Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Improving the Old Frog Kit
to Armstrong Whitworth Whitley - Improving the Old Frog Kit (Part 1)
Improving the Fuselage
All windows were drilled, Dremeled and filed open as necessary. Additional ďskylightsĒ above the instrument panel were let in, as were the three windows either side of the dustbin turret behind the rear bomb-bay. The nose and rear fuselage doors were Dremeled open and their edges thinned down for scale effect. Later the Airwaves photo-etched doors would be added to each doorway. The two small windows behind the cockpit on either side were replaced with clear plastic from the spares box as the Frog items were a very poor fit.
A rear fuselage floor was made using sections of corrugated Italeri Horsa glider floor. Internal framing was made form plastic card, as was the tail wheelís internal bracing structure.
It was necessary to cut and modify quite a bit of the fuselage. The rear fuselage was removed just to the rear of the elevator hinge line to accept the Airwaves resin rear fuselage to accommodate the AW manual rear turret. The cockpit roof was removed for later fitment of the Falcon vac-from canopy, and the forward coaming over the instrument was moved in a V-shape based on photos that show this followed the line of the windscreen. I fitted a support at the rear of the cockpit to enable later sanding at the join line of the canopy and fuselage. A type of raised vent behind the cockpit was opened up and its edges thinned down
The area where the Falcon nose turret and glazing were to fit was removed and then rebated with a Dremel to provide support when the vac-from glazing was fitted. The kitís lower turret ring area was Dremeled out to accept the scratch-built front turret and its ring was glued in place. The frog kit has a distinct lip below the front turret that is not apparent in photos. Consequently I removed the front parts of the fuselage either side of the bomb-aimerís window and inserted a plastic card plug and re-attached the nose pieces either side of the window. This extension made the noseís chin extend directly down from the turret ring.
The bombsight was fitted and the bomb-aimers window super-glued in place. This caused some dramas later when it fell loose after the bomb aimerís window had been super-glued in place. It had to be repositioned after being fed through a tiny gap in front turret ring after this too had been permanently fitted in place.
I dip all my canopies in Future to prevent fogging when superglue ids used. The canopies were then faired in and other seams attended to as required. The kitís fine panel lines were replaced where damaged from sanding with fine stretched sprue. Bombay doors were scribed in as they are barely apparent so fine are the raised lines on the kit. A disc of 5 thou plastic card was cut to represent the bottom of the dustbin turret. The wing bomb cell doors (both inboard and outboard of the engine nacelles were represented with scored 5 thou plastic card, and the flaps were made with the same material. Finally, antenna wire posts and DF lop were made from scrap.
The kit wings were a poor fit and a bit warped. These were cemented together without the undercarriage bays being fitted. A leading edge lamp was made from scrap and glazed with a section cut and sanded shape from a spare Hawker Hurricane canopy.
The kitís ailerons had an exaggerated fabric effect which was remedied with sanding and filler. The more I looked at the wing something seemed wrong; and I realised the Frise-type ailerons of the real plane were not represented properly as the aileron was the same dimensions top and bottom. This led to the ailerons appearing far too large on the upper wing. At the same time, and having primed the wings, I found that the kitís raised lines representing rib tapes on the fabric covered area aft of the wingís main spar and torsion box barely showed.
I decided to re-skin the fabric area of the wing in 5-thou plastic card to better represent the fabric effect and resize the ailerons. This involved filling the upper aileron hinge line, and drawing the wing rib stations onto the plastic card with a pencil whilst it was supported on a magazine to enable the pencil to create a soft raised line. The skins were then attached with MEK and blended in with Mr Surfacer and Tamiya filler. The skin was sanded gently to tone the effect down.
The rear of the Airwaves resin radial Tiger engine cowls were scraped a little thinner and super-glued to the kitís engine nacelles. These were blended in using Tamiya putty which seems to adhere to the resin very well. The white metal oil coolers and carburettor intakes were added top and bottom, as were the white metal exhausts. Al white metal items, including the very nice propellers, were sanded and polished. Finally a pitot from piano wire was added and fine stretched sprue used to replace sanded raised panel lines.
The kit undercarriage doors are very thick. These were thinned down with a Dremel, files and wet & dry paper. The interiors were lined with plastic card to hide seams, although I didnít detail this area as I canít see it when the finished model is in my display cabinet, plus I lacked reference photos.
The kit wheels donít look quite right because the tyres are too pointed at the mid-point of their tread areas (fixed by sanding), and because their sidewalls donít swell enough away from the wheel hubs. This is perhaps a minor point, and I decided it wasnít worth the effort to rectify after I found I had no wheels for a simple replacement.
I also shortened the tail wheel slightly as the tail seemed to sit to high. I canít be sure, but I do wonder if the tail wheel was lengthened to allow for the increase in fuselage length when a power rear turret was added.
The tailplane was attached and the Airwaves resin fins and rudders fitted. The holes in the fins for the Frog kití very thick and circular tailplane bracing struts were filled with plastic rod and sanded flush. The corresponding very thick strut mounting points on the fuselage were removed as well. The struts themselves were made from Contrail strut section. Finally, small mass balances for the rudders were made from stretched sprue.
Painting and Decaling
I chose to model a aircraft from 97 Sqn which operated Whitley Mk IIIís from Feb-39 to Apr-40. I considered modelling an aircraft based on photos, but didnít have the right combination of codes and serial number, so I used a Whitley Mk III serial number and made a representative aircraft. I must also admit that I was more interested in finishing than waiting to buy some decals, and didnít want to hassle modelling mates for more decal help than I already had.
The aircraft was painted using Humbrol paints; for no other reason than it was what I chose to run with from my paint selection, plus itís easy to brush paint if small tough-ups are needed (they were!). The model was glossed with Testors Metalizer Sealer. I chose to use a lacquer this time for speed and because of cold damp weather prevailing when I clear coated. Testors Matt Lacquer was used after decaling.
I used some Kits at War decals for squadron codes and wing roundels. They were nice enough decals, but the ink was printed off-register with the carrier film. This meant that they had a very thin edge on one side leading to the deals curling where no carrier film support existed. I canít comment on how they reacted to any solvents as none was needed. The fuselage roundels came from an Esci sheet simply because they were the size I needed. They were of predictably poor quality (although Iíve seen worse), and were prone to cracking and flaking at their edges. All roundels were placed over a previously sprayed area to suggest the real aircraftís outer yellow rings which were painted out with fresh paint. The aircraft serial number came from a suitably chopped and rearranged Matchbox HP Heyford sheet.
All canopies were framed with painted decal film, and the small fuselage windows, instrument panel ďskylightsĒ and the six windows either side of the dustbin turret were glazed with Humbrol Clearfix. Other finishing touches included the aerial wire, DF loop, rear gun sight and open fuselage hatches and ladder.
Iím pleased with the final result in so far as it seems to capture the look of the early Tiger-engined Whitleys, and the additional work on detailing turrets, bomb-sight and cockpit interior are not lost thanks to the clarity of Falconís replacement canopies. The actual standard of finish is far from IPMS competition standard, but quite adequate as a cabinet model which is good enough for my purposes. At some stage way off in the future Iíll build another Merlin engined Whitley, but that wonít be for quite a while. It has however whetted my appetite to build my Hampden and Stirling, Halifaxes WellingtonÖ..