Heller 1/72 Caudron C-635 Simoun
Named after the Arabic word for a certain variety of desert
wind, the wooden Caudron C.635 Simoun was first flown in 1934. Blocky
and maybe a little dumpy-looking on the ground, the four-seater in reality
The design otherwise figured in the 1935 Paris-Saigon air race, notable mainly for participant Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's en-route crash in the Libyan desert. Marooned without a radio and few supplies, Saint-Exupéry and his navigator dehydrated and hallucinating, nearly succumbed to exposure and the elements before being rescued by (who else?) a passing band of Bedouins. The experience would inspire the author in works Wind, Sand and Stars and The Little Prince.
The kit is very conventional. A stout flip-top box easily big enough to hold the finished model reveals three slightly bluish-gray sprues and one clear, hailing from the era of crisply raised panel lines (I think the molds were cut in the mid-seventies). This is the current issue of the kit as of this writing and Heller's decals look absolutely fantastique in the box: glossy, opaque, precise registration, and razor-sharp resolution. The garish yellow F-ANXM option has been in every issue of this kit but this one's the only release which also includes the prominent red stripes and trim, eliminating a tedious masking and color match task. Two other options are offered, one civilian machine in overall deep blue as currently exhibited in the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, and an Armée de l'Air liaison machine in overall light gray from 1938.
Despite the simplicity of the kit, there's been some complaint in previous online builds about Heller's strange 2-piece split windscreen. I got around this problem--if you could call it that--because I had the Falcon vac-form replacement (from Set # 26) which is molded in a single piece. This may well be the only instance in my modeling life that a vacuform part saved time!
[The supplied windscreen parts did well when I dry-fitted them for this review, however. Assembly suggestion: Lay each fuselage half flat on your work surface, set the corresponding windshield halves into them, and use capillary action to flow just a little liquid cement into the joint. Let this set up for a minute or two, then tape the fuselage halves together accurately, perform any remaining adjustments to the windshield parts while the cemented joint is still pliable, and leave it all to cure overnight. Separate the halves and proceed with the rest of assembly normally.]
Sanding flat and polishing the kit side windows followed, to get rid of some annoying optical distortion. I next made up the interior, sprinkling in a little extra detail on the cockpit sidewalls, too, referencing photos on the internet, plus some lead-foil seatbelts: the front seating area is actually pretty visible on the completed model, particularly from the front. Since the basic interior color is red(!), I assembled the propeller as well, mixed up a red to match that on the decal sheet, and then sprayed the interior parts and prop spinner at once. Since all other rouge is accounted for in the decals, I therefore had one finish color down before even beginning general assembly. A little time was taken for the fairly complex cabin painting, mainly the seats.
However, I hadn't bothered to dry-fit the fuselage halves properly, and was rewarded with stubborn seam lines top and bottom when the fuselage halves were joined. A few sessions were spent dealing with this, as I ended up having to slice off the antenna and cabin vent details on the roof to achieve an acceptable surface, replacing them with bits of shaped styrene when this was done. I also replaced the fragile tailwheel leg with brass rod and added some more detail around the engine cowling, including new exhaust stubs from Albion Alloys aluminum tubing. I left off the propeller and then squashed the prop shaft slightly with a pair of needle nose pliers to make it press-fit-removable into the cowl part.
Half an hour of masking the windows followed, along with the otherwise trouble-free general assembly, and it was off to the paint shop.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
A flat white enamel primer was applied, followed by Testor's Gloss Yellow in two coats plus a little light sanding. Dog hair is an integral atmospheric component in my home, gathering in corners, appearing in my food, and showing up on the front of my pressed white suit-shirts when I'm conducting formal briefings to Fellow Humans of Significant Stripe at Very Important Places. Oh, yes--and in absolutely anything I paint! So I'm getting into the tardy habit of fine sanding between coats. On my models, not the spoiled canines.
Two coats of Future were followed by the decals. These came through
on the promise brought by their appearance in the box by going on and curing
beautifully with Microscale decal Set and Sol. I did take the precaution of
spending about five minutes brushing on more Micro Sol on each wing panel top,
'working' the one-piece decal over the contours, as there's a dihedral break
under it and I was concerned it would wrinkle if not dealt with. Zero wrinkles
remained when I pulled the model out for inspection the following morning, and
the decals had really 'popped' the model to life. A flat coat was shot next to
capture a light weathering treatment (as befits a hard-flown cross-country racer
in the midst of contest) followed by a semi-gloss to lock it all in while giving
a bit of sheen and depth.
A deceptively time-consuming project. While not exactly the shake-'n'-bake I'd envisioned, the little Simoun was still a satisfying diversion which throws a splash of color into my drab WWII lineup. Loads of character in one of the first mass-produced true general aviation aircraft. Highly recommended as a nice change of pace.
For some reason the yellow in the images turned out with a distinct orange hue. The color on the model is more lemony.
Kit instructions and the Internet, tied together with a smattering of my own knowledge! Plus watching the '70s film version of The Little Prince when I was a kid.
20 April 2018
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