Sunday, 29 July 2012


Just a Gorgeous, Streamlined Shape!

Way back in early 1965, "Thunderbirds" burst onto our small, black and white TV screens and, for a kid of ten years of age, it was a virtual revelation in models and excitement. While most programs relied on model FX sparingly to illustrate a particular plot point, here was a show where nearly everything was a model! The trees, the buildings, the vehicles, the terrain, heck even the people were models! What more could a ten year old ask for? Nearly half a century later the "Thunderbirds" phenomenon continues unabated on our television screens and the show has provided countless model makers with more inspiration than they can handle.
The very first major design shown in the pilot episode, "Trapped in the Sky", was the Fireflash - a beautifully designed airliner of the future a hundred years on. Whether it could actually fly or not was of little concern – it just looked so damned good! While the story was entertaining to myself and my parents, that of a terrorist attempt to threaten hundreds of people by planting a bomb aboard an aircraft, just to bring out the International Rescue machines so they could be photographed, the plot seems uncomfortably prophetic these days in the light of world events – a little too close to the bone perhaps? From the moment this ten year old boy clapped eyes on her, he fell head over heels in love – just the audacity of placing the pilot cabin at the rear of the aircraft, halfway up the vertical stabiliser, was just mind-boggling in itself! To top that off, try landing a huge airliner atop a trio of moving platforms! And what about viewing windows on the leading edges of both wings? Purely outrageous, but we believed it all.

Derek Meddings' original 1964 design sketch for the Fireflash
 No expense, time and modelling effort was spared on the pilot episode of this new show. An entire world of models was created, in varying scales and levels of detail. The Fireflash herself existed in a number of sizes, the largest being a good three feet in length, not counting the oversized sections of her built for specific closeup scenes.

Up until now no injection moulded kit of the Fireflash has ever existed - a crying shame as the modelling community have been missing out on one cool looking aircraft! A few years ago Aoshima finally produced one version, albeit in 1:350 scale which, in my mind, is way too small to be impressive. However, when Hobbylink Japan was selling these kits for about $16, I just couldn't help myself. Yes, the kit's way too tiny, but is it accurate enough to be worth the trouble to assemble? Some of us already know about the Japanese penchant for including oversized wheels on their models, but luckily that annoying feature has been overlooked with this particular kit. As far as accuracy is concerned, she looks fine to me, although the undercarriage still looks a little too big for the scale. Putting the kit together took all of an afternoon, with very few problems. Some puttying is required around the main wing roots, but that's about it. All done, except for the painting. I decided to paint both sets of undercarriage landing gear as this broadens the photographic aspects of the model.

After priming, a trip to the local hobby shop netted me a number of jars of Gunze Sangyo paint; Semi-Gloss Blue, Navy Blue and Cobalt Blue, along with some Mr Hobby Gloss White. Mixing the base colour of pale blue became just a matter of guessing what looked right. This was sprayed over the entire model. What to use for the darker blue areas - the Cobalt Blue or the Navy Blue, or a combination of both? In the end I mixed a dark blue using two thirds Navy Blue and one third Cobalt Blue and this appeared relatively close to what I was looking for. Masking off the various areas for the darker blue took many hours of careful trimming. After spraying the darker blue, the masking tape was removed and left to properly dry over the next day or two.

Masking up the wing windows and the aft crew cabin proved to be pretty laborious, but satisfying in the end. They were Superglued into position as I had already painted the interior of the "glass" in grey so crazing wasn't a problem. Careful handpainting of the undercarriage assemblies was carried out next and then I was ready for the application of panel lines. Usually I draw these on with a permanent marker called a "Sharpie" in these parts, however because of the very small scale of the model, I resorted to using a plain lead pencil for the lines. Very lightly drawn on, they give some much needed detail to the kit. I used a piece of twine wrapped around the fuselage to give me lines that circumscribed the body, while a small piece of straight-edged styrene helped with the others.

31/07/2012  (TO BE CONTINUED...)

Saturday, 28 July 2012


Quite an Eyeful!

A classic fantasy movie from 1958, a resin kit and a little bit of sand provide the basis for this intriguing model.

