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Cierva C30.A Autogiro G-ACUU Modelling Scheme c.1950


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Hi Everyone,

 

For the last few years, I’ve been researching my grandfather’s Cierva C.30a autogiro and I would really like your help to model it accurately.

 

During the time it took to set up my Britmodeller account, I’ve enjoyed reading the forum archives and it seems that @petetasker is a bit of a C.30/Rota expert – so it would be great to get your thoughts. I am full of admiration for @pierre Giustiniani's model of G-ACUU as HM580 – it was fantastic to see. And another incredible find was @Fastcat's story of sneaking into Elmdon hangar to see G-ACUU in the 60s. Wonderful stuff!

 

The time now seems perfect to model G-ACUU given the availability of the Mini-Art 1:35 kits, which look great to my untrained eyes but as they come in so many flavours, I'm not sure which one to start with (or are all the kits the same, just with variation in the decals?).

 

I want to model G-ACUU as it was in 1950 when my grandfather bought it. It was also in the same scheme when it flew at Hendon’s 50 years of flying display 1951. My grandfather loaned the aircraft to Norman Hill (who was a F/O in No.529 Squadron) to fly the display. My grandfather was an RAF signals F/L involved in radar development during the war and I have his service record but have been unable to tie it to the autogiros so far, despite my best efforts.

 

The liveries pre- and post-war look very similar in the images from “Aeroplane Monthly” magazine (below) but the longitudinal stripe is different widths.  The colours are a complete mystery though because all the images I have seen to date are black-and-white.

31db42d307b47278908e9f798464bcb6.jpg

 

The aircraft has been well photographed since the 1960s when, following the birth of my father, my grandmother forced Guy to stop flying and it was loaned to the Skyfame collection and has latterly found a prominent home at the IWM Duxford next to their glorious Spits.  The IWM have returned to G-ACUU to a wartime scheme, so I would really like to commemorate its civilian life.

 

Some have linked the nickname “Billy Boy” to G-ACUU but nobody in my family has ever heard this name and so we don’t know where it came from.

 

In the book “Spitfires and Autogiros: A history of Upper Culham Farm, RAF Henley-on-Thames”, the author Darren J. Pitcher claims the following which I have not been able to verify:

-        G-ACUU/HM580 was crashed on the 18th October 1943 whilst returning to Thornaby in bad weather flown by P/O Gillies.  I’m hoping there might be a photo of this somewhere.

-        G-ACUU was the last autogiro to fly with the RAF.  This is a sad footnote to the story but I haven’t heard this before and it would give the aircraft extra importance.

 

Sorry, that’s a bit of a full-on first post - hope it's interesting to some and starts a conversation.

 

Cheers,

 

Simon

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Hi Simon

 

Welcome aboard mate and thanks for the kind comments. Going to disappoint unfortunately as believe me I’m no expert. I just have a long fascination with gyros and the C.30 in particular.

 

The Mini Art kit is quite superb. All of the boxing’s are basically the same though with different decals. The only exceptions are the Swedish ‘Ski’ and the late version Fw C.30 which feature the cold weather Genet modifications (plus skies) and the German Siemens engine respectively. The late Siemens version also has some modifications to the fuselage nose. My only criticism really of the kit is the poor research that’s gone into some of the colour schemes and the slightly dodgy reproduction of the colours on some of the decals. Other than that the basic kit is superb. I think at the last count I’ve got another six in the stash. There’s not been that many aftermarket bits released for the kit other than replacement wheels from both ResKit and FC Model. The ResKit wheels are very good though I’d steer clear of those from FC Model. Basically they just don’t seem that accurate.

 

As far as researching ACUU goes you will have found yourself there is basically a lot of conflicting information out there. It seems there weren’t that many paint colours available to a small company like Cierva and the standard schemes were usually either dark blue or silver dope. I’ve seen colour photographs of UU in the silver scheme featuring both red and blue undercarriage legs and rotor mast. It’s interesting that the early (blue) schemes in your post both feature different cheat line styles and also different font styles for the registration. The photos also show different main wheel configurations with the upper shot not having the hub covers. 

 

Pete 

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13 hours ago, petetasker said:

It seems there weren’t that many paint colours available to a small company like Cierva and the standard schemes were usually either dark blue or silver dope. I’ve seen colour photographs of UU in the silver scheme featuring both red and blue undercarriage legs and rotor mast. It’s interesting that the early (blue) schemes in your post both feature different cheat line styles and also different font styles for the registration. The photos also show different main wheel configurations with the upper shot not having the hub covers. 

 

Pete 


Thanks Pete. I will buy a kit and some ResKit wheels then.

