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The tale of a Comet, Airfix 72nd scale dH-88 racer


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Hello boys and girls, perhaps you will permit me to share my latest offering here?


This is another in the line of smaller scale builds that I've been busying myself with of late.

I've found that time at the bench has been at a premium so I've tended toward small scale projects in an attempt to finish one or two projects. However, more recent builds have been getting steadily more and more involved. This is no exception.


My intention is to detail the build here but if you frequent Britmodeller you may already have seen this so apologies to you guys for the repetition. The model is now complete and in my cabinet and a full build thread is posted on BM but I'd like to add it here too if that's ok?


Anyone familiar with this tiny kit will know it's heritage. The original dates back to midway through the last century and the state of the molds are testament to this. There is alot of flash, many of the parts are mishapen and/or crude and the fit of most parts is rather "approximate".

Since the Comet is such a graceful aeroplane (you can see that in Eric's 1/32nd scale build here on LSP:http://forum.largescaleplanes.com/index.php?showtopic=53255&page=10

I decided to try to improve on what the manufacturer currently turns out and get something that resembles the real deal more closely.


Back in the early Fifties Airfix released "Grosvenor House" and the kit remains the same today. In many builds we'd begin with the cockpit. For this kit, there is n't one. The crew compartment is a flat deck running along the edge of the fuselage with two raised pips suggesting the pilot's heads. Since the canopy is virtually a solid piece of transparent plastic that might have been acceptable. However, the canopy of the real Comet is a very open glass house. Something had to be done.

So that is where I began.

I cut out the flat area and added a semblance of cockpit detail to the fuselage walls using reference photos from the web and BM's walkaround page.


I took the decision early on to try to replicate the renovated airframe as she's seen today. 2014 saw her return to flight for the first time in a few years so thankfully there are quite a few contemporary images around for reference.

The modern aeroplane is predominantly black inside the cockpit so I did n't go overboard with the details. An IP, trim wheel and stick made do for the front cockpit, just an IP for the rear. I "borrowed" a pair of pilots from a 1/72nd scale Chipmunk, adjusted their dress and painted them in white and dark blue flight overalls. (In truth, I should have only put a pilot in as Grosvenor House does n't carry anyone else whilst displaying currently).


Due to space restrictions I omitted any seats preferring instead to glue the little people straight to the floor. Well, the back seater is sitting on the floor, the pilot is sitting on the back seater's feet......

I have n't found any drawings of the dH-88 so the position of the aircrew is a guesstimate.


With a large, open space to cover the kit canopy was discarded in favour of a new version. In order to create the glazing I carved some scrap resin pour stub and crash molded some clear food packaging.




The canopy is quite a complex affair and it took a while to get the shape correct.

I tried to follow the shape of the real aircraft but in doing so, I created more work for myself.

The aft fuselage of the Airfix kit is quite triangular in cross section above the swage line. On the full sized airframe it is more rounded at the top. This left a mismatch behind the glazing.


To remedy this I slopped on some green stuff two pack putty from Games Workshop and once cured, sanded it to shape.

In turn, this illuminated another shape issue. This time it was the front fuselage above the swage line. That triangular section of the aft fuselage had been continued forward meaning that the front fuselage could also benefit from some re-shaping.


Some gentle sanding of the kit plastic took care of the gently curving transition but did nothing for the emaciated upper fuselage. I turned to the two-pack again.




The additional bulk was sanded to shape which helped give that delicate, swooping noseline of deHavilland's design.


The next job was to fashion a light in the nose. In this ancient model Airfix would have the builder suggest the nose light by applying silver paint as no clear parts are included. The nose light of the Comet is one of it's most distinuishing features and just could not be taken lightly {~groan~} ignored.

With no drawings to refer to I was forced to guess the diameter of the lens.

I started by sawing off the tip of the fuselage and making sure that the resultant hole was circular.

I made a reflector by punching out a disc of shiny foil and dishing it over the curved handle of a paint brush in time honoured fashion.


The clear cover was smash molded out of thin, clear actetate (food packaging) and the lens was constructed from several circular pieces of acetate.


Not completely perfect but better than nothing. In truth I suspect that I could have gone larger.

Edited by geedubelyer
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Hi Willy. I totally agree with you. Certainly one of the most graceful aeroplanes to ever grace the skies. I'm hoping to see her at least once next year.


With the fuselage taking shape it was time to add some flying surfaces.

Having had a quick look at the wing to fuselage joint I decided to start at the back to give me more thinking time. (Those chasms were going to take some planning!).

Actually, the horizontal tail surfaces were the lesser (by a small margin) of two evils.


The staggered joint was easily fixed by sanding off some of the mounting tabs. There is a fairing around the tail surfaces that is missing from the kit. To make it easier to sculpt and to give me more options later on in the build I removed the elevators and rudder parts.

