Box art picture of the sprues picture of the decals Figures

Airfix Lilly Bell II

2014-09-12 Project start

As usual building starts with the interior. I was unpleasantly surprised by the fact that there's quite a bit of mould line present, and as noted in the preview, there's ejector marks everywhere. Not all of the ejector marks are problematic, and some can be ignored, but even though much of it will become invisible once the hull is closed, there's such a lovely load of interior detail that I want to do a good job of the interior, so I'll have to deal with most of them.

Ejector marks and mould lines look like they'll become a recurring theme in this build, so rather than continuous whining about them, I limit myself to this warning at the start: check every part for fit, and for these imperfections in particular, before even thinking of cement. Some are in rather inconvenient places! I'm convinced this is the best C-47 kit in this scale, but it is not completely shake-and-bake (not a bad thing, but it might surprise you with a brand new tool).

Another point to be aware of is that the plastic used is quite soft, reminiscent of the material Airfix used decades ago. Personally, I like this since it's easier to work on (less force required, therefore more accuracy), but it does mean that an single overenthousiastic swipe with a blade can do serious damage. Keep it in mind when working on this kit.

If, like me, you're accustomed to working out of sequence, take a good long look at the main wings before you proceed. On other kits I typically assemble the main wing halves early on, but to do so with this kit will cause grief later. Airfix have chosen to include a "main spar" in the wing, which requires you to stick to the indicated sequence. I consider this main spar a good idea, and Airfix have make certain it's assembly is as close to idiot proof as it can get. As an entertaining detail, the spar ends just behind the landing lights, and the actual lamps are moulded as part of the spar. Do not mistake the holes at the ends for ejector marks or some such, they are in fact quite clever little details.

The engine cowlings are another point where you'll have to play by the rules; there are locator notches on the engine pods for the cowlings, but you'll have the install the engines first, and once in place, the engine will block an assembled cowling from moving into place. No pre-assembling the cowling halves on this kit. This may result in some finicky work to get rid of the seam between the halves.

This build is part of a larger Market Garden project, so I will not be using the kit decals. Instead those will come from XTradecal 72083. Lilly Bell II was one of the planes that dropped elements of the 101 Airborne near Son, in other words, in what now is my back yard, so that's a natural choice.

There's two interior sections behind the cockpit itself; the one at the front consistes of three pieces, while the rear one is four bits. The floor and the various vertical bits have different colours, so the pieces have been attached to each other but not the floor to make painting easier; trying to squeeze a brush through that little maze at the front seems sub-optimal to me. This required some careful balancing, followed by careful application of a small amount of very thin glue (do not let the glue reach the floor, or you'll fuse the modules in place). I essentially went from front to back on this: first the front bulkhead and the starboard "luggage rack" were joined and left to dry, then the half bulkhead attached to it was added. Once the glue had set, this complete unit was put asside, and the port half bulkhead and the navigator's table were positioned and joined (being an octopus would help here..). In parallel the rear bulkhead and port "luggage rack" were joined away from the floor panel. Finally, these subassemblies were joined. In all cases, the locator tabs along the bottom were really helpful, but the parts are almost impossible to position unsupported, so you'll need fingers on the pieces to hold formation while applying glue.

The port "luggage rack" and the half bulkhead it attaches to show a wedge-shaped gap; they line up in the hallway, but are open against the wall. If I did something wrong here, it doesn't twist things out of shape so far that fit problems result; in fact, I did a dry fit with all the interior bits in position, and the hull closed perfectly around all the assemblies. A bit of filler and sandpaper ought to put paid to the wedge once everything has properly set.

Although all of these bits basically fall into place, alingment with the floor in not perfect, as can be seen from the picture. Maybe this is just the way it is, maybe I need to learn to balance large numbers of small pieces better while applying glue... Some fiddling and twiddling will be required to get this to look really good. Right now, I'm thinking near as possible assembly with CA applied from below the floor, followed by a small amount of milliput squashed and washed in, followed by touch up with a small brush.

