|KIT:||Revell 1/72 F4F Wildcat|
|PRICE:||26 cents in 1971|
The modeling bug bit back in ‘71when I was a GI stationed in Germany. Patch Barracks PX had a shelf full of Airfix, Revell, and a few FROG 1/72 scalers’, all for just 26 cents apiece. Needing a way to pass the long cold nights (when not pulling duty), I bought out the lot. By the time I returned home a year and a half later I had botched together nearly a hundred planes of no particular type in a state no respectable modeler would ever reveal to another. Nearly all were long ago converted to spare parts, but this F4 and one or two others remain on a bottom shelf as reminders of those halcyon days.
Once upon a time plastic modeling was a pastime aimed almost exclusively at kids. Aurora, Hawk, Lindberg, and Monogram turned out toy-like creations, but Revell was the Cadillac of polystyrene, producing , for a paltry 49 cents apiece, a line of accurate, well fitting, well detailed (surface detail that is) classics from WW’s I, II, and the intervening years. Contemporary builders would fault that detail, condemning it as rivetitis, and pouncing with multi grades of Flexigrit to produce a surface as smooth as a neo-natal buttock (actually new borns are rather wrinkled – make that a 2 month old). A confession must come out: I LIKE RIVETS! Rivets are representative of the real thing; and models are just representations. I also groove on overdone fabric cross hatching, tolerate raised panel lines, and refuse to fill or file even a Matchbox trench. Rivets are more than just representative; rivets are real. Visit one of the rapidly diminishing number of airports upon whose ramp you can still stroll without being machine gunned by a TSA Nazi. Look at the metal planes and you will see them studded with big, fat boiler plate rivets. Stand back 20 paces; imagine your size multiplied 72 times; and the rivets, even the flush dimples, will appear just as prominent as they do on any 70’s era model sitting on a shelf. Before leaving, take note of a few more details. Airplane tires do not bulge (at least not those properly maintained). Panel lines are not neatly outlined with a Rapidograph pen. “Non specular” paint reflects a heap of sunlight. These are a few pet peeves; but the peaviest is pontification on “proper” technique; so perhaps this high horse ought to be dismounted with the declarative: Do with this hobby whatever makes you happy.
Back in them days the only tweaking I was capable of was slicing off major flash with an Exacto blade. No filler, no sanding. If I remember correctly, Revell never needed any, except for an occasional slot along some bottom seams where a clear stand was supposed to insert. Had difficulty getting the pieces to stick together until I realized I was using glue intended for balsa models.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Weren’nt none. My first attempts at brush paining looked awful, so subsequent planes were left in naked plastic. Decals were thick and had to be stuck down by pressure with a damp sponge. Don’t think Solvaset had been invented yet, but even if it had, it surely couldn’t be bought in the little pig farming town of Holtzgerlingen. By the time I had uncrated the collection back in the States, my painting proficiency and courage had improved a bit. The decals had dried and sloughed off, so I brushed on a coat of non-descript, certainly non-standard, muddy flat blue, with white on the undersides, and slapped on any old national markings from the spare decal box. Some time later I discovered Testors Gloss coat, so I gave everything a liberal laying-on, which promptly yellowed. That’s how it sat for many years.
DE-CONSTRUCTION AND RE-CONSTRUCTION: During a culling “Selekzion” the wildcat was slated for liquidation, but I just could not sever this last link with youth. Re-builds had proven to be a waste of valuable modeling time, so the project became a filler, while glue and paint dried on “real” projects. The key to success, limited as it might be, with a restoration, was removing as few parts as possible, so the propeller was the only appendage initially “ectomized”. During subsequent soakings and scrubbings, however, the wheels and gear struts fell away. Must have been stuck on with some of that balsa glue. No loss, since spares were available. Ditto the engine, so I carefully pried off the cowl. This was before the days of Easy Lift-Off and Mr. Strip-a-Kit, so I resorted to the standard arsenal of paint thinner, oven cleaner, tri-sodium phosphate, and brake fluid. Eventually, all the layers of paint dissolved or flaked off. So did several layers of skin. Except for losing its gloss and acquiring a white haze, the plastic was undamaged. I burnished everything with Soft Scrub cleanser, taking care to preserve each precious rivet. The canopy fogged. No replacement was available, but by then I had developed skill in stove-top vacu-forming. I filed down the framing on the original and used it as a form to suck a new one. Wanting to further preserve surface detail, I omitted a primer and airbrushed heavy coats of Model Master enamel, according to a scheme in Squadron / Signal Publications Navy Air Colors V1. Markings were all from the spare decal box, except for the red fuselage and wing bands, which were done by first painting red, then masking. Multiple sprays of Future preserved everything for – well, for the future!
Restoring an old model is rarely worth the trouble; except when it preserves a “last survivor”, or, as in this case, a link with the past. Many more accurate and more finely tooled 1/72 F4’s are now available, and could have been built in the time it took to again re-work this haggard twenty six-center. It’s still nice to have around, though, as a reminder of those Happy Days when contentment could be found in a bare plastic kit thrown together in a single night.
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