A couple of posts back, I was lightly mentioning some non-tank adventures in the world of model making. Well, this project is one of them. At the same time, it’s the biggest, most expensive and most challenging kit I’ve ever tackled.
The airplane, a history in and of itself
Historically, few vehicles are so iconic and influential to such a degree that makes them associated with a certain military operation or time period. A few examples come to mind:
- Battle of Britain – Hurricanes, Spitfires and Bf109‘s.
- Vietnam War – Huey helicopters and Patton tanks.
- Afghanistan/Iraq Wars – M1 Abrams tanks.
If you feel I’ve left out a very important event, you’re absolutely right. For me, whenever I think about the Battle of Normandy, the first thing I see is a C-47 carrying paratroopers deep into the mainland. Having lost track of the number of times I’ve watched Band of Brothers might have an influence on it, I must admit.
One of the most revolutionary air transport designs, the Douglas DC-3 civilian airliner came at the perfect moment for the US Army. Preparing the biggest military operation of their time, the idea of deploying paratrooper units deep into enemy territory seemed like an appropriate way of handling the strong defenses of the Atlantic Wall.
In 1941, the military derivative of the Douglas DC-3, the C-47, was chosen as the US Army’s standard transport aircraft. By the end of WWII, more than 10.000 units had been produced. As a troop carrier, it had a capacity of 28 soldiers in full combat gear.
Three years later, in the first few days of the Invasion of Normandy, it would drop more than 50,000 paratroopers on the shores of western Europe. All of them, with a single purpose. In the words of US president Franklin D. Roosevelt:
They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate.
While the historical significance of the airplane is undeniable, let’s see how the model scale options stack up. Well, if you like the idea of building one of these beasts, there are several kits on the market. Some of the widely-available ones include:
- 1/72nd scale Douglas C-47 Skytrain from Airfix
- 1/48th scale C-47 Skytrain from Monogram
- 1/48th scale C-47A Skytrain from Trumpeter
I really wanted to build something large, so I did a lot of research between the Monogram and Trumpeter kits ultimately choosing the latter, thanks to it being a lot more detailed and a bit easier to handle. To go with it, I got the Big Ed package from Eduard which is basically a collection of all their aftermarket detailing sets including photo-etch for detailing up the exterior, cockpit interior, troop seat-belts, exterior and flaps.
As I’m writing, the project is two thirds of the way to being done, but I don’t think it can throw any surprises at me, so I’m feeling pretty safe to review it.
As a kit, it goes together great. Very few fitting issues and even those are easily fixed with the holly combination of a hobby knife and putty. The nicely detailed interior (as you can probably see), good looking engines, and sheer size make this a fantastic choice if you’re into WWII airplanes.
The best part about a project like this is that you get basically 6 kits in 1. Bored of wing assembly? There’s a whole interior to go through. Feeling like setting the photo-etch on fire? Engine assembly says hi. Fit issues getting on your nerves? Just go ahead and put together the 28 seat-belts needed to keep the troops safe.
The Bad and the Ugly
Although the kit is a joy to put together, historically, the model is far from the actual airplane:
- the rudder is molded as riveted metal when it fact it was made out of canvas
- the molds for the engine cowlings are wrong
- the entire body of the plane shows recessed rivets when it fact it had raised rivets
- the panel layout is incorrect
Now the first two, I was able to solve by buying some resin parts from Quickboost. If you’re interested, they also offer better looking engines, although the kit ones end up looking quite good, with some tender love and care.
Sadly, the last two can make or break the model for somebody who wants to build a realistic representation of the C-47. For the rivets, there are some aftermarket options, but even then, having to glue hundreds of individual plastic bits didn’t seem fun at all, so I just rolled with what the kit had to offer.
Until I decided to take on the challenge of building the C-47, my overall experience with photo-etch was mainly as a good looking alternative for grilles of tank engine covers. A 30 second job, at most. Enter Eduard with their crazy detailed set of pre-painted photo-etch and I have to say I got hooked instantly. The detail it adds is impossible to achieve by hand. Looking at the photos, I hope you can agree.
Evenings upon evenings of detail painting and sticking my fingers together with super-glue, I managed to put together the whole interior. Painted with Vallejo Model Air acrylics and blessed by Eduard and their PE. Granted, it’s not perfect, but for how much of it will actually be visible in the end, I think it’s good enough.
The instrument panel
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will show you the final reveal of the kit put together and painted with Battle of Normandy invasion stripes.
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