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1/48 Lockheed Hudson - Contrail Vacform

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I hadn't though of doing this as a WIP build - but have had a rethink:

i) I had all sorts of trouble finding any build reviews of this one - and suspects there's quite a few of these in peoples stashes (either as Contrail, or the Sanger re-release).

ii)  hoping that actually building it will provide the impetus for an injection moulded 1/48 Hudson (Airfix?). That's invariably the way it works isn't it?


Scalemates says this was originally released in 1984, then re-released by Sanger in 1992 in a new box.  The Classic Airframes Hudson kit came out in 2000 - a significant step forward but almost impossible to come by this day (unless you're lucky at a Swap Meet or online 2nd hand).


In frustration (at not being able to get a Classic Airframes kit) - I bit the bullet and picked this one up 2nd hand for not much at all. The original purchase price (in $AU) suggests that this wasn't a bargain basement kit at the time. 



Here's the back of the box. In the spirit of truth in advertising - note the warning: Not suitable for children, contains small metal parts, considerable modelling experience required. They aint kidding - as we'll find out shortly....  




Edited by ianwau
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I'm skipping ahead a bit (as I wasn't planning to do this as a WIP). Per the parts list in the preceding post - the main parts are vacform - with white metal pieces for engines (anaemic)-props/seats/undercarriage. Clear parts are vacformed, and there's a set of decals. Instructions are basic, including a set of 1/48 plans, some generic vacform building instructions and some text based 'hints and tips' specific to this kit. Hmmmm - "Considerable Modelling Experience Required" they say.  


But hey ho, let's go!


Here's the main parts cut out and sanded. Just standard vacform prep technique here. The vacformed plastic is rather thin - I'm guessing 20thou or 0.5mm. Which is great for trailing edges - but will need some reinforcing for key components. Fuselage has had the cabin windows roughly cut out - but I've changed the approach here as we'll see later...



And pushing ahead to gluing the main pieces. 

- wings are conventional - but have had the basic u/c bays cut out and boxed in prior to joining. 

- tail feathers are very straightforward.

- fuselage. Oh dear. As supplied, the fuselage is waaaaay to narrow (and no, I did not oversand the vacform). IT's too narrow vs multiple sets of plans I have, and too narrow to fit the supplied vacform canopy (which pretty much matches the plans). So inserted a series of styrene tabs to get the required width (which will be backfilled with styrene strip....



First off - a bit of interior detail - bulkheads, cabin floor etc. The cockpit section of this is partially supplied. The cabin floor is noted as a bit too high - but doesn't matter that much given what won't be seen through the cabin windows... Also, I have completely cut out the cabin window sections which are to be replaced with a strip of oversized clear styrene (which will then be sanded/filled)



So skipping any interior detailing pix (hadn't planned this as a WIP) here's the fuse all stuck together. With quite a bit of encouragement. Nacelles are just roughly in position (ie not lined up).  Gosh there's some work required here...



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Vacforms always struck the fear of god into me; will watch this with interest.


The 'spirit of truth in advertising warning' missed one key one: May Cause Premature Ageing and High Blood Pressure



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Good to see you getting stuck in!

4 hours ago, ianwau said:

provide the impetus for an injection moulded 1/48 Hudson (Airfix?)

Sadly when I did an Airfix Hudson build/upgrade a couple of years ago, the Modelling Gods did not smile (although maybe they are rubbish at aircraft recognition and gave us a 1/48 Anson instead!).




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It is fabulous to see another vacform build going on, and you are doing a great bit of work on it. I am looking forward to seeing more.


I used to read and ogle at the old magazines and was always drawn to the vacform offerings, but I never saw the 1/48 Contrail ones advertised, and have been amazed at the range they had, Thank goodness for Sanger taking them on!



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Just as a bit of an aside (and there's some hints in the work I've shown thus far). This aircraft is going to be finished in a postwar civilian scheme - specifically VH-AGS, one of the many aircraft operated by Adastra Aerial Surveys in Australia. The turret has been removed, and this particular aircraft has been retrofitted with Cyclones (apparently better suited to high altitude survey work?). Plenty of camera gear in lieu of plenty of passenger seats.  All very convenient when using the Contrail offering.


The chosen scheme is shown below (with picture credit) - white uppers, and a subtle shade of teal/turquoise below. Adastra had 5+ Hudsons in a variety of configurations/colour scheme. In latter years, they ran with a very tasty blue/orange/white scheme - but I've decided to go the more classic route. 


Anyone remotely interested in civilian operation of the Hudson in this role - then I can HIGHLY recommend this website from Ron Cuskelly http://www.adastra.adastron.com/

There's enough content on there to write a book (a very thick book). 




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  • 2 weeks later...

Some progress to report - more than I thought.

