Red box ramble – Airfix’s 1/72 MkI Blenheim – Part One

Hi folks.

A little soirée through Airfix’s MkI Blenheim in 1/72 has beckoned, after I went up into the loft recently to look for a side project I could run parallel with a current AMW build. Scanning through possible selections from several manufacturers, those red boxes and their beautiful artwork proved, as they often do, too much to resist and this occasion was no exception.

The kit was originally bought with Xtradecals X72202 sheet and it’s inclusion of the ‘UQ’ desert scheme option, which promised to be great fun and a fine weathering target.

As many will already know, these kits, lovely as they are, need meticulous clean up of every edged surface before committing to glue – something that happily goes hand in hand with a newly acquired bluetooth speaker and an extensive modelling playlist on the iPhone.

As an aside, I routinely hang the entire kit out on pins tacked into the surrounding shelves – it makes for quick and easy parts access. More complex kits have their sprues marked with their individual letters via taped fluorescent Post-It notes, again for quick ID. I find the practice space saving, as the kit parts don’t hang over items necessary for building as a rule and if exceptionally they do, then it’s easy to keep said item on the bench itself.

A kind soul on Britmodeller posted the following pair of images of ‘UQ’ he’d retrieved from IWM archives.

1 and 2 – After circumnavigating all the edges and levelling out the imperfections, a taped test fit of the rear fuselage into the wing section was useful in throwing up the overly tight marriage that was clearly going to need easing.

3 – The consequence of this was visible underneath, with a gap between the rear and mid bomb bay sections.

4 – In tandem with this, the upper fuselage carries tabs that need to slip over the ‘spar’ when the fuselage is able to slide further forwards.

5 – Changing tack briefly, this deliberately lit shot shows a raised lip of plastic that needs filing flat, as per the nacelle front face below it. These occurrences of surplus plastic are a feature of the kit and need to be ruthlessly eliminated.

6 – Seen from above, the mating surfaces along the wing join have been slowly adjusted with a little scraping from a No.11 blade and 1200 grit abrasive. Even so, comparison with the wing trailing edge and fuselage wing fillet still shows the need to enable the fuselage to slide forwards just a little more to produce a smooth curve, one into the other.

7 – A small surprise to discover the wing tip lamp covers are solid plastic. This will never do, so the errant portions will be amputated and clear sprue blocks glued in and filed and polished to shape a bit later down the build.

8 – Call me old fashioned but Francois Verlinden was advocating removal of the so called ‘alignment pins’ back in the late ’70s and I still do it today. With everything ‘loose’, fit can be tweaked with much more abandon. In addition, the parts were rotationally sanded on a piece of 1200 grit on a heavy sheet of bevelled plate glass. This always leads to the closest possible joint and minimises the need for glue.

9 – A small incremental improvement is the removal of the moulded rudder actuators. A small hole will be drilled in the fairings and fine, stretched sprue used for a fully 3D rendition.

10 – The alignment pin massacre extended to the wings and gave an immediate improvement in fit.

11 – As the chosen decal option is a desert bird and carried tropical filters, some Barracuda Cast resin, along with their replacement wheels and a black vinyl mask set have since flown in from those folks in Lowestoft.

Expect glue and paint in the next thrilling instalment!





Big Red

One of the attractions in writing for Airfix Model World, is not knowing quite what might be heading down the ‘next project pipe’ that points in my direction. When you’ve just dressed up the big Tamiya Mosquito with a selection of brass and resin, why would Airfix’s 1/72 Autocar and F1 fuel trailer in civilian ‘Esso’ guise, seem a likely choice?

And therein lies the joy – a sharp change of pace, a departure (at least in part) from weathering and the chance to re-visit a kit previously built in US military service and refine it some.

The results are out now in the September edition of AMW.


AMW Sept 17




Bad Wolf



Airfix 1/24 ‘Car Door’ Hawker Typhoon

From an entirely personal perspective, it was a real pleasure, some two years on from 2014, to have witnessed modellers around the globe produce numerous beautiful builds of Airfix’s epic Typhoon, while in tandem with this, the aftermarket industry had diligently added more and more goodies to augment and enhance an already ground breaking kit.

There was little surprise in 2016 therefore, when the long expected news finally broke from the Airfix camp – their astonishing ‘bubble top’ Hawker Typhoon was to be revamped as a ‘car door’ production and added to their 1/24 range. This was great news to me for three reasons; the ‘car door’ configuration allowed vastly better visual access to the cockpit than the ‘slider’ version, rewarding any and all extra time spent further detailing this area. Then there was the quirky, quintessentially British design and appearance of the early Tiffie, particularly around the driver’s part of the airframe. Finally, I was hoping Chris would offer the pre-production sample to Castle Croydon, as my appetite for another Typhoon banquet was fairly raging! Happily he did, when we spoke at Scale Model World in 2015.

