Building a 1/72 Spad 12 by combining the Pegasus and Revell kits.
By Neil Crawford
The SPAD XII was developed from the SPAD VII which was only armed with
one machine-gun, the SPAD XII was a radical way of improving matters.
Mounted between the Vee of the motor block was a 37mm Hotchkiss cannon.
A Vickers .303 machine gun was fitted, but was often removed so as to
improve balance. The engine was the latest version of the geared Hispano-Suiza
V8, power increasing to 220hp eventually. Wings were slightly bigger,
and the higher thrust line of the geared engine together with low mounted
exhaust pipes gave the Spad XII a distinctive slim-line appearance.
Problems with the SPAD XII were the usual Spad problems due to overheating
of the engine, also fumes from the cannon, de Turenne complained that
firing the cannon threw the engine out of order. The SPAD XII went into
service with selected pilots of the French Air Force and their allies.
Many of the French aces tried the Spad 12, but it was tricky to fly due
to being nose-heavy; aiming the cannon was difficult, and so was reloading.
But victories were scored using the cannon, one pilot got behind a German
bomber, let fly, and the plane disappeared.
The highest scoring French ace was René Fonck some experts think
that his score was likely higher than von Richthofen's he was a
master of the SPAD XII, shooting down eleven enemy aircraft flying it,
more than anyone else. After seeing a profile of his aircraft I knew that
was the one I wanted to do, not too flashy like Madon's plane, or too
discreet like Guynemer's, just 5-colour French camouflage with a flash
I ordered the kit as soon as it was announced. For those who don't
know, I must admit to being completely bonkers about Spads. After a long
wait it finally arrived, but I'm afraid I had mixed feelings when I looked
it over. Pegasus have done a wonderful job on the fuselage, as good or
better than Hasegawa/Tamiya, the white-metal parts are beautiful, with
the exception of the exhaust pipes which unfortunately look like copies
of the incorrect Revell parts, I wish he had copied the Airfix exhausts
they are much better. Decals are very good, but unfortunately only
for Madon's red machine, I would have preferred decals for Guynemer's
or Fonck's machine which are more typical and better documented.
For me it is the wings that were a disappointment, I've been brought
up on Revell Spad 13 wings, and anything less just doesn't satisfy me.
Compared to photos of the real thing, the gently done "mountains and valleys"
representation of the ribs on the Revell kit is perfect. The Pegasus kit
just has raised lines to represent the rib tapes, I'm sure you could make
a good job of them, but for myself, I just don't like them.
There are a couple of minor faults on the lower wing, the strut attachment
reinforcements beneath the wings don't match up with the strut holes on
top, they are on the wrong rib. This made me smile, just shows that even
professional mould-makers are human! The lower wing is also a rib short
compared to the plans in Windsock, but to be honest, after looking at
some photos instead of the plans, Pegasus could just as well be right
There are a couple of difficult joints, the top rear fuselage is tricky
to sand without losing all the beautiful stringer details, but on the
other hand putting the joint on the fuselage side is not much better which
Pegasus did on the nose. I imagine Pegasus do as well as they can within
their production capabilities, they have certainly captured the racy lines
of the Spad 12 extremely well.
interior of my model is a combination of Pegasus parts and photo-etched
odds and ends. I did go to the effort of making a butt for the cannon,
but it was a complete waste of time, you can't see a thing. The Spad 12
is unusual because it uses the Deperdussin system of control, which is
a steering wheel for aileron control mounted on a U-shaped piece of tubing
connected to the elevators. I did the steering wheel by making a ring
of fine brass wire and gluing a cross made of plasticard strip in the
a lot of looking at the Pegasus wings and comparison to Revell Spad 13
wings, I realised that the Revell wings had the same distance between
ribs, and also importantly the same distance between the strut attachments,
so ribs could be safely removed at the tips and next to the centre section.
The chord was too large but mostly on the leading edge. So I took a Revell
top wing and sawed off the centre section plus about 3mm extra on each
side, then sawed off a rib from the tips, 2mm was also sawn off the leading
edge. I thought the Pegasus centre-section looked better than the Revell,
so I prepared to glue my Revell wing panels to that. First the Pegasus
wing-panels were cut off, then small holes were drilled where the joint
would be, I cut small stumps of 1mm piano wire that go in these holes
and the corresponding holes in the Revell wing panels. It is vital that
all holes and wing panels match up exactly, luckily they did, and I could
glue the whole conglomeration together. A new leading edge was added from
strue, that I just puttied smooth with the rest. The trailing edge matched
rather well for some reason, so all I needed to do was a little work with
The lower wing was easier because it was just a matter of shortening
by about 3mm nearest to the fuselage, and about one rib at the tip. It's
important to shorten top wings and bottom wings by the same amount so
that the struts retain the correct angle. I used the Pegasus fuel tank
and lower centre-section, for no particular reason, and did the same metal-pin
reinforcements as for the top wing. A disadvantage of using Revell wings
is the engraved ditches for the struts which have to be filled and sanded.
