My First Large Scale Model

This is my build of Georges Guynemer's SPAD S.VII. I made it some years ago, and it was my very first large scale kit; 'large' scale nowadays means 1:32 or bigger. It's a Roden kit, one of the series of large scale kits they produced which kicked off the current enthusiasm for large scale in the admittedly niche field of WWI aircraft modelling. And these kits certainly gave me the push I needed to get back into making models, models of any kind. Roden have felt obliged to give up this series since the renowned Wingnuts Wings kits have appeared, which is a pity since the Roden models still stand up well, and Wingnuts Wings certainly haven't covered all possible subjects. I am going to criticise the model, but please don't think I have a downer on it. I'm still proud of it, and it was quite a success, considering it had been so long since I had done any serious modelling.

I knowingly cheated in certain regards, and one is a biggie. The biggest challenge with a kit of one of the classic SPAD fighters is the rigging. They look like two-bay wings, don't they? Look more closely, and you'll see that the rigging is single-bay, sort of - it meets the first set of struts half way up. Not easy to manage, when Roden's moulding is so thin. Accurate, but you can see how those middle struts are bowing, especially on the port wing. And I thought I would make it easy on myself by giving the plane single rigging. Unfortunately, the SPAD had double rigging on its flying wires (those are the ones running from lower down on the fuselage, rising up to the upper wing towards the tip; the other wires crossing them are known as landing wires, usually single because they don't carry so much tension). I suppose I was nervous about the complication of that, but it's a distinctive part of the look of the plane, and I've since managed it okay on other models, notably my S.E.5s. It's a double pity that I didn