Monday, November 18, 2019

So Many Choices, Texas Phantoms, A Polystyrene Fort, An Emil, An Aussie Hawk, Down in the Weeds, and A Couple From Norm

So Many Choices, Mostly Flawed

Or to put it another way; Huh?

A couple of days ago I was reading the handful of modeling boards that constitute the beginning of cognizance for me on most mornings and I noticed a thematic trend, or maybe I didn't notice a trend at all and am simply making this up for the sake of a lead-in to today's somewhat deranged meandering. Which one doesn't matter. You have to start somewhere, right?

Here's the premise. It's one you're all familiar with because it comes around a couple of times a year, each and every year, but it always amazes me so by simple association it must surely amaze you as well. Well, maybe it does or maybe it doesn't, but the topic of the hour is Kits I Want Somebody to Produce For Me. It's a simple topic if taken at face value: Nobody makes a decent kit, or makes one in my chosen scale, or makes one at all, of the (fill in the blank here), which happens to be my very favorite airplane ever, one which I want more than anything else in the whole entire universe, and somebody ought to do that. Somebody really ought to.

Let's think about Somebody who ought to make that kit for just a minute, because the term encompasses quite a bit of territory, starting with the guys who produce a handful of kits out of resin, maybe in their garage, and running right up to the big-name manufacturers of polystyrene kits, with all sorts of permutations within those boundaries. Somebody ought to devine (that means figure out) the kit I want, design and produce it to Tamiya standards, and sell it at a price I can easily afford, but that won't happen if I'm the only one who wants it, so lets take a poll, or have a survey, or do something, doggone it, because I/we really really want that kit!

Here's how it works. Somebody starts a thread on one of those boards by asking which airplane the readership most wants to see produced in whatever medium may be under discussion, which in turn produces a veritable cascade of I Wants from Said Readership. Some of the I Wants will have considerable merit, some will be somewhat questionable, while a large percentage will fall into that rabbit hole that  lives out there in They Don't Know How This Works In The Real World Land. Don't believe me? Try these on for size, then:

The B-36, in 1/48th or 1/32nd scale. Yes; that very thing actually shows up on lists from time to time. There's at least one kit out there in 1/144th, and there's Monogram's magnificent effort in 1/72nd, but that latter offering never sold well when it was new because of size and cost so bigger might not necessarily be better---maybe that one's not such a great idea after all...

American jet fighters of the 1950s, to include the Century Series. Almost any of those could be legitimate to some extent, because most of the available kits are old and getting older by the minute, or of extremely mediocre quality, but there's a catch. (There's always a catch!) There are folks out there who would like a state-of-the-art Lockheed F-90, or a Chance Vought F6U, but you can count those folks on the fingers of one hand (which means zero interest from the big name manufacturers) and besides, we can't even get a slat-wing F-86 in most of the available scales, much less a Pirate. Add to that general mayhem the rather obvious fact that the variant of our hypothetical 50s jet fighter that someone actually chooses to kit won't ever be the one people will go out and buy, even if that variant is the exact same one they put on their Gotta Have One lists. They'll ask for a C-model and get it, and then bemoan the fact that they didn't get an A-model too or instead of. Go figure, right?

'Tween the Wars and Great War biplanes of any sort are in there too, and I have to admit the prospect of that one definitely gets me excited, but the folks who manufacture kits of such things are few and far between and the kits are almost invariably poor sellers, Wingnut Wings notwithstanding.

One-offs of any era. Decent kits of airplanes like The Spirit of St Louis will sell, usually. So will the true oddballs, but they'll only sell to a small circle of enthusiasts and therein lies the rub!

People who make short-run kits out of resin, or by way of 3D printing, or vacuumforms, or with tissue paper and popsicle sticks, tend to do it as a labor of love, but at some point even the most altruistic of those folks would like to receive some degree of adequate financial compensation for their efforts, if only to cover their costs as opposed to producing their short-run kits at a continual loss. The big companies who produce kits out of injection-molded polystyrene have a completely different business model; the guy in the garage can break even and consider it a Good Thing because he loves what he's doing, but those big guys who have employees and overhead to deal with need to make a lot more money than that, an event that will never occur if they chose to invest in 1/32nd scale kits of the legendary (and entirely mythical) Humbly Pudge Heavyish Bomber.

