Independent thinking and cultural diversity in scale modelling

GLOSTER IVA (C.A. Atkins - 1/72 - White Metal) by Alexandre Bigey

GLOSTER4.jpg picture by alexbigey

Of all the Schneider Trophy racers, the 1927 Gloster IV has my preference for its sophisticated architecture combining the biplane formula with the latest aerodynamic refinements of its time. In fact, the Gloster IV is the last biplane contender. It has no win to claim, the 1927 winner being the Supermarine S.5.

All three aircraft built first flew in July-August 1927, and are described as follows:

Gloster IV: Serial number N224. Original larger wings. Powered by 900 hp (671 kW) direct drive Napier Lion VIIA.
Gloster IVA: Serial number N222. Reduced span wings and modified tail. Powered by direct drive Lion VIIA
Gloster IVB: Serial number N223. Reduced span wings and powered by geared Napier Lion VIIB engine.

Only Gloster IVB N223 actually entered the race on September 26, 1927, but retired after five laps following engine problems.

I ordered the kit in 2002 directly to Mr. Atkins sending him cash. I received it in a small cardboard British tea box (therefore, no boxart can be shown here) including the metal parts in a plastic bag, thorough building and painting instructions for the Gloster IVB, with a 3 view plan and a nice and courteous letter.

At the end of 2009, despite obvious efforts from some model manufacturers to release plastic or resin kits of various Schneider Trophy subjects other than the Supermarine S.6B, still no Gloster IV could be sighted at any scale on the horizon, so I elected to start working on Mr Atkins's kit.

Reference is available on the web at homeopatic measure, mostly pictures of Gloster IVA N222 at various development stages, which I chose to represent, and an interesting article in a March 1927 issue of Flight Magazine (via the Flight Global archives website). If only 3 aircraft were built, many publications fail to identify properly either aircraft, and the constant development to which they were subject during their short career doesn't help the modeller at all in his guesswork... To my knowledge, the only thorough, accurate and reliable source for this aircraft comes from Putnam and their excellent publications, from which I managed to pickup some shots of related chapters in a museum's library.

DSCN8522.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9064.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9065.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey

I didn't fear commiting myself into building from an all metal kit because I was already getting used dealing with metal parts with many short run or cottage industry kits. But this didn't prevent that build to turn out into a wild ride with some frustrating moments!

The kit looked rather accurate and well executed.
Although the parts were easy to work, you are spreading black dust all over the place and you'd better spare a sanding stick set especially for that use. Every airframe and wing subassembly was then sanded fine using steel whool, giving an attractive metallic shine to the model. Interestingly instructions suggest to leave the model unpainted if you wish, as many modellers do.

Then I believe I overestimated the properties of superglue with such material, even when sanding the mating surfaces free from any kind of deposit. The horizontal stabilizer parts and bottom part of the fin separated at least once each while handling the model, and not much could be done about that as they were so thin. In fact there were insertion plugs which had to be sanded off because the insertion holes were not at the same level each side. I also had the same problem with one upper wing. Finally everything was done properly, but extreme care had to be exercised when handling the model at any stage, and it remains very fragile once completed.

The skin radiators typical of many Schneider Trophy racers are finely represented on the fuselage and wings, but were ommited on the floats, to which I remedied using corrugated adhesive aluminium found at a Tokyo hobby shop.

DSCN9068.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9070.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9071.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey

The painting process caused me quite a bit of frustration: I usually spray Tamiya's excellent TS-30 Silver Leaf without primer, but this time the coat on the floats stuck to the removed masking tape once the float radiator job was done.

The best moment occured once the painting process was well on its way for the airplane itself: An old round section file had been inserted through the engine axis as a holding stick (as I usually do on most models). While working on the tricolor rudder, I felt it a bit loose and turned it inward , which caused the entire model to separate in 3 parts: two fuselage halves and the top of the front fuselage structure on which upper wings were attached, meaning I almost had to restart construction from the beginning...

The model is quite heavy and I had to provide my own struts. Copper airfoil section was provided with the kit but too thin to be realistic, as well as the Strutz sections I had. To get the correct chord with enough strength I mixed Contrail airfoiled struts with some brass rods I had in the spares box, using a superglue/talcum powder mix to glue together, sand in shape, and add strength, but that was a rather tedious job..

I also had some tense moments with airbrushing (especially with bronze and copper colors) as I am a bit of a beginner in that matter, and my equipment was far from professional (the Humbrol airbrush presented under blister which one may buy at toy stores)...

The exterior look of Gloster IVA N222 is not very different from the Gloster IVB N223, except that I did not see any tricolor rudder on the IVB pictures, and the IVA doesn't wear any race number. The wings and top fuselage including spine and fins are described to be "bronze" as the rest of the fuselage is "Cambridge blue", which is probably darker than the blue I used (see Hugh Beyts's magnificent 1/48 Gloster VI), but considering the "scale effect" I don't mind too much. The floats are described as "Ivory" on the IVB while excellent pictures of the IVA are showing them natural metal. The same pictures do not show radiator lines along the starboard fuselage, which I realized lately during the painting process so I left them on, with the thought that constant development suggest they might have been installed at a later stage. Anyway the amount of different colors to apply on different parts of the model provided me with some tedious masking (and unmasking) sessions...

Although no decals were provided with the kit, only tail numbers are required. On the IVB they are very small (almost invisible) black numbers, while they are larger and white surrounded when on the blue or red background of the tricolor rudder. In my spares box, I managed to find what I needed: six thin black "2s" and four thicker white "2s" of the same size and font, the white ones being applied first as backgrounds. The result wasn't 100% realistic and a little silvery (much better after some coats of Future) but satisfactory considering I am not fortunate enough to possess an ALPS printer, and well knowing how constantly being solicitated by others is bothering to those who have one...

The model was rigged using silver painted stretched sprue, except two 0.3 mm brass rods between both floats for enough strength to secure them at constant width against all that unusual weight.

DSCN9791.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9793.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9811.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey

DSCN9831.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9828.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9827.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey

DSCN9838.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9840.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey     DSCN9844.jpg image by Alexandre Bigey