The benches for paratroopers, surprisingly but accurately, are not attached to the floorplate, but to outer walls of the hull. This makes sense if you consider that these were in reality fold out benches, attached to the walls. The kit provides both deployed and folded flat options for this, just like the real thing, allowing us to choose between a troop or cargo carrying configuration (a narrow row of cargo in the middle, and seats folded out for non-conbat passengers on one or both sides is also possible, both in the kit and in reality). When assembling the hull, the benches (if deployed) actually help line up the inherently wobbly floor with the sides, which is quite welcome.


There's one thing about this kit I took an instant dislike to the moment it arrived at my home: the way Airfix handled the cabin windows.

Normally on a kit like this, you would get a strip with several windows, to be attached from the inside. This is a bad way to do things, obviously, since it leaves you with this huge connecting strip on the inside, and jam jar bottom windows. Barely adequate, even when only seen from the outside.

To their credit, Airfix acknowledged this problem, and did their best to fix it. They did so by making the holes for the windows too large, but fitted with a rim on the inside, to which transparent parts consisting of the window and it's frame are attached from the outside. This is a lot better than the usual strip, but while the strip can simply be omitted and replaced with Clearfix windows, this leaves two issues not tackled so easily.

First issue is fit; unless fit is just about perfect, you're going to end up using filler and sandpaper right on top of a transparency. Clearly, a recipy for trouble. Again to their credit, Airfix have delivered an extremely close fit, and I would have no qualms about just sticking the windows in as is, especially not on a painted (as opposed to NMF) subject.

The second is painting. The transparencies are very thin, and the demarcation between frame and window very light (which is good, by the way). That means you'll either need epic skills with masking tape, or you'll have to do spot corrections afterwards.

As far as I can see, this leaves three options for dealing with the windows, and a decision must be made before closing the fuselage (which I why I'm talking about this now, instead of much further down the line):

1: Just go with it, paint the window frames on the sprue, and fit them after painting.

2: Fit the windows prior to painting, mask as best you can, do corrections after unmasking.

3: By any means fair or foul create replacement window frames, fit them and blend them in even before joining the fuselage sections, and at the very end of the build make Clearfix windows.

Number 1 is the safest option, and on a dark, drab paint scheme it should work well enough, assuming the paint used behaves and doesn't produce a different shade of sheen on the frames than on the rest of the fuselage.

Number 2 should work anywhere, as long as you can get your corrections to blend in at the end. With good quality, well behaved paint touch up with a brush should work, with lesser paints spraying a bit of decal paper along with the fuselage should provide excelent patch material. Combining options 1 and 2 should be possible, ie. painting the frames while on the sprue, masking, and overspraying the hand painted margin a little, possibly eliminating the need for corrections.

Number 3 may be required for the most demanding paint jobs, shiny natural metal. Absolutely anything will stand out like a very sore thumb on a finish like that, so the fit has to be so good that you can't see or feel the line between parts, and handbrushing corrections is out of the question.

Since this build involves an olive drab and grey airplane, I'll go with the combination of 1 and 2 for this. It is, however, allmost certain that at some stage I'll be using this kit for a very shiny civilian, and at that point I'll have to invest in option 3..

Quite a bit of work today, but scattered all over the kit, so with little or nothing to show for it; certainly nothing that warrants photography..

The interior has now been primed and given an initial coat of paint. When painting the interior, remember to paint the insides of parts F8 and F9 (the emergency exits) as well, as these will be partially visible.

I did some work on the engines, and found them adequate but very limited in detail; this is one area where the old Esci, and to a lesser extent, Italeri kits still have the edge. It doesn't bother me, but the more AMS inclined will probably want to consider aftermarket replacements. I'll try to remember to include pictures of them once they're complete, so you can judge for yourselves.

I've been overenthousiastic: I mounted the inner door in the large cargo doors, but being configured for a parachute drop, Lilly Bell II would have had that door removed :roll: . Of course, I did an uncharacteristically thorough job of glueing it in place, and there's no way it's going to budge any more. I decided not to go and push my luck trying to cut it out, and instead robbed the other Dak in the stash (which is unlikely to need the cargo door).