There's the kicker then, which also happens to be The Point: You want one of whatever-it-is, you get a bunch of people on those modeling boards excited and wanting one too, and some manufacturer, large or small but almost inevitably either heavily dedicated to the hobby or just not very bright, takes the bait and produces one. Its retail cost, medium, and degree of sophistication reflect the slings and arrows of research, tooling, production and probably overhead, and that guy who started the whole thing in the first place decides not to buy one because it costs more than he wants it to, a price that, in the eye of the requestor, is often just barely more expensive than Free. Most of his friends don't buy one either, possibly because they never really wanted one in the first place. The eventual bottom line gets us to the inevitable part where the manufacturer thinks twice before ever going down that road again. Don't believe me? Look around!

One the other hand, we're actually getting some of the things we thought we'd never see, like that new F-51H that, so there's always hope. I wouldn't hold my breath over the Humbly Pudge bomber, though...

Phantoms in the TXANG

San Antonio's 149th TFG has been in the fighter business for quite a while, and for a portion of that career, back during the late 1970s through the late 1980s, were flying the legendary Double Ugly, the mighty McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II. I used to get out to their ramp from time to time and would like to share one of those adventures with you, from a shoot in November of 1979.

Here's a fine example of a Charlie-model F-4 in TXANG service. 63-7419, an F-4C-15-MC Phantom basks in the sunshine on the 149th's ramp at what used to be Kelly AFB. There's no tailcode, but otherwise this particular example of "Double Ugly" could have been any one of a great many F-4s in service with the Air Force, the Guard, or the Reserves during that era. 419 was undergoing pre-flight when I took this photograph.   Friddell

There's nothing quite like a sunny ramp full of Phantoms to get your interest up! 63-0625 was an F-4C-20-MC and there was absolutely nothing special about her that day except for the "TEXAS" ribbon across her vertical stab. Things look fairly placid in this particular shot, but the 149th was, and still is to this day, a highly professional and proficient fighter outfit. Did flying the F-4 help that image back in The Day? Oh yes it did!   Friddell

Modern aircraft, "modern" in this case being anything built for the USAF after 1955 or so, are often covered in stencilled warnings and instructions and 64-0750, an F-4C-23-MC of the 149th, illustrates that practice to an almost ridiculous extent. Yikes! On a more modeler-friendly note, the 149th was tasked with the air-to-mud mission during the late 70s, as attested to by the gun pod and TERs attached to this airframe. If I were a betting man, I'd say she was on her way to move a little sand at the gunnery range on Matagorda Island but then again maybe not. Still, she is loaded with that pod...   Friddell

64-0827 was wearing a pod that day as well, and she's got TERs on her inboard stations too. Modelers take note of that gas bag; it's dented and the paint demarcation line on its nose cap doesn't match that of the main tank body. The devil's in the details, as this F-4C-24-MC attests!   Friddell

In somewhat striking contrast here's a view of 64-0879, another F-4C-24-MC, carrying nothing underneath her airframe other than the inboard stations, although those are fitted with TERs. It's hard to call the Phantom II a pretty airplane no matter what configuration a given airplane might be in, but the type does look kindof classy when it's all cleaned up.   Friddell

I'm personally not a very big fan of straight-on profile views of airplanes; I think they're just too darned clinical and sterile, but a lot of people prefer that. Here's a view of 64-0918, an F-4C-25-MC, that I photographed for those who enjoy such things. Let me be clear about that last statement, though; if you'd care to submit photographs of American military aircraft for possible use on this site (at   replicainscaleatyahoodotcom   ) I'm perfectly cool with clinical side views! They aren't a first choice, doggone it, but who am I to ever say no to a decent picture of an airplane?    Friddell

That's it for today's look at the immortal "Phantoom", although you can pretty much bet you'll be seeing more of the type in the months ahead. We're fond of the Phantom II around here, dontchaknow? 

