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48th Scale Fifinella....Marathon Build

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for looking in. 


I'm going to attempt to create Fifinella, a B-17G from the 91st Bomb Group (Heavy) from WWII using the Revellogram 1/48 B-17G kit.  If this turns out as well as I'm hoping for, I will be entering this build into IPMS  competitions at some point.  That though, is a BIG IF.




Historical Context -


Fifinella was a B-17G-35-DL, serial number: 42-107030.  She was added to the USAAF Inventory on February 4, 1944.  She arrived overseas (England I presume) March 6, 1944; gained by the 91st BG March 25, 1944  (Havelaar, 222) and assigned to the 322nd Bombardment Squadron.  She was assigned radio call letter T.  She flew her first combat mission on March 29, 1944 and flew 53 more missions before being lost on mission in support of Allied ground forces on August 13, 1944 (Bowden, 76) over Epreville, France. (Havelaar, 222)  Fifinella took a direct hit from flak in the cockpit just prior to unloading her bombs which caused a fire to break out with oxygen bottles exploding and leaking hydraulic fluid feeding the inferno.  She stayed with the formation long enough to drop her bombs after which the pilot, 1st Lt. Thomas Smith could no longer maintain  control and she veered upwards at a steep angle to the left.  For four minutes, the crew fought the bomber as she dove towards the earth in her death dive and succeeded in leveling the bomber out several times before she succumbed to the inevitable (Bowden, 76).  Surprisingly, there is only one KIA listed and presumably, that would be Lt. Thomas Smith.  The rest of the crew (8 total) either evaded capture or were interred as POW's. (Havelaar, 222)


Fifinella did not have a pumpkin (aka Cheyenne) tail turret.  I have confirmed that.




Nose Art -


Fifinella was a character created by Walt Disney as a badge for the Women's Air Service Pilots' (WASP's) [Formerly the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and the Women's Flying Training Detachment].  Fifinella was a winged female gremlin in a flying suit. Tony Starcer (the preeminent artist within the 91st BG) created the nose art in April 1944.  He added the bomb to add significance to the mission the 91st was assigned rather than just have Fifinella leaping from the sky. (Bowden, 75)


Choice of Subject -


I've always had a fondness for the 91st BG for as long as the Monogram 1/48 B-17G has been around (since 1975).  I've also had an aversion to commercially available decal subjects (as far as the B-17 is concerned) preferring to create my own subjects - a one-of-a-kind subject.  That way I probably wouldn't see another aircraft on the contest tables in the exact same markings I have chosen; I have seen that happen before.  So, I acquired an Alps printer and Adobe Illustrator X (it's way old now but I refuse to pay a subscription for the newest version) but works just fine.  I will create Fifinella from all the available source images I can find (the color image above will be heavily relied on).  


There are noticeable scripted notes, names, etc. around the bomber.  There are probably more than the images reveal so I will state up front that my creation may not be completely historically accurate as far as markings are concerned but I will endeavor to come as close as I can.


Being a B-17G-35-DL, creates a few "issues" with the Revellogram kit, mainly that the waist windows are staggered on the real aircraft so that will be my first task.


If anyone has further images (or knows of any) of Fifinella, I'd be interested in seeing them.  Please post them here in this build thread.  Likewise if you know of any B-17G-35-DL specific traits that are missing from the 1/48 Revellogram kit, by all mean, let me know what they are and I'll do my best to incorporate the changes.


Since she wasn't lost until August 1944, she would have had the typical red vertical and horizontal tails and wingtips.  She won't have any deice boots either.


References -

I have several references and as I refer to them, I'll update this section. 


Bowden, Ray (1993). Plane Names and Fancy Noses,The 91st Bomb Group (Heavy) United States Army Air Force. Design Oracle Partnership in association with  USAAF Nose Art Research Project. Dorset. UK.

Havelaar, Marion. Ness, William N. (1995) The Ragged Irregulars of Bassingbourn, The 91st Bombardment Group in WWII. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. PA, USA.


The Build Begins:


The first thing I chose to do was to stagger the waist windows.  I don't know if they're exactly correct but they seem to be very close based on measurements of the kit window and Boeing blueprints.  Even though I'll use blueprints, there's always room for me to screw it up somehow.   Notice how the new "hole" seems to be a bit larger than the filled in one?  The new one is closer to the measurements I obtained from the window blueprint.  You'll also note that even though I measured the window size BEFORE cutting, I still managed to oversize it, hence the styrene strip at the forward and bottom edges.