If we’re thinking G-ACUU was navy blue in 1950, do you have any thoughts on the best colour match? I have Vallejo Model Air 90 Blue Angel Blue.

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Is there anything to suggest what colour the cheat lines and lettering would be? They must be a light colour. Perhaps white even.

 

Is there a good guide to airbrushing cheat lines anywhere, I’ve not done them before. 
 

Is there a source of 1/35 lettering for the “G-ACUU”?

 

The colour photos of G-ACUU with a silver body and red/blue undercarriage show a later scheme, but I’m not sure exactly when it was painted.
 

Cheers, 

 

Simon

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Hi again

 

As far as cheat line and lettering colours go my money’s on white. Most of the book references say the same. As far as decal lettering goes Xtradecal do a number of sheets of lettering ie X32022. The problem really is precisely matching the size and font. Unlike the military, civilian fonts didn’t tend to be standardised so whatever you do might be a bit of a compromise.

 

Colours - I’ve used both Humbrol 104 Oxford Blue and Tamiya XF17 Sea Blue both lightened quite a bit with white in the past. I think a straight navy blue is just a little too dark. In my mind the colours of G-ACXA on the front cover of Autogiro by Nicholas Richardson look about right.(I’ll pm a copy of the cover).

 

Cheat lines - basically it’s just a case of careful masking and spraying. The thinner of the two cheat lines in your photographs (main photograph) is a standard Cierva cheat line and is actually included in Mini Arts 41006 ‘Avro Cierva C.30A Civilian Service’ Kit. OK-ATS had the same cheat line so you could use that. (note Mini Art got the overall aircraft colour wrong - it should have been blue rather than green!)

 

Given photographs of the silver scheme with either red or blue undercarriage and mast can be found in colour I’m guessing this is something that was done much later probably once it was retired and entered the museum phase of its life. I’ll drop you a couple of colour shots which you may have seen before by PM. They are not my shots so I’d rather not post them here as there might be copyright issues.

 

Hope this helps

 

Pete

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Thanks Pete, that's excellent.  I always love to see new photos of the giro.

I've ordered a copy of Nicholas Richardson's book. I'm sure he, and his publisher, will be happy for me to post the cover below.  I've never seen a colour photo of this livery anywhere else so I think this is a really rare image. Do you think there are any more in the "Les autogires" books you mention here?  I looked at buying them, but they seem to be >£60 each which is a bit rich for right now.

 

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Hi

 

The original shot was taken in 1935 so was obviously B&W and then colour retouched. Either way it’s a valuable photograph especially for the modeller. The book details Jacks life so only a small part deals with his involvement with Cierva. There are however some interesting chapters concerning his involvement with Sikorsky and the British military’s first helicopters. 

 

No there aren’t any more in the les Autogires book unfortunately. Other than the colour cover, a series of colour profiles and some colour shots of preserved aircraft it’s all B&W. It is however a superb book and I know my copy gets used a lot. Prices unfortunately can be a bit stiff. I actually picked mine up a few years ago on eBay. It came from a French book dealer and was a mint unread as new copy - I think I paid £20.00 including postage so it’s worth keeping an eye out. Gyros are not generally the most popular of subjects. I think there was only one other bidder. I remember there was at the time a rather tatty copy advertised by a secondhand book dealer in York. They were asking £70 if memory serves.

 

Pete

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Hi Simon,

                 Nice to see someone with a connection to CUU. I'm inclined to think that the cheatline and reg are both silver but it's very hard to interpret colours from monochrome photos so I could never be certain.

This picture shows some of the warning markings and is from 1951, pilot G. S. Baker at Rearsby Airshow  :  Link

 

Dave

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17 hours ago, Fastcat said:

Hi Simon,

                 Nice to see someone with a connection to CUU. I'm inclined to think that the cheatline and reg are both silver but it's very hard to interpret colours from monochrome photos so I could never be certain.

This picture shows some of the warning markings and is from 1951, pilot G. S. Baker at Rearsby Airshow  :  Link

 

Dave

I wish they’d taken more notes on colours in those days. The cheat line and reg can look silver in some B&W photos. It very much depends on how the photo was processed and printed. The same photo reproduced in different books can look white in one and slightly darker suggesting silver in another. Guess back then they never imagined for one minute anyone would ever be remotely interested!

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Hi Pete,

                 Yes, it all depends on how they process the photograph and the quality of the negative and it helps if there is a known white next to the subject.

Some time back, I was looking at Sir Francis Chichester's Moth, Mme Elijah. I thought it was all in white but a good shot showing the wings clearly proved that the flying surfaces and tail were silver while the fuselage and floats appear white. It was only when the two finishes were adjacent that a difference was obvious. And once you know.............................

Back in those days, very few folks thought it was important. Colour film had been around a while but few could afford it. Someone, somewhere will have a picture.............