I've assembled the interior. I decided the fit of the walls was good enough, and left well enough alone; messing with milliput and spot painting seemed unlikely to offer much improvement, and there's always a risk involved.
There's a very nice decal for the instrument panel, unfortunately, however, it's the wrong shape. The decal includes a large black area sticking out below the actual panel, no doubt intended to cover the centre console. This puts it neatly in the way of the trottle quadrant (part D34). Physics has a thing or two to say about two objects occupying the same space, so something has to give. I recommend cutting the offending parts off the decal, preferably before soaking the decal (no points for guessing when I realised there was an issue there..)
Another entertaining aspect of the cockpit is the position of the rudder pedals. Airfix decided to break the monotony by putting these a bit off center (good idea), but the left and right pair are in different positions. I don't think aircraft work that way.. Didn't bother tinkering with this; it won't be visible anyway, but it did put a grin on my face..
Shortly after taken the pictures shown, all of that interior vanished forever when I closed the fuselage (I should note that this was now a very tight fit and needed some force. Well aimed sanding might have worked too, probably better, but it's very hard to see where things are too tight inside an almost closed fuselage); sometimes I wonder why we bother. On the brighter side, if one were to really want to, I think it would be a relatively easy matter to replace one or two of the top panels with a clear part. Not this time, but in the future I think an experiment with clear resin is likely..
There's a small rectangular window over what I assume is the navigator's desk, which is filled in by the kit. I decided to open it up before closing the fuselage.
Alignment between the floor plate and the fuselage side is near perfect; a bit of filler along the bottom of the cargo door will be needed, but it's still more accurate than on any other kit of similar size I've ever seen.
Step 18 of the instructions wants you to dril out a pair of holes in the centre wing section, but I can't for the life of me find what they might be for. I've left them closed, in hopes that I do not live to regret this later on.
The join between the centre wing and the fuselage halves can be challenging, if my experience with the Esci and Italeri Dakotas is anything to go by. Airfix have attempted to solve this by extending the centre wing section to include about half the length of the bottom of the fuselage, and supplying the wingroot fairings as separate parts. I consider this a partial success; fit isn't perfect, and some strongarm tactics will still be required, but it does look as though it's going to be easier to beat into submission than the alternatives. Spend a minimum of care here, and all you'll have to deal with is a less than perfect seam, and some squeezing to get the trailing edge to close.
The kit contains a tail cone (part E22), and the instructions say to attach it, but I'd check my references on that: as far as I know, only civilian Dakotas had this cone.

Wing spar

The seam along the length of the fuselage needed a little filler and sanding, but nothing major.
Parts E28 (the yellow thing in the picture below) seem at first glance to be just some wheelwell detail, but these also have the locator tabs that will be used later on to align the fronts of the engine fairings, and they add some stiffness to the upper wing parts. Get these mounted into the upper main wings well ahead of time, as the wing halves are a bit wobbly at that point and inclined to bend when mounting the wing halves; this is a complex join, and the fewer areas to worry about while working on these the better.
The join between the wing and the wing root is the first I've run accross with this kit that really needs a bit of filler, but I think I can limit this to some Vallejo rubbed in with a wet finger (in other words, this is trivial).
Correction: that wasn't bad fit, that was an indication that the wing was slightly mis-aligned. After mounting both wings, I noticed the wings looked different, and true enough, the wing that had the gap was 18mm off the ground at the tip, while the opposite wing was 20mm. May not sound like much of a difference on such a relatively large play, but boy does it show.
The picture below shows the way the centre wing, upper wing, and main spar line up.
Fitting the lower wings threw up the first real fit problem: either the spar or the wing halves are too thick, and the wings just won't close around the spar. To solve this, I removed the alignment edge from the lower wings, and thinned them down a bit where the spar was going to sit, to the point where a firm squeeze would close the wing.
The tail planes have gone on without a hitch. The model is beginning to show it's true shape.

Cleanup, as expected was minimal. I installed the air intakes over the engines, and to my surprise the front and rear halves didn't match up quite as nicely as they should, and the front bits had sinkholes. Nothing a bit of filler and sandpaper couldn't fix, but odd given the standards shown by the rest of the kit. After that was dealt with, the model was thouroughly cleaned and left to dry, prior to priming (to increase visibility of any remaining defects, some further bits will have to go on before priming again and painting) tomorrow. The transparencies have been given the usual Future treatment prior to the painting of the frames.

