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Bell UH-1D Huey Slick

by tigger (1:35 Dragon)

Bell UH-1D Huey Slick

Over the last few years model companies have come and gone, one such name was Panda. They had a small range of mixed subjects and had a planned list of lots of helicopters in 1/35 scale. One issue they managed to release was the UH-1D. When a magazine editor asked me to build this new release from Dragon I immediately had my suspicions that this kit was in fact a reincarnation of the Panda kit. Looking at the model in comparison to my own example of the Panda model revealed that I was indeed correct. The reality was that they made the kit in a modular way which will allow alternative large cabin UH-1's to be kitted later on. (Rumour has it that it is a scaled up copy of the 1/48 Italeri kit!) A sturdy box contains all of the light grey soft plastic sprues along with the clear parts and the addition of the Dragon's helicopter crew. This boxing also contained two sheets of etched material. One is colour the other is plain brass. The colour sheet has the instrument panels and harnesses where as the second set contains such things as wind screen wipers and small detail parts for the airframe. Lastly this package is completed with a small decal sheet with options for 6 birds. Namely:

  1. 121st AHC, Vietnam 1969
  2. 118th AHC, Vietnam 1968
  3. 21 World Records Paris 1962
  4. 175th AVIATION CO, Vietnam 1967
  5. 114th AHC, Vietnam 1967
  6. 116th AHC, Vietnam 1971

Frontview 1/35 Dragon UH-1D

On with the build

With most aircraft we begin with the cockpit and here it is no exception. I was going to use the supplied figures so I had to make adjustments to them to make them fit as I went along. The cockpit is made from several colour etched parts (From Eduard) overlaid on the appropriate place attached with a spot of Super Glue. Being honest I had previously used the colour etched and had some of the colour peel off however I didn't have this problem this time. Cockpit instrument panels are always a focal point and here Eduard have given the modeler the easiest way of achieving a good result; simply sandwich the two parts together with a light coat of Formula 560 white glue. When dry run some Super glue around the edges to give a stronger bond. Instrument glass faces are easily replicated with a drop of Klear (Future). Various small details were added from thin fuse wire, Tamiya tape and copper wire. The crew seats were a little chunky but with a figure and inside of the model they would not be seen too much. Some of the etched parts were a little useless like the foot pedal covers with the Bell Name, O.K. if you are going to display the cockpit open but not otherwise! With the figures I found that they didn't fit in their seats. I took a razor saw and did a little plastic surgery. Resulting parts were pinned with paper clips and re attached with super glue. Any resulting gaps were filled and re sculpted with Magic Sculpt. With the pilot and observer seated I now had to add the straps and this became a real pain, very careful bending of the coloured etched parts is called for. After anchoring the attachment point I threaded the belts over the shoulders and over the hips to the buckles. Once in place a drop of Super Glue secured them.

I painted the figures at this stage to avoid any handling problems later on. The rear of the cabin area was next and looking at the quilted material on the walls for sound proofing (although with the doors open it is a little redundant!) I was not a happy modeler. The effect cast into the plastic was way too heavy so I chose to cover the lot with aluminium kitchen foil attached with Gunze Mr. thinned filler. Once dry a gentle rub with the finger revealed the quilting but kept if subtler than before. Various methods of attachment are used for these in real life but I chose to make it look like it was held in place with stud poppers. This was achieved with a small beading tool being pressed at equal spacing around the edge. They were later given a small spot of silver paint.

Seating offered in the kit is a mix of very heavy cast plastic and some nice etched seat belts. I could have easily replaced the seats with wire frames and tissue canvas coverings but as both seats were going to be crewed I chose not to, just painting them and adding the seat belts. Again care is needed when bending the colour etched as it will crack the colour coat if you are heavy handed. For this model I chose to have just the seats in the rear gunner's positions and leave the cabin as empty as possible to make the impression of having just dropped off their passengers.

As a sideline I wanted to also keep the weight of the model as light as possible. At this stage the fuselage needed the attachment of some of the glazing from inside. I realized that the overhead panels were a green shade and to replicate this I airbrushed clear green from Gunze Sangyo's range of excellent acrylics. I found that I could later give them a few coats of Klear to impart a clearer look. The glazing was attached with Formula 560 white glue. A little tip I have found with clear parts is to remove them from the spru with a heated knife blade as close to the attachment gate as possible. Then remove any excess plastic with sanding pads this avoids stress fractures.

Oh the Gaps!

With the fuselage assembled I was shocked by the sheer size and amount of the gaps! Although this is a little disheartening to see on a modern kit and some work will be needed to overcome them it is easily accomplished with the right materials. Firstly I filled the gap with white glue and wiped away the excess. When dry, Gunze Sangyo Mr. Surfacer 500 is liberally brushed over and into the gaps. Several coats are needed but when dry a cotton bud with some Alcohol easily wipes away the excess and neatly fills the gap. Added to this the surrounding surface detail will not get obliterated by lots of sanding. With all of the gaps filled I moved onto the landing gear. This model, as stated, was going to be posed it in flight and the only way to mount it was through one of the undercarriage legs. I decided upon the angle of pose and replaced one of the cross arms with suitable sized brass tubing. I then cut a steel pin which was slid into the tube and this will eventually fit into another section of brass tube embedded in the base.