One Big Honkin' Flying Fortress

By now you've all noticed that certain folks show up repetitively on these pages. One such individual is Norman Camou, who has supported us with a seemingly endless supply of really neat YouTube links to aviation topics and, more recently, with photographs of some of his models. Here's yet another example of the latter:

HK happens to make an extremely attractive B-17G kit in 1/32nd scale, and Norm turned his talents to building one of them a while back. This photograph says a lot for the overall quality of the kit and, more importantly, for Norm's not-inconsiderable talents. The completed model is a big 'un, and takes up a fair amount of space when on display, but the kit has been designed in a manner to allow the wings to be removed and reattached, thus simplifying storage when the beast isn't on display. We like it!   Norman Camou

Norm's B-17G is seriously cool, but that shot is also the only photograph of a completed model we've received here since I asked for such submissions last issue. No, wait; Frank Emmett did send me a couple of pictures of some model railroad buildings he's working on for a mutual friend of ours, but nobody else has, so I'd like to re-extend the invitation to you all. Remember that title: Replica in Scale? That "replica" part means models, ya'll! I happen to like what Norm's doing, and I tend to like what I'm doing as well but it's a far bigger world than that so how about it? Do you build? Do you build to a reasonable standard? Then you're our guy or gal! Photos should be in JPG format if possible and large enough to present well. You don't get paid for them, nor do you receive any sort of prize, but you probably will get your fifteen minutes of fame if we publish one of your photos. That e-mail addy, suitably gomed-up to mess with The Spam Brigade, is  replicainscaleatyahoodotcom  .

Willy in the Balkans

Or one of his creations, anyway. This one's a reproduction of a JG27 BF-109E-7 in use during the latter stages of Operation Marita, Mr Hitler's ultimately flawed excursion into the Balkans, and is from the much maligned 1/32nd scale Eduard kit:

Several years ago our friends over at Eduard made an attempt at breaking into the lucrative 1/32nd scale model airplane market but their premier attempt fell flat. The list of things that needed correction on that initial kit was lengthy and somewhat damning, and the kit was a severe disappointment in consequence although it was, and remains, quite buildable. In this view you can see one of the significant issues; Eduard's treatment of the fabric control surfaces. I rather obviously didn't fix them, but you could if you wanted to. I also didn't bother to put the hand-holds in the windscreen corners and I really should have done that, but such is life!   Friddell

This photo shows something I actually did correct, and you should too if you choose to build this model: As things come out of the box the slats on the wing leading edges are just too darned deep, chord-wise, and look pretty silly if you know how the real airplane appears in comparison. Fortunately the fix is an easy one, simply a matter of laying in a filler strip in the slat well (which is actually incorrect on almost every 109 kit ever made that allows for dropped slats, not just Eduard's, because there isn't any deep slat bay there at all) and then trimming back the slat itself. The mlg tires and wheels on this model are from an Aires accessory set meant for the 1/32nd scale Bf109F family, while the lawn-tractor tread has been sanded off the kit tailwheel and said edifice slightly reshaped. It looks ok, don't you think?   Friddell

On the other hand, the Eduard kit just isn't very good when taken as a serious replica of the E-series Bf109s. There are some dimensional issues that are difficult to address in addition to other flawed details, and there's actually no point in building one if you have the far better Dragon offering available to you BUT that's with a huge caveat. The kit is extremely buildable, and it looks pretty good once it's done, but like we said, it isn't accurate out of the box and getting it up to a higher level of fidelity to the real thing is a chore at best. It can be done, of course; just go over and visit the fine folks at BritModeller and look for examples of what some of their contributors have done with the kit if you don't believe me. The point is that a decent-looking, if somewhat inaccurate, model can be produced from the kit. Would I enter this model in a contest? No; I would not. Would I put this model in my 1/32nd scale Luftwaffe collection as an adequate representation of a late Emil? Yes I would, and in point of fact I have. It's all something about the eye of the beholder, if I'm not mistaken...

A Nifty Warhawk From Bobby

An issue of Replica just wouldn't be the same if we didn't offer a photo or two of the war in the Pacific from Bobby Rocker's extensive archives. Let's begin with a really nice P-40N:

This is such a neat photo I had to run it, although I don't know all that much about it. It was taken on Biak in 1944, which should make it from either 78 or 80 Sqdn RAAF, but I'm not sure which. What I am sure of is that it's a well-worn P-40N (Warhawk Mk IV) and its overall appearance makes it a wonderful candidate for a scale model. Notice in particular the generally disreputable appearance of the lower wing between the landing gear fairings and the outer guns, and the heavy lead deposits on the exhaust stacks, the result of cruising the aircraft with an extremely lean throttle mixture. The devil's in the details, as they say, and there are a whole bunch of those details visible here!   Rocker Collection

Just How Low Is Low?

