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pigsty

Heller Mirage 2000C with Pavla upgrades - hints & tips

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I've just posted my Mirage 2000 here: http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/234968265-dassault-mirage-2000c/ in Ready for Inspection. Here are some tips for building it, and the Pavla parts I added, in the hope that someone might find them useful.



Cockpit


Pavla make a cockpit for the Heller kit, but that’s not what I had; I had the one for the Kinetic kit as a review sample. This is very similar but, of course, designed for a slightly different piece of plastic. Still, it’s a better idea than the NeOmega cockpit, which is designed for the old Italeri kit (not the newer Kinetic rebox). Large differences in the way it fits to the nosegear well would have caused a lot of trouble making it fit. (I’m selling it if anyone’s interested!)


The cockpit for Kinetic can be made to fit Heller with a lot of sanding of both plastic and resin. This probably applies if you’re putting in a Kinetic kit, of course, but differently. I think I took out too little plastic, which has made my cockpit narrow. I had to mount the side-walls a bit far in: they’re meant to sit on ledges next to the side consoles, while mine are just about on top of them. On one side the ledge was a little too small anyway, so you might want to watch for this. I ended up having to shave off the bottoms of the side-walls to give them room to sit above the buttons and switches. Though it doesn’t really show. :whistle: Even allowing for this, the fit’s not brilliant behind the seat; but that can be concealed under the rear bow of the canopy.


The coaming is much nicer than NeOmega’s (this set is almost worth having for that alone) but, again, it’s a tight squeeze. No matter which set you have, be prepared to shave off corners and to have to remove more kit plastic than you realised.


Painting instructions are a bit haphazard. As always, check your references (and bear in mind that not all seats found in a Mirage 2000 use the same colours).



Canopy


This was the single trickiest stage of the whole build.


The Pavla cockpit set includes a vac-formed acetate canopy. This has its attractions: thinner, reasonably clear, separate canopy and windscreen. The detail is a bit soft but it’s on a par with the kit’s.


Neither Heller’s nor Pavla’s parts fitted. In part this must be down to my not having trimmed the cockpit tub enough. The effect on the cockpit parts themselves was to pinch in the sides (as above) but the effect on the fuselage parts was to spread them slightly.


In the end I pressed on with Pavla. Because neither Pavla nor Heller supplied an actuator, I wanted to leave the canopy shut while allowing the cockpit to be seen, and Pavla’s problems were more manageable. In particular, I knew it would need some flexing and poking to make it fit, which acetate could take better than polystyrene. My diagnosis notwithstanding, I don’t think all the bother was down to me. This is because both canopy and windscreen were wider than the fuselage at the bottom front corners, and narrower at the bottom rear. That can’t have been caused by a wide fuselage. The windscreen also sat too high at the front. This could have been addressed by trimming the front end, but that would have removed the frame and its bolt details; trimming the other end would have removed the rear frame. The only remedy I could find was to plonk it on, then fair in the front end by building up two thin plies of plastic sheet and slopping on Mr Dissolved Putty. If you’re forced to do this, take care over the mounting for the FR probe. If you can leave some plastic showing through the filler, it will be a lot easier to attach.


The canopy tended to a different curve from the windscreen - it seemed twisted to the right and so was too high on that side and too low on the other. The soft detail also made it hard to know where there was excess acetate, and on reflection I probably trimmed away a little less canopy than I should have. It might have fitted better but for that.


Well, anyway, I muddled through and bodged most of the resulting dips and gaps. The filler here was Clearfix because, as well as all that, the rear frame of the canopy wouldn’t reach the fuselage spine at the bottom corners - not only too narrow but too short.


There’s some swarf inside the canopy. I suspect this is not so much unavoidable as obligatory. There’s also some glue. I’d have preferred to use PVA but I knew it wouldn’t stand up to the manipulation. And, despite a coat of Klear inside and out, there was enough CA to create some fogging. The lesson is to use more Klear - I couldn’t have avoided using that much glue.


On balance I’d have preferred a one-piece vac-formed canopy with the option of separating the pieces. Who knows how it might have fitted, but at least there wouldn’t have been a mismatch between canopy and windscreen.



Control surfaces


Pavla’s elevons are nice to have because they show the hinge covers better than the kit parts and have finer external hinges on the underside. Those hinges are how the elevons attach to the wing. But there’s a problem.