Primer revealed a few minor blemishes, and a few panel lines that needed work, but nothing spectacular.
I can't say that I like the positionable elevators and rudder much; they don't swivel all that nicely, and have a good chance of becoming mis-aligned. Next time round, I'll mount them straight and level in the first place, rather than waiting untill the end of construction to fit them in situ. When checking reference pictures, the vast majority of Dakotas, even when parked, appear to have the controls set in neutral anyway, so I wouldn't mind losing this feature/gimmick (you choose).
The side windows went in perfectly; some of the best fitting parts I've ever run into. Not so the side panels of the cockpit. The left one especially needed some very careful work with a file before it got with the program. The front window was as ill fitting a pain as those on any other Dakota kit. Well, at least it's a better looking nuissance than any of it's predecessors, so at least there's progress.
I fitted it as best I could, the rubbed Vallejo filler in along the edges. Should be OK... Some window cleaning later may be needed though.

Overpainted stripes

Over the past week I've been stacking layer upon layer of Humbrol Clear on the plane, in preparation for decals, and as a protective coat before I start getting my grubby paws all over the model while dealing with minor corrections and small fiddly bits of final assembly (the olive drab has the sort or surface that's just waiting to absorb some unremovable fingerprints..)
Clear works equally well from airbrush and hairy stick, which means you need a million layers. The first time I used it, there was Luftwaffe light blue underneath, so when after today's first layer I saw the sight below, it scared the daylights out of me. That's no trick of the light you're seeing, that's actual medium grey blobs on the wings
All sorts of horror stories about Clear turning white jumped out of my memory, and I thought I was in serious trouble. Imagine my relief when everything was nice and transparent again several hours later. It appears each new coat partially reactivates the existing coats, turning everything temporarily opaque. With the very light background I had earlier, this barely showed.. Another layer is now busy becoming transparent again. I have some hope tomorrow's layer will bring things to a point where I can start doing some more interesting stuff on Sunday (not that I have much choice either way, I have only two weeks from today to complete this build).

Finally, some construction work again. After loads of varnishing, I've started work on the main undercarriage legs. Unlike every other kit I've seen so far, this one has what I assume are actuator rods for the main gear, and even some other detail in the wells. This is good. Less so is the fact that the rods are too long. Even after half an hour of fiddling and fitting, I couldn't get them to fall into place. Fortunately, they fit very unambiguously into the bottom of the slot in the big yellow thing (no idea what it is..), and this allowed me to simply cut off the locator pin on that end, and file off the rod until it fit.
Take it slow and steady when dealing with these parts; make sure to clean out the mould line between the legs of the cross in the main gear, slightly reduce the bulge of what I assume to be the hinge of the rod and taper the end where it meets the leg, and then file bits of the other end of the rod until it fits. I guestimate I had to take of just under 1 mm, which is a lot, but don't be tempted to go fast. It needs to be a tight fit, as the actuator supplies strenght and stability to the main leg by keeping it tigh against the rear bulkhed. Once it's in place run some very thin CA into the joins (rod to yellow, rod to cross, 2xleg to bulkhead). Should make for a rock steady undercarriage.

I got the wheels and forks on nicely, but then I hit a snag.
Each branch of each fork is flanked by two parts D14 (no idea what their real life counterparts were or were called), and I've just spent the better part of an hour snarling unpublishable things at half of them. The instructions indicate these go on last of the gear parts, just prior to installing the wheels, but with the benefit of hindsight, I would recommend fitting them much earlier, before painting and certainly before assembling the undercarriage. Fiddling them into position in situ is awkward business, and every other part in the vicinity will either get in your way, block your view, or both.
I think it would be easier to mount these onto the legs while the legs are still unpainted and on the sprue. Should any of you choose to try this, consirable care will obviously be needed when handling the legs afterwards. Also, keep in mind that the forks will have to fit between them, so make sure you space them widely enough.
Anyway, more fiddling with and snarling at D14s to follow soon


I had four D14s left to go. The first behaved relatively well (only 10 minutes of griping before it was sort of where it should have been), the second however was an industrial strength PITA, and finally managed to get swallowed by the carpet monster. With parts like this, you either need all of them, or none. All was no longer an option so I had no choise but to remove the five already in place. Can't really say I regret having had to take that option; it's nice to have a rather busier undercarriage, but I'm not sure it's worth the aggravation these parts were causing me.
I'll get them next time...

