Sunday, 1 February 2015

Al DuVal's 1/48th Collection

Al DuVal
3rd July 1940 – 6th November 2014

I suspect that many fellow enthusiasts are entering that territory of "becoming aware of one's own mortality", who probably have kit stashes larger than model collections and a faster rate of acquisition than production. It is a sad reality that the second hand kit market is partly primed by the once fondly stored purchases that were never got around to. But Aviation of Japan's friend and Texas correspondent Mark Smith has written a fitting eulogy to his own friend and prolific fellow modeller Al DuVal whose energy and enthusiasm reversed that trend. And Aviation of Japan is honoured to remember Al to all those who pursue this hobby.

"A number of us here in the Dallas area lost a good friend when Al DuVal passed away recently.  He did a lot of things well.  His daughter Suzanne expressed this beautifully in this brief sentence from his obituary: “Allan was smart, funny, hardworking, creative, athletic, brave and most of all a devoted family man.”  One area where his creativity and work ethic really shone was the way he could knock out great looking models at a blistering pace.  He built strictly in 1/48, and if there was a new kit out, odds were that it would be in the showcases within a year and a half.  I don’t know if he set out with any eventual plan in mind for the collection; but the result, from Spads to SR-71s, was to have a personal museum of aviation history housed in four large glass cases.  I took these photos at his home this month, and later asked his wife Judy how many models were in those cases.  She counted that night, and sent me an email. Three hundred and eighty-two.  

"Many of them were older kits of course, usually sitting next to the one that supplanted it, such as the Monogram, Airfix, and Tamiya Mossie.  I’ve lost track of how many times since Monogram’s Fw 190A a new kit has at least for a while been king of that hill.  But I think Al built them all: Otaki, Tamiya, Dragon, Eduard.  And those were just the 190A models, and 190s in general probably took pride of place.  Heading up Al’s five-engine bomber collection, take a look at that Heinkel Zwilling.  I knew several who bought that Cutting Edge solid resin center-wing panel conversion set, but his was the only one I’ve yet seen about its intended business.  Some might say the CE set is worth more in its original packaging.  But I would rather look at that model.     

Superb mottle on Hayate

"One of the largest groups represented was the Japanese entry.  While the lighting wasn’t optimum, I’m sending some photos that cover only part of them.  Considering Aviation of Japan’s soft spot for the history of the hobby and its earlier kits, they are duly submitted as evidence that not all of those Nichimo Nicks, Thrick Claudes, Tamiya Franks, and Otaki Oscars remained unbuilt in their boxes for twenty-five years, only to be sold for a pittance at a model show because a better one came along.  Al’s Hasegawa Jill that now resides in my case is evidence of what he could do with a newer offering, but the collection itself, amassed over so many years, reminds that the state-of-the-art has always been better defined by the builder than the kit.  And he made such nice models so efficiently because he got so much practice!  He was a Mechanical Engineer who had a high-stress job as the manager of a large paper plant in Dallas.  He would get up very early in the morning to get his running in… and to work on his current project.  The day he told me about that I was flabbergasted.  You work on models at six in the morning?  “I try to, even if only for thirty minutes or so,” he said.  “That’s when I enjoy it most.”

Fujimi D3A1

Nichimo Ki-45

"So what does one do with almost 400 built and painted quarter-scale models, even when they’ve been under glass all those years?  Several have mentioned, and not all of them modelers, that they “belong in a museum.”  I agree.  But by their nature museums are usually out of display space on Opening Day, and out of storage space not many years later.  Al’s friend John Walen has been seeking a home for them.  One large museum has had to regretfully decline, even with the donation including those cases that cost almost $800 each in 1995, due to the logistics of moving them several hundred miles, in addition to the space they would need.  John is hoping that more locally, a Dallas-Fort Worth area museum or historical venue may be able to accept these soon, and ensure that others see and appreciate them for years to come.  Certainly it would be sad to see these replicas built by the same hand to the same scale broken up, as I can imagine them being the first glint of aviation interest in more than one child’s eye, or a chance for many a veteran to recognize and point out the airplanes he worked on or flew.  And such a lifetime collection, already quite rare even among long-time modelers, will grow more and more unlikely; the way the hobby has evolved, imagine the time and expense it would now take to recreate it.  We hope for the best on that count.  But while it’s still in one place, particularly in that room Allan loved where most were created, I wanted to show you these pictures, and what one modeler is capable of doing over thirty or forty years – if only he’ll get up in the morning.  Hats off!"

That Heinkel Zwilling CE resin conversion

Anyone who wants to get in touch about a possible suitable home for Al's collection please drop a note to Aviation of Japan (see contact details in sidebar) and it will be forwarded on to Mark, many thanks.

Image credits: Photo portrait courtesy of Mrs Judy DuVal; Model collection photos Mark Smith

Saturday, 31 January 2015

José A Granado's 1/72 Ki-43-III Ko

The final model in José A Granado's splendidly plumed Hayabusa quartet is the III Ko, built from the Special Hobby kit with similar improvements to the others - enhanced cockpit interior, scratch-built headrest, detailed undercarriage, replacement engine, replacement canopy and metal tubing for the pitot. As with the others José riveted the entire airframe surface.