The subject of schemes naturally arose and I mentioned that for me, there was only one game in town – it really had to be one of the three aircraft sent to North Africa for filter trials in 1943. The notion of that wide expanse of plastic, smothered in Dark Earth, Middle Stone and Azure Blue was compelling, particularly as a contrast to the European scheme on the test shot I’d built in 2014. Xtradecal cemented things with their lovely sheet, X24002, that included ‘DN323’, one of three airframes I was considering. As was the case with the ‘bubble top’ Typhoon, Chris Thomas (‘Mr Typhoon’) was once again a huge and pivotal help in this project and sent me over the following images of DN323.

At Boscombe Down, 1943 – immediately before being crated up for Africa.

DN323 Hawker.jpg

Before application of the individual aircraft letter.

DN323 + nk

After application of the individual aircraft letter.

DN323 Y 451sq

The three trials aircraft garaged outside in North Africa, 1943.

Trp trials Typhoons line-up.jpg

When the trials ended in October 1943, DN323 was repainted in what looks like the standard European scheme, before being repatriated back to Britain.


The sprues included a new turtle deck and other parts specific to the ‘car door’. The original fuselage needs the appropriate plastic removed to allow the new deck in and the amount of plastic to eliminate is clearly delineated. Subsequent fit of the replacement deck was nigh on perfect.


The lower wing is a fine, purpose made jig for the dry alignment of the spars, cockpit tubing and bulkhead / firewall before resorting to glue. This way, the core structure can be assembled accurately, preventing fit issues further down the build.


The cockpit tubing was ‘beaten up’ via dry-sponging in Humbrol 66 Dark Grey, with random Humbrol lighter greys and a little of their silver. This broke up the finish suitably but in truth, the lower tubes become barely visible even with a cockpit door open.


Eduard’s interior etch and Airscale’s lovely decal set were used en masse, together with some wiring to the column.


The early style pilot’s seat was undercoated in Tamiya Black, then protected with Johnson’s Klear. Once overcoated with Tamiya Sky Grey and then AK Interactive’s Worn Effects, the paint was attacked with a quarter inch chisel brush with fairly stiff bristles. This chipped the paint some but the range of tones was deemed insufficient, so a further quick application of Tamiya Sky Grey and Worn Effects was laid over, obscuring the existing chips some 50% – it was NOT re-applied as a solid colour coat. More wet scrubbing left the seat exactly as I wanted it.


Radu Brinzan etch and Roy Sutherland resin carb cone adorn the radiator.


With careful preparation, your new turtle deck will fit exactly. Please be aware that most car doors had the anti-collision beacon (clear part 06) fitted. Check your references; there is a hole under Z22 (the new turtle deck) to be drilled out for the beacon to fit through – the item was missed out of the instructions and it seems there is no errata slip in the production kits. 45.jpg

Despite queries to Chris Thomas and extensive personal scrutiny of records at the National Archives in Kew, England, no photographs of the ‘wet type’ under fuselage air filter ultimately used in the North African trials were found. I believe the ‘dry type’ filters readily caught fire through fuel running back down the inlet system. The ‘wet type’ somehow obviated this, although I have no information to explain how. The actual filter was likely longer than that seen here (which was confiscated from the ‘bubble top’ kit), as an easy expedient for readers as well as myself!


Who could resist ‘winding down’ one of the windows, when you’re on a tight ten week build schedule, realise the clear plastic is brittle and only have one set of clear parts? Taking a deep breath, it was a tweak too inviting to resist and just looks so cool. Airfix don’t provide door winders, so these were cobbled together from a punch and die set and plastic strip.


Both uppers and lowers were ‘scribbled’ with the airbrush, in the wake of laying in the base colours. This simple technique was first advertised by the author in early 2008, in an article published on Hyperscale. It has since been dubbed ‘mottling’ and other terms but the principles are the same – one to three lightened mixes of the base colour at 20% colour to 80% thinner are ‘scribbled’ over the base.

Imagine trying to get an errant biro working again, as you scribble it randomly on paper – this is the basic action. It’s important to let go of conscious control; you can even write names, words, phrases as you go; the paint is so thin you will (or should) only get trace marks where lines intersect. Scribble in 10-20 second bursts. If marks are too prominent, simply drift a 20% mix of the base colour over the top, to knock it back. Once the lightened tones are on, apply one to three darker mixes as above.

You can also use other colours of course but application remains the same. Work in layers, building up the effects slowly. Above all, avoid following geometric structures, panel lines and so forth – be ‘organic’. By all means follow rules of sun and weather exposure, as well as gravity and so forth but don’t wind up with any geometric symmetry.


The uppers ‘scribbled’ in three stages.




Decals in full swing.





The only thing I had no access to at the point I reached this stage, was any imaging of the door limiter. There is now a dedicated ‘car door’ Eduard set that includes the guide rail I believe.

The second photo below was passed to me after all was signed, sealed and delivered!


