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Seafire FR.47 - Grand Phoenix/Airfix 1/48 - FINISHED!


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When people ask me what my favourite Spitfire version is, I usually reply something along the lines of "whichever one  I've built a model of most recently". I do have a particular fondness for the late-model Griffon Spits, though, so this GB seems like a good opportunity to bring out my Grand Phoenix "Ultimate Seafire" - which as I'm sure everyone here knows, is a reboxing of the well-regarded Airfix kit with extra resin, etch and decals. I must confess to being slightly apprehensive about doing this one in public, so to speak, especially as it's been a while since I did anything with so much aftermarket gubbins.

A couple of shots of box and bits to start with. I was lucky enough to get this kit for a good price on ebay a few years ago. It does look like an awful lot of plastic, resin and metal! I just hope all the bits are there. Oh well, here we go...

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I've done a bit of sorting parts prior to prepping the resin, which will be my first real task. I acquired a load of small plastic boxes years ago when the company I worked for at the time closed the site where I was based, and lots of stuff was being skipped - I find them really useful for storing small or delicate parts and sub-assemblies.

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Right - that's all the resin cleaned up and ready to be washed, and the fuselage halves prepped for surgery. I might actually be able to start sticking things together soon!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have been chipping away at this - almost literally - for a while now, but not much worth posting. There has been a lot of resin cleanup, surgery of kit parts, scraping and thinning, checking fit, etc etc. I feel I am making some progress, so here's a snapshot of most of the bits:

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The cockpit is mostly done and ready to assemble into the fuselage. After some thought I've gone for an all-black cockpit, which seems to be the consensus as to the most likely scheme, but with a plastic seat to allow a bit of colour contrast. There seems to be some discussion as to whether plastic or metal seats would have been used on the FR.47, but plastic seems at least a possibility. The lovely Aires resin Griffon engine is mostly assembled and ready to be built up onto the firewall for insertion into the front of the fuselage. I think it will fit - I've thinned the fuselage as much as I dare in that area! The resin engine really is a little work of art - I've done a little bit of dry-brushing in light aircraft grey and silver to bring up the detail, but don't want to overdo it. I hope once the fuselage goes together things should move a bit more quickly!

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A bit of drama today. I was checking the fit of the locating pins that fix the engine bearers to the firewall, and managed to snap one of them off (pesky brittle resin!). After a lot of swearing I managed to carefully drill out the end and fit a bit of wire to make a new pin - the one on the right below.

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The cockpit bits are now pretty much ready to be fitted into the fuselage - here's the seat, instrument panel and floor assembly:

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I've taken the plunge and glued the fuselage together. This may not seem like a big deal, but I'm still a bit nervous about getting all the resin to fit in the cockpit - the seat and supporting framework are in there OK, and I'm planning to insert the instrument panel and floor from below after everything else has cured off properly. I'm as sure as I can be that everything will fit, but there's always a nagging doubt that I'm made a schoolboy error that will mean a lot of extra work. I'm also slightly nervous about the strength of the joint forward of the cockpit - especially having thinned the plastic to accommodate the firewall assembly later. I've reinforced the joint with a couple of extra plastic strips and I'm thinking of adding some epoxy inside, afterwards - I really don't want that joint to open up when I'm fitting the engine - it's going to be awkward enough getting the alignment vaguely right. 

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I'm also moving forward slowly on the wings and engine:

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Engine still has some plumbing to add, and the exhaust stacks of course.

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I know exactly what you mean about getting nervous about cramming all the resin in... I took days before I had the nerve to close up the fuselage on mine... I found I was left looking for things to do to put off actually committing to it... anything, including adding bits of detail I knew would never be seen, just to put off the inevitable.

 

I am sure it will all go well... I had a seam open while I was on the main painting phase on mine, but it was fixed easily enough, but I know exactly what you mean!