Yep; that's a rhetorical question, and one that makes no sense without a context. Let's consider the American 5th Air Force in the Southwest Pacific as context then, because Low had a whole lot of meaning for them, at least where their attack aircraft and medium bombers were concerned.

How about this one for starters? It's somewhat of an enigma in our world since we don't know the serial number, nor do we know if there's different artwork on her port side, although we'd willing to bet there is. What we do know is that she was an A-20G with the 90th BS in 1944, and she was one impressive-looking airplane!    Rocker Collection

Of course, there was a price to be paid in the SWPAC, even if you were in a smokin' hot outfit and flew an airplane like the B-25G. By 1943 the odds were mostly in your favor, but that didn't eliminate the danger altogether because, besides the Japanese, you still had to contend with capricious weather and extremely poor operational conditions each and every time you got in the airplane. We don't know for sure which one of those things did in this 499th BS Mitchell, but we suspect the place to be Owi Island and it would appear her crew got out ok. It wasn't always that way.   Rocker Collection

Here's a really poor photograph of another B-25G, this time undergoing maintenance, for your consideration. Think about what you're looking at for a minute, and let's put it in the proper context. Let's pretend like you're doing major repair work on your car, and let's pretend you live in the Florida Everglades and your driveway is on the edge of a swamp. Let's add heat, humidity, bugs, snakes, and the occasional air raid to your repair efforts. That was every day for those guys; every stinkin' day, and they got it done every day. Every stinkin' day!  Rocker Collection

Every once in a while Bobby will send along a photo that's carrying a caption. Such is the case with this shot of "Mexican Spitfire", a B-25D from the 500th BS of the 345th BW. She's obviously seen the elephant more than a few times, and will eventually see it one time too many. There were no easy days in the 5th AF, not ever.   Rocker Collection

And Now For Another Havoc

Just one, but it's a SPECIAL one! Take a look and see if you don't agree!

Ok; everybody who's seen this photo of an 89th BS A-20 undergoing field maintenance (in the truest sense of that term, we might add) raise your hand. Got it! Now; everybody who's seen this image more than once, including right here on this very site, raise your hand again. Yep, it's true. We've all seen this airplane before, but most of the prints out there are pretty iffy at best and you can't really see the airplane, which means you can't tell she's carrying nose art and the name "Daisy Mae", along with a bunch of mission markers. This particular image is better than most and you actually can see those things this time around. Don't thank us; thank James Gallagher!    James P. Gallagher

There are two sides to every story---here's the largely unknown other side of "Daisy Mae"! This photo defines even more details about 0146; note in particular the U.S. Army logo still under her wings. Many thanks to Gerry Kersey for sharing this image from Gus O'Donnell, 89th BS crew chief.  O'Donnell Collection via Kersey

And finally, just when you thought things couldn't possibly get any better, here's a detail of the name, mission markers, and part of the nose art on "Daisy Mae"! Jack Taylor was her pilot and we'd like to raise a glass to him and all those like him. They were a special breed!   John Taylor Collection via Gerry Kersey

Many thanks to Gerry Kersey, both for correcting some misinformation we had on this aircraft and for supplying the additional images. The help is greatly appreciated!

Links From Norm

Frequent contributor Norman Camou, a man who's becoming ever more prominent on these electronic pages, sends in all sorts of really neat aviation-related links, sometimes several a week. Here are a couple of them for your enjoyment:

First is a link to an A-4 story from the Naval Institute's on-line magazine that might be of interest to you:

And then THIS jewel, off of YouTube and an absolute must-see if you have any interest whatsoever in the Naval air war in the Pacific:

And finally, there's this:

A few minutes with any of these should prove well worth your time!

See You Later, Alligator!

Which is a relatively goofy way of saying we're done for this particular issue. We should be back once more before we're done with 2019, though so watch this space and be good to your neighbor!


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