I finally managed to shake off my frustration about the D14s, and got back to the kit. I did most (hopefully all, but I probably missed something) of the minor touch up work that typically follows airbrushing, and installed the landing light covers and astrodome.
The covers fit perfectly, but these are very small, curved (hard to grab with tweezers), transparent parts that need glue (clearfix in my case) on all rims, which means you have to be really careful to get them in without fingerprints..
The rim of the astrodome sits clearly above the fuselage. Initially, I thought this was due to the socket in the fuselage being too shallow, but a quick scan of my references revealed that this is actually how it was on the real thing. Don't let anyone tell you you didn't get that part fitted right, it's supposed to stick out like that.

Slow going these past two weeks; half a gazillion things that were neglected in the runup to the Dutch nationals demanded attention, and to be quite honest, I needed a breather from several months of high intensity modelling with a deadline.
I have, in several sessions managed to get all the decals onto the bottom of the model. Decals are generally well behaved, but they have no particular interest in lying down and conforming exactly to the plastic. I'm beginning to fear some silvering and non-conformity may be inevitable, even after several attacks with MicroSol.
There's also another issue with the decals, but this is at least partially of my own making. The decals sport beautifully crisp and clear colours (with is good, really), while the rest of the model is by design rather grubby. The contrast between the dirty white of the invasion stripes, and the white in the stars-and-bars is more than I'd like, but I don't think there's a lot I can do about it. I'll just have to pretend to believe my own excuse, that the quality of the paint used for the stripes was rather different from that used for the original markings..

I just completed putting the decals on. The stencilling that came with the kit seems complete enough to look good. As an amusing detail, it includes little circles to put on each of the side windows to represent gunports; in case of attacks, the theory was that the passengers would engage in air-to-air gunnery with their rifles :shock: Can't help but wonder is this was ever done in actual combat..
A quarter of a century later the AC-47s would of course take up this 'shooting through the windows' idea with a vengeance.
Over the coming days I'll be hitting it with MicroSol, which will hopefully deal with some minor silvering and conformity issues.

Ulp! I just realised I made a terrible mistake: I should have left those gunports off. Eventually, the model will have to be hit with matt varnish, and at that time, I'll have to mask the windows. Masking over decals is not good...

I just hit one side of the fuselage with MicroSol, including the decals on the windows. The MicroSol appears to have reactivated the Humbrol Clear, multiple coats of which are all over the plane. I have some hope that once dried again, this will result in a much stronger than initially expected bond between plastic and decal, and as such I tempted to see what happens when masking and painting. If I should rip off some of the gun ports, I can always replace them with those from another identical kit, which will most likely be converted into a civilian anyway, making the gun ports obsolete.

I completed the multiple stages of "apply solvent, leave to settle", and made it past one of the more frightening stages: washing the result with warm water to get rid of any residue. I'm always afraid I'll wash the decals right off again; I just don't trust the little blighters. I expect to mess about with some antennas tomorrow, and perhaps get the final layer of clear on on sunday.

finished airplane

I finally got around to dullcoating this model. As I'd feared, roughly half of the gunports did not survive unmasking intact. I'll have to and rob another kit for replacements:-(

There's a mismatch between the sizes of the antennas under the front of the fuselage. There's two wires running between these posts, neatly parallel, and attached behind the front facing protrusions on the front post. Wiring things up this way would have the top wire running through the "egg" hanging between the posts. A bit of fudging was called for.
Other than that, there were no issues, and I'm declaring this plane done.
This concludes the review-build part of the project, but I'm not quite done yet. Some figures and a display base are still in production; I'll post more pictures when those are also complete.

The frame of the base is almost ready for painting, so the base should be done soon. The figures have now been painted, and are ready for varnishing (no problem) and removal from their bases to have pins inserted into their feet (scary...)

painted figures

Finished at last

Picture of the finished model Picture of the finished model
Picture of the finished model Picture of the finished model
Picture of the finished model Picture of the finished model
Picture of the finished model

Finishing materials:

Motip primer overall
Hu156 Dark camouflage grey bottom
Hu163 Dark green top
Humbrol gloss Clear overall
Hu 135 Satin varnish

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