A friend bought this resin kit for me at the Queensland Model Hobby Expo last year for $40. It consisted of just three pieces, the main body and head, and two arms which had to be joined at the elbows. I carefully Superglued the arms to the body, adding Tamiya putty to blend the joins together. Drilled holes in the “hooves” allowed the positioning of the model, via screws, onto a firm plastic base.

After sanding the joins so they were nearly invisible, grey primer was sprayed onto the kit and allowed to dry thoroughly. Reference material showed the Cyclops was a deep orange which was mixed using Tamiya colours. After much testing, it was hand painted over the entire model, while the lower half was a mixture of the orange and a dark brown, again hand painted.

After the base coats had been applied, a dark wash was added to the model to “dirty” it down a bit. This colour ran into the many skin creases and folds, adding just enough detail. The single eye was painted according to the reference material, with a coat of clear gloss to make it shiny. The mouth interior was painted a darker colour and gloss was added for realism. All in all, quite an accurate representation of the animated model seen in “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad”.


A Dangerous Aircraft

This aircraft began life as a 1:48 scale model kit of the SAAB Viggen. After assembling the cockpit and installing an appropriately scaled pilot from elsewhere, the fuselage halves were sanded smooth and ready to be joined. The kit wings were discarded and new ones were cut from 2mm thick sheet styrene. They were “pinned” to the fuselage with thin brass tubing and cemented with Araldite. Car putty filled in the gaps and faired the wings into the sides of the fuselage.

Drop tank halves, two different sorts, were glued to the upper and lower surfaces of the wings, while the pair of vertical stabilisers on each wing came from a 1:72 scale aircraft, as did the nosecone. 1mm sheet styrene was carefully cut to fit the spaces between the stabiliser pairs and the main vertical stabiliser on the fuselage. The engine intakes were fashioned from sheet styrene.

Much puttying was applied, sanded back and re-applied to fill in the spaces between fuselage and the wings, as well as gaps in the fuselage itself, some being backed by plastic sheet before the addition of putty. After achieving a smooth surface overall, the model was sprayed with grey primer.

The overall colour, Strato Grey, was sprayed onto the model, followed by the masking of the upper surfaces, in order to spray the underside in Winter White. Details consisted of car pinstriping, pencil lines and generic decals. Weathering was handpainted on and numerous clear coats of varnish sealed the surfaces of the model.

Friday, 27 July 2012


Tinkering With a Tonka Toy!

Having Purchased a Tonka toy, a demolition crane unit, I thought it would be far more interesting as some kind of futuristic transportation vehicle. Overcoming the tamper=proof screws holding it all together was quite a challenge. Once apart, I removed the wheels, hydraulic jacks and silver side panels, leaving just the body shell. The opaque windows remained as they covered the wiring for the flashing roof beacons, a feature of the toy that I liked the look of.

For inspiration, I referred to a photo of a missile carrier from the puppet series, “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons”, which featured a truss-like framework on wheels. For my own version, I rummaged through a toy box and located a cheap construction crane from a child’s play set. I pulled it apart, reversed the two halves, trimmed a little and it fitted perfectly to the truck’s body. The missile itself was created from an old, plastic table leg, two halves of a cheap plastic rocket and a few kit parts.

Detail was added to both the transporter and its truss cradle using sheet styrene, kit parts and various household items. When all was glued and dry, grey primer blended all the various colours and differing sections together. Wattle Yellow was used on the truss cradle, Marinello Red for some Evergreen insert sections on the truck, while Cyan was used for the basic truck colour.

Marinello Red was also used for the missile itself. I added brass channel bracing for each pair of wheels, increased the axle depth and added pieces of rubber foam to act as shock absorbers for the vehicle. I’m glad to say that this simple technique, used by Derek Meddings for many original miniatures from Gerry Anderson productions, works well and gives independent suspension to an ordinary toy.

More layers of detailing followed - decal numbers and letters, as well as many narrow sections of car pinstriping tape, especially for the missile. Being a very basic cylindrical shape, the missile needed far more tape and decals added just to give it some semblance of reality. A jewellery chain, dyed bronze, was the final detail, along with drybrushing and weathering with an airbrush.