Rotors

The kit comes with the broad cord main rotors and these needs to be adapted. In essence they are too thick in cord along the section of trailing edge extension. This is easily removed with a few passes of a panel scriber until the unwanted section can be removed. The resulting blade is then cleaned up with sanding pads. Most of the rotor head is too heavily detailed and the link arms needed replacing with suitable sized rod. I also took the liberty of inducing an angle on the blades and these required lots of fiddling with the links and mechanisms of the rotor. Any rotor blade flying around at high speed will ultimately start to flex and bend up at its tip. I replicated this fact by gently bending the blade up at the end until it stayed where I wanted it. Heavy weathering of the blades was achieved by first spraying with Alclad basic aluminium, next up was a coat of yellow for the tip then black for the main colour. Once it had all dried a gentle rubbing with a sanding pad gave a pleasing effect that I was after.

Looking at the instructions will reveal that Dragon have only given the modeler one of each type of door gun mounting! As I wanted to display the type as shown in the box art I stole a second mounting from a spare set of Helicopter crew I had in my own collection. The other alternative is to either use the bungee from the roof of the cabin type or scratch build another identical mounting. It would have been nice to have had the option in the kit.

Painting

I always like this part as it starts the process of bringing life to the model. After the obligatory masking with the indispensable Tamiya masking tape I began with a cheap brand of car primer sprayed straight from the can. This revealed any flaws which were rectified and another primer coat was then applied. The first main colour was Gunze H 304 Olive drab thinned with alcohol sprayed at a low pressure in a light misting until I had achieved the finish I was after. After some more masking a coat of black was applied to the anti glare area directly in front of the windscreen. Finally the next major colour to apply was to the engine exhaust area. I chose to try out some subtle shading with Alclad II metallic paints. I gave a base colour of aluminium then several different shades of burnt metal and jet engine exhaust. That was most of the model painted and the process of weathering could begin in Ernest!

Weathering

Over the years I have seen a number of methods used and one which has stood the test of time for me has been the wash of oils. I gave the model a coat of Johnson's clear then the decals were applied and sealed with more Klear. A wash of Payne's Grey oil was applied to the whole model. I prefer grey as this is more akin to the natural shadow which we are trying to replicate. I have seen some modelers use browns which look awful and inappropriate on aircraft. Anyway this wash is made so as it runs into all of the recessed detail and around the rivets. Once the model is done it is left to dry out for about an hour. Carefully removing the excess is achieved with a soft kitchen towel passed over the whole model, in tight corners I simply use a paint brush to do the same. The effect is subtle and can be varied with darker shades if that is the effect required. As oils take some time to really dry this is a good time to get on with the figures for the diorama or something but just leave the model alone for a couple of days. A coat of Andrea flat varnish seals the first stage and we can move onto the next. Here I chose to try the Temscom range of weathering liquids. In reality they are very thin washes of acrylic paint which if used right can produce a good rain streak effect. I found that keeping the edge of the area being worked on wet was essential as if it was left to dry out then a hard edge appeared which didn't look right.

Some final exhaust staining was achieved on the upper surfaces of the tail boom with very thin Tamiya Smoke. The tail aerial was made from a cut down acupuncture needle and the wire antenna was made from invisible mending thread. I then used some Mig Pigments to dust the model and it was put aside for the diorama to be built around it.

Diorama

I have seen several Vietnam diorama's over the years and never actually seen many with civilians. I found several suitable civilian figures from Verlinden and Dragon and an Ox from Andrea which I thought I could use and then started the planning. I chose to use a picture frame with the glass removed for the base; onto this I applied a few layers of expanded foam insulation. This was attached with PVA and once dry I sculpted the raised walkway. In the middle I located the point where the helicopters mounting pin would go and hot glued a block of MDF. This had a sleeve of brass mounted in the middle and this was then back filled with plaster. I have never used Celluclay before but wanted to try it out. I found that in Europe the same material is under a different brand name of Papydur. After some searching I found a supplier and ordered a batch. Ironically at about this time Richard Windrow released his book on Diorama building and within the book he recommended mixing the Celluclay with some PVA and Woodland Scenic earth colour. With a batch of this mixture I spread it thinly over the surface of the diorama and left out to dry out. What they don't tell you is that it shrinks dramatically and I had to apply several batches of the mix several days later to fill in cracks. The next thin layer was applied and whilst it was still wet I added several sizes of ballast and rocks made from cat litter, sand and fine gravel. After several days I painted the base with the same Woodlans Scenics earth tone. The paddy field was a real long process but not too different than the real thing. I had to drill a series of holes in rows then take a hair from a household paint brush and insert it one at a time. Each hole got about 15 to 20 strands, then a small spot of superglue fixed the rice plant in place. At this time I had a friend cast an eye over the diorama so far and he came up with a good idea, why not have raised wooden walkways to fill some of the dead space? I duly constructed a walkway from thin strips of bass wood. To make it look tatty I broke the wood instead of cutting it to get the jagged edges I wanted. With this fixed in place I then had the task of creating the water. I started with Woodland Scenics still water which was evenly spread over the field area. Once dry I used clear bath sealing silicone to make the ripples in the surface. I have done several water dioramas in the past and been able to use a random pattern to simulate the sea but this was different. The downwash from the helicopter was the effect I wanted and I had to make the little waves in circles coming out from directly under where the centre of the helicopter would be. I used the back of a teaspoon to sculpt the wet silicone until I was happy with the shape. Although the clear silicone is good it doesn't quite have the water gloss I wanted so several coats of Johnson's Klear with some Hudson and Allen snow mixed in was brushed over the entire wet area.

