A Vickers Vimy in 1/72nd

By Paul Thompson


The Vickers Vimy is one of those many promising designs that took so long to actually get working reliably that it just missed the war, 2 being sent to France but none going operational. Nonetheless it saw much service during the ’20s , but also at home as a parachute trainer. Just grab a strut and, later, let go…………….. More famously it was used for several record breaking flights, starting with the transatlantic effort by Alcock and Brown in 1919. The only mainstream kit in 1/72nd scale is based on the converted example that they used.

The Unofficial Airfix Forum has been running a Frog group build (finished April 28th. I’ve never took part in one before, and decided to try my hand. Perhaps unwisely I also tried to harness the impetus to finally get around to correcting the elderly Frog Vimy kit to the bomber configuration. And therein lies the problem. The original kit, in the Trailblazers series, was a perfectly adequate (for the time) representation of the Alcock and Brown airframe that still resides in the London Science Museum. Later reissued as a bomber, Frog added a pair of gun rings moulded into openings in the nose (correct position) and the dorsal fuselage (missed by over a centimetre). They also put the rear fuselage windows in the wrong place. I think the latter was because a locating pin and socket are in the way at the correct location. There’s also the further problem that the Science Museums example has a much larger fuel tank and it’s covering behind the pilot’s cockpit. For a bomber this needs correcting. Frog’s other move was to replace the nose wheel with the bomber’s skid. A bit clunky, but mostly okay.

Righty-ho, now since I documented the online build with photographs, there follows a rough description of what I did right and wrong while building an immediate post war model of a Vimy.

Basic Materials

Take a Vimy kit. The Frog bomber version is still findable at reasonable prices, but also in editions from NOVO (‘orrible plastic and flash) and Chematic (less flash, better plastic, usable decals, and I this issue has fewer and shallower ejector pin marks, plus usable decals).

I was going to just use theWindsock Datafile Special, which has several good interior photographs and one of the machines the kit decals are for, but one wwi mailing list listee (whose name I have shamefully forgotten) sent me a copy of an article in the ancient but wonderful PAM News magazine. This goes through everything you need to do to make an accurate version, be it bomber or Transatlantic machine, with some colour notes on several examples. So I followed this. However, having realised how much was involved I shelved the project, unstarted, for a couple of years. Then the group build was mooted, and the game was afoot.

Prelimary Destruction and Joyful Hacking

Originally I started a Chematic and NOVO kit together, the intention being to do the camouflaged version, H651, present in all boxings, and a later silver painted one. I first assembled both sets of top wings, filled joints and blemishes, then sanded off all rib detail, which was of the starving cow variety. The same was done for all flying and control surfaces. Then I started on the fuselage while my hands recovered.

Having marked off the top decking sections needing removal, I taped the halves together to aid alignment, then razor sawed and knifed away until I had the top decking off from the rear gunner’s position to just behind the cockpit. I also cut one large opening for the bomb-aimers glazing in the nose. I cut new windows for the rear gunner, and an opening in the floor, because I’d discovered that he also had a downward firing Lewis gun mounted ventral.y, like a Gotha G.III. Then I separated the halves and sanded and cut away all the interior bits that shouldn’t be there, and filled the old rear windows with plastic card. Finally, I drilled exit holes for the elevator and rudder control cables, and at the positions of the fairleads that, Gotha-like, guide them along the fuselage exterior. Actually I did this much later, but if any of you try this it’s much easier to do it now. The cables emerge from the fuselage sides just in front of the lower wing leading edge, and just under the nose. You’ll also need to install a small pulley each side, but only if you’ve got very good eyesight, in this scale.

Reconstructive Therapy

Wings. These are really the easiest bit, once the sweaty sandy bit is done. I decided to live with the underwing rib repesentation, as these consist of raised lines that I don’t think look too bad. I also left the wing walkways alone (Don’t – I was lazy and now regret it – they really are too heavy). I marked off all the rib and riblet positions using the Datafile plans and a pencil, then spilled half a bottle of MEK over all the wings and one set of fuselage halves. This latter step is one you can leave out. Following a quick trip to the sink, much water, and a grinding of teeth, I decided I was only going to build one Vimy, and consigned one ruined set of fuselage and lower wings to the spares box (and a cutting mat to the bin). In fact the one lower wing half came in handy as a hi-tech painting stand when painting the fuselage later.

