MPM 1/72 Lockheed Vega variants

KIT #: ?
PRICE: around $25.00
DECALS: See Review
REVIEWER: Joel Hamm
NOTES:  

HISTORY

Best place for a detailed bio on both planes is the USAF Museum site, which is the first place Google will get you to. Briefly, the UC101 was a standard 1930’s wooden hulled Vega, similar to Wiley Post’s, impressed into wartime transport duty.  The YC12 was a one time purchase of the metal fuselage version.  The reason for the various designations was the merry-go-round transfer of the company form Lockheed to Detroit Aircraft, to Consolidated Aircraft, and back to Lockheed.

THE KIT

MPM squeezed 4 Vega versions out of one set of molds. The other two are the Winnie Mae / Lady Lindy Aircraft, and a civilian airliner on floats. I bought the UC101 to add to a shelf-full of drafted civilians wearing olive drab over neutral grey; but when they released the YC12 I had to spring for one of those too.  Something about the blue and yellow paint scheme that hooks me. Maybe it’s my wife’s blond hair and blue eyes.

These kits are hawked as “High Technology” long run releases cast in metal molds, as opposed to their short run series squooshed  into molds made of butylene fortified ear wax. The difference is apparent on opening the boxes (which haven’t changed from the squashable end-opening flimsy cardboard). Parts are sharp, free of flash, and most noticeable - attached by minute sprue gates, usually in the least offensive locations. Oh yes, the canopies and windows are injected rather than sucked. No resin or etched brass bits are provided. They are not needed. Engine cylinder fins and similarly fine engravings are adequately rendered in injected styrene.

 Everything fits together just fine. There are still no situating slots, tabs, pins, or holes, but the inner surfaces of the fuselage have locating ridges for the multiple bulkheads and floorboards.  Those inside surfaces also have the door outline scribed into them, should the modeler choose to cut it open. Since separate pieces are supplied for the doors, it would have been simpler to cast the doorway open; but who can plumb the mind of an East European mold maker?

The “One set of sprues fits all variants” philosophy means each kit contains an assortment of landing gear, vertical fins, and even fuselage halves. Reason for the last is that the metal fuselage had longitudinal strakes that reinforced the butt joints.  Don’t sand them off. No rivets are embossed, though the box art, and the few available Web photos, depict them as prominent. With the exception of a few access plate outlines, the wood wings and fuselages are smooth and free of all panel lines – as they were in real life.  Control surface scribing can benefit from being deepened a dab. Make sure you pick the right parts for the desired version. The door location seems to have migrated from starboard to port side during the molt to metal skin.

The four kits from one mold technique also induces some errors. All fuselage halves have two bumps. The forward one is where the main gear strut mounts. The rear one is only used with the floatplane version, and must be removed. On the YC12 it snuggles pretty close to the midline strake, so sanding it clean is a bit of a tickle. Another error is the rearmost cabin window. On the YC12, possibly also on the UC101, it is supposed to be square, rather than rectangular.  Ordinarily this would be a simple fix of just painting over a millimeter or two of clear pane. The prominent surrounding frames complicate matters.  Since I discovered the glitch after the projects were done, I have no suggestions to offer. Accuracy buffs will want to research several other appurtenances. The UC101 has a carburetor intake duct poking out of the cowl underside. The Instructions for the YC12 don’t show this step. The parts locator map shows the duct, part 6, on the sprue, but it just ain’t there. Figuring engines need a breathing nostril somewhere, I Dremeled one from a snippet of resin pour block.

CONSTRUCTION

The first task is figuring out how the affix the cabin windows.  Neither the panes nor the openings have any recesses, flanges, tabs, bevels, or other means of holding them in place. I found that after cleaning the edges with a swipe of 600 grit sanding stick, they are a pretty snug press fit; but luck would be the only adhesive keeping them from popping out – or in. Flowing liquid or CA glue around the edges would fog them, so I coated the insides with low viscosity epoxy.  This improved their clarity, but raised hell with their refractivity. That’s not a real problem, since you can’t see much inside anyway.

            To remedy that problem I decided to build the UC101 with an open door. Even then not much is visible.  The inside of the door has no detail, so I added some bogus framing made of Evergreen strip. I wasted considerable additional effort detailing and busying up the cockpit.  The injected canopy is clear, but the optics aren’t exactly Bausch & Lomb. Still more time and work were frittered away filling and sanding the poor fit of the nose piece. When the cowl ring is slid into place over the engine it covers the gaping and mis-matched  seam. Also sloppy up front is the fit of the engine in the cowl.  Rather than the usual too-tight fit, this one is too loose. A ring of Evergreen 1.5  strip glued around the cylinder heads cured that.

COLORS & MARKINGS

The UC101 airframe was built up before painting, but the yellow and blue scheme was more easily and neatly done by painting the fuselage, wing, and tailplanes separately. Another difference between the two was the masking of the cabin windows.  The  former had its  windows masked with a tape strip, was sprayed OD, then the spaces between the windows were hand brushed when the tape was removed.  The results were a bit sloppy so the YC-12 fuselage got a preliminary airbrushing before the windows were fit and masked. Paints were Testors gloss enamels. OD is made by adding orange to bright green. Neutral grey is just black and white. The YC12 marking guide quotes a Federal Standard Light Blue number starting with a “3”.  Couldn’t find it in any reference; besides, that makes no sense because the prefix “3” denotes a lusterless finish and the blue was supposed to be gloss. A “Russian solution” (Gudenov) was whiting up some no-name blue until it matched a shade labeled “light blue” in Squadron Signal’s  Air Force Colors V1.  I neglected to note, or rather noted but don’t remember, who did the decals. They’re not the usual Propagteam, but are printed every bit as precisely, and behave considerably better, sliding tractably into place; and reacting well to Superscale setting fluids. Future sealed everything under a glass gloss.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

 Only point worth mentioning is that the canopy must go on before the wing.  There’s no way to squeeze it in afterwards. The kit pitot tubes were heavy handed, so I spent a tedious evening supergluing together sub-microscopic lengths of wire.

CONCLUSIONS

 MPM’s “Long Run Technology” is a marked improvement over earlier releases.  Add some locating tabs and pins, simplify window installation, and they will rival the best out of Japan or Italy. 

Joel Hamm

December 2005

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