Friday, April 23, 2010

Of Chips, Corsairs, Big Pirates, and An Odd Cat

And That's the Way It Was

You've probably all noticed by now that I encourage correspondence. I don't post comments to the blog entries as a rule because I don't particularly care for the whole forum concept (as if you haven't heard me say that before!) but I do enjoy the letters, so keep 'em coming to . One of the messages I received today, from Kent up in Idaho, asked about the original Replica in Scale and, more specifically, about the paint chips we included in our very first issue---he wanted to know if we were the first to do it, and how/why we chose to include them.

It all goes back to why we started the magazine in the first place. There were some good IPMS-affiliated American pubs around at the time, The Time being defined as late 1970, when we first decided we might do a magazine some day. That was the IPMS-related stuff but as for commercial magazines, well, things were pretty thin. There was a major American modeling pub at the time but we didn't like it at all, and everything else was either British or otherwise foreign and, with the exception of IPMS Canada's RT and a couple of the foreign pubs that we couldn't read because they weren't in English, we didn't like them either. We figured it was Time, but we wanted to do things differently. (That was pretty clumsy but I couldn't figure out how else to say it!)

With Doing It Differently as a notion we held a series of preliminary meetings to decide our course of action and made an informal list of everything we disliked about the existing modeling periodicals, along with a list of the things we liked. One of the magazines we really appreciated was a Canadian armor publication called AFV-G2, and one of the things they did was to include real paint chips in every issue. Those chips seemed like a super good idea, and we'd only be doing a quarterly (we'd planned it that way from the beginning) so it didn't seem unduly labor intensive when we were discussing it. A Plan was born!

After a fairly lengthy gestation period it finally came time to do our first issue. The two feature articles were on the OV-10 Bronco (Bob Mills) and an AFV subject, a conversion article on how to make a Marder II from a Pz II (Greg Vickers). We figured color chips would be a great thing to include with both articles. And it really did seem like a good idea at the time. It truly did.

Anyway, we planned on printing 1,000 copies of that first issue so we went out and bought enough Avery labels to produce 2,000 paint chips, as well as a couple of bottles each of Floquil SP Lettering Gray and Floquil Mud. (It's probably best that you don't ask how we arrived at those colors, just in case you were wondering about how we done it.) I drug out my trusty Binks B and started painting. And painting. And painting. I'd originally figured on one coat---a quick pass and done---but each sheet of chips required several passes to ensure that the color was consistent. It took a long time to paint those chips...

Then we had to get them into the magazine, which was deadline sensitive. That operation involved Jim and myself as well as our spouses, and it took several hours to get all those chips into their proper place in the magazine, making sure they were as neatly aligned as our mental state would allow---things began to deteriorate pretty quickly after the first few hundred chips! At the end of it all we were absolutely exhausted, but the magazine had real paint chips. (To this day I can smell the aroma of "real" Floquil paint when I look at that first issue.)

Our mutual exhaustion led to a Never Again philosophy regarding color chips, making our first issue the only one where we included them. We didn't even put them in the reprint of I-1 that we did by popular request a couple of years later. (You can tell the two apart because of the chips, or lack of them, and the rather obvious fact that the reprint says "REPRINT" on the cover.) Once bitten twice shy, etc, etc.

And that's the story of those paint chips!

How'd That Happen?

The Vought O3U-1 Corsair was one of those long-serving but often unappreciated utility biplanes used by the Navy and Marines during the 1930s. The type was pretty close to being ubiquitous and could be found anyplace that the Nav or the Corps were using air assets with the exception of Training Command and was, thanks to being a Golden Age airplane, pretty colorful too. I guess that's probably why we've yet to see a kit of the type---the airplane was really good at what it did but it just wasn't very glamorous! (Vought didn't start building glamorous airplanes until they started doing that one with the funny wings, but that's a story for another time...)  Here, then, are a couple of photos of a seriously cool but highly unglamorous airplane:

Scouting Three shows how it's done. The SU-3 never possessed an excess of power so large echelon formations such as this one must've been quite a proposition! The interval is pretty good, but you can see some gaps. Those were the days!  National Archives, Neg No. Unknown

Some days are just better than others. This VS-3 Corsair is being recovered after ditching; note the deployed flotation bags. Hoisting points were a normal component of American miliatary aircraft and allowed for both planned operations (such as hoisting the aircraft onto or off of an aircraft carrier) and crash recovery. This bird isn't too badly banged up---it was probably back in the air a week or two after this photograph was taken.  National Archives, Neg No. Unknown

Just Look At Them Bags!

Vought also did a dive bomber, the SBU-1. This example for Scouting Two has also gone for a swim and is being hoisted out of the ocean for return to the Lexington. It's really obvious that this is a next-generation airplane when compared to the SU-3; note the more robust structure and the refinements to the airframe when compared to the Corsair shown directly above it. Note also that the flotation bags now deploy from the upper wing rather than the lower wing root. This sort of thing wasn't particularly uncommon Way Back Then.   US Navy via R. Morgan

Here's what one looks like when it's not in the water. Note how clean the overall design is. If the war in the Pacific had started 5 years sooner than it did the SBU-1 would have been one of our standard dive bombers---we probably got lucky on that one. This example is from VS-41.  US Navy via Rick Morgan

Even a Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut Every Once in a While