After remedial sanding and re-marking of the rib staions (the undersides had escaped most damage) I used sundry Xtradecal transfer strips over a coat of some Humbrol near-PC10 colour to prime the plastic . I forget which colour it was. The lot was oversprayed with Xtracolour RFC Green at the same time as the fuselage, and left to dry for 2 weeks. It never did completely dry, though. The same was done for tailplane, elevator, rudder, fins and ailerons, except that some of the smaller parts needed detail removing on both sides, and I replaced some of the rib stations by scoring lines using 2 no.11 scalpel blades taped together and secured with a drop of CA (thanks for the tip Mr Perry). The undersides where initially sprayed a lightened and grayed Humbrol CDL, but I didn’t like it and brushed it over with MrKit British CDL. Inspection panels were painted in with Tamiya smoke, the strut holes cleaned out and rigging poistions marked in, and that was that, except to trim some of the aileron locating pins so they could be push fitted after the main rigging was done.

Fuselage. Fixing things, and detailing things. First fix was to make a new fuel tank and upper rear decking/ rear gunners position. The way laid out in the PAM article is probably best – carve a new one and plug mold it. I was going to try this, but then after comparing the tank I’d cut away with the desired outline thought of a way easier for a klutz like me. I shortened the kit tank to the new length on the plan, then glued it together and filled it with Miliput. Then it was a mere 5 hours sanding away (through the plastic in places, hence the Milliput) until I had something close to the right shape. I was going to skin it with scored 5 thou to show the stringers, but after 2 attempts gave up and used decal strips. With the fuselage halves taped together I glued it to one half, then measured a piece of 10 thou card to close the top decking, with a hole cut with a circle cutter at the gunners station.. This was attatched, along with false floor and roof for the rear fuselage, as this can be seen through the windows and gun openings.

Moving to the cockpit, I made a rear bulkhead and a new floor that ran into the tip of the nose. The Vimy had a mix of metal and wooden tubing used for it’s framework, so I added this where I thought it would show, throughout the fuselage. Various bits then had plywood panels on the inside of this, so I used 5 thou to simulate it. All wood structure was painted with various Humbrol browny colours and finished with very dilute Tamiya clear orange. I made a control panel and various fittings, plus a bench type seat for pilot and observer, fold down chair for front and rear observer, and a padded pallette for the rear guy when he used the lower Lewis, all from odds and ends of scrap. Belts came from masking tape, cross bracing from rolled copper wire and HSP. I used the kit control wheel, cut off and stuck on an HSP column.

After this mad hysteria subsided I gingerly joined the fuselage halves, filled and sanded, added the rear windows from clear acetate sheet, and scribed a few of the visible seams back in the correct places. Needed to drill new holes for the cabane trestle struts, and made a head-fairing for the pilot from scrap sprue. This lot was painted in RFC green overall, with coamings in Testors red leather. One of the ruined wings came in handy here as a mount for easier handling.

Time to add the lower wings. These slot into a gaping hole in the underside, and also form the bottom of the fuselage at this point. Except they didn’t meet, by 2 mm. So I skinned this area with 5 thou card.. The real things had obvious demarcations here anyway, and this was an easy way to do it.

The empennage went on trouble free, thanks to the good fit of the original kit in this area. Don’t forget to drill channels through the rudders for the rudder cables before hand, or the cable runs will go wonky.

I put some microscopic spare rigging attachment points from an old Eduard set into afore-mentioned holes at the fairlead points. I then ran smoked invisible thread (painted black with a permanent marker) through these, leaving them free at the rearmost point, to be attached to the tail control horns after the main rigging was done.

Engines and Struts

Basically, we hates them. I’d already decided to use the kit struts because they’re quite good, I think, and fit very positively. However, those supporting the nacelles try to emulate the originals and fail. Metal tubes are faired with wood, with a gap in the vicinity of the engine mounts, but unfortunately the kit efforts have this gap far too large for a fully cowled engine. Not wanting to scratchbuild engines, I instead replaced the struts with Contrail stock. Some photos show the fairings completely hiding the tubes, and since it was easier and not contradicted by the photo of H651, I didn’t bother to try to show them either. I cut the wind generators from the old struts and added them after rigging.

At the rear of each nacelle is a vertical member in the middle of the opening. The kit effort is far too big, so I replaced it with HSP. I also tucked a cylinder of steel painted tube in the back of each nacelle, as this is about all you can easily see of the engine. I painted this lot up and then added the exhausts. This particular aeroplane had larger, flattened rears to the echausts, so I cut the back ends off the kit items and added some flattened tube. It being now too late to change it without removing the struts, I realised I’d skipped a paragraph in the PAM article. The exhausts do not emerge where the kit has them, The slots should be filled and new locations made lower down. I’m afraid I couldn’t face doing all this again, so just stuck them on as Frog intended.

I added some generic Pegasus instrument decals to the dial locations on the inboard side of the nacelles, then glued them to the lower wings. Slowly. With lots of checking to make sure the top wing would sit right. Here I discovered that I’d neglected to stick the correct nacelle fronts to the correct nacelles. There’s a slot for a strut each side from nacelle to fuselage. So while I had the engine instruments correctly positioned inboard, these being carried on the sides of the radiator fronts, the slots were outboard. So these were filled in situ, and touched up.

