Aurora-Aeroclub-Blue Max-Eduard-Roden 1/48 Bristol F2b Fighter.

By Paul Thompson


This is a rather silly exercise. Please bear that in mind. A few months ago I mentioned to my friend Nico Teunissen that I'd never built the Aurora Bristol Fighter, and a few weeks later he turned up on our doorstep with one he'd got off EvilBay. Being at that time snowed under by various other F2b projects I put it to one side, intending to build it OOB as an AMS breaker, as needed. Then the Unofficial AirfixModeller's Forum started a classic American kit group build. Looking in the spare Bristol fighter parts box (yes, I do have such a thing) I realised I could use up a load of parts if I mixed and matched them with the Aurora kit. There being no responsible adult present, this is what I did over the course of the next month.

The Materials.

The Aurora F2b was for years the only 1/48th kit available, and for its time it was quite a nice kit, but from a modern perspective, there's no interior to speak of, most of the detail bits are pants, there are many shape and dimension 'issues' and the decals are (in this sample anyway) unusable. Oh, and of course, those embossed decal indicators. There are atypical louvres under the cowling panels, and in this region my example was also short shot, unless the mice had been at it. There was no detail at all under the wings (but there was under the tailplane).

Since this kit was made, there have been four fine kits produced to render it obsolete, the latest by Roden and Eduard being state-of-the-art, although IMO the Aeroclub and Blue Max kits can still be made into fine models with a few of those modelling skills I've heard tell of. So, this exercise is purely intended as fun.

I decided which bits to try to implant, mostly to cure outline problems. In the end what I used was the empennage from an Aeroclub kit, front fuselage and radiator from a Blue Max kit, and undercarriage from an Eduard kit. This left detailing of the in and outside of the fuselage, and those wings. Given the airscrew and undercarriage available, the most suitable spare decals I had with an attractive scheme were the Eduard ones for an example interned by the Dutch.

Hack 'n Slash Time.

First actual build decision, would the Blue Max nose fit. I taped everything up and comparing the parts guessed it was do-able, so then cut off the Aurora nose. After tidying up I glued the cowling together with a plasticard shim to widen it a bit at the top. It then matched the Aurora parts well enough, and the Blue Max white metal radiator still fitted. All surface detail was removed from the Aurora parts, and I decided that to keep this fun I'd only build a minimal interior, and chuck in the crew figures (in the end I used a pilot from an Aurora DH10, because he came with a control columnn).

Fuselage structure was made from plastic strip, and the bracing from rolled copper wire. This was all painted and the fuselage halves joined, a false floor added to hide the seam, and the seat from an Aeroclub F2b added. I didn't bother with stuff like the fuel tank since the pilot would have hidden them. I did, however, make an instrument panel, and chucked in an oblong of plastic and some fuse wire to deputise for the Vickers gun and its mounting. Having drilled some extra holes in the Blue Max cowling and added blanking plates, the nose was, with some trepidation, secured to the fuselage. There followed a period of frenetic adjustment, filling and filing, until I had all the joints tamed.

At this point I realised that the convex rear surface of the fuselage was bowed too far to allow it to be fully filed flat without breaking through it. If I'd realised earlier I'd have added reinforcement, but it being too late I just flattened it as much a I felt safe, then christened it 'Mr Goodenough'. I then tried something I wasn't sure would work, but it did in the end. I cut off part of the rear fuselage so I could, with some shimming and filling, use an Aeroclub tailplane and elevator. Once this was made good I reprofiled the joining surfaces of the fin so I could use the Aeroclub fin/rudder. Holes were drilled to take the control lines, and a few minor bits added from scrap.

I experimented with several ways of reinstating the fabric stitching, wanting to avoid the use of PE. Both Eduard and Part make various patterns of stitching and lacing, but I've never been happy with it. This time, however, I couldn't do it neatly enough, so I made it up from Part 1/72nd PE (which still looks more suitable for 1/24th or so) softened by covering with appropriately painted widths of decal strip, after attaching with about 5 coats of Klear (Future).

Wings - I confess these should have been replaced, but I wasn't trying to make a compo winner, and didn't have time anyway, so set about improving them. First I sanded off the embossed markings, then discovered that the trailing edge sweep up had to stay - the plastic was too hard and brittle to get rid of it with heat and bending. While compromising, I also decided that the top surface ribs could stay, but would need taping to make them look more like the Aeroclub tail. I'd normally use decal strip for this, but decided (for reasons now unclear to me) to use strips of masking tape. Wrapped all the way around, they took care of the absent lower detail, and modified the top. I'd thought that once sealed with Klear and a coat or 3 of paint they'd not look too overstated. I was completely wrong, and this is the point I should have ripped them off, sanded it all back and started again. But I was running out of time, and to be honest it's only really bad when illuminated directly from the side. Back to decal strip and scribing in future. BTW, I left the smaller ribs well enough alone.