  • The fuselage was cleaned up - quite a few coats of Milliput and plenty of sanding.
  • included filling in the rear turret
  • included inserting strips of 30 thou clear styrene where the cabin windows go, puttying in, then sanding, fine sanding, finer sanding, even finer sanding, polishing to produce a seamless transition from clear to not clear.
  • Rather than using a spar for the wings...   I've cut out the wing root internals. And cut a 'wing profile' out of 80 thou (2mm) styrene and glued that inside the wings, just outboard of the wing root. I've cut out a corresponding 'wing profile' also in 80 thou and glued that to the mating surface of the fuselage. This combo serves to provide quite a decent surface area for glueing the wings on - and helps preserve the wing form and give a decent foundation for the inevitable putty. The vacformed wings have a skin thickness of under 20 thou (0.5mm) so I needed to do something like this regardless of spar.
  • The fuse and wings were set in my customary lego jig. Trickier than usual as the fuselage is all curvy, and the wings taper at leading and trailing edge AND have dihedral. Lego provided the flexibility to set this all up with some precision as shown below.
  • I used Revell Contacta for glueing - my favourite for meatier joints (vs the Tamiya Extra Thin).



and a different angle...



This was allowed to set for a few days. Then elected to get the tail feathers on - the reason being the vacformed nacelles are a bit 'blobby' and are going to require some careful alignment - not only getting them 'square' but also making sure they're not lopsided above/below the wing. 

  • the vacform kit provides no indication of the position of the horizontal stabiliser. So with much cross-referencing to plans - I cut a 'slot' for it in the rear of the fuselage using a 12v engraving tool, a file and a sharp scalpel, not necessarily in that order.
  • Likewise the vertical stabs have no indication of position - and no cutouts (or even markings for cutouts). So back to the plans. I decided to do what in woodworking is called a 'half-lap joint'.  I didn't know that was what it was called - but google told me that's what I did.  Basically a horizontal slot in the front half of the fin. And a corresponding vertical slot in the back half of the horizontal stab. Then slot them together and voila?  Wish I'd taken a photo of that pre-glueing. Just google it if unclear. 
  • Anyway - it worked a treat to the point that it won't need putty (maybe just a tiny bit).
  • For setting this up - I  did some mods to the existing jig - opening out the tail end of the jig to accommodate some scaffolding for the tail. This is where lego comes into it's own - I already knew I had the main wings and fuse properly set up, which meant I just had to get the horizontal stabiliser, well, horizontal? And the vertical stabiliser vertical. Most of what you see in lego here is giving me sight lines to confirm everything is aligned.
  • [Maverick providing advice in foreground] 


And another angle. Note the 'persuader' in the background - not required on this occasion.



So here's what she looks like out of the jig. With the nacelles loosely taper into rough position (you can see they're a bit blobby)


and another angle showing the underside. I have applied a code of Milliput to the wing root in these two shots. It's actually coming together better than I expected.



Next steps:

  • Nacelles - cut out wheel wells and detail (very fiddly job - not expecting I'll be going overboard as I don't plan to look at the underside very often)
  • Fit nacelles and blend in
  • Resolve the front glass - do I vacform the entire front nose section in clear - or take some shortcuts with Krystal Klear (or modern equivalent).


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  • 4 weeks later...

Time flies - and time for an update on this Contrail Vacform 1/48 Hudson


In the intervening period - I've completed the cutouts for the retracting U/C. And also basic wheel well detailing. I haven't gone to town on this area as you can't see a great deal once the U/C is installed, and I'm not planning on turning the complete model upside down very often.   Great reference courtesy of @Tail-Dragon who has a WIP on the Classic Airframes Hudson - and is demonstrating  far more accomplished modelling than what I'm doing here.


Have also included a few bulkheads and backing plates to block off bits that need to be blocked off - and also some mounting blocks for the undercarriage legs when we get there. And with that done the nacelles were glued on and we're part way through the blending in process (with Milliput).   




I've mentioned before the white metal engines supplied with the Contrail kit look pretty anemic - especially the cylinders. You can see them in the pic below sitting on top of the kit supplied cowlings into which they 'fit'. I really do wonder if they are 1/72 - or maybe the previous kit owner had somehow mixed the originals up with something else?  Regardless - the subject I'm modelling needs Wright Cyclones - and again thanks to @Tail-Dragon I've sourced the very economical Quick Boost B17G set. And I'll even have TWO spares leftover! They fit pretty well into the kit cowlings although do require a bit of fettling to get them sitting forward enough. A good outcome.  




Have also resolved what I'm going to do with the glass nose. The original kit comes with a vacformed clear nose cone (useful, but just the pointy bit of the nose). But then requires the builder to sort out the ~10 windows in the nose from scratch. The windows are too big for Krystal Klear (or equivalent) and are very awkward shapes to cut from clear sheet - made all the more difficult by the compound curves in each panel. And whatever I did was going to be somewhat visible through all the other windows. Decisions, decisions.


