Lincoln/Kader 1/154 Short Sunderland

Model, Text & Photos by: Mark Smith

 

Airfix of England tooled a 1/72 Sunderland in 1959 as their first four-engine aircraft. A great deal of research and a new standard of toolmaking for a large airplane kit went into its production. It was a source of great pride to the company and led to an ambitious line of four engine WWII aircraft. A couple of years later, a short-lived company English company called Lincoln walked the fine line of plagiarism (God bless 'em) by releasing what was basically the Airfix kit pantographed to "fit the box" at 1/154. This resulted in a very accurate outline at that time for such a small scale; but also terrible fit, poor transparencies, thick flying surfaces, and poor fidelity of detail. That kit, severely chastised, is the subject of these photographs.

It was later released for a brief time by Kader of Hong Kong (with what was arguably the most laughable box art in modeling history), but has long since been out of production. The kit is a real temptation to build but if you ever find one, be forewarned: a serious or reasonably accurate replica calls for a lot of extra work. But the good news is that the Airfix kit that started it all is very much still available and affordable. Since the Airfix kit was the genesis for the model you see here, hopefully most of this article will prove helpful or fuel similar ideas to build and improve the Airfix kit, which can be had at a great price through Roll Models.

To capture the heft and complexity of this machine even in 1/72 will require some head-scratching - and more long-range planning than most projects call for. References are essential. Venerable British aviation writer Chaz F. Bowyer has written two superb books on the type, the classic Sunderland at War, and 1989's The Short Sunderland. Since that time Hall Park Books has come through with a Warpaint title on the Sunderland, and Osprey's book Sunderland Units of World War II followed shortly. I"ve found these the best references, and the Warpaint book has the bonus of having a fabulous set of 1/72 drawings, until then unavailable for this wonderful plane.

But it turned out that the single most helpful reference that came to the rescue repeatedly was a classic Aviagraphica cutaway that appeared in the Royal Air Force Yearbook of 1980. As I worked on various areas I would photocopy these topically at 200% onto letter size paper and insert them into an inexpensive clear plastic free-standing photo frame. If anyone wants a photocopy of this I will try to oblige, just email me.

I began work by rescribing all major parts before sanding off the raised detail, using the heavy raised panel lines as a guide; surprisingly, they were accurate such as they were. The forward wing fuel tanks are of an odd shape, and it was nice to have the kit as a template of sorts for this and other ticklish areas. The Sunderland hull was of "plank on frame" construction, and while the horizontal lines are represented, to duplicate this, many short vertical panel lines must be scribed per drawings in a staggered formation between the horizontal. Sanding and repolishing followed, as well as an attempt to refine or bevel all the exposed edges that I could before assembly.

The flight deck and cockpit was scratchbuilt from plastic card (floor, instrument panel and seats), fine brass rod, and sprue. The other exposed crew stations were turrets which proved a dilemma, as they were grossly inaccurate and toylike. Having seen the Airfix kit lately, it suffers here too, though not as badly, and would benefit from . The fit was so bad that they couldn't even be used as a basis for modification. I like to tackle the hardest part of a project first; if I can'tpull it off I will waste minimal time, so at this point I set about making new masters for the turrets from .020 plastic card laminated with super glue. The cockpit canopy was deepened by adding .010 card at its bottom, reshaped a bit, and vacformed; the existing dorsal turret was sanded to more correct shape and vacformed.

The kit featured "moveable control surfaces," a blast from your past, and a lousy idea to boot. As the wing halves were assembled these areas were sealed with superglue and "accelerator."

The vertical fin in particular needed building-up and re-shaping at the top. The entire empennage had its flying surfaces thinned by about half , and an airfoil shape added. The Airfix kit could use a similar fix. All wing and tail trailing edges were made as sharp as possible.

Outer wingtip floats were slimmed down and reshaped with their planing surfaces sharpened up, and holes were finely drilled in the floats and the bottom outer wings to accept the float rigging. At this point #80 holes were also added in preparation for the aileron control horns - two each top and bottom for each wing. At that point I felt ambitious enough to make the decision to build a Sunderland with the Mk II ASV radar; if I drilled the holes that night I'd be committed, and the plan was to make some drawings to scale and photo-etch the radar arrays. On the fuselage sides the eight units are very slightly "stepped up" fore to aft. Even in 1/72 it would be necessary to take great care here for proper alignment in top, side, and front view; I used fine striping tape to guide a mechanical pencil to mark the plastic, and only when I was satisfied with the layout did I drill. The underside of the wings were similarly marked and drilled for that array, as was the top centerline of the fuselage once assembled and the seamwork done.

