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Classic Airframes MB 155
by Lee Rouse

 

Not one of the better known aircraft of WWII, this fighter was introduced into the French air force in 1939. It was similar to its predecessor, the MB 152, in its wing structure and undercarriage. The fuselage was more streamlined and the cockpit pushed aft to accommodate larger fuel tanks. Only ten MB 155s were completed before the France-German armistice of June 1940. These and the few more that were produced afterward, were used by the Luftwaffe as fighter trainers.

I have always had a thing for somewhat obscure aircraft and colorful paint schemes, and the CA kit fits the bill on both accounts. When I saw this on sale at half price in a recent Squadron flyer, I couldn't resist. Make no mistake about it, this one, like all CA kits, is a limited run item. In return for the a range of subject matter that no major model maker will touch, you must be prepared to pay the price of less than ideal fit. After reading a couple of Internet reviews on this and its sister CA kit, the MB 152, I went into it with eyes wide open. At least I thought my eyes were wide open.

This is a mixed media kit which consists of both injection molded and resin parts. The main airframe, wings, cowling and landing gear are plastic, while the cockpit, wheel wells, and engine are resin. Panel lines in the plastic are recessed and very petite. The resin parts look good, but require some very careful handiwork with a micro razor saw and no.11 blade to remove them from their molding blocks.

The fuselage interior required MAJOR sanding down to accommodate the resin cockpit that consists of sidewalls, floor seat and instrument panel. When I say major, I mean get out your Dremel tool and attach a grinding stone or sanding wheel. Look out too for the fit of the wheel wells resin part which sandwiches between the bottom wing and top wing pieces. Major sanding down of the resin insert and thinning out on the inside of the wing parts was required. Still as can be seen below the fit was not good.

Back to the cockpit. I used a dark gray basecoat for all parts, then Future'd to get a gloss finish, and applied a wash of dark brown. The cockpit parts were then dry brushed with a lighter shade of gray and tacked together lightly to test fit the cockpit in the fuselage. With the fuselage halves already glued together, I positioned the cockpit up through the bottom of the fuselage (where the wings would later be glued). All my sanding and scraping paid off because the cockpit fit fine. Once in place I cemented it in using gel superglue.

Then it was time to secure the wing assembly onto the bottom of the fuselage. Woops! Although I thought I had set the cockpit far enough up into the fuselage, when I position the wing structure in place the bottom of the cockpit floor interfered with the wheel wells seating properly. This resulted in about a 3/16" step between that wing and fuselage at the wing root. While this doesn't seem like a lot, it's huge in 1/48 scale. I knew I would need to do some major filling. To the rescue with Milliput Superfine Epoxy putty. After overnight curing and much sanding, the results can be seen below.

 

Having joined the wings to the fuselage, it was time to prime the beast. I have recently begun using Tamiya acrylics, and decided to use these exclusively for the rest of this project. Referring to the painting instructions that came with the Tamiya Dewotine D.520, I custom mixed the Light Blue-Gray for the underside. This was airbrushed at 20 psi, thinning about 50/50 with denatured alcohol, over the entire airframe. This served as a base coat and primer. Surprisingly, only one area needing further work was revealed (along the wing root). Puttying and sanding re-completed, I reshot the repaired area with Light Blue-Gray.

Next came masking for the colorful upper fuselage and wings. I decided to try something different for this paint job. First I airbrushed the rear fuselage including tailplane and horizontal stabilizers with Tamiya Lemon yellow. Once this was dry I used a thin strip of Tamiya masking tape to seal off the demarcation separating the yellow from the primary camo fuselage colors. All of the yellow was then masked using a liquid masking product called Liquid Mold Builder (LMB). LMB is a latex mold builder that can be ordered through MicroMark. The advantage it has over other liquid masking products (e.g. Maskol) is that is very easy to remove when dry. After this had dried (approximately 30 minutes) I masked off the demarcation line along the sides of the fuselage. This was accomplished using two products: TacNStik and Liquid Mold Builder. First, two pieces of TacNStick were rolled out into the length and shape of a fat fishing worm for each side of the fuselage (OK, this was the best visual description I could come up with!). Each "worm" was lightly pressed along the demarcation line for the lower part of each side of the fuselage. Next, the Liquid Mold Builder was brushed onto the bottom of the fuselage to seal off the areas that needed to stay the underside color.