 

One thing that struck me standing next to it - and it's not apparent in the photos - is that it's quite an imposing beast. Not the sort of thing one would want to leave the ground in. Maybe it was the radial engine or the strange appearance but I was impressed. Another point was that it was well worn. Non of your immaculate civil aircraft standards here. The paint was dull and the silver quite matt with little trace of reflectivity and plenty of oil staining. Of course it would have been new once, but not when I saw it.

 

It made a big enough impression for me to remember the registration  after over 50 years and that's saying something.

 

Dave

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On 11/01/2021 at 22:23, Fastcat said:

Hi Simon,

                 Nice to see someone with a connection to CUU. I'm inclined to think that the cheatline and reg are both silver but it's very hard to interpret colours from monochrome photos so I could never be certain.

This picture shows some of the warning markings and is from 1951, pilot G. S. Baker at Rearsby Airshow  :  Link

 

Dave

Hi Dave,

 

Thanks for the photo, I think replicating those warnings might be beyond my modelling skills though! I do agree that someone, somewhere must have a colour photo though.  Colour photography wasn't so uncommon in the 1950s and the fact it was displayed at airshows must mean someone took a colour snap at some point.  I'll just keep hoping something turns up.

 

You're absolutely right about how imposing the C.30 is too.  You have to climb up high to get in and the nose is up in the air - manoeuvring it on the ground must have been difficult.  It's nothing like the tiny modern gyros often buzzing about over York.

 

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Cheers,

 

Simon

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What do you make of this as evidence in favour of a dark navy blue?  This is a toy made by "Britains" (set 1392) in 1935 so it's contemporary with the original aircraft.  I think a darker blue fits better with the darker aircraft in the images I originally posted.  I wonder if the aircraft was lightened in the book colour to make the colouring of the image easier.

 

Simon

 

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Edited by cavebloke
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Hello, hello Cierva fanatics.

 

As for the blue shade - found it (on ebay?) once photo of Titanine Emailite blue paint cans. Old, dirty, but I think it shows the right shade.

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Pete - since our last conversation I changed Cierva SP-ANN, first of all she got a silver tail and some brand new operating inscriptions. More is in the thread on the Polish forum.

 

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cavebloke - do you have the option to print decals nearby?

Edited by KayFranz
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@KayFranz  Thanks for your reply.  So the image of the paint can you posted - do you think this is the actual paint the Ciervas were painted in?  And if so where did you get that information?

 

I'm returning to modelling (been absent since my childhood) so I've never considered having any decal printed.  To be honest, I didn't know it was possible.

And there's the minor detail that I don't know what the tiny text says...

I would love to reproduce it though, if it was possible.

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Hi Simon,

                   Another factor that made it look imposing was the exposed radial engine. Few light aircraft in the UK were so equipped.

As for the blue, I forgot the Titanine range. I think that KayFranz got the right colour and it's not far from Britain's colour either. It certainly has the right appearance for aircraft of this period so that's the one I'd go for.

 

Dave

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One thing that struck me standing next to it - and it's not apparent in the photos - is that it's quite an imposing beast. Not the sort of thing one would want to leave the ground in. Maybe it was the radial engine or the strange appearance but I was impressed. Another point was that it was well worn. Non of your immaculate civil aircraft standards here. The paint was dull and the silver quite matt with little trace of reflectivity and plenty of oil staining. Of course it would have been new once, but not when I saw it.

These aircraft must have been difficult to keep clean. Not only would the engine throw oil everywhere but according to the C30 Owners manual I have in my collection, there were numerous grease points that had to be greased every flying day.

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I think that Britains model is probably the best guide. Looks very similar to the ultramarine shade used for British roundels at the time. Most 1930s British aircraft photos were taken using orthochromatic film, which makes blue appear lighter than it does in the later and more realistic panchromatic film. The lettering/stripe were mostly likely silver, which was much more widely used than white because of its lighter pigment and better covering qualities.  In old aircraft finishing manuals, I've seen use of white described as 'non-preferred' for use on fabric surfaces.  

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11 hours ago, Roger Holden said:

The lettering/stripe were mostly likely silver, which was much more widely used than white because of its lighter pigment and better covering qualities. 

Whilst I'd agree with that Roger, use of white wasn't completely unheard of:-

price-sheet.jpg?format=750w

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10 hours ago, Dave Swindell said:

Whilst I'd agree with that Roger, use of white wasn't completely unheard of:-

 

A very interesting document.....thanks for that. Explains why some restored Swifts have white wings, which I thought was a latter-day thing. Gold pinstripe is interesting info too....from old photos I would have assumed black. But the white wings was very much an exception, as you suggest.

 

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