Used book stores can be neat places, although I can honestly say that I rarely go in them anymore. The bad ones are selling a lot of junk, and mostly the shops around here fall into that category. There are a few that are pretty good, but sometimes, or maybe even usually, the good ones are expensive. Sometimes, though, you go into one of the good (expensive) ones and find That Special Book. In my world that's an occurence that generally involves somebody else but once, a very long time ago, it happened to me. Allow me to share:

The year was 1975 or 76, and I'd dropped by A Bookstore of the Pricey Variety in a bad part of San Antonio. I doubted I'd find anything or that I'd be able to buy it if I did (they were proud of their books, ya'll), but I'd decided to give it a shot anyway. It was exactly as I'd expected; rows of shelves filled with grossly overpriced books, most of which had seen far better days. There was this one book that caught my eye, though. It was dark blue and relatively large format, and the price pencilled inside the front cover was $8.50. I made a quick scan to see if it had any companions and hi-tailed it for the sales counter. I'd already paid for it when the owner came by, saw what I'd purchased, and told me it was mis-priced. I responded that it had a price in it and that I'd given that amount, plus tax, to his clerk who had in turn rung it up. I'd spent money. I had a receipt. It was mine. That owner was unhappy but really didn't have much ground to stand on in the matter, so I kept the book. That's how I ended up with a new-condition 1944 hardback volume by Consolidated Vultee entitled Instruction Manual, Airplane General and Armament, PB4Y-2 Airplane. (It's often been said that I'm a little bit crazy. That would be crazy; not stupid! I'll pounce on that sort of deal each and every time!)

It's probably time to share an image or two out of that book---I hope you enjoy them!

 Sometimes people publish incorrect dimensions for their airplanes. I don't know whether or not anybody's ever commited that particular sin with the Privateer, but here's what Consolidated Vultee thought they were. With any luck this drawing will be of use to you.

A bomb chart. I think this stuff is pretty fascinating, but you may not. If it's not to your taste just go on to something else. I won't mind.

Here's where they put the armor plate. There's not that much in there but the vitals are mostly covered and it apparently got the job done!

This shows how the Navy and Consolidated thought the armor would function.

Howzabout a Couple of Huns?

I received a request for a little more on the Hun, so here are a couple of shots of same.

Sometimes it's difficult to weather an operational airplane, because it's tough to get photos showing how one looks in its natural environment; i.e. in combat. Here's an interesting study of the undersides of an F-100D of an unidentified unit taken during the Late Unpleasantness in Southeast Asia to illustrate the point. Note how utterly filthy the undersurfaces appear, and in particular how the muzzle blast from the guns (which is generally lubricant residue with a small amount of propellent granuals thrown in for good measure) is around the gun ports rather than streaming out behind them. That's a pretty common weathering mistake and it's found on a lot of models. As a rule of thumb, don't put streaks behind your gun ports unless you have a photograph that shows it. It probably wasn't really like that!   Friddell Collection

Here's an oddball for you. The aircraft was built as an RF-100A-10-NA and was later converted to RF-100A configuration ("Slick Chick"). It served with Det 1 of the 4707th SS/7499th SG, then was transferred to the Taiwanese 4th RS in 1959. It was withdrawn from service in 1960. I'm betting this airframe led an extremely interesting life!
Unknown via Wogstad

F-100D-80-NA when she was assigned to the 614th TFS/35th TFW stationed at Phan Rang AB. She's carrying 335-gallon drop tanks and a pair of M117 750-lb HE bombs. Of particular interest is the panel around the gun blast tubes; one way to minimize the discoloration down there is to paint them black! The airplane is relatively pristine, but check out the weathering on that tank hanging off the port wing! This Hun survived the war and was converted to QF-100D configuration.   Friddell Collection

So Where's the Blue Airplanes?

Good Grief, you guys---wasn't the Corsair and Privateer stuff enough? Guess not...

Here are a couple of photos of a blue airplane for you folks who just can't get enough of those Navy fighters, but with a couple of unusual twists:

Few airplanes say "Navy" like Grumman's F6F Hellcat. Here's a fine shot of an F6F-5N of VF(N)-90 flying off the Enterprise during early 1945. By this time the Enterprise had been made a dedicated night carrier with an air group specially trained for night ops. This Hellcat's getting a little bit shopworn.  Navy via Friddell

One thing you can do with an obsolete fighter is use it for tests. Here's an F6F-5K with an XAAM-N-2 Sparrow I missile under the starboard wing during early testing of the weapon. The centerline pod contains photographic equipment for documenting launch of the missile. Note the tailwheel extended and locked tailwheel on the Hellcat drone---thanks for the correction, Tommy!  NARS 416718

Here's a closeup of the round showing pylon details. This particular series of tests (all three photos) was taken at Point Mugu on 27 January 1950. Note the extensive stencilling on the missile body.  NARS 42783

This view shows the kink in the leading edge of the pylon, and gives us a little bit of detail of the camera pod too. Take a look at the back end of the airplane; it's on a towbar and the tailwheel is slightly off the ground! Of further interest is the absolutely filthy condition of the main wheels. Did I mention these were old airplanes?  NARS 412766

That's It For a Day or Two

I guess I owe all of you an apology. I'd originally thought I'd be able to crank out two installments at a minimum this past week, and was only able to do one. Bear with me while I figure out how to straighten out my now heavily-compromised schedule and we'll get these things back on track. Until then, be good to your neighbor!

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