I think I placed it correctly.... It's supposed to be three fuselage formers forward (or so I've read). It looks right to me compared to photos I'm looking at.  I also took one of the fuselage decals and placed it temporarily between the crew entry door and the aft edge of the waist window and it seems to fit very close in proximity to what I'm seeing in photos of B-17G's with staggered waist windows.  I did notice that the lower sill of the window seems to be a little bit low in relation to the crew entry door window but It's close enough  (0.030 inches) that I'm not going to risk destroying what I've managed to accomplish.  I got lucky I think.




I also think I'm going to scribe this model.  With all the sanding I'm doing, I'm obliterating the raised panel lines.  The jury is still out on that but that's the plan as of today.  Check back in from time-to-time.  I'm slow but motivated with this model.




Edited by Juggernut
Added references and clarified my "aversion" to comercially available decals statement.

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:wow:  what a humongous task but know you are capable of this challenge of a build..


Super start.  Following with interest.  :popcorn:


Keep it going.  :clap2:

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12 hours ago, Uncarina said:

This looks epic! Great subject, and I know you can do this.


Cheers,  Tom


Thanks for the vote of confidence! I'll keep it in mind as I plug along with those parts of the build that make me think "Why did I start this?"


10 hours ago, MARU5137 said:

:wow:  what a humongous task but know you are capable of this challenge of a build..


Super start.  Following with interest.  :popcorn:


Keep it going.  :clap2:


Thanks Maru for your vote of confidence.  To quote Chief Dan George from the Movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (Lone Wadi), I shall "endeavor to persevere."  I have the knowledge, and possibly the skillset needed; i just need to make sure I don't get ahead of myself and foul it all up.  I'm still hashing out exactly which details I'll replace on the old dinosaur and which I'll keep. 


I also chose this aircraft so I wouldn't have to create a new F style nose blister aside from the nose art being at a decent angle so I can replicate it.  I also found a dead-on side shot of the nose art (in B&W) so I can remove any parallax that I might otherwise inject into the illustration.  Come to think of it, I'd better fire up the Alps printer to make sure it still works.  I haven't used it in years. :unsure:

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14 hours ago, chrish said:

A great project for a B-17 expert such as yourself! Pulling up a chair for this one! 


Thanks, you are too kind.  I'm not an expert but I'd like to think I have a good base of knowledge about the old girl.   

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A small bit of progress over this Labor Day weekend here in the US of A... 


I've managed to remove and restore (albeit not 100% straight) some of the interior fuselage stringer and former details since relocating the right side waist window.  Since the majority of this won't be subject to extreme scrutiny, I was ok with it not being 100% straight.  A lot of it will be  covered with details that are yet to be added (i.e., armor plating, ammo boxes, walk-around oxygen bottles, etc.).


I've also begun working on the radio room.  Monogram designed this compartment with the ability to clear the wing insertion tabs and as such, the floor of the radio room has been truncated and does not extend to the sides of the fuselage.  I've remedied that by making a new radio room floor out of .040-inch styrene.  Consequently have had to fill in the wing root area inside the fuselage to better represent the actual structure in that area. 



I'm hoping to be able to use the fore and aft bulkheads (5 and 6) from the Monogram kit.  I'm planning on wiping the existing detail off and replacing it with scratchbuilt equivalents.  Notice the notches in the forward bulkhead for the wing attachment locking devices...These have been eliminated with .040-inch styrene sheet, glued in place with gap-filling superglue and sanded to shape.


The radio room is area is where the fuselage and turtledeck meet; as such, the two structures are not represented internally within the fuselage.   I created a false fuselage from .010-inch styrene sheet.  I cut out the opening for the radio room gun, etc.  by trapping the plastic between the fuselage halves and literally drawing the opening with a mechanical pencil using care to keep the point perfectly vertical while drawing it.  In order to get the curve just right, I had to section the false fuselage into three sections.  You can see two of the sections in the image below.  The third is another small section like the one shown below but on the opposite fuselage half.








Sectioning the false fuselage enabled me to install the floor, locate the large part of the false fuselage and then trap them between fuselage halves....  That's when I drew the cutout portion.  I  errored on the shape a little bit toward the front as it should have been more rounded than it is (see the image above).  I relied on a photo I took of a restored B-17 to make this area and I either didn't notice the shape or the restored item was restored incorrectly...maybe a little of both.  Anyway, since this area will be covered by the stowed radio room gun, I may leave it as is...may. 








When the time comes to install the false fuselage, I will add the vertical structure connecting the fuselage with the turtledeck to include the track the gun slides back and forth on.  Hopefully I won't forget that part.


Note how the fuselage formers do not quite line up as viewed through the waist window in the last photo.  This isn't a problem as there is a walkway  (and a gunners step above it) that covers that entire area that will be installed before I close up the fuselage.


That's all I've managed to accomplish so far but I am working on it...slowly.   The PennCon model contest is coming up in a few weeks and I have a few items to enter this year....



Edited by Juggernut

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