I've finally bitten the bullet and decided to vacform the entire nose section in clear - for which you can see the buck/master well under way. The shape of this still means I'm going to have to mould in 2 or 3 pieces  - but can at least be in control of where the join lines are. This pretty much replicates the approach taken by Classic Airframes with their 1/48 Hudson.  The additional factor that swayed my decision is that I know I can use my recently purchased Silhouette Cameo to cut out the masks for the windows. So overall pretty happy with this as a solution (just wasn't looking forward to making the master). 



Next steps:

- Cockpit interior

- Vacform the nose glass

- cut off the old nose - and dress up the interior (for photo surveying work per colour scheme)

- Fit the main canopy

- Fit the new vacformed nose

- and just general clean up of the puttied joins etc - which will finalise the basic construction.


Actually rather enjoying this old school build - and still have a high confidence level that Airfix will shortly announce a 1/48 Hudson, to go with their 1/48 Anson (although the announcement might not be till I'm all but finished 😉 )

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You can bet your bottom dollar that they will announce one after you've finished.  Great workon yours in the meantime Ian .  Just think what a great service to the rest of us modellers you are doing 😉.  I  have the CA kit in the stash though. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

Don't you love it when something works better than you expected? 


With the buck/master for the replacement Hudson nose ready for vacforming - I thought I'd kick off with what I though would be a tall order.  Basically stand the master up vertically - and vacform over the entire piece. My expected scenario was I would end up with a suitable front section of the nose (ie the clear bubble with no framing).  Utopia would be to be able to vacform the entire piece in one shot. 


Well guess what?  On my very first shot - I got a near perfect draw!  There's some expected banyan tree roots  (technical term courtesy of @Malc2) below the buck - but not intruding anywhere that can't be easily dealt with.   I've used 0.75mm (30 thou) PETG clear sheet for this.



Below is a broader shot showing one of my vacform 'machines'.  This machine is courtesy of a Goats Cheese bulk buy - but any similar sturdy container does the job. The buck is supported by a couple of lego bricks and some 'white tac' to hold everything in position. Thanks to @Malc2 for the reminder to make sure the buck is mounted up higher and also @greggles.w who further demonstrated the technique.




So here's what it looks like released from the mould and roughly cut free from the waste. The rear of the buck takes the new clear section up to just behind the pencil mark around the nose of the model - giving me plenty of room for blending in and dealing with the remnants of any banyan tree roots. 



Next steps:

- cut off the old nose

- detail up the nose insides (which is fitted out like this photo of subject aircraft VH-AGS from adastron.com - you can see how much glass there is in the nose, and the weird compound curves...)


- this'll feel a bit like making a ship in a bottle!

- then clean up and fit the clear canopy

- then mask it up (going to use a Silhouette Cameo for custom masks) 

- and the main cockpit needs detailing while we're at it... 


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1 hour ago, AdrianMF said:

having an even more Heath Robinson vac setup than me!!

Ha!  Would rather spend time modelling vs fabricating a contraption that may or may not work.  Although now I'm more confident with the underlying vac process - I  should maybe fabricate a tool that looks a bit less 'backyard'. I do have to be careful that the vac suction doesn't implode the vacform machine (yep that's happened once!)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well Ian the above has made for an excellent morning read over coffee!


I’ve always thought the Hudson’s fuselage looked a bit like some sort of over-ripe fruit, but in that two-tone post-war civil scheme it looks quite dignified.  Nice choice.


I’ve yet to tackle a full vacform kit, with the usual trepidation that others note. But it seems from your example that you’ve just got to muck-in, & get goin’!  A bit more blacksmith than watchmaker!


Pleased to see the vacform nose was a success.


Well done you (& your team of always-smiling Lego figures!)

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On 7/30/2022 at 9:14 AM, greggles.w said:

you’ve just got to muck-in, & get goin’!  A bit more blacksmith than watchmaker!

Blacksmithing - now there's a great turn of phrase! It very much describes my approach to this one. The raw material from Contrail is pretty rough round the edges - and the tools to finesse it into shape are correspondingly on the heavy side!


For contrast - check out what @Tail-Dragon is doing with the Classic Airframes 1/48 Hudson https://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/235090900-classic-airframes-lockheed-hudson-iii-113br-rcaf-new-photos-for-april-30th/ 

Now THAT is a watchmaker at work (as is your own Auster conversion). 


Speaking of vacforms - I've actually just finished off a Dynavector 1/48 Gannet  vacform (due for a WIP post) - now that's a fine example of a vacform kit (and opinions lean towards it being a finer option than the Classic Airframes Gannet).

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Great work going on here Ian, I'm liking your build, not for the subject, although the scheme is very pleasing. It's the fact that it's a vac-form build. Great work and result with the pulled nose, I do like the teem banyan roots. Lets hope Airfix are listening, although they seem to be ignoring my please for the Whirlwind/S-55 helicopter family!



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