AMT 1/48 Airwolf

KIT: AMT 1/48 Airwolf
KIT #: 3000
PRICE: $20 from an on-line auction
DECALS: One Option
REVIEWER: Wyll Jones
NOTES: Added fiber optics

In the early 80's there were three TV shows that featured Helicopters.  ABC had both Riptide and Blue Thunder and over on CBS flew Airwolf.  Airwolf is far and above my favorite of the group.  It was fun, fast and had good writing to boot.  For the first three years anyways.  After the third season CBS cancelled it even though it was doing great in the ratings and USA Network took it over.  Well not so much took it over as just outright killed it.  It was the second time that Barry Van Dyke had a hand in killing one of my favorite shows.  He had been on Galactica 1980 too.  I'm rambling aren't I.
Starting with a Bell 222 the magic of Helicopter Make-up artist turned one of the best looking helicopters in the world into THE best looking helicopter in the world, bar none.  At least in my opinion.  After the series the make-up was taken off and the helicopter eventually became an air ambulance in Germany.  It crashed in 1991 killing three people.
AMT/ Ertl came out with their Airwolf model in 1984 and I just had to have it.  The preview that Scott did was of the version that I did as a kid.  This remake is mostly the same but with a few differences.  Originally you could build it as the civilian Bell 222 but in the one I got you can't do that.  Instead this one came with pilots.  Not too bad of a trade-off if you ask me but some would want to have the parts to go civilian for sure. 
One thing that didn't change was the panel lines and rivets.  The panel lines are really deep and wide and the rivets are huge.
My first goal was to make a plan.  Or at least as much of a plan as I could muster.  I figured that I would have to do this as three projects.  The lighting system, the back seat and the rest of the model.   If you read my thread about this build you may already know what I missed, if not you may be as surprised as I was. 
The model it's self was the place to get this project going.  The 'Lady' as they called her on the show was smooth and sleek, not bumpy and grooved.  I decided that I could live with the panel lines but the rivets had to go.  So like my General Lee this was going to be, at least start as life in sanding.  And sanding.  And guess what, more sanding.  But it was worth it, she was smooth and sleek again.  And in staying with that train of thought I would not be using the guns or rocket pod.
To break the monotony and to get feeling back in my arms I switched to a different task.  I felt the screens molded into the sides of the fuselage were not great so I figured that I could replace them.  So I cut them out.  Then I started to think about what to use in their absence.  That showed me that pre-planning is important.  It didn't show me what else I failed to pre-planned so I thought I was in the clear once I found my replacement screens.  I used little chunks of umbrella that wife had thrown away.  I glued the umbrella pieces to plastic backing and they turned out OK enough for me.  Like many modelers out there the family garbage can is a great place to find future model parts.  Don't tell my wife I took something else out of the garbage, she doesn't need to know. 
Next I started the back seat.  You know that really cool area where Dominic sat.  This is where I had to do most of my research for this project.  There were quite a lot of pictures and info online in various places, just use any search engine.  Anyways I decided to keep it pretty simple back there and mostly stick with just major shapes.  I used a lot of Evergreen Styrene on this and I'm very glad that I had a lot of different shapes to work with.  I thought I was happy with what I had done but through the magic of dry-fitting I realized that I really needed to build something to replace the back wall and the left side wall.  I put a little bit of detail on the back wall but I had no real good pictures of the left wall so I left it plain.  Oh, and then I painted all of them light grey.  But I didn't glue any of the new pieces in place I still had to get them ready for lighting.
Now to the lighting.  I knew that I could get a small pipe and run the fiber optics through that to get into the model.  I would figure out the how later.  But for now I would just focus my light works on the panels.  I drilled out most of the instruments on the main panel and I drilled holes about where I thought they should be on the back panels.  Then came the fun part, I finally got work with the fiber optics.  I counted how many holes I had and pulled the proper number of fiber lines and then started, shall we say, stringing up the lights.  I ran the lights long and kind of left them there because I didn't know exactly how to glue them.  I was worried that the CA might eat the lines and ruin the whole project.  But what is life without taking chances, so I went ahead and glued them, and thank goodness, they didn't go to heck on me.  I cut them flush and put a drop of future highlighted with food coloring on each one. 
Now how to get the fiber optics out to the light source.  Well first I had to, oh wait, did I just say light source.  Crap I hadn't really put much, any thought into that yet.  OK I could handle this little lack of pre-planning.  I would figure out how to get the lines ran out of the model then I would have all the time in the world to think about it.
At some point I did make the decision that it would be in flying mode so I would be using the pilots.  Now the ones that came with the kit were actually really decent.  There had been at least some amount of effort put into their helmets but they still needed some assistance.  Just a bit of CA and some very careful sanding and the helmets were the right shape for Airwolf.  As far as painting them I just tried to make them look like the uniforms from the show.  I think I did a pretty good job on that count.
Lucky for me the fiber optics coming out of the back panel had a lot of room in the inside of the helicopter.  The ones in the front weren't so easy to work with.  With those I had ran the lines just like in the back but the amount of room I had to work with was just not there.  After securing the fiber optics to the front panel I had to thread the whole bunch through the back of the panel housing and make a really really tight u-turn back and under the floor to the back.  On the way there I used a piece of plastic to tie down,or up in this case, to the bottom of the floor to help keep it from moving around.  I even put one in the ceiling in the back to help light up the Dominic figure but it broke off sometime later while doing major assembly.
Now was the time to put all of the inside items together.  This step went without any real problems other than the pilot.  His one leg was angled wrong for putting him in so I cut his leg off and repositioned it to fit right.  A little bit of repainting but nothing too traumatic for me.
For the optics to get out I finally got an idea on how to do it.  I could cut a hole in the side of the pipe and then run the lines through this and down and out of the bottom of the pipe.  Shove the top of the pipe to the roof of the model and who knows what I'll do with lower end of it.  But at least I got the top half issue solved.  Ah, progress.
Putting the halves together wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but it wasn't without a bit of heartache either.  The back half where the model has nothing to do with fiber optics it went lick-i-ty split great.  The rest of the bird tied to convince me to throw it off of bridge while shooting it.  I had gaps all up the forward roof and pretty much the entire nose seam.  But with the power of lots of CA and even more sanding I filled those evil gaps.  I worked really hard to get the top of the nose to look good and near perfect.  Then I remembered that there is a cowling that goes over the top of the nose.  At least I know that it's really really pretty under that cowling.  Which by the way I had to use CA and putty to make fit right, thus more sanding.
Now to start putting on the parts that make this a bit more than your average Bell 222, the side do-hicky-things.  Before I could slap those on I needed to insert the intakes and see the big time filling and sanding that would have to be done.  After lots of CA and filing with needle files and then following that up with some delicate sandpaper work they were ready to go on. I had decided early on to not put the jet slash side thingies on until the main halves were together.  I did this because I was worried that if I put them on before hand that they might pop off if I had to twist the body to make it fit.  I don't know if this helped or not but I didn't have any problems doing it this way so I'll rack that one up as a success and even go as far as to call it a great idea.  I added the stub caps on and oh my, more sanding.  How lucky for me.
I also had the need to build the front landing gear doors.  Wow not that hard.
Next were the caps on the gun pods.  All I had to do was just put them on and be happy.  But she kept calling out to me to arm her like the wonderfully beautiful killing she is.  I gave in and decided armed her, and it felt good.  So I guess now I would need to hollow out the guns and the rocket pod.  They would be readied now but they would find their way on to her until a little closer to the end of the overall build
A few pieces here and there for that extra touch.  Lastly I added on the rear wing things that for some reason look well lined up from some angles but really screwy from other angles.  I was now ready for primer and paint.

