Merlin & Allied Research North 1/72 A-12 Shrikes
|PRICE:||$20.00 each when new|
|NOTES:||Very short run kits|
The last two decades or so saw the sprout, bloom, and wither of the cottage kit industry. A half dozen mostly one-man-show operations; Pegasus, Merlin, Meikraft, Twelve Squared, Beechnut, and Allied Research North, tried to cash in on the willingness of experienced modelers to indulge in extensive plastic surgery for the sake of forsaken subjects. Only the first mentioned still survives (sort of Like Adolph Galland’s book: Die Erste und Die Letste), but their productions still float around on Internet swap sites or at modelers’ meets. The hush-hushness with which these operators treated their release schedules occasionally backfired, resulting in duplications. That’s what happened with the Shrike mid-war attack aircraft. Versions were near simultaneously molded by the British Merlin Company, and the US Allied Research North; a short-lived possible Second Coming of the Beechnut firm, which just prior to its demise had turned out the inline engined A-8. This build was a “best 2 out of 3”. Both versions were constructed from the most useable portions of all 3 kits with a frequent and deep dive into the spare parts pile. This report covers the A-12.
Air actions in the war had hinted at the potential of what we now call close air support, but by the time the ground-bound generals decided to cash in on the possibilities more than a decade had passed since the armistice. When they did, they found themselves frozen in a moral midstream between rapidly accelerating technology and the tried but untrue techniques of the past. Their muddlings resulted in a curious chimera: a metal moncoque fuselage still sitting on fixed, heavily spatted landing gear; a single wing sporting flaps and slats but still tuck on with struts and wires; a liquid cooed inline harnessed to a fixed pitch prop; all directed from an open front office (the A-8 did have a canopy hood but references show this deleted and say pilots generally flew with a stiff breeze on their cheeks). Before the A-8 went into full service, the designers (or at least the specifiers) decided that a big amount of drag was a small price to pay for the reliability of a round engine; ergo the radial A-12 with reconfigured cockpits and other refinements.
Kit duplication is no skin off the nose of builders, because “Straight Out of the Box” simply does not apply to early limited edition kits. The more parts on hand, the better the chances of emerging with a reasonable replica and an intact psyche. Step one was laying out all parts and deciding which should go with what. Marking parts with colored “X’s” kept the sort-out straight (see photo). All parts presented with major inaccuracies and deformities; so selecting the least worst was a difficult process. Step 2 involved upending the spare parts bins to find better alternatives for all the apputenances and appendiculars. Only the fuselages, airfoils, and gear spats were kept. All small parts were scratch built or scrounged.
Allied Research North’s fuselage featured an overly short and squat forward section; while Merlin seemed to have more accurately captured the profile of the Shrike’s schnozzola. The opposite situation prevailed regarding vertical fins and tail cones. The obvious solution was a bit of Frankensteinian “cut and pasting” (check photo). An inaccuracy in the pilot’s cockpit cutout was semi-easily fixed with a sliver of sheet stock and putty. Detailing the interior of the body clamshells was mostly a matter of imagination, but what, besides seat, stringers, and throttle quadrant could possibly have resided there in the real thing. Merlin also won the toss-up in the choice of wings. The other kit’s were molded as split upper & lower panels, but were too short and narrow (according to an assumedly accurate scale 3-view drawing on Merlin’s instruction sheet). The Brit’s wing panels were solid, but suffered from a “taffy Pull” deformity – a mid span constriction in camber and chord. The first part was fixable by filing down the entire thickness – bringing it more in line with photos of a razor thin, rather than Piper Cub airfoil cross section. Correcting the width meant first filing straight both leading and trailing edges, then restoring the proper chord with plastic strips and filler. All surface detail was, of course, lost and had to be re-scribed. Tail feathers also had to be thinned. Mating the re-shaped wings and empennage to their fuselage stubs occupied many hours of carving and filling, surely inducing errors in placement.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Came from Squadron Signal’s Air Force Colors V1, courtesy of Testor’s Model Master enamels, Superscale generic markings, and, of course, Future Acrylic Floor Polish. Lack of a plan view reference may have induced an error in the paint scheme. The National Air and Space Museum displays a large scale A-8 model (most assuredly more accurate than mine) with the fuselage color extending out on the wings as far as the strut/spat attach points. From the painter’s perspective that would make sense, since the wings probably bolted on at that station. If confirming references can be found, along with the required time, energy, and impetus, the boo-boo will ultimately be corrected with a sliver of painted decal film.
Fiddly bits were, as noted, outsourced. The Pratt & Whitney or whatever-it-was came from Engines’n’Things Resins. The Prop is a polished Aeroclub metal; the cowl donated by a demolished Monogram F-4 bipe. The Exhaust collector ring and stub were fashioned from a snippet of electrical solder, handy because the rosin core can be drilled out to create a hollow pipe. Rigging was done with so called invisible thread. Transparencies posed a closing predicament, as can be seen from the accompanying photo. Merlin’s cataraceous injected rear canopy was sanded down and used as a master for thermoforming (heat & stretch) a square of acetate. The front windshield was cut from a flat piece and trial and error (mostly error) folded & fitted to a reasonable shape.
With a three full shelf stash of intriguing models begging to be built, I have no idea what compelled me to get tangled up in this best-2-out-of-3 kit-bashing. The results look pretty good, but thanks to all the noodling needed to fix the flaws and make things fit probably wouldn’t stand up too well next to a set of accurate reference drawings. It’s only a matter of time before one of the new generation limited edition kit producers turns out a slick set of Shrikes. (MPM has one in 1/48 and will doubtless pantograph it down to 1/72).
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