The top wing was then attatched with no bother, I’m glad and surprised to say. In real plastic life, I’d made a fair mess of the nacelle strut locations, so although the wing sits okay, some of the struts are a bit leany, which I have truly and deeply tried to hide by photographing only from certain angles. It’s maybe not as bad as I think – you live long enough with these things, you get sensitive to them. Still, it could have been done better.

I used rolled copper wire for the rigging round the nacelles, secured with white glue, then added the centre section struts. Must have got the locating holes a bit out because they were a tiny bit too short. The longer pair just fitted so I used them as was, and extended the others with a bit of rod. Then these, too, could be rigged. The interplane struts just popped intoplace and the rest of the rigging was done relatively painlessly. I popped the model on it’s back, dropped the undercarriage in place, added it’s bracing, re-secured the 6 or so long wires that had come loose, then decalled everything. Inderdaad.

An out of sequence word about decals. Before constructing the empennage I decalled the rudders. I wanted to use the NOVO items because they were in register, and I preferred the colours. As you can see, this was not to be. So I used the Chematic ones. These refused to conform at first, but were eventually persuaded. I fully intended to overpaint the stripes in IMO better colours.

I forgot.

The Chematic decals are designed assuming the top wing had very small ones, and the lower had full span ones. I think it more likely they were equal, and large, so used some old Blue Rider decals. The kit decals were used for everything else, although I think the’ lift here’ ones are the wrong sort. Can’t be sure. Screwed one up anyway, so only appears on one side. I really wanted to keep saying ‘transfers’ here instead of decals. Getting old.

Everything was sealed in with satin varnish, then control horns, and the ailerons added. The pre-installed lines were then completed, and the others added, again with imvisible thread, except the runs from aileron control horns into the wings, where I used black HSP.

God knows why but I’d forgotten the fuel lines, so they went on now, dislodging some more of the rigging. After cursing and repairs, it was tailskid and windscreen time. I made a couple of uprights to separate the 3 windows in the front, then filled the gaps with white glue.

The underside was bedecked with a representative assortment of bomb carrying gear, from HSPand plastic strip. Some of this got knocked off just before photo time. I added a Lewis underneath, and an Aeroclub Scarff ring and spare Roden Lewis for the bomb-aimer/observer. The rear Lewis installation doesn’t appear in many photos, and I can’t see it in the Datafile, so left it off, including the Scarff ring. I can be really, really cheap.

I painted the airscrews, assuming them to show laminations purely to make it more interesting. Base colour of Humbrol sand, laminations drawn on with a dark brown watercolour pencil, then a bit of graining with a lighter brown pencil, the lot topped with Tamiya clear orange, and hub bosses painted Citadel Boltgun Metal.



I chose to use the kit decals because there was a photo of the real thing available, it was a camouflaged example made in 1919 or so, there was information on it in the PAM article, and I’m lazy. It may have been better to pick another one because the photo turned out not so informative. PAM says there was a white circle on the outer wheel covers. Tried to do this, failed, and took refuge in the fact that, can you guess? Yes! Can’t see it in the photo. Neither is it clear if the struts are painted or just varnished, or if any metal or plywood panels were a different colour. Early Vimy’s were (maybe) PC10, segueing later gently into NIVO, before ending up finally painted silver. I took the easy option by choosing overal RFC Green (hey, I wanted to finish the pot) with CDL lower flying surfaces.

Department of Shameless Self-Publicity

Anyone wanting to see the original build in all it’s gory glory, it’s at this forum thread, at least now in April 2007. But take time to look around the builds from the other fine loonies there. There’s a lot of fun to be had.

Lost Property Department

At some point I thinned down the propellor guards and added some wiring from sprue. Far too thick of course, but in this case I think it’s better to have something there rather than nowt.

Utterly Final Word

Would I do this again? Yes. In fact I will. I’ve still got enough bits left to make a tweenies parachute trainer. I’ve learned not what to bother with, and how not to do certain things, so maybe I can get the next one right.

Although there're always more Bristol Fighters to do……………...


The Vickers Vimy, by P.St.John Turner.

Vickers Vimy, by J.M.Bruce.

The Vickers Vimy – A New Look at an Old Kit, by S.W.Foster, PAM News, year unknown.

Famous Biplanes Number 21, by C.A.G.Cox, reprinted from Aeromodeller June, 1959, and furnished by Lance Krieg along with a set of blueprints for the Vimy FB27a Transatlantic.

Also a lot of photos of the Hendon replica and others from the WW1 Modelling Page, and other internet sites.

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