To fit the elevons you remove the kit parts by sawing along the hinge line. To avoid steps from the remains of the engraved line, you need to remove all of it. This effectively puts the mounting line for the new parts too far forward. On the real thing, when the elevons droop there’s not much space between their top surfaces and the fixed structure. Pavla’s seem to have dropped slightly. They sit low, leaving a large space behind the wing. It’s not a gap - you can’t see daylight through it - but it’s not the correct snug fit either.


I suppose I might have attached the hinges in the wrong place. But I followed Pavla’s incised marks on the elevons. And, with the geometry, it doesn’t seem possible to fix it by mounting the hinges further back. That would tend to raise the elevons, but it wouldn’t leave enough room for their leading edge, which is already in contact with the wing.


My solution was to attach a length of 1.5mm L-section strip along the wing trailing edge. This give a false impression of how the edge looks, but it covers that space reasonably well. I suspect it also puts back a little bit of chord lost because of Heller’s slightly coarse hinge line. Where it’s not all that easy to fiddle is the wing root, where the Kármánn fairing starts. You can create the curve by building it up with thin plastic, or by leaving the end of the L-section free and bending it before you glue it in separately. I ended up doing both, on opposite sides - still not sure why.


One small mystery is that Pavla’s hinges are all slightly inboard of the kit ones.


At the outboard end, Pavla also gives you replacement wingtips with slightly better rendered RWR receivers. I discovered only on attaching them that these are mounted nose-up, which isn’t right. I can’t think of a correction. Another feature is that the rear of these bits has a little recess to take the nose of that section of elevon. This is nice to have, but no earthly use when the rest of the elevon hinge has to be sawn away and there’s no replacement structure. I defy anyone to create a hinge line that looks right and still allows room for the elevons. If you’re doing what I did with covering the elevon hinge line, bear in mind that the wingtips are slightly longer in chord than the ends of the wings after you’ve cut away the kit elevons. I should have extended that L-shaped strip into a narrower bit on the wingtip.


The antenna fairing is partly on the wingtip and partly on the elevon, so you’ll want to ensure they line up. Judicious sanding of the inner end of the elevon or the wing root fairing should take care of it. Also, the nose of the elevon portion needs chamfering, or it will foul the tail of the wingtip portion.


Finally, this set includes replacement rear ends for the Kármánn fairings (the bits inboard of the elevons that lie alongside the rear fuselage). I’m not sure why. Neither kit part nor replacement is a brilliant fit and there’s not much to choose in the sharpness of their edges. This Pavla set doesn’t include the fairings with the Spirale dispensers. The kit does - well, sort of, they’re pretty coarse. The only way to get better ones is to buy Pavla’s control surfaces set for the later Kinetic Mirages - eg the 2000D.


Two more small tips. The outboard pylons are wrongly shaped at the rear end and will foul the elevons; and the rear end of the rail, where the Magics attach, fouls their rear fins. A little filing is needed (or the Pavla pylon set). On one of my elevons there was also a slight bend. My attempt to flex it back snapped it, but that wasn’t a problem as it was along the panel line and the two halves can be made to marry up again. If I hadn’t also snapped a hinge, I might have done the same on the other side.



Intakes


These are a shocking fit. Your goal is to ensure that the leading edge of the splitter plate is flush with the intake lip. As designed, the kit will probably make it protrude slightly. There’s a choice of ways to address this. None is “right” in the sense of minimising trouble; your best bet is to dry-fit, see out where the gaps are, and decide which of them you least fancy trying to fix.


Personally I fitted the intakes after the wing, contrary to the instructions. This seemed to make the gaps easier to deal with. But, as I should have expected, it all changed between dry-fit and final fit, and there’s packing everywhere. Having said that, I still don’t think attaching them to the fuselage first would have been significantly better.


The intake strakes are far too fat. But they fit into plain holes, directly to the outer surface of the intakes, so you can thin them to your heart’s content. A common feature of Heller kits is that the locating pins are smaller than the corresponding holes*, so a bit of filling will be needed too. Be warned that your strakes may actually be fatter towards the ends, in defiance of all that we think we know about mould design.


* if you think this is bad, you should see the pitot heads.