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The next bijou problemette is that the wings don't actually fit to the fuselage:

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They're OK from the back to where there's an angle in the wing root about a third of the way back from the leading edge, but there's about 1 - 1.5 mm overlap each side by the time you get to the leading edge. I suspect in an OOB build you could just squeeze things in, but with the resin cockpit in place and, more to the point, the firewall and engine to go in, there is no flexure available. I'll just have to trim the forward part of the wing upper surfaces to fit as best I can, and then make with the filler. Wish me luck!

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One of the challenges, for me at least, of these aftermarket accessories, is deciding whether, and when, to deviate from the printed instruction sequence. In this Grand Phoenix set, the instructions would have you glue the exhaust stacks onto the engine in the early stages, and only much later fit the etched brass 'straps' than run fore and aft - but these have to fit over the stacks, which themselves have no positive location points on the engine block. So, get the positioning of the exhausts wrong by even a small amount, and the straps won't fit. What I've elected to do is glue the straps onto the exhausts, then fit the whole onto the engine assembly. Here's one of the stacks, with its strap - I've used some "Quick Shine" acrylic floor sealer to tack it in place, and will glue it more firmly later.

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I've been wrestling with how to ensure proper alignment when I glue the engine assembly into the fuselage, given that there's no positive location point for the firewall. I've come up with this jig, made by scanning the profile view of an FR.47 from the Modeller's Datafile book, enlarging from the existing 1/72 scale to print at 1/48, then gluing to card and cutting out the upper fuselage profile. This gives me a guide so I can hopefully get the thrust line about right. Left/right alignment should be straightforward. There are also some card supports to cradle the front end of the fuselage. It's not pretty (but thank goodness for hot melt glue!) but I think it should be close enough. I'll hopefully do the assembly later on.

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Things they don't tell you in the Grand Phoenix instructions, #147: a section has to be cut out of the lower wing section for the air intake cowling to fit. Fortunately I realised this before fixing the wings to the fuselage, when it would have been much more awkward to fix, but it would have been helpful to have this flagged up in the instructions, so I could do it with all the other major surgery before staring assembly! Sigh.

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OK, so that didn't quite go according to plan. Having made my alignment jig and glued up the engine assembly to the fuselage, when I took it off the jig, I found that the alignment was out and the nose had a distinct droop! Something must have been slightly out on the jig - probably some slippage around the spinner. Hey ho - down to experience, etc., etc. I haven't captured the mis-alignment on camera, sorry - I was just too cross! I've managed to gently go in with a scalpel and pare away enough epoxy to move the firewall and realign it - fortunately I didn't go overboard on the amount of glue! I've ended up with a very slight gap around part of the top edge of the firewall, but I think that can be tidied up and shouldn't be too noticeable in the end.

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A bit more resin-bashing today. The big air intake section that fits underneath the engine block has some nice detail, but it won't fit in place:

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I don't think it's just me - there just isn't room to cram everything in. I guess it would be nice to have that detail if you were going to leave that section off, but I'd have though it really ought to fit! Anyway, that detail will be invisible on my model when the intake's in place, so it's out with the rotary tool!

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Despite my whingeing, things are progressing. It's starting to look like a Seafire at last!

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I must say, I'm finding that doing this build with the exposed engine really brings home the size of the Griffon, and what a huge proportion of the airframe it occupies.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Things have been a bit slow as I've been distracted with other projects, but I have been doing assorted not very photogenic stuff on the Seafire - mostly filling and sanding. There have been a couple of hiccups. I was tidying up the top fuselage seam and realised it hadn't bonded properly, so although it looked OK, as soon as any pressure was applied I could see the joint opening up slightly. Fixed by running in some plastic weld and re-clamping. Then, yesterday I was rubbing down the primer coat and one of the tailplanes came off. Honestly, I thought I was more careful with  my gluing than that! Anyway, I'm finally ready to get some paint onto it, so here we go. I might even finish this by the end date, although I think it'll be tight!

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Main colours applied, and I'm now applying a gloss coat before decalling (acrylic floor shine). There are a few bits to touch up, but nothing too horrendous. 

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  • djktrumpet changed the title to Seafire FR.47 - Grand Phoenix/Airfix 1/48 - FINISHED!

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