Building Airfix's 1/72nd Scale Sopwith Pup

By Michael Kendix

Background

Following a protracted period of development and the production of several prototype models, the Sopwith Pup was finally brought to the front in October 1916 with the first complete "Pup" squadron (No. 54) appearing in December 1916. Pilots were overwhelmingly appreciative of this highly versatile and responsive craft used by both the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Used as both a scout and a fighter aircraft, it was also used by the RNAS for deck flying. Later in the war the Pup was used extensively as a trainer, a role for which it was ideally suited. It also served post war in a number of foreign air services, including those of Japan, Greece and Australia.

In the Box

The venerable Airfix Sopwith Pup kit was released 30 years ago. At that time, reviewers were favourably impressed by the nicely molded parts, fair degree of accuracy: it was, in the words of Ray Rimell "…very good indeed…" By the standards of today's Eduard and Roden World War One kits, the Airfix Pup is no longer the stand out product it was but it remains a decent kit by any standard and the only available 1/72nd scale model of that subject. In his article, Rimell describes the shortcomings and inaccuracies of the kit and explains how to fix them. My build-up relied almost exclusively on that article, combined with advice from some of the folks on the World War One Modeling list run out of the University of New Hampshire. Especially helpful was Paul Thompson, who has built several Airfix Pups.

A few years ago, I purchased the attractive red, white and blue harlequin pattern "Colorful Pup" for Serial C242, No. 7 Training Squadron, decal set manufactured by Blue Rider: I promised myself that I would one day apply it to the Airfix kit. That day might never have arrived had IPMS DC not announced a Special Contest to build an Airfix kit. The only problem was, they had initially scheduled this contest for September 2005 but suddenly announced in February, that it would be for the March meeting: I had four weeks to make the kit.

I dug out the kit and surveyed the various components. By today's standard, we are talking "Basic": there are a couple of sprues, not too much flash but few detailed parts. The cockpit components comprised a pilot figure, an instrument panel and a seat. The seat is decent but I needed to address detailing the interior. I decided that the remainder of the kit would be fine with the additions and modifications described in the Rimell article.

The Cockpit

I made a floor from plastic card. I have a sheet of card that has been given the "Wood" treatment: namely a coat of acrylic "Wood", followed by burnt umber and ochre gouache water colour applied with a Q-tip, and finally, a coat of Future. I used a small piece of rod upon which to glue the seat. I made a control stick from plastic rod and a handle from a piece of the Tom's Modelworks British Interior photo etch set. I used various pieces of plastic rod to make the interior framework along the fuselage interior. I cut some foil from an used champagne bottle to fashion seat belts. I left the seat out because I find it is easier to centre it after the fuselage is closed.

Fuselage and Flying Surfaces

The ribbing on the flying surfaces is seriously overdone and in desperate need of a good sanding. However, you have to be careful because the parts are already fairly thin. I sanded for a long time: a small heap of buff-coloured dust gradually appeared on the desk. The Airfix kit gives you those "helpful" strut crosspieces that slotted into the underside of the top wing. This assists considerably in mounting the top wing but does not look too good, in my view. I filled in the slots with putty and chopped off the cross pieces from the interplane and cabane struts.

The fuselage needed some modifications. The main thing missing from the fuselage is the triangular exhaust channel behind and underneath the cowling. After I glued the fuselage halves together, I cut away a portion of the lower part of the front fuselage. I created the channel by cutting a symmetrical triangular piece of card and folded it in half. I glued it in place then sanded off the edges until it was flush with the fuselage. The lacing on the fuselage sides should only appear on the starboard side so I sanded off the detail on the port side. The "Lip" on the underside of the cowl piece does not appear on "242" so I hacked that off. I also sanded off the fuselage detail behind the cowl sides and replaced it with the correct latticework detail. The trainer scheme for "242" has oval-shaped hatches on the cowl so I sanded off the rectangular ones and replaced them with correct shaped hatches. The kit also lacks detail for a tail kingpost, so I filed out a slot in the rear fuselage and added a kingpost made from thin plastic rod. The original model did not contain the breathing hole pipes, so I added these by drilling small holes and gluing in small pieces of plastic rod.

The engine is really a delight. I painted it "Engine Grey"; dry brushed it with silver and then picked out the pipes with copper. After I had the various amendments to the fuselage, I glued on the lower wing, puttied up the seams and sanded and primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000. The fit was decent enough and it was time for painting. I sprayed the front fuselage and cowl with Alclad II. Alclad dries and is ready for masking within an hour. I masked off and sprayed the fuselage's underside with Polyscale's Aged White. The pictorial evidence in the Datafile looks like the underside has the same harlequin pattern as the upper side but the Blue Rider decal set does not provide decal for that area.

Decals

Applying the decals was the trickiest part of this build. I started with the easiest area - the tail parts. The decals were robust but did not conform readily to the contours of the kit, nor did they react to any of the setting solutions I tried, namely, Solvaset and Microsol. Patience is the watchword here: carefully applying and smoothing the decals, I gradually covered the surface areas. I touched up the small tears and mistakes using red and blue paint of a suitable shade. Applying the roundels was difficult because the kit's and the various aftermarket roundels are too translucent - the harlequin pattern shows through them. I sprayed white discs using a plastic template of different sized circles I bought in a Pearl Arts store. The white outer edges of the kit's roundels still showed the underneath pattern through them so I replaced them with a combination of Americal-Gryphon (for the blue and white components) and Pegasus for the red centre discs.

Undercarriage

I effected a few small modifications to the undercarriage. I threw out the kit's spreader bar and replaced it with three parallel lengths of plastic rod. I replaced the kit brace with a "T-shaped" brace. I cut of the little spikes in the centre of the wheel hubs. I painted the undercarriage legs in blue and the wheel hubs in red, to match the colour scheme on the rest of the aircraft.

Rigging

I had removed all the control horns from the flying surface prior to commencing building and I replaced them where appropriate (there should be none on the topside of the lower wing or the underside of the top wing). For these I used a combination of photo etch from the Part set and some scratched from plastic card. Finally, I used 0.005-inch diameter straight stainless wire from Smallparts Inc. for the rigging: each piece being glued on using Elmer's' white glue. Once dry, I gave the model a coating of Testors' acrylic clear flat. I shined up the cowl and metallic areas again using Future and then glued on the propeller.

Conclusion

Not the easiest of builds but not too hard. The decals were definitely a challenge but then they really make the model. The modifications were not really difficult at all and the Rimell article explains them clearly. My club mates at IPMS DC were most complementary. The Airfix kit is readily available and there are at least a couple of Blue Rider schemes from which to select. I recommend you give it a try.

References

Ray L. Rimell. Sopwith "Pup Kit Review" and Pup Conversions", Scale Models, volume 6, number 69, pages 272-277. Editor R.G.Moulton, Assistant editor Ray L. Rimell. Published by Model & Allied Publications Ltd, United Kingdom. June 1975.

Jack M. Bruce. "Sopwith Pup: A Windsock Datafile Special." Albatros Publications, Ltd., Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. June 1992.

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank the members of the World War One Modeling list generously sponsored by the University of New Hampshire. Paul Thompson was especially helpful with references and advice. All errors are naturally my own.

 

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