Everything was now painted. The Eduard decals represent a machine shown on page 15 of the Windsock Bristol Fighter Datafile Special part one, and profiled by Ray Rimell on page 9. The aircraft was from 48 Squadron, no. B1124 in 1917. It had engine trouble on September 29th and put down in the Netherlands. Following their neutrality policy, the Dutch interned it (but playing fair, they eventually payed 2,500 quid for it). It was painted up with Dutch meatballs and a new serial, and flew until 1924.

From the Datafile photo you can clearly see that the old British markings were visible throught the overpaint, so I first added some slanting white bands to the fuselage. The roundel was eventually obliterated by an orange meatball, so I didn't bother with that, and the other markings I conveniently forgot about. I doubt the Dutch had large stocks of PC10, and pictures of a DH9 they gave the same treatment show the A code overpainted in a darker shade, so I didn't try to paint it PC10. Not knowing if the paint used this time was lighter or darker than PC10 I used what was convenient. I had a MrKit colour that IMHO is totally unlike PC10 due to being far too light. I think it stands in quite well for a khaki, such as the Dutch may have had available. Anyway, it was a nice paint to work with and I didn't see using it on anything else, so that's what I used. The bottom of the flying surfaces where Humbrol 71. All rigging holes (drilled at various times during the build) were then thoroughly poked out with a bit of stiff wire.

After a bit of adjustment and drilling a few more holes the undercarriage, fuselage and lower wing were coaxed together, the 4 short struts being made of thick HSP, with some thinner braces. There's a bit of rigging needed in there as well, and now was the time to do it. The fuselage decals were added, then plasticard control horns and the control lines, including the ones that run out to the lower wing for the ailerons. These were all black marked smoked invisible thread. At some stage I'd added the crew and a small windscreen for the pilot, although this was lost the first time the top wing came off (this has become a tradition, although this time it only happened once).

Because the pilot figure (and yes, I know he's not wearing Dutch costume, but I was pressed for time, and the local supermarket was clean out of Dutch aircrew figures) is holding the control stick centralised I didn't displace the ailerons. I thought it looked held back a bit though, so set the elevator a bit up. With the mount for the Aldis sight made from black HSP (the sight itself is absent from the photo) it was top wing time. Whoops, nearly fell into the Nieuport trap. Like Nieuports, Dutch aircraft often had cockades under the top wing, as well as the conventional positions. So these were added, varnished, and the affected holes poked clear again. The interplane struts were from the kit, sanded a bit to cure their flat section. They were painted as wood. I set the top wing in place to set up overnight, using plastic cement, a Mk 1 eyeball, and some tins and cups to hold it in place. In the morning I gingerly picked it up to find all quite secure, but while putting it down my hand started shaking and the top wing skidded off sideways, taking a few struts with it. After medicinal coffee was taken I cleaned it up and got it all back together, this time with superglue. Cabane struts were cut and fettled from black painted Contrail stock.

The exhausts (Eduard or Roden, I forget which now) were added and the model rigged with Aeroclub stretchy thread. Wire was used for the undercarriage bracing, and the wheels added. I had meant to use the kit wheels but lost one. Nico came along with a replcement but by then I'd already bought a couple from Aeroclub. These are slightly too large, but could conceivably have been replacements on the real thing anyway.

After cleaning up the rigging attachments and touching up the paintwork, the remaining decals were added. Eduard would have you use standard RFC 'lift here' legends. I doubt it, since they'd be under the khaki paint. What shows up on the photo, at the appropriate point, is not legible on the print in the Datafile, but from the shape I reckon it says 'hier optillen', which would be rather sensible since it means 'lift here'. Tiny, teensey-weensey white lettering I do not have, nor am I about to attempt to hand paint them, so they are mysteriously absent. Once dry, the aileron control horns (plasticcard) where added and rigged, the under-wingtip hoops added from fusewire, and an Aeroclub tailskid installed with black HSP bracing. After adding the tail bracing and a coat of satin varnish, an Aeroclub Scarff ring (but no Lewis) was added and an Eduard or Roden two-bladed prop. I decided enough was enough and in the spirit of the build could forget any of the other small details.

That was it. The result is much better (at least from a distance) than I'd expected, and I learned a lot about true kit-bashing in the process. And it was fun, although there were a couple of moments when I had to be taken outside down a dark alley and forcibly reminded of that.

Thanks to Nico for the kit, and the Unofficial Airfix folk for letting me bend their ears with this project.

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