I read in the Windsock review of the kit that Doug Carrick is doing new
Spad 12 drawings, something about the wing-tips should be more rounded,
I looked at some photos and rounded off my tips a little more, but I felt
I couldn't do much more, you can spend your life waiting for references,
at some stage you have to put knife to plastic.
the wings, means the tail plane also has to be changed otherwise the style
of ribbing doesn't match. The Revell parts are a fraction big, but again
mostly on the leading edge so easy to sand down to size. I also used the
Revell tail, this needed some careful planning, I managed to preserve
the trailing edge and cut it down along the joint between tail and rudder.
The turtleback was re-skinned with thin plasticard, the large amount
of putty necessary to blend the new turtleback into the fuselage sides
is a problem. I also scored too lightly so the stringer detail is mostly
obscured by the camouflage paint. At least it completely solved the usual
problem with a seam in the middle of the fuselage. While I was at it I
made a new headrest fairing in the same way.
During my constant perusals of Squadron/Signal Spad fighters in action,
one of the better ones in this series, I discovered something curious,
the nose of Fonck's Spad 12 no.445 is natural-metal. I asked a bunch of
experts what they thought, and after much discussion and soul-searching
I decided to go for an aluminium foil covered nose. I did the metal nose
panels before painting because when I apply kitchen foil, I make a mess,
and I often have to remove foil and start again, clean up with alcohol
etc. This usually messes up paintwork, so I do it the other way around.
If I happen to get some paint on the foil it's easy to clean off. I applied
kitchen-foil that I have prepared with Micro Bare Metal Foil Adhesive
(I spray it on, but I think it might be better to brush on to the foil
quite wetly, the idea is to get rid of brush marks because they show through,
when the foil is applied to the model). After applying the foil, the excess
is cut off with a (very) sharp knife, do panel by panel, then polish with
metal polish. The very nice white-metal radiator from the kit can also
be polished and fitted, it matches the foil quite well. Masking of the
nose was done with Parafilm
I looked up my paint references, they were Windsock no.3 and 4 -88
(volume 4) and Windsock 1-99 (vol.15). The first are paint samples , and
the second is an article by Alberto Casirati about the Ni28, he gives
Molak paint numbers. I read both articles then did it my own way, I actually
based my colours on the FMP book French aircraft of WW1 (Davilla/Soltan).
Here's my version:
Methuen acc. to Windsock
My paint mix
Light Green 3E4, 2E4
Humbrol 86. I added a spot of light yellow this time)
Chestnut Brown 5E3, 5E4 , 6F5
1X Revell383 (RAL8015) (merely because I have a tin) 1X Humbrol
Dark Green 29F4, 2F4
Humbrol 86 + black
Beige 4C5,5D5 (I don't believe this)
3X Humbrol 62, 2X Humbrol 28, 1X Humbrol 86, Black
I don't usually write up my mixes, I did it this time to correct the
faults in Windsock, I think their beige is much too light. I'm not at
all scientific or dogmatic about this, I just mix till I think it looks
A little trick I do when using oil-based paints (which is nearly always)
is to place my airbrush cup in 5mm of boiling water before spraying, this
makes the paint flow much better.
I traced camouflage patterns on to Tamiya tape, then cut out with a
sharp knife, these masks were applied in the right places, and patched
together, then one by one the colours are sprayed on. Starting with light
green, then beige, chestnut brown, dark green and black. It might be a
better idea to brush paint.
read in an old copy of WW1 Aero(107) that Spad tankage was made of 22
gauge sheet metal pre-coated with alloy of 25% tin 75% lead. Often called
Terne-plate or roofing tin, it was joined with copper rivets and soldered.
You can see on the Fonck photo that it was unpainted on 445, so I painted
the header tank and fuel tank grey, then rubbed with silver foil to metallize
Spads have an ingenious fuel dump system consisting of a fabric patch
in the bottom of the fuel-tank, just pull a lanyard and dump. I missed
this, but will add a triangular piece of olive decal to simulate this.
Roundel and decals
I'm lucky enough to be a friend of Anders Bruun who has an ALPS printer
and the skill to use it. I sent him some scans of the Fonck markings,
and he manipulated them into the most beautiful decals I've seen. He also
noticed a couple of mistakes in the FMP book "French Aeroplanes of WW1"
which had the profiles that inspired me to do the Fonck machine. The star
is drawn too big in the FMP profile, and there should be no white outline
on the wing numerals. I also discovered that one of the storks legs is
missing, it should have two!
When it came to the roundels, I realized that they must be the same
colour as the other decals, so I applied the numerals on the rear fuselage
to check the shade they would turn out. It was still quite bright red,
which was what Anders and I had decided on, I don't believe Fonck was
the kind of guy who would fly with "toned down" markings. Unfortunately
the French roundels in the kit, and the other Blue Rider decals I have
are very brown in tone, so I decided to do my own.