Vegetation was going to be a mix of aquarium plastic plants which had been cut down and painted but in the end I was given some fern like moss which worked really well. This was attached over the top of some hanging basket synthetic liner which when pulled apart look like heavy undergrowth. The vegetation was attached over a layer of Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement. This very thin white glue was also sprayed over the top before I painted the bushes with model air colour paints. Finishing off with the embankment was fairly simple as all I did was to apply a couple of wet coats of Mig Pigments mixed to the colour I wanted, when it dried out I added some darker shade around the bushes. With the base complete I needed to set the figures. I will not give a blow by blow account of my painting methods but suffice to say I use Vallejo Acrylics throughout. Very few modifications were needed to alter the figures but where necessary magic sculpt came to the rescue. As I mentioned I used a mix of Verlinden Dragon and Andrea miniatures to populate the diorama. Very little was done to alter them but where necessary arms were changed heads were turned hands were sculpted. The military figures are almost straight from the box with added straps for the weapons and an aerial for the radio made from an acupuncture needle bent to shape. Where appropriate the name and unit badges were applied as colour copies of the real badges printed onto thin paper attached with white glue.

Happy accidents!

At about this stage I found that I had a stress fracture in one of the clear panels in the right hand side cabin door. I wasn't too impressed with the fact that I believe this was caused by excess stress created by the fit of the parts being so poor. One thing I have always believed in is destiny and in this case I found a way to disguise the problem with some light scratching of the areas with a pin to make the impression of a laminated screen which has been shattered. In the middle of each of the spiders web pattern I drilled a small hole which gave the appearance of having been shot at. I believe this was meant to be and turned out to be a happy accident; it actually breaks up the monotony of the side doors.

Doorgunner 1/35 Dragon UH-1D Huey Slick

Conclusions

I am glad to see that the models from Panda were incorporated into someone else's kit listings but in reality Dragon have done themselves no favours. With some of the Gen 2 figures and kits now coming from their factory this one falls far short of the bench mark they have set themselves in other areas. The addition of the Eduard etched is welcome but this does not detract from the poor fit of parts and the heavy detail elsewhere. The decals were not too bad but when looking at pictures of the real aircraft the painting of the female and tiger on the nose could be a lot better. I would find it hard to recommend this kit to anyone but the die hard UH-1 fanatic who really wants one in their collection and even then he or she would have to be fairly experienced in order to get the most from it.

Score 6 out of 10.

You will need

  • MEK
  • Cyanoacrylate and accelerator.
  • Tamiya Masking tape
  • Mastercasters buffing /sanding pads. Scalpel.
  • Needle files
  • Tweezers
  • Johnsons Klear
  • Good quality airbrush. I used an Iwata HP CH.
  • Good quality paint brushes (ranging from sizes 10/0 to 4).
  • Invisible mending thread
  • Formula 560 white glue
  • Mr Decal softener from Gunze Sangyo

Mig Pigments

  • Po29 Brick Dust
  • Po33 Dark Mud
  • Po 24 Light Rust

Paints used

  • Gunze Sangyo
    • H 304 Olive Drab
    • H12 Black
  • Tamiya
    • X-19 Smoke
  • Model Air
    • 045 US Grey Light
    • 059 Matt varnish
    • 063 Silver
  • Windsor and Newton Artist Oils
    • Paynes Grey
  • Alclad 2
    • Aluminium
    • Jet exhaust
    • Burnished exhaust

References

  • Kageroo Topshots 35 UH-1D, ISBN-978-83-60445-47-1
  • Squadron UH-1 in action, ISBN 978-0897471794
  • Monografie Lotnicze 108, Bell UH-1 Iroquois Huey, ISBN 978-83-7237-182-9

Additional items

  • Dragon 1/35 Viet Cong 3304
  • Dragon 1/35 U.S. 1St Cavalry 3312
  • Andrea Miniatures 1/32 S2A2 Ox
  • Verlinden 1/35 Vietnamese Civilians 298

tigger

Published on 16. May 2009

Pictures are from John Murphy.

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