Some useful details – note the ‘edged’ window glass.

Car door window

This was another Tiffie that swallowed the whole ten weeks I had to expend on it. The pleasure on its completion was even greater than that of the ‘bubble top’. I guess the advantage of knowing what the kit required, made dealing with the parts that differed easy. It was also great to go full tilt at the cockpit and be able to appreciate it through the open door.

On the bench, immediately following completion.


Out on the flight line. The model now resides with my earlier ‘bubble top’ build at the Airfix Visitor Centre, in Margate.

1-24 Typhoon.jpg

Issue 70 of AMW – available through the Key Publishing Shop or Airfix Model World links in the sidebar on the right.

Issue 70.jpg


Airfix 1/24 Hawker Typhoon ‘bubble top’

I think I’d completed three prior builds for Airfix Model World, when Chris Clifford rang me in the Autumn of 2013 to say he had something that he thought would be ‘right up my street’ and ‘would I be interested’. I asked what it was and was told it was a secret that he was unable to divulge at that time, so I did what you never do in the army and volunteered.

As Scale Model World at Telford approached, I was climbing out of my own skin not knowing what the deal was, until finally Chris was able to divulge that Airfix were set to release a brand new ‘super kit’ of the Hawker Typhoon in 1/24. The significance of the kit was two-fold; it was to mark Airfix’s 75th year in business and as a tribute to the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Chris added that the kit’s detail broke new ground and set new standards of production; most significantly, he added that test builds would be on show at Telford.

That clinched the trip to SMW that year and I met the kit and numerous sprues in person, together with the crowds who thronged round the Airfix stand in open mouthed amazement at the complexity and detail on show. I was staggered too. I’d not seen anything like it. I had a bit of a chat to Simon Owen, the designer, a disconcertingly youthful guy, full of charm and brimming with enthusiasm for ‘his’ baby, displayed in various stages of undress around the Airfix stand. “Can’t wait to see the first one fully painted up!” he said to me at the close of our chat. ‘You and me both’ I thought as I wondered how long I’d have to build it. The following January I found out.

Two complete kits turned up at Castle Croydon (in case of mishap – they were clearly warned about me in advance). Chris asked for a ‘flight line’ ready model in ten weeks. I looked at the 230 odd construction steps. I looked at the calendar. It seemed impossible to fit the one into the other but Chris made it clear that ten weeks was all there was, so I added that pressure to the expectations of the Airfix management and design team that I’d do justice to their 75th anniversary baby. I told Chris I felt like I was atop a pyramid. Below me was Chris and the AMW production team, beneath them was the whole of Airfix and Hornby and at the base, the thousands of modellers world wide who were panting to see the Tiffie finished, published and released as a full production kit. I’ve never felt more alone but I nonetheless knuckled down, chopped up my time and set way points where I knew I had to be to complete the thing on schedule.

Typhoon supplement cover

I grew up on Airfix kits – the bagged ones with the card headers. I remember I would literally run to the shop on the green every Friday, pocket money tightly gripped in hand.
I’d then trot home with my prize and rapidly translate the parts into a Beaufighter that did sterling duty over the channel or a Mk IX Spitfire that knocked lumps off the 109G-6, that it routinely shot down innumerable times or anyone of more kits than memory can now recall. Happy days, steeped for the most part in Airfix plastic; although Frog, Revell and Monogram all made cameo appearances from time to time.

As I sat at the bench, the sprues hung from pins in the wall shelving, I smiled to think of what the small boy would have said to be told that one day he’d get to play with the biggest Airfix gig in their 75 year history.

The amazing ‘oil canning’ achieved in the moulding.


The key to Typhoon happiness is to use the the lower wing section as a jig to align the spars, which in turn brings everything else into line. At that point, with everything dry fitted, you can set it all with glue.


Airscale decals were a life saver, given that no kit decals were available. I was happy to ‘loan’ the spare IP bits to Peter Castle at Airscale, so he could finalise a dedicated set to coincide with the kit’s production release.


Heavy metal. Michael Harding black oil paint was used in thin washes to patina the metal. The MH oils have hand ground pigments – much superior to other brands.


The gun bays do not contain any variant of ‘zinc chromate yellow’ – something I can attest to, having seen inside unrestored bays on the real machine.


The build consumed industrial quantities of masking tape. The long, thin strips ensured square application of the fuselage D-Day stripes.


With the main paint and D-Day stripes in place on the model, it was time for decals.


The model was finished on the last day of the ten week schedule and it was a source of huge pleasure to see it done.

The model was requested by Airfix for display at the Visitor Centre in Margate. I was happy to deliver it to its new home in exchange for a production kit. The model had an appearance on tv, When Simon Owen was interviewed about it.

Sam and my Tiffie

On the flight line.



The kit was greeted with wild enthusiasm around the globe and with the parts breakdown clearly indicating a ‘car door’ version was in the offing, I crossed my fingers and waited…