The model represents an aircraft of the 48th Sentai operating in China during the last years of the war and finished in the Tachikawa factory scheme of olive brown over grey. Previous blog posts on the subject of III Ko colours may be found here, here and here. The chosen finish on José's model harkens back to the original Tamiya 1/50th scale kit of 1964. The 48th was formed at Jiando, Manchuria in July 1943 from cadres supplied by the 77th Sentai and 204th Kyodo Hiko Sentai. It was equipped with the Ki-27 as it worked up to operational status, receiving Ki-43-II in January 1944 and undertaking its first combat sorties from Wuchang, China in April 1944 under the command of Maj Masao Matsuo. It began to equip with the III Ko from August 1944 and ended the war near Nanking. During its relatively brief combat history it claimed 55 enemy aircraft shot down and 40 damaged for the loss of 16 pilots. The lost pilots included three Hikotai leaders and three Chutai leaders.

According to Minoru Akimoto the Sentai emblem on the tail, which represented '48', was variously painted in white, red or yellow without this signifying the Chutai. In fact Dr Yasuho Izawa records the unit as only operating two Chutai and it has been suggested that white was the colour used for the 1st Chutai and yellow for the 2nd. Each aircraft was identified by a two-digit number painted on the rudder, probably representing the last two digits of the aircraft serial. The kanji characters 阿部 (a be) painted just behind the senchi hiyoshiki, the so called 'combat stripe' on the rear fuselage, represent the nickname of the pilot Sgt Shou Abe who flew in the 1st Chutai under Capt Koji Shimura.

These in-progress images show José's meticulous work and attention to detail. Basic 'office' improved with plastic card and wire.

Sidewall detail enhanced and carefully painted.

Instrument panel and engine painstakingly detailed.

The multiple exhaust ejectors drilled out and basic assembly prepared for painting.

As with the other models first a preparatory layer of gleaming aluminium, followed by pre-shaded grey.

Painting and pre-shading of the upper surface, with Hinomaru and yellow leading edge IFF strips added. 

Lower surface Hinomaru painted on and weathering effects added.

The final result is superb. And the miniature Hayabusa is ready to complete the kettle of falcons.

With thanks to José for kindly sharing these images of his work and a beautiful collection. It has been a delight to see and show them.

Image credits: All © 2015 José A Granado

Friday, 30 January 2015

José A Granado's 1/72 Ki-43-II Kai

Nakajima's Ki-43-II Kai is often confused with Tachikawa's Ki-43-III Ko. Both had the individual thrust type exhaust stacks but whereas the II Kai only had a single uppermost stack on each side the III Ko had a pair. The water methanol injection of the III Ko, with the distinctive filler spout behind the cockpit, was also introduced during the II Kai production run. The two types have often been represented as consecutive developments but in fact they were produced in parallel, with the last Nakajima-built production Hayabusa being the II Kai model. 

Production start of the II Kai is uncertain but the III Ko pattern aircraft was constructed during April 1944 and production by Tachikawa began in July 1944. Just to confuse matters Tachikawa continued the production of the II series Hayabusa until September 1944. Most Nakajima-built II Kai were delivered in the standard natural metal finish of the II series and camouflaged with the typical mottles, but the last production batches were delivered with a solid upper surface finish of dark olive green, emulating the factory painting introduced in the late summer of 1944, but with the under surfaces left unpainted. The reason for this 'interim' finish was probably because Nakajima Hayabusa production was already being run down to end in September 1944. 

But as usual with Japanese aircraft there are mysteries a-plenty, because whilst photographs reveal mottle finished II Kai with the water methanol injection installation there are also photographs of late production II Kai in the solid interim finish without it! Not all replacement aircraft sent to units were new even though they were often refurbished before delivery. 

José's model, built from the AML kit, represents a Nakajima-built II Kai as flown by Maj Toyoki Ito the commander of the 64th Sentai in late 1944. The 64th Sentai operated the Hayabusa in all its variants from the beginning to the end of the war. The AML kit is a short run composite with resin as well as plastic components and is by no means a straightforward build (ask me how I know). José was deft in installing the resin sidewall detail, making up the composite cowling and building and painting the resin cockpit components. I ended up with my fingers stuck together and the dog hiding under the dining room table with his paws over his ears, resin and superglue being inventions of the Devil.

Again José riveted the whole airframe surface of the model and replaced the kit canopy with a Rob Taurus vacform. Note the composite resin and plastic construction in the photos below.

For the II, II Kai and III Ko models José scratch-built three tiny gunsights, each from eight separate pieces of plastic and photo-etch. Crumbs!

The result is a testimony to his patience, eyesight and fingers! The photo below shows the gunsight as installed on the previous Ki-43-II model.

Painting proceeded with a preliminary natural metal finish, followed by the green camouflage and painting the wing Hinomaru and yellow leading edge IFF strips.

The final result is superb. 

With thanks to José for kindly contributing the images to Aviation of Japan, especially the in-progress shots.

Image credits: All © 2015 José A Granado