When the LMB was dry I airbrushed the base color for the upper fuselage and wings, Dark Blue-Gray. Airbrushing at a 90 degree angle to the fuselage side will leave a soft edge for the camo demarcation line once the TacNStik and LMB are removed). Once the dark blue-gray was airbrushed, I repeated the above masking procedure to paint the second (Earth Brown) and then the third (Dark Green) camo colors. After giving the final color a few minutes to set, I removed all tape and dried LMB. While the LMB worked admirably for masking the yellow rear section, there were problems with the three camo colors. It appeared that the ammonia in the LMB had attacked the paint. Why didn't it affect the yellow? I'm not sure, but the yellow being a gloss color (the others were flats) may have provided more of a protective barrier for the paint. While the LMB didn't remove the paint, it did fade it in places, making it appears splotchy. I also found that it had softened it up considerably, making it very susceptible to scratching. I had to freehand airbrush much of the camo to retouch it. Also, the demarcation lines produced by the TacNStick were not completely to my liking, and I ended up doing more freehand touching up (Modeling experiments don't always turned out as planned! Still, something new was learned). An overcoat of Future was airbrushed over the entire airframe.

This seemed to toughen up the paint, and I had no more problems. Decals were applied. I'll have to say that overall I was pleasantly surprised by the kit decals. They didn't tear easily, covered underlying paint colors well, were in register, and appeared accurate in color. The roundels are three part affairs- white circle, red ring, and blue meatball. The fuselage numbers are two part- underlying white and overlying red. Once positioned properly, they look quite nice. The red decal stripes for the horizontal stabs and tailplane were a chore to align properly, but eventually they were completed. The same procedure was followed for the engine cowling which has been previously painted Tamiya Lemon Yellow. I did need to use a strong decal solvent (Solvaset) to get the decals to snuggle down well (If you use Solvaset, absolutely don't touch, and don't even look hard at the decal. If you touch it, your finger will come away with a gooey mess stuck on it that WAS the decal).

The wheel wells were masked off and painted a light tan color (According to my references, the wheel wells could have been either an dark gray or light tan). The landing gear were painted this color too. Wheels were painted aluminum and masked off. Tires were airbrushed a very dark gray. Miscellaneous bits were then painted appropriate colors: antenna masts, pitot tubes and wing cannon.

I cut apart the vacu-form canopy and windscreen. The rear side windows had been previously cut out and glued in place (superglue) before the fuselage halves were joined. I then airbrushed some clear decal sheet the Earth Brown color, and cut narrow strips which were soaked in water and applied for canopy and windscreen framing.

The fuselage was weathered by postshading panel lines using a very thinned mix of Tamiya Smoke, which was airbrushed along panel lines. A thin wash of Payne's Gray watercolor was laid into the panel lines. Dried overflow was wiped off using a slightly dampened cotton ball. PollyScale Flat Coat was airbrushed over the entire airframe. Additional weathering was done with pastels and an aluminum Prismacolor pencil.

Landing gear were attached with gel superglue. This was a delicate job, since there were no positive attachment points for the gear. Remaining small bits were glued on. Windscreen and canopy were attached using white glue.

With the model finished, I sat back and looked at it. It wasn't perfect, but it sure looked better than I thought it was going to. Something akin to turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. Would I do another Classic Airframes kit? The answer is "No", at least no time soon. I'll have to admit, though, that I am intrigued by some of their other offerings, like the upcoming P6 Hawk. I'd better recharge my Dremel tool; time to restock that 300 grit sandpaper…….