I’ve always wanted to model the English Electric Lightning in my favorite scale of 1:72, but the kits available left much to be desired. First I started with the Frog kit, but gave up due to MFS (Modeller Frustration Syndrome). This was in the dark ages of modelling, when the terms “resin” and “photoetch” had yet to be added to the lexicon. Next, I tried the Hasegawa kit, but was a bit surprised to find the box contained what looked like the Frog kit! I never even tried the Matchbox kit, as I had not had a good history with that brand in general. When Revell of Germany released an F.6, I thought that this could be the one, perhaps nice new tooling at the level of their very fine F-4F and Tornado GR.1 kits. I ripped open the box and found…THE FROG KIT! Arghhh…
When Trumpeter released their line of 1:72 Lightning kits, I figured that I was finally going to be able to add one to my collection. I opted for the F.2A/F.6 kit, and was greeted with beautiful mouldings, with nicely recessed panel lines and crisp detailing. But as I’ve often found with “TrumpyBoss” kits, they look great in the box, but later come back to haunt me.
I’m sure every Britmodeller knows the shortcomings of this kit. Here are the known problems that I plan to concentrate on:
1. The absolutely hideous "pinched" rear fuselage section.
2. The even more absolutely hideous pregnant guppy belly tank.
3. The just plain hideous tailpipes and exhaust nozzles.
4. The lack of the numerous kinks in the leading edge of the wings (Trumpy got one right in the yaw axis, but seems to have missed the others in the Z, or pitch, axis. Not sure what I can do, if anything, about this.)
5. The over population of rivets on the tail planes. Every time I look at it, there seems to be more. I think they’re reproducing in the box.
6. Ventral strakes are too large.
7. The main landing gear is too tall.
8. The intake ring has a dull leading edge, and the profile is a tad off.
9. Missile launchers are mounted too far aft.
10. Re-fuelling probe light is on wrong side, pointing out into space instead of pointing at the fuselage.
11. The perfectly in-register, yet perfectly wrong colour, undersized decals.
12. The cockpit and bang seat.
13. The “sealed over” small exhaust port on the port side of the rear fuselage.
(Please feel free to add to my list. I am in no way any kind of an expert on the Lightning! There may be some things that I’ve missed.)
Where to start?? Where else, fire up the Internet, open wallet and start shopping!
On the resin side, I purchased the Aires cockpit and ejection seats, the Quickboost intake ring, the Quickboost rear fuselage corrections and tailpipes/exhaust nozzles, and the Heritage F.6 belly tank. For Photoetch I bought the Eduard S.A. and exterior detail set (Oh boy! More 1:72 brake lines!). For decals, I acquired the beautiful Xtradecal sheet 72088, and selected the markings for XN793 of 92 Squadron based in Germany in 1970. I just love the red and yellow checkerboards on the front fuselage, and the Roundel Blue tail. I also picked up the Xtradecal complete stencil set for the Lightning. Whew! Here is a family shot, and a couple of close-ups of the detail accessories and decal scheme:
The first area of attention is the rear fuselage. The Aires resin set offers a complete replacement for the rear portion of the fuselage, along with much nicer and larger exhaust nozzles. This photo compares the kit nozzles (right) with the Aires nozzles (left). There is just no way that the small kit exhausts can make the deafening Lightning roar during a full performance take-off!
Aires designed the replacement fuselage panels so that you can cut along existing panel lines on the kit. Like so:
I cut out both sides of the fuselage, and then added some styrene strips to provide a support for the new resin panels:
I then did a test to see how the resin replacement will fit, and it gives the impression that it is a bit short:
However, the replacement exhaust nozzles incorporate part of the rear fuselage, and when installed the overall length of the model will be quite close to what it should be (my measurements show about 1mm short once the exhausts are installed). To provide a nice mounting surface for the new exhausts, I’ll trim the bottom of the fuselage sides to line up with the replacement panels.
I decided to attach the new rear panels only after I have the two fuselage halves together. That means that I need to finish the cockpit and intake tunnel, as well as cut out the Trumpeter belly tank to allow its replacement by the Heritage piece. So, I turned my attention to the intake tunnel. Here are the two main pieces:
I immediately noticed that the locating pins that are moulded into the Trumpeter parts will be visible when looking down the intake, so it will be necessary to sand them off. The radome cone and its mounting plate are provided, and will actually hide the seam in the tunnel, so that won’t have to be filled. Here are the intake tunnel pieces after sanding the locating pins off:
The assembled cockpit sits on top of the intake tunnel. I’m replacing the kit cockpit with the one from Aires (although to be fair, the cockpit and bang seat in the Trumpeter kit are not so bad, and could be detailed nicely). Here is a shot showing the Aires cockpit on the left, and the kit cockpit on the right:
And one that shows the Aires cockpit side panels, as well as a shot comparing the Aires resin seat with that from the kit:
With most resin replacement cockpits that I’ve worked with, you need to sand the side of the pit as well as the inside of the fuselage in order to get a good fit, and to avoid bulging out the sides of the front fuselage. With this pit, however, I didn’t find any problem necessitating a lot of sanding to reduce its width, what I found instead was that I needed to sand a curve into the bottom of the pit. This photo shows the bottom of the Aires cockpit (flat) with the bottom of the kit cockpit (curved):
So the sanding sticks come out, and a-sanding we shall go! Let’s hope there’s enough resin to allow me to make the curve without breaking through into the cockpit floor! Here is the end result:
Next, a little dry fitting to make sure that everything fits together:
It looks pretty good to me, so let’s tackle the belly tank now. Numerous sources on the Web describe the belly tank on the Trumpeter as looking like a “pregnant guppy.” I’m not so sure that a guppy can get pregnant (don’t they have to turn into a frog first?) but it sounds like a good description to me. When compared against a 1:72 scale drawing, it is obvious that the kit tank is much too low:
First, we cut the belly tank out of each half of the fuselage. After the surgery, I assembled the four pieces of the tank so that we can get a good comparison of the kit tank (above) with the replacement tank (below) from Heritage. Here are some pretty telling photos, as there is a significant difference in size:
But more importantly, and I think this is what really contributes to the Trumpeter belly tank looking so “bulbous” is the cross-section:
So this is where I am today. Since I will be doing an F.2A Lightning, I need to sand the cannon blisters off of the belly tank, as well as fill the openings for the cannon barrels. I will also be filling all of the panel lines on the resin tank (they look very rather crude for my taste) and I’ll need to re-scribe it later.
Hey, much fun! But I think the results will be worth the effort, and I’ll finally have a nice Lightning to add to my collection. Next task is to fire up my new ultra-quiet compressor (Santa does really well when you do the shopping for him) and we'll start painting the cockpit and intake tunnel.
Cheers for now,
Edited by Navy Bird, 08 January 2012 - 10:39 PM.