Wednesday, February 17, 2010

John Ratzenberger's Airfix Ford Tri-motor

This is the Airfix 1/72 Ford Tri-Motor, which I built for the January 2010 Blitzbau on the Unofficial Airfix Modeller's Forum. For those of you unfamiliar, a Blitzbau is a 24-hour build. I take the senior citizen option and do it in 2 12-hour blocks with a rest break. Others go straight through.

I have been doing CBKs of civil airliners each Blitzbau, but in 1/144; this year I kept the theme but kicked up in size. I have never built this kit and haven't read anything about a build, so I went in blind and although things went well for a while, I soon ran into troubles.

The first problem was the wing fit. The method is to build two outer sections then join them to a center section, top half only. One side fit like a glove, the other is a bit high and has a slight gap. I decided to run a bead of CA to fill the seam and ignore the slight offset. Next, there is the matter of joining the wing to the fuselage and putting on the rear deck. To get a good clean fit on top, I will have to put a couple spreaders in the fuselage. There will probably be slight gaps on the underside. This kit is much like a limited run kit -- no locator pins or holes.

The second was the nacelles. I could understand the instructions, couldn't relate them to the parts I was looking at. When I tried to put up the struts and make things match, they wouldn't. Not only that, I've stared at real Tri-motor pix and understand what they should look like but cannot relate that to the kit parts or instructions. So my solution was to take the nacelles apart, put 'em back differently, then fill all the locating holes except for the gear. Then I CA'ed in the front and rear struts on the wing. Then I tweaked, trimmed, aligned, and cajoled until I had the nacelles sitting relatively neatly on the struts and then I CA'ed them in, accelerator squirting. Then I hacked the center struts in.

With parts literally hanging on by a thread of CA and accelerator, I gave it some more drying time, then started on the decals, at which point I knew I had spent a day for naught -- I got the underwing/overwing serials on and knew they looked like they wouldn't last. The American Airlines & Ford insignia's broke a little, the US Mail & tail serials a lot, so I just left them off. I might have gotten away with it, when I brushed against the upper wing serial and lifted off a piece I could not recover.

Final stats: 23.30 clock hours of which about 18 were actual modeling time. I get a complete, but I am not totally happy about it.

The kit is actually OK -- as I noted throughout, it fits but lacks locator pins to help the process, particularly while assembling the fuselage sides, top, and bottom. The instructions, particularly around step 32 where one is supposedly assembling the nacelles and mounting them -- well, I simply could not understand them and the exploded diagram was of no use. There is also a minor glitch around the heater -- the instructions say to make holes if you want it, but the holes are already there. Probably the only other thing to watch is mounting the exhaust ring to the nose engine, being sure you can get the engine firmly mounted on the fuselage. The trailing edges are way too thick and the corrugations a bit heavy.

My two errors. First and foremost, was not prepping ahead of time to possibly uncover the trouble spot with the nacelle and struts. That cost me several hours, which I would have had available if I hadn't been doing real life things. Second, was that I should have realized the decals were going to fail on me. I'm sure there are aftermarket items somewhere and I should have gone looking -- it's not like this was a last minute event.

Oh, well, all my biggie. For the next Blitzbau, I need to think simplicity...

It does look good, on its stand, in flight. The windows are big enough that some passengers and stews ought to be added. I'm happy with the way Barney & Fred in the cockpit came out -- too bad about the glass (pretty frosted and I didn't attempt cleaning). It wouldn't take much to add the few pieces of rigging to this, in particular a representation of the control cables on the very prominent arms on the outside of the fuselage.