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Big, Bold, Beautiful!

Building Matchbox 1/72 Scale Handley-Page Victor

n by Jan Forsgren

The Handley Page Victor represents to me the aircraft thinking of the fifties: big, bold and…beautiful! Seeing this plane with its large tail is like seeing an old dinosaur. It ended its life as a tanker and saw action in both the Falklands conflict and in the Gulf War. I intended to build a Gulf War tanker and a white V-bomber later, but this time my choice fell on the XL192 from the 1982 Falklands War. This was the K2 tanker that followed the Avro Vulcan XM607 on both the trip to Ascension and on the first Black Buck mission.

The Matchbox 1:72 Scale Victor

The old Matchbox Victor is an underrated but very good kit; the only drawbacks are the trenches some panel lines look like. Overall measurements seem good enough, and there’s a lot of plastic! In my case in white, grey and dark green as I had the original Matchbox edition (there is a grey plastic Revell edition of the same kit in Operation Granby markings).

Flightpath’s K2 set with white metal cones for the tailplane and photoetched parts to enhance the in-flight refuelling equipment was purchased. And of course there was the brass framing for the cockpit glazing... the frame looked beautiful with small rivets and lots of detail. This was to be used!


Aeroclub seats that looked like the right ones replaced the originals, apart from those only original parts were used. I had no clue of how much weight to put in the fuselage, so that had to wait. The longitudinal panel lines were rescribed before joining the fuselage halves, the fuselage halves were glued together and the other panel lines were scribes. Then it was time for the wing attachment areas to be prepared and here some work was needed to get a good fit for the wings, due to Matchbox very unusual solution. I found it necessary to strengthen the fuselage with extra spars made from heavy duty tubes. This I do on most airplanes as too much strain is put on the fuselage joins otherwise when handling it.

The kit ram air intakes for the turbines in front of the fin were too simple, and had to be replaced. Holes in the fuselage were cut, and new intakes were modelled from Plasticard and finally there was a photoetched part for the front edge. Tabs were glued on the inside of the fuselage and painted black, and the new intakes were glued to the tabs after painting the fuselage. The airbrakes on the rear fuselage did not look good; in fact this was the only area I was dissatisfied with on this kit! I decided to have the air brakes in the closed position as open air brakes destroy the clean lines of the rear fuselage, and the internal mechanism were so rudimentary the choice was simple. I glued them shut, applied some Milliput and sanded everything flush, then I scribed along the edge of the air brakes and made new strakes from Plasticard.


The wing halves were scribed before joining upper and lower halves. The intakes are difficult to improve as there is a plethora of guide vanes inside that are virtually impossible to put there. The lower lip was extended slightly downwards with Milliput and all the inside was lined with Plasticard.

The guide vane closest to the opening was replaced with a more correct one, and covers for the inlets were made and painted bright red. The wings have a dihedral where the inner and outer wing panels are connected, but this was not present on the kit and had to be corrected. Photographs and drawings were used when preparing the outer wing panels. A piece of the wing forward edge was cut and angled downwards to represent extended slats.

I chose to have the flaps in the extended position as it gave more "weight" to the plane, and some rails and rods were added for the extension mechanism. The rear end of the faired in wing tanks had to be cut off and modified to fit the extended flaps, this is something Matchbox has missed to do. The wings were mated with the fuselage and everything looked good. Only later a former RAF mechanic told me the wing tips with the pitot tubes should be twisted downwards. This can be seen on photographs but I missed it! The inner/outer wing panel joins were very good, no problem at all in spite of the kit's age.


The vertical fin was thinned down substantially and rescribed. When aligning the tailplane I found it best to place the model horizontally on the desk to get the fin absolutely vertical. The symmetry of the airframe is vital for the looks of a model of this size, and to be able to adjust the tail while the cement is curing it is best to use old fashioned liquid glue. The stabilisers were added on top of the fin at the correct angle according to photographs. Flightpath’s white metal cones on the back and front of the tail plane replaced the original cones; this required some Milliput and lots of work.

Now the basic assembly was almost completed and the time to check for necessary nose weight by balancing the model on the main gear, or piano wire representing it. Twenty-five grams was needed and lead was glued into the nose from a hole in the fuselage belly.

Cockpit Canopy

Now to the nerve-wracking part of this story! The photoetched canopy framing was formed to a cylindrical shape over a tube of the right size, but the problem is that the Vulcan canopy is curved in two planes which are impossible to obtain unless heating, cutting and soldering the brass, but I could live with this simplified canopy as the framing was beautiful. The next obstacle was to find the thin “window” plastic, and as I found it necessary to use CA glue to fix the plastic to the brass it must resist the glue. Eventually I found a suitable piece and glued the plastic film to the photoetched framing (already painted) and installed it all to the fuselage. Some Milliput and it all looked beautiful, except a small problem in profile because of the omission of the double curvature. It looked like that for a week, and then the windows cracked! I did it all again with another window material and this time it lasted for three weeks. I gave up!

At this stage the model was painted and almost ready, and it’s not the first time I had to change course completely when building models. I have repainted several models when I was unhappy with something. It’s never too late to improve the model!

Cockpit Canopy, Take 2

The thick, terrible looking original canopy was retrieved from the scrap box and thinned down from the inside, polished and dipped in Johnson Kleer and glued against the Plasticard fuselage rim, as I had to build up the fuselage after the brass frame experience

The fuselage and canopy were sanded flush and polished to a beautiful shine. The location of the glass panels was measured, and the framing covered by tape strips, then the glass panels could be masked. When all panels were covered the tape covering the framing was removed and all could be painted. Why didn’t I do this from the beginning, the result was perfect!

Click to enlarge images


The undercarriage components are all standard kit parts only enhanced with a small photoetched fret. When testing the undercarriage height the model sat perfectly with wing tips at equal height! The legs proved also sturdy enough to carry the weight of the model in my transport box.

Painting and decals

Painting was done after the first cockpit canopy attempt, and was completed after the final canopy was there! I used Xtracolor paints and ordinary masking tape for the sharp demarcation lines between the different colours. The standard paint scheme was dark green and medium sea gray with white underside. Before putting on the decals I gave the whole model a coat of Johnson’s Future, which I repeated after the decals were set. Then I used a wash of white spirit and dark brown oil colour to tone down the camouflage, then sealed it all with Future and Tamiya Flat Base. For the final weathering touch I used dry pastel powder and a small brush on the matte surface.

I’m glad I finally built this monster aircraft, and looking at it in my glass cabinet is rewarding!



Additional images, click to enlarge


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