve of the well extends a bit too close to the leading edge of the wing as well.
On the Airfix kit the inner surface of the wheelwell is molded into the upper surface of the wing.  The big thing Airfix did right here is the back of the well extends aft to the main spar, just as it does on the real aircraft.  The lower wing surface panels are a little thick, but that can be addressed with minimal effort.  The other big win here for Airfix is they have provided two sets of separate flaps, both raised and lowered.  Yay!  On a Mustang when the engine stops the hydraulic pressure drops and the flaps and inner wheel well doors lower, so it is most welcome to have a kit which provides for the standard appearance right out of the box.
The Tamiya wells are quite detailed, but they only go back to the rear of the well opening, not the spar.  They are deep though, and I considered leaving them alone given they are on the underside where they don’t stand out.

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Here are the cockpit components, again with Aeries resin parts at the top for comparison.  Hasegawa is the less detailed of the three and is missing rudder pedals along with the prominent console on the port side.  Airfix extends the cockpit floor to give you a roof for the tail wheelwell and a very nice pilot figure.  The control stick is a bad combination of a thin part and soft plastic though, I broke mine during painting.  On any future builds I will go with a wire stick right from the start.  Tamiya’s cockpit is nicely done, particularly the seat and instrument panel.

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Here the fuselage halves are taped up for comparison of component alignment.  Top to bottom they are Tamiya to Airfix, Airfix to Hasegawa, and Hasegawa to Tamiya.  As you can see, everything lines up pretty well on the top of the fuselage.

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On the bottom of the fuselage we can see some differences in the way things line up.  Hasegawa (top half, center) appears to have the tail well slightly short and everything else moved aft a bit, but most of these debates come down to whose drawings one likes best.  In the end, I decided not to cut plastic here and just build the kits as they were molded.  There’s the comparison of the major components, I’ll show assembly and improvements next.

Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part IV

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Time to paint!  This Fortress will be in the markings of B-17E serial Number 41-9244, HONI KUU OKOLE shortly before her loss in May 1943.  She was unusual in that she was one of four Fortresses requisitioned from a British order and was finished in the RAF Temperate Sea scheme with British markings.  The U.S. insignia were painted over the RAF roundels which meant that the size and locations were slightly different from the U.S. standard.  Here I am using Maketar masks for the insignia so I can fade the colors and account for the odd sizes.  The red dots on the wings are fuel cap locations.  Replacement parts to maintain her would have been issued from U.S. stocks and therefor would have been in the standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray.  All of this is somewhat speculative as photographs of HONI KUU OKOLE focus mainly on her impressive scoreboard.
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The undersides are painted in ANA 610, RAF Sky.  This is from my remaining stocks of Testor’s Model Master enamels and performed well, something which is not at all guaranteed with the old TMM paints.  The centers of the panels were sprayed with a lightened mix to break up the monochrome finish.
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The same technique was used on the uppersurfaces, this is Mr. Color Neutral Gray mixed with a dab of Insignia Blue and White to represent ANA 603, the RAF Extra Dark Sea Gray substitute.  This was lightened to represent fading but after it was done I felt I had gone a little too far.
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Here is the result of another thin mix of paint sprayed to equalize the fading a bit.  This can be repeated to get the finish you desire, I usually use three tones.
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Several hours of masking and then the ANA 613 Olive Drab for Dark Slate Gray.  There is some debate about the U.S. paints used for RAF schemes on lend-lease aircraft which is only more complicated whenever Olive Drab is introduced.
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The scheme with paint masks removed and under a gloss coat in preparation for decals, showing the colors used.  Mr. Color 304 was used for a darker Olive Drab to show where the RAF fin flash and serial were painted out, along with replacement parts.  The de-icer boots did not fare well in the South Pacific, they were eventually removed and their former locations painted over, again with Olive Drab.
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The second Fortress represents B-17E 41-2616, The “Blue Goose”.  Another unusual Fort, this one was painted in an overall Light Glossy Blue Duco automotive paint at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  The exact shade is not documented, but the finish was described as “a bright, light blue”.  I took a wild guess based upon a Duco paint sample card and mixed Mr. Color 34 with Mr. Color 115 (RLM 65) in a 2 to 1 ratio.  The monochrome finish was broken up with by adding a bit more RLM 65 to lighten the centers of the panels.
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Here is HONI KUU OKOLE with everything in place.  The Starfighter Decals performed flawlessly, just be careful in the application as the carrier film is quite thin.  I added a panel line wash and some paint chipping.  Exhaust and oil streaking is subtle and was represented with thin brown washes.
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This is the Blue Goose in the full set of markings carried during the first months of the Pacific war.  The red centers to the insignia and the rudder stripes would have been painted out by May 1942, assuming they were carried at all which is not a certainty.  It does make for a striking scheme.  The nose art was known to have been based upon the logo of the Blue Goose Produce Company, this is Mark’s best guess as to the possible appearance.  Since there are no known photographs of this aircraft the nose art decals could be used by modelers in larger scales and still work just fine.

Airfix Standard Light Utility Vehicles in 1/72 Scale

These are Standard Light Utility Vehicles which are part of the Airfix WWII RAF Bomber Re-Supply Set.  One is included in each box, it is essentially a light truck and a quick build in 1/72 scale.  Many of the kit parts are molded on the clear sprue, but mine suffered from the dreaded Airfix flow lines so I cut the portions representing glass off and replaced the windshields with acetate.  There were also gaps at the sides where the cab joins the hood which I filled with Perfect Plastic Putty.  Other than that they build up nicely.

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