Undercarriage


The undercarriage legs are fairly sturdy and shouldn’t need replacing for strength. But there are problems. The retraction struts on the maingear fit poorly to the legs and have no location at all in the wells. You can brace them well enough but they’re just touching, with no obvious reason to be there. The same goes for the inner doors. The nosegear arrangement, as assembled, leaves the retraction strut floating free. It should attach at the top front corner of the well - still no proper detail there, but at least the location would be right. But it’s too short and barely reaches the lip of the well. If you try to get the leg raked slightly aft as it ought to be, the strut misses the well altogether. On reflection I think this is because the leg is slightly too long, or at least its location points in the well are too low. I realised this far, far too late.


All the wells are very plain. You can hide a lot by leaving all the larger doors shut, as is the norm on the ground. But even then a little detail in the outer portions of the maingear wells is worth adding. NB: I don’t think the inner doors are curved to match the underside. My solution was to mount them ajar, which is also seen on the ground.


The roof of the maingear well is mostly on the wing parts, but one slice doesn’t appear until you attach the wing to the fuselage - it’s under the wing root fairing. There will be gaps. The fuselage section is the right depth on the outer side, but it’s too shallow and too narrow on the inner side. Even with the doors fully shut, these gaps can be seen, so they’ll need fixing.


The small doors to either side of the nosegear fit poorly. The curved hinges are quite nice, but they foul the nosegear leg. File and fit to taste.


Overall, I’d say it wouldn’t be a bad idea to seek replacement undercarriage and wells. I love those resin wheels, though. My cavil about the brake actuators is trivial compared with the overall effect.



VOR aerials


These mount to either side of the fin. Like the intake strakes, they’re far too chunky. But unlike the intakes, Heller moulded little plinths on the fin to attach them to. These are the same thickness and they’d be very tricky to thin. I decided to leave it in the end.



Exhaust


I used the kit part. It’s a bit plain and it’s stuck in the fully-open position, but I was happy with the representation of the inner nozzle. I scribed some lines on each outer petal and used Mr Metal paints for a passable result. An obvious alternative is an Aires exhaust. Whatever you choose, the ring at the end of the fuselage is in one piece on the kit, but 64 tiny sections on the real thing. If you like, you can scribe them in: four for each exhaust petal.



Counterweight


No nose weight is mentioned in the instructions. As the build progressed it seemed none was needed - the extra weight of the elevons was balanced by the weight of the cockpit. As it’s turned out the model is just balanced, and I think that’s only because of the position of the centreline tank. If you were to add a resin exhaust as well, you’d definitely have a tail-sitter. So I’d recommend half an ounce or so. There’s plenty of room in the nose.



The rest of the kit


A familiar problem here: iffy fit, and panel lines not always meeting where they cross the joins. The part where you should pay the most attention is the fin root. If you can get this level, your job when attaching the fin will be much easier. The fin itself needs the right-hand half thinning, or it will sit proud. There’s also rough fit just behind the nosegear well, and the inserted ventral panel takes some fiddling too. I’m still trying to work out why there’s a separate panel there.


The wing-to-fuselage junction is very uneven: at some points the wing is higher, at others it’s lower, that’s not symmetrical, and the gaps (just about all the way along) vary in width. If you can leave a trace of them, though, it’s a help, as there are real panel lines there. Note that they’re not smooth curves - they really do kink to and fro as the kit parts do.


But at least the wing is in one piece, goes on evenly, and sets the correct anhedral. This is a major plus compared with the Kinetic kit. You can do a bit of surgery on that to fix it, but it’s nice not to have to.



Overall


This kit definitely falls into the category of some modelling skills needed. I don’t mind this approach where you get, say, basic shapes and you have to add detail. I find it less acceptable where it amounts to having to compensate for poor design. Being fatalistic about it - or, worse, having a go at people who object to it because they’re not “proper modellers” - does nothing to encourage kit manufacturers to improve their fit and finish. (This is an old kit, though, and Heller hasn’t done much of late, so that boat has probably sailed.)


Unfortunately the upgrades are also some modelling skills needed. While I created my own problem by using a cockpit aimed at a different kit, a lot of the fit was ropey, the instructions were murky, and I don’t think quite enough thought went into how the resin was meant to attach to the plastic. Nor am I very impressed with acetate canopies. I’m quite glad I didn’t pay for this stuff. But the detail is, on the whole, improved for having it.


And, having said all that, I’ve rather enjoyed myself. I’ve always thought the Mirage 2000 was a dainty little thing, and I’m quite pleased with the end result.


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A very detailed explanation of the problems, plenty of good advice there ! Thanks for sharing your experience. And your model looks really good !

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