However you do "scratch-built roundels" the problem is cutting perfect
circles. I use a compass of the free-swivelling kind, i.e.. it is basically
just a needle with a pen-holder swivelling around it. I think this kind
is still available in art-shops. Instead of a pencil-lead I insert a small
knife-blade, I got this knife-blade years ago in a graphics/art kind of
shop, it looks just like a small spear, the knife end can be sharpened
on a stone.
the Spad 12 I first cut a big circle in tin-foil, and applied it wet to
the model (tin-foil is so thin, that it sticks by surface-tension), then
sprayed white, next I did a circle the size of the white roundel part,
in the middle of that I cut a smaller circle. By doing both the inner
circles in the same mask it is easier to make sure the inner circle is
properly centred. I cut a circle slightly bigger than the inner circle
to use as a cover for that during spraying of red. So I applied the next
circle, with a cover over the middle hole, and sprayed red. Then removed
the cover, and sprayed blue in the middle. In a perfect world, that would
be it, but usually there is some leaking and over spray, I remove as much
as I can by gentle scraping with a razor blade. Preferably to touching
up with paint I use decal, when I sprayed the red and blue, I also sprayed
on to some scrap decal, on this I cut circles only 0.5 mm thick, the same
diameter as my painted circles, this I used to patch the edges. Of course
you could cheat and cut the circles from decal film, but why do something
easily when you can do it complicated!?
The other decals were a doddle to apply. This is the part of modelling
I like best, suddenly the model begins to get life, it's not just a dead
green bit of plastic. After the decals were on I sprayed over a coat of
Revell clear varnish, the mix was about 10%, matte, 20% gloss, 30% white
spirit and 30% cellulose thinner. Heated before spraying.
Assembly and rigging
was the usual hassle, I try and get the centre-section struts in place
on Spads, once they are on you can just snap the other struts in, if they
are the right length, which they never are. I finally found myself lengthening
some of the struts with the tiny bits I had cut off the ones that were
too long! I suppose if I'd used the kits struts it would have been easier,
but I prefer to make my own from wood. I used epoxy and CA, usually I
positioned struts with CA, then added epoxy for strength. The undercarriage
was straight from the box.
I must admit that despite my 14 previous Spads, I've never rigged a
single-seater properly, I've always regarded them as easy, and they are,
if you stick to single flying wires. It looks complicated but all the
wires are short (easy to keep straight) and the long wires can be stuck
to the centre of the mid-wing auxiliary struts. I use stainless steel
wire, that I pass through a candle to straighten, rigging is then just
a matter of measuring with dividers and gluing wires in place with white
glue. Always start rigging with the centre-section, that's a little fiddly
on a Spad, then work outwards.
Only the seriously crazy need read the next section.
time I wanted to do double flying wires, and the streamlining spacer pieces
between the wires, this makes it rather more difficult. I started by turning
the model upside down, this means the landing wires will be tensioned
when the model sits on it's undercarriage, the landing wires go from top
centre-section to bottom outer wing strut, they also have to run between
the double flying wires where they meet, BUT they meet in the middle of
the auxiliary strut, and there is no way I'm going to drill through there.
I finally worked out that I had to install all wires in half-lengths,
and they all had to meet in the middle. So after the landing wires are
on, turn the model right side up for the flying wires, these go from the
top outer wing strut to the bottom of the fuselage under the centre section.
I found it easiest to install these as packages, first half-length wire,
then a streamliner, finally another wire, all glued together with thinned
white glue. The streamliners were made by heating 1/32 scale contrail
struts and pulling to a thin section. Getting the packages in place was
nerve-racking because they had to be exactly the right length, usually
a little gentle cheating is possible, but not in this case, or you would
see a difference in angle where they met in the middle.
The propeller is made by laminating thin wood, I use cyano-acrylate
super glue for gluing the laminations, then just carve and sand till I
think the blades are thin enough, and then a bit more. I carved this prop
at the same time as I did one for my Schneider, and the Spad boss comes
from the plastic propeller that was left over from the Eduard Schneider
kit. There is a never-ending supply of small details on a Spad, things
like tail struts, tail-skid, Aldis sight, and of course those horrible
link-arms down at the bottom of the rear outer strut, and no, I don't
know a better way of making them, than fiddling around with bits of stretched
sprue till they look OK. The strut bindings are also rather tiresome,
these are the light coloured tapes often seen on French aircrafts struts.
I make them from strips of decal that I have painted clear doped linen
colour (i.e.. cream).
When all the detailing finally came to an end, I took a deep breath
and looked at the model, I reckon it looks pretty much like a Spad 12
and I hope you all do too!
Thanks to my wife Ragnhild for lending her camera, and taking some
of the pictures, and to Anders Bruun for making the decals, also to many
members of the WW1-mailing list for advice and encouragement.
Windsock vol.4 3-88.
Squadron-Signal Spad fighters in Action
FMP French aircraft of WW1 - Davilla/Soltan