The fairing was sculpted from green stuff again. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here? I've taken out shares in the green stuff company as this build is probably 50% putty now). Using thin strips of Tamiya masking tape I mapped out the edges then smoothed the putty around the flying surfaces. Once the tape was removed it gave me the fine edge seen on the real deal.



With the tail done I was forced to turn my attention to the wings but before I could join them to the fuselage I needed to deal with the engine nacelles. Those of you with a nervous disposition my wish to avert your gaze......


The engine nacelles are very worn out. They resemble neither the original or contemporary styles since the intakes are totally horrible.



The intakes required completely rebuilding.

A disc of plasticard was punched out and mounted in the hole where the prop sits. More plasticard was used to build up the squarer shaped intake on the left hand side (right hand side as we are looking at it) and green stuff was used to sculpt the rounder, narrower opening on the right hand side.


Before I joined the two halves I took the time to open out the gills on the nacelle sides. These are molded as raised lines on the kit.


Re-shaping continued with the rear of the nacelles, the underneath and the top of each pod. In fact, almost every aspect of the engine nacelles was modified in an attempt to replicate the shape and look of the originals.






The new intakes let in alot of light and the front of the engine is very visible on the full sized aeroplane so I chose to add a suggestion of detail inside. I cut a metal screw in two and glued it into the opening to represent the front cylinder.


There are a few drainholes that appear around the cowlings so these were drilled out. I then turned my attention to fitting the nacelles to the wings.

Some sanding was required to get the nacelles to sit flat against the underside of the wings but once that was done I could glue them on.

Edited by geedubelyer
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Before I fixed the nacelles in place I wanted to create another feature missing from the Airfix kit. There are outlets on top of the wing surface where the rear of the nacelle meets the leading edge of the mainplane. Airfix provides decals for these but I wanted something more 3D. I filed out the outlets as best I could. This was one area where references were sparse. With that complete I adapted the cowlings by removing the front section and adding some plasticard to the upper rear portion where the newly opened outlets are.


Romving the front section had two benefits. It allowed me to gain the correct angle for the join and kept the engine portion out of the way whilst I was man-handling the rest of the model.


I'd put off attaching the wings for as long as I could so I had to bite the bullet and get stuck in.

The gaps were truly epic! For strength I used CA  to join the wings to the fuselage but there was alot of filling required. The underside of the Comet is virtually flat so this took some time and plenty of patience.


Fortunately there is another fairing covering the upper surface so, yep, you guessed it, more green stuff. Using a similar technique to the tailplanes I masked the joint and smeared the two-pack along the joint.

With patience it's possible to smooth the green stuff pretty well before it cures meaning less sanding is required.


After attaching the wings I began to think that I needed to add some surface detail. Images of the real bird showed a certain amount of detail aft of the engines. To represent this I scraped away some plastic and added a thin sheet of plasticard that I'd scribed parallel lines on to. This was intended to suggest the subtle ribbing seen on this area of the aircraft. The plasticard was blended in.


I also felt it necessary to extend the trailing edge of the wing root by adding a crescent of plasticard and filling with more green stuff before thinning the trailing edge as much as possible. The wings of the kit are one piece but are incredibly thick. In fact, I thinned the wings as far as I could since those on the Comet are beautifully delicate, slender and graceful.


You may have noticed the elevators and rudder in one of the images above. If you remember, I'd removed them earlier in the process. I could have just replaced the original parts but they were devoid of any surface detail after I'd thinned them. To re-introduce the look of stretched fabric I resorted to a similar technique to the aft portion of the wings.

I traced the outline of each control surface twice then scribed lines into the back surfaces. I glued a spar to the leading edges of each and glued the trailing edges together. This gave me nice, thin control surfaces with the subtle ribbing showing through.


With the wings attached, the nacelles re-shaped and the control surfaces attended to I could begin to tweek smaller details and concentrate on the overall finish.


The props in the kit were in a state.


To allow access to the spinner I cut off the blades and joined them with plastic rod. I was then able to finesse the spinner profile before adding the blades back into the hub.


I drilled a hole in the rear face of the spinner for a micro tube shaft and fitted another, larger diameter tube into the nacelle. That way I could remove the props easily for paint.


Talking of paint, I applied filler primer over the model to get a smooth surface and I used the thicker texture of this layer to introduce some subtle surface detailling under the wings and at the leading edge of the lower wing root.





I followed this up with a coat of white ready for the top coat of red.


Edited by geedubelyer
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The red was next. I used Valejo Flat Red acrylic as a base and then Games Workshop " 'ard coat" gloss varnish from a spray can for the gloss coat.



The GW varnish dries quickly and is very hard but it does come out at a fast rate. Consequently the gloss is a bit heavy.