With as dark blue as the plastic is I felt that I would be wise to prime this bird before thinking that I could paint anything white.  I don't normally prime my models so this was a big step for me.   The next step would have been painting it white but two things came up.  1. Ugly seam lines showed their ugly heads.  2. This stinking primer wouldn't dry.  Once the primer did dry it was time to deal with those seam lines, then prime again, then wait for that to primer coat to dry.

It finally did dry and I could get to the white paint.  I kind of liked how that dried, in less than a week.  I gave it a wonderful coat of tape in very strategic places and applied flat black.  It looked almost like Airwolf at that point.  But a few days later I sprayed on Model Master Graphite Metallic and she looked down right dangerous. 
Weapons were the first of the last things to do go on.  That went very well.  Next on the list was the rotors.  I painted those in somewhat boring light grey and silver to match the pictures I had found and the episodes I had watched. 
Lastly were the windows.  The main windshield and the curved lower windows were the only kit windows I used.  The rest I cut out of clear plastic. 
I really shouldn't have said lastly in reference to the windows, that needed to be reserved for the base which was not pre-planned at all.  This is the base that would not only hold the helicopter up but it would also contain the business end of the fiber optics.  I didn't really know how this was going to look but I was sure it would better having the model perched on top of a paper towel roll.  I went with a cone shaped piece of Styrofoam mounted on a large Styrofoam disk that is bigger around.  All of the light workings run down the middle of the cone and sit on top of the disk.  I separated the front panel lines from the back panel lines and each set is contained in a short piece of pipe.  This way I can light up all of the front lights or the back lights without any real problems.
I liked this model.  Would I build one again?  Oh heck yes.  Would I recommend this kit?  If you don't mind some scratch building and lots of sanding to get the prettiest bird from 80's TV.  If you could get the AMT/ Ertl one I would say buy it.  This may have been more of a passion build than a logical build but that's a good thing.  Not to mention it's the only Airwolf model I know of.
My opinion of Fiber Optics is a good one.  I'm fairly happy with my first time out with this stuff, not done to perfection by any means but not a disaster either.  The lights in the front are a little dim for my likening but the ones in the back look about right.  Yes I had a few of them break off or otherwise become non-working but since I have more than 30 of these things I'm not complaining too bad.  Besides most, OK all, of the failures are probably my own fault.
Also pre-planning is a good thing to put a bit more amount of time into.  I wish I would have.
This kit is from my own wallet.

Wyll Jones

November 2007

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