The many, many P-61 models in my display case -er, I mean, mind

Last night, I picked up a kit that’s been out for a while but which I had not managed to add to the collection: DML’s P-61B Black Widow. The latest edition has a fret of color photoetched parts, which include cockpit details, brake lines, seat belts and other details, and although I still think elements of the interior could use some attention these go a long way toward dressing up the cockpit. The kit’s decals are also pretty nice; the national insignia are iffy in color, but the nose art, especially for “Lady in the Dark” (the plane credited with the last two kills of World War II), is really nice – and her swimsuit is the correct red color, not blue as on past sheets.

Thinking about this subject, my mind raced through things the way it usually does: first, I wanted to do the historic “Lady,” then I thought about doing a less-known subject, since I don’t always like the obvious set of markings, then it drifted to the NACA P-61C that dropped an aerodynamic shape on Sunnyvale, then to the idea of an F-15 Reporter conversion. That would be a neat Obscureco item, wouldn’t it? The F-15 was a hot-looking plane, combining the twin booms with a streamlined fuselage – it would be a real show stopper! Especially as a fire bomber…!

Then, the second part of the thinking kicked in: well, the F-15 might be a bit of work, and it had a natural metal finish; the DML kit has a slightly pebbly finish to the plastic, which would take work to rehabilitate for a natural metal bird (not to mention the kit’s infamous engineering, which requires some judicious filling, shimming and sanding). And a NACA bird would have local interest, but it’s not really what I’m after. Okay, the mental bargaining went, here’s how it’ll go: the first P-61 I build will be a Pacific war combat aircraft; the next one I make will be an F-15, and then No. 3 will maybe be the TEST bird.

Now, the odds of me building three P-61s are off the map – who knows when I’ll get to this one, even. But your plans can be awfully big before you actually start working on a model. I have long said that the only perfect models in our collections are the ones we haven’t started on yet; the vision you have of that finished model (or line-up of three models!) is a flawless image indeed. It takes practice and experience to bring the reality of your work closer to that original image, and few of us really ever get there. It can be a bit of a letdown when you finish a model because of this – but you can also surprise yourself. I aspire to more self-surprising in the future!

The real reason I went for the kit last night was not my fantasy of a completed P-61, or even the photoetched parts. I was because I have a mini-library on the P-61 and it seems kind of asinine to invest that kind of bread without having the kit to justify it. Nothrop’s Night Hunter, P-61 Black Widow Units of World War II, Northrop P-61 Black Widow: the Complete History and Combat Record and Warbird Tech 15, plus the obligatory In Action volume, clutter my shelves. And, until yesterday, for what? (Yes, I know: for my own edification. But as a modeler, there’s got to be another reason!)

The real modeling work this week has been on a 1:72 jet pilot figure; different shades of dark green (harness, flight suit, etc.) don’t make for a very exciting uniform, or a very exciting bit of painting, but he’ll be holding his helmet with the Sundowners’ red rays on it (I’ll do those with decals) and that might add some interest. The face looks good, at least – the Rapidograph pens did wonders for the eyes and eyebrows, and a very subtle line of red applied with a .005 pen right below the lower lip defined the mouth quite nicely. Now, you do have to get pretty close to see this, but that’s what I really want to get people to do – move in close and keep seeing more detail as they get closer. Lt. Ho-hum achieves this. Maybe the next jet jockey I do will have a Marine Corps camouflaged flight suit…

Random pre-holiday stuff

Some collected odds and ends:

Memorial Day Weekend always involves these two things: 1. the flag on the front of the house all three days and 2. watching the Indianapolis 500 from start to finish. The rest of the weekend, I’ll improvise.

Negotiations with Elizabeth proved fruitful and I will have two and a half hours of uninterrupted scale modeling on Saturday.

In a related note, the backordered Falcon canopy set that includes the Maryland’s canopy arrived from Roll Models this week. Thank you, Roll Models! I was afraid this would have gone into back-order purgatory, but you coaxed the New Zealanders to send a new order. I am grateful. (I also got some photoetch for my Mustang, the new A-1 Skyraider units book from Osprey and Aires’ English Electric Lightning exhaust set, so there’s a little preview of future activity.)

Gene Martin sent me eight excellent photos from his time in the 379th Fighter Squadron, 362nd Fighter Group from around April 1945. Four showed him and his living conditions (tent!), and four showed his P-47 “Bonnie Lynn.” If you’ve seen the Aeromaster sheet with “Bonnie,” this is the same plane, only with the addition of “Lynn” to commemorate Bob Shaw’s daughter, a yellow surround to the codes and a yellow cheat line down each side of the anti-glare panel. It is one sharp Thunderbolt. I will start bugging Roy Sutherland of Barracudacals immediately.

Gene also sent his log book, which helped fill in a lot of blanks regarding the 379th, and I also had an e-mail interview with Joe Hunter of the 378th which I’m currently working into the text. Joe provided details on his three victories and some great insight into the ground attack mission. Totally invaluable stuff! I’ve said that the only bad part of finishing a book is that I no longer have an obvious excuse to talk to these veterans, and that’s very much the case with this project.

Last night I picked up IBG’s Chevrolet C15A No. 13 General Service Truck in 1:72; I believe I saw a long-bed version of this vehicle at El Alamein (actually, a Ford-manufactured version of this vehicle; the two companies used a common cab pattern) and again in photos of the 332nd Fighter Group’s ground crews. It might make a nice conversion and diorama item. Here’s the truck in Egypt:



I took a lot more photos of this vehicle (and a second one like it that had been turned into a half-assed APC with the addition of two sheets of 1/8-inch steel  around the bed) not knowing what it was or whether a kit existed. This particular vehicle was apparently found on the Libyan border around 1998, with the driver’s body still in it and the bed loaded with supplies and ammo. After it was towed to El Alamein and the wiring harness was replaced and some oil was added, the engine actually turned over. The major difference between the cab here and the kit is the Ford logo in place of the Chevrolet bow tie!

Cable enabled

Good news – my father gave me a spare cable for my old camera, so I can start getting photos up on the blog starting tomorrow. I apparently lost mine in Virginia Beach, or maybe it’s lost on my desk… I’m not sure which.

Anyway, there are photos of the landing gear on the FM-2 in there – before it was broken. The new version is okay, but since I built it in situ, I don’t actually know what it really looks like – it’s pretty dark in that wheel well.

Here’s a question for you all – is there anywhere one could get the Xtrakits Sea Vixen or Canberra PR.9 besides Hannants? I bagged my Meteor at the Orange County show, but I saw no sign of these kits in Virginia Beach. Have the Brits hogged them all for themselves?