Decals went on beautifully. The Airfix decals behaved well, they are opaque but I found out that the font is actually wrong for the model that I'm depicting. Airfix have correctly replicated the font used on the original racer, the modern version is more rounded. I'll have to source more accurate markings if I ever build another.





Now though, a step backwards. With all of the modifications that I'd done to the fuselage, the canopy that I created was now too narrow. So, I made another master and plunge molded another version.

After several tries I managed to get one that fitted reasonably well but now I had to decide how to add the framing.

After chatting it through on BM and listening to a number of sound ideas I finally chose to paint some decal paper and use that for the outer framework. This needed to be black first, then white and finally red. It ended up about 3mm thick! LOL

What I had noticed whilst studying photos of the full sized canopy was that some of the framing is inside the glazing. For that I stretched some red sprue leftover from the Revell Hawk and adhered it to the inside of the glass using a tiny drop of Klear.



Thr props that I'd messed about with earlier were sprayed a custom silver/light grey mix after I'd masked off the yellow tips. The rear of each blade was brush painted black.

Most of the airframe was finished but I still had to get her on her feet.


In the above image you might just notice the tiny position lights on the leading edge of each wing outboard of the engine nacelles. Thanks to Eric I had the correct dimensions to position those, thanks again Eric.


I hinted at the landing gear and, apart from some small details, that was all that was left to do.

The kit parts were a tad odd again.



For some unknown reason the wheels are different diameters on the outside to the inside. Additionally, they appear quite tall and thin compared to pictures of the actual parts. The gear legs are mis-aligned too so there was little else for it but to scratch build the lot.

Edited by geedubelyer
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Thanks guys, your kind words mean a great deal. Much appreciated.

...... Why don't Airfix come out with a new-mould kit of this lovely aeroplane instead of continuously re-releasing this antique?





I'm with you on that Jason. Mind you, does n't Murphy's law dictate that now I've spent some time correcting this old duffer Airfix will indeed offer a new tool version? Let's hope so.


A thought occured during the build though. This is only a small model so why not make it modular and pour some resin? I'm sure some of the aftermarket producers could easily create a kit if the masters were made. Hmmm, possibly something to think about more?


Hi Peter and Kev, I'm chuffed to bits that you've enjoyed this little build. Thanks for taking the time to add your encouragement.


So, pressing on with the build it was time to attack the landing gear. As can be seen from the images above, a fair amount of work was required. I began by pressing some more Albion Alloys micro tubing into service. I used this to fashion the main gear legs. Two diameters were used, one to telescope inside the other. A length of aluminium foil was wrapped around the end of the thinner piece to  represent the oleo strut.


For the wheels and tyres I went rummaging through the spares box. After trying one or two different styles I opted for a pair of main wheels from a 1/72nd scale BAe Hawk of some description. They were in red plastic but I confess, I can't ever remember building one. I added discs of plasticard over the hubs to better match the Comet's wheels.

The drag struts are thinner micro tubing glued in place with CA and the cross bracing is stretched sprue.


For such an elegant lady she has got quite stumpy legs so thankfully, not much can be seen of the wheel bay interior when she's on her wheels.

Finally for the undercarriage, I made a mudguard from metal foil.


The above image shows how I used a pattern and then formed the curved guard around some suitably sized brass tube.

These replaced the thinner plastic parts.


Just one or two final pieces of the puzzle left to do.

The tail skid is a length of rectangular plastic Evergreen extrusion carved to shape. I had to guess at the dimensions using reference pics as a guide. This was mounted in the fuselage using wire.

A red strobe light for the underside was crafted from some clear sprue. I suspect it might be a bit too large so I'll reduce it if I ever make another. The wing and tail lights were also made from clear sprue.

There is a tiny doohicky beneath the nose which I made from foil and wire but this is so small it barely shows in any of the photos. LOL

The pitot is a length of resin from one of the Aerobonus detail sets. I found it easier to sand to shape than plastic. The very tip is metal micro tubing once again.  This was added last of all as I knew I'd break it off any earlier in the build.


So here she is:


It was quite a journey and more work than I initially anticipated but it was the only way I could see to get close to the shape of the original.

Edited by geedubelyer
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I hope you enjoy the glamour shots.















She's by no means perfect and I've learnt lessons for possible future builds. Would n't it be lovely to have an alternative to the expensive and rare Aerotech version in 1/32nd scale?






I've probably skipped through some of the stages a bit so I'm very happy to answer any questions that anyone might have. Equally, I'm happy to accept criticism or advice so don't be shy. Every project is a learning process and I value everyone's contributions.


Now, if only I could get hold of some scale drawings in our scale.......


Thanks for stopping by and having a look.



Edited by geedubelyer
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