By way of a break from the slow building of my Saturn V, this one is an attempt to model one of the aircraft my father flew during the Second World War.
It’s going to be Hurricane LB545, stationed with 135 Squadron RAF at Minneriya, Ceylon, in August 1944. It’ll be a reconstruction, rather than a reproduction—this doesn’t seem to be a very well-photographed time in 135 Squadron’s history, so I’m piecing together the likely appearance of the aeroplane from various bits and pieces of evidence that I can glean from books and on-line research.
I want to build it with an open cockpit, so I’m replacing Hasegawa’s moderately detailed kit cockpit with a more detailed photoetch-and-resin version from Aires. In particular, Aires provide a nice photoetch Sutton harness, something that’s missing from the Hasegawa cockpit. That also means I need to replace the cockpit canopy—the Hurricane canopy slid back over the fuselage, and the chunky kit canopy is too thick to do that. So I have a nice vacuform replacement from Squadron. Here it is, beside the Hasegawa kit part:
First thing, then, is to paint up and assemble the cockpit. Which I’m making suitably grubby for a tropical theatre, using Lifecolor’s Liquid Pigment range—a thin suspension of particulates that you can brush on. There’s a removal agent that lets you undo any mess you’ve made, which is a particularly useful thing for someone as thick-fingered as me.
Here’s the cockpit seat and harness, painted and dirtied:
And here’s the Aires instrument panel, layered together from various pieces of photoetch and printed transparent film, with a coat of white paint to the back surface to bring out the instrument dials:
And here are all the bits that somehow need to be assembled so that they fit each other and the kit fuselage, without the aid of anything so convenient as locating lugs or flanges:
It took a bit of effort, and a lot of “matchstick engineering” to space the parts appropriately and hold them in position while my epoxy dried. Here’s a view of the underside, through the wing roots:
And here’s the final result:
Unfortunately, the Hurricane cockpit was so cramped, a lot of the detail around the floor is now pretty much impossible to see, and the lovely instrument panel is wasted, tucked away in the shade of the cowling. I think in future I might just add a photoetch harness to the original kit cockpit.
Before assembled the fuselage, I had one bit of external detailing to do. The Hurricane had a handhold built into the port fuselage near the cockpit, which pivoted open when a step under the port wing-root was pulled down. Since I’m modelling this aircraft parked up with the cockpit open, I need to have the step down and the handhold open. Although the kit comes with a step, its handhold is moulded closed:
So I need to carefully drill out, gently file to shape, and insert some plastic card:
Annoyingly, I’ve fixed the flap level when it should be slightly tilted. There’s always something, isn’t there?
One of the nice things about buying model kits second-hand on eBay is that you sometimes find the previous owner has tucked some detailing bits and pieces into the box, in anticipation of the day when the kit was to be built. With this kit, I found not only a set of resin wheels and control surfaces of unknown provenance rattling around loose in the box, but a detailed wheel bay from Brengun still in its wrapper.
The wheel bay turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. The trouble is, the floor of the Hurricane cockpit was the roof of the wheel bay (and there was just a void farther back, either side of the pilot’s seat, through which any dropped objects ended up rattling about inside the aft fuselage). To get the resin wheel bay to fit under the floor of my resin cockpit, I had to thin the chunky resin to within an inch of its life with my trusty Dremel. Most of the aft part of the bay is now so thin it’s translucent, and I actually transgressed a little on the deeper detailing around the emergency retraction air bottle:
With the availability of some free control surfaces, I decided I wanted to model the aircraft with a slight droop to the elevators, something that’s often seen in photos of the real machine when parked. (I pushed the stick slightly forward in the cockpit for consistency.) This meant I had to scribe off the kit elevators, which are moulded in one part with the tailplanes. Here they are before:
Having exploited the extras I found in the box, I also needed to add extras of my own. The aircraft I’m building needs a Vokes tropical filter under the nose, to protect the carburettor air intake, and a couple of long-range tanks under the wings. I got these from Red Roo and the Aires “QuickBoost” range, respectively. The Red Roo filter needed a little detailing, with a panel line scribed across it.
Here’s the underside of the aircraft with everything finally in place:
And the topside—you can just see how I’ve replaced the tiny, delicate, styrene rear aerial mast on the tail with a bit of half-millimetre brass rod, which is more likely to withstand my handling of the model during painting and decalling:
It’s at this point I begin to develop “primer anxiety”. I’ve done a lot of filling and sanding and scribing, and it all looks a bit of a mess—once I get the primer on, and everything is a uniform shade of matt grey, will it look better, or will all sorts of dents and scores I haven’t noticed suddenly jump out at me?
As it turned out, the primer went on OK—I picked up a couple of tiny gaps I’d missed, but was able to deal with them using just a little extra primer on a brush and then some 1200-grit wet sandpaper.
The cockpit is being masked using the original kit canopy:
I assembled the radiator fairing, but haven’t done more than dry fit it, for ease of painting, so it’s absent from this view of the underside, with the wheel bay masked with a combination of tape and Blu-Tack:
I’ll report back after applying the camouflage and markings.