In this scale, the cowlings are only 3/8" wide! Yet these come with surprisingly delicate representations of the Bristol Pegasus engine molded in; unfortunately (you knew that was coming...) the gear reduction housing is way too big, so these were ground away and replaced with housings removed from Aeroclub's 1/144 radial engines (2 sets W005).

The kit's propellers / spinners were completely fictitious. The props were replaced with reshaped and cut-down Airfix 1/144 Boeing Clipper props; spinners started out as 1/48 HVAR rocket noses sawed from a Monogram P-38.

The "hedgehog" exhausts were reworked and repositioned correctly on the cowling by fairing them into the leading edge of the cowls with superglue. Their supports, mounted on the wing, were added from fine sprue. The small airscoops under the cowling were carved from plastic card.

The leading edge landing lights were boxed in with card, and N scale railroad lights were used for lamps; the lenses themselves were cellotape. The leading edge oil cooler intakes between the engines were opened up and filed square.

After seemingly dozens of attempts, the old Mattel Vac-U-Form finally pulled some usable transparencies. I found that before painting it would be best to add them so I could fair them in as neatly as possible. The guns proved to be the victims of too many moves, with only the dorsal turret's little sprue weapons still around.

I used PollyScale Acrylics which had been lightened for scale effect to represent "U" "Uncle" of 201 Squadron based at Loch Erne in Ireland in March 1943. The machine is a MkII which is representative of RAF Coastal Command's compelling color scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey topsides with all else white (the white is Tamiya Acrylic). The code 'U' is in red. My friend Mike Quan came up with a perfect selection of decals once I sent him the necessary measurements. According to him, they were rounded up from Modeldecal, War Eagle, Superscale, and in the mail in a week or two. My only contribution was the tiny numbered serial just forward of the empennage pieced together from an Archer 1/48 P-40 stencil sheet. I was just able to make out the number with a magnifying glass from a photo of 'U' I stumbled across near the end of the project.

All the canopy framing (excepting the two difficult horizontal compound curves on the canopy) was cut from clear decal sheet which had been sprayed first with interior grey-green followed by the topside camouflage color. In extremely small scale I found this a great time-saver though I've never been a proponent of this technique (I am now...).

Along these lines, it was during this project that I began making sure that each time I sprayed a color at the bench, I sprayed a corresponding square of clear decal sheet. I was able to use these to surprising advantage when it came time to touch up glitches - it avoids the pain of masking and setting up to spray a tiny area and it matches flawlessly when compared to handpainted touchups. Now I do this with each model project, and am collecting a drawer full of "solid color decals." To ensure a good match keep those swatches handy to match overcoats (example: primer, color coat, decal sealant coat) between the model and the decals. And note the type paint and model on which it was used with a pencil on the back, as they might save you much grief down the line when trying to restore a damaged model

The final details brought the model to life: aileron control horns; ADF football; and the radar arrays, which were finally made from fine brass rod, flattened brass rod, and stretched sprue. Seventy four pieces comprise the six separate arrays.

The main beaching gear was scratchbuilt except for the wheels, lifted from the LS 1/144 "Emily," while the dolly that supports the rear hull had its origins in the same kit but was changed where necessary. Finally, the weathering was accomplished through thinned water colors for panel lines, airbrushed exhaust stains, and liberal use of chalk pastels. In particular, the hull's waterline was taped off, paint chipping applied, and a rust mixture concocted from pastels and dusted on just below. When the tape was removed and the excess blown off, a large flat brush was used to blend the staining. The aerials and float rigging were accomplished with good old fashioned stretched sprue drawn taut with a firecracker punk, and this off-and-on project, after only ten years and three different residences, was done.

Editor's Note:

The kit Mark is reviewing here is long out of production, but the Airfix Sunderland in 72nd scale builds into a nice kit and is readily available:


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I'm sorry, but since the review has been published that product appears to have gone out of production.