Now, I am onto an aircraft, a model of which I have wanted to build for years. I had two choices. One was the Monogram kit. Frankly I like Monogram kits and have built several in recent years. But I selected the HobbyBoss 1/48 scale Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star. I believe it may still be in production; I picked it up from Rare-Plane Detective at the IPMS Nats in Las Vegas last year. The kit is out of stock at SprueBrothers, and they do not have the provision for you to leave your email address for notification when it is back in stock. Perhaps our Asian friends are injecting plastic into other molds. Who Knows? Read about the kit on Scalemates here.
While I have built a number of Takom armor kits (which I think are generally excellent). The only Chinese aircraft kit I have built is a Trumpeter 1/48 scale MiG-3. It was a good kit, but I have been turned off by some others I have looked at. The HobbyBoss Hellcat looks like a Hellcat that had been mistakenly built by Brewster on the Buffalo assembly line. Tamiya, Eduard, Airfix and Monogram kits have always attracted me more, I guess.
None the less, I chose this one over the Monogram kit, and so far I am glad I did.
Here are the basic cockpit parts. The seat was assembled from six parts. The detail is passable. When I compared the instrument panel with a photo of the restored F-80C at the USAF Museum it was spot on. My painting may not have done it justice.
The seatbelt fret included with the kit is pretty nice. I sprayed it with Tamiya Grey Surface Primer which states on the can that it will prime metal. It does, but it also scrapes easily. I brush painted the belts Khaki with Vallejo Model Color, and later brush painted the buckles and such with Vallejo Model Air Silver. PE is not my friend, but I managed to get them attached to the seat with some CA
Taking a break from working on the cockpit, I decanted some spray paint to be used via airbrush later.
Good old Tamiya TS-17 Gloss Aluminum. I have done this before. All you need is an articulated plastic straw, some mounting putty (such as Loctite Fun-Tak or similar), and some newspaper or drop cloth to protect the work area in the event of some overspray (which I have not experienced). Oh, yes, a latex or vinyl glove for the hand holding the stray to the spray can nozzle. There may be a little leakage.
You can also wrap some masking tape around the assembly to further seal it. My experience is that this paint does not come out of the can with great force. It sprays into the bend in the straw, settles against the straw’s inner surface and drips into the bottle. Do not fill the bottle to the top. Fill the bottle leaving 1/3 to 1/4 of the space unused.
The paint will be loaded with what I understand is the propellant that was mixed with it to propel the paint out of the can. This gas must be allowed to evaporate out of the paint. If you put a wooden stir stick in the bottle right after decanting the paint, you will see a sudden burst of small bubbles, like foam, quickly rise to the surface. If you had filled the bottle, you would have an overflow.
My theory (please remember I am a lawyer, not a chemical engineer) is that there is a reaction with the stick that causes the propellant to gas out of the paint. I stir it a little, and then I put the cap on loosely so it is not air tight. I come back an hour or so later, and stir it again. There will be more – but fewer – bubbles. I have found that repeating this twice more seems to take care of that gas, and then I fully secure the bottle.
This paint airbrushes like a dream. Tamiya Lacquer Thinner lets you adjust the viscosity to the consistency you want, if needed.
By the way, you might skip all this if you simply buy the new Tamiya lacquer in a bottle, as I think it is very similar to the rattle can paint. However, I have some Tamiya rattle cans I intend to use up.
Returning to the workbench, I painted and assembled the cockpit module. Everything fit together as designed. I was assisted by photos of the F-80C restored by the USAF itself for their museum. The problem with cockpit photos is that you are often looking at a cockpit with modern avionics installed and military equipment removed, not to mention one or two less than color accurate repaint jobs. That is why the Air Force Museum restorations (or the Smithsonian) are to be relied on, in my view.
One final observation. The bulkhead in front of the cockpit has a cabinet/rack molded into it for electronic equipment, probably the radar, radio, etc. However, it is sealed into the nose of the model never to be seen again. It is as if the mold designer was getting ready to do a detailed nose bay perhaps with guns, ammo and other items. And, someone told him to go no further.
The same applies to that item on the left, which represents the front end of the jet engine. It is not very detailed, but it does not matter. It will be sealed in when the tail is attached. Unlike the Monogram model, which is designed to have the tail removed and even comes with a wheeled cart to mount it on, this kit is not designed to be finished in two large pieces.
Could it be that this model started out as a bit more ambitious a replica? Maybe, but I am glad it was marketed in the form it was. Thank you for visiting. Time to get back to the workbench.