GRAND PHOENIX

FIREFLY MK 1 RCN


1/48 Grand Phoenix Firefly Mk 1, RCN


by David Harvey

 

Introduction

This is the 1/48 Grand Phoenix Firefly Mk 1 that I bought from the USA a few years ago for a small sum compared to what they sell for now. It has now been released by A.Z. in various forms but without the exact same components as the GP kit. It comes with two different markings but I chose to do it as Royal Canadian Navy aircraft as I have a number of other FAA aircraft that will be in the grey/green camouflage and I wanted something different.

The model

The Grand Phoenix Firefly Mk 1 would have to be the best kit of the type that I have seen and made, it is in fact an example to other manufacturers on how to make a mixed media, limited run, kit. The reason for this is that the kit actually fits together without major modification or grinding of plastic or resin. The resin actually fits! As with all of these type kits, all parts were washed with warm soapy water prior to start of construction. Due to the manner in which the molds were made, prior to making the kit I rubbed the kit down with very fine 'wet and dry' as the surface of the plastic had a weird pebble like finish. This didn't take long but it was unusual to me.

The interior bits

The resin parts that make up the cockpit were painted Humbrol 78 interior green prior to the application of a wash and highlight. Once this was done I painted all the details as per the colour photos in the Warpaint book. Once painting was complete the parts went together well with minimal fuss. I chose to paint the seats in red leather colour as I believe that it is the correct colour for the period rather than the black colour in some photo's.

Two areas to be careful of are:

The wheel wells were also painted interior green and went into the wing with minimal fuss. This area could probably do with a little extra detail but it looked fine for my purposes as not many would see this area once finished. A small amount of the inner edge of each resin part had to be trimmed to allow it to sit in the wing/fuselage area without obstructing either of them.

Front cockpit
Observer 'pit
Wheel wells

 

The fuselage

Like most limited run kits there are no locating tabs or anything along those lines so you have to align parts carefully and ensure that they are attached strongly.

The fuselage went together well and the cockpit went in easily, unlike other of these types of kits. The first real problems I had was with the fit of the intakes onto the fuselage. The parts don't quite fit and require a bit of filing and filler to fit into the location and can be a bit delicate. I had to reglue them later on after I had painted the aircraft due to the thinness of the parts and the small amount of glue used to bond them.

As you can see from the images below the wings required a little help to get the correct angle and minimise the gap at the wing roots. The wing roots required filling with a bit of card and some Tamiya filler to make the gap disappear. The tail planes also require a little filler and rescribing but this was only minimal. The cannon barrels were fitted at this stage. I would recommend that you take time with these as they require careful fitting to lessen the amount of filler and filing.

The canopies turned out to be the biggest stuff around during the construction and painting. As I mentioned earlier the rear cockpit canopy didn't fit properly and it took me a few minutes to work out that the corner of a radio was obstructing the canopy. I did a little modification to the offending part and all was well. On the real aircraft the canopies are faired in and there is minimal panel lines showing the demarcation between glass and metal. To that end I glued on the canopies then used filler to try and blend in the parts. Once it had dried I attacked them with my files then sanded them down followed by a bit of of polishing to blend them in thoroughly. The sliding portion of the pilots canopy doesn't fit that well to the front glass, though this could be fixed by better fitment of the front part. I also drilled out a number of the rivet holes on the fuselage as they had been lost in the sanding process.

Once all of the main parts had been fitted, sanded and smoothed out the canopy was masked with opaque scotch tape. This is a fun job as with most FAA aircraft there were multitudes of small windows to be masked. At this stage was when I decided to go for a Canadian aircraft and needed the best paint matches for it. I posted a request on a few different boards and Jennings Heilig responded with what he considers to be the best match. As Jennings is one of the more knowledgeable people around on Canadian colours (he has written numerous articles about it) I figured that I would go with his recommendations, in this case "If you're going for the RCN two-tone grey scheme, use 36118 instead of British EDSG (it's darker than the Canadian color, despite the name). The lower surface color is very very close to FS 36375, which is one of the original USAF Ghost Gray colors used on the F-15." I ended up using Model Master paints as I like them as much as Humbrol and they definitely do a good rendition of the required colours. Once the intitial coats were down and well dried they were given the obligatory gloss coat of 'One Go'.

The kit markings were applied and then a semi disaster happened. Whilst I was handling the model the seat in the rear cockpit decided to part company with the seat post. After careful consideration and checking my references I decided that the aircraft would have an open rear cockpit. Unfortunately the kit does not actually allow this and a bit of surgery was required to make this happen. I used the JLC razor saw that I sourced from Red Roo and managed to cut it open without too much damage to the rest of the canopy. Once it was opened up I managed to reattach the seat and continued on. After all paints had dried I gave the aircraft a wash of very thin Humbrol Matt black paint for the panel lines for a bit of weathering and left it at that. I then gave the aircraft a coat of Humbrol Matt varnish to seal it all. Then an unusual occurrence happened as I was removing the masks from the canopies, the tape took up sheets of the matt varnish. I have never had this happen to me before and I couldn't work out why it did happen. But I let the whole thing dry even more thoroughly and reapplied the matt varnish.

The wing required help to obtain the right angle
Filler is required in a number of areas
more filler
and more
fixing in the canopies

 

The fiddly bits

Once the paints had all dried I started to fit all of the more delicate items such as antenna and undercarriage. The undercarriage went on too easily as I found out as I ended up putting the legs on backwards and had to modify them to the correct format to accept the rest of the parts. I also applied some fine wire to simulate the brake lines. This thin wire was also used to simulate the wiring loom to the radar pod. The radar pod originally came with resin legs to fix it to the aircraft but these were so thin and easily broken that I replaced them with some copper wire for strength. The copper wire was also used to replace the front antenna cable fixing post that was supplied in the kit by a minute piece of PE that would in no way hold the tension of the radio antenna cable. The antenna cable was made out of EZ-line that was sourced from Red Roo. As a precaution I also drilled out a hole in the base of the antenna and used some wire to firm up the joint between it and the fuselage.

The tail wheel strut on this aircraft is not well cast and is too short to allow the tail wheel to fit in properly. I resolved this issue by using some thin plastic rod and adding it to the end of the strut. Basically it looks like an axle for the wheel. It should also have some wire for a brake line or something like that but I didn't install that.

I left out the odd bit of small PE that was supplied, eg the footstep to the rear cockpit, as I could not get a good attachment point for the glue and it would very easily come off.

 

Whilst I had a number of problems with the making of the kit, the vast majority were my own fault due to haste and not doing this the right way. With the re-release of this kit by A.Z. in this form and a few other variants it is definitely a kit to get for a first mixed media kit. A bit of work and modelling skill will turn out a great model.

 

References

Emails:

Jennings Heilig - cam colours of the RCN
james craik- cam schemes of the RCN and further references.

Publications:

Warpaint Series no 28 - The Fairey Firefly F.Mk1 to U.Mk9.
Scale Aviation Modeleller International, Vol 9 Issue 10 Oct 2003 - article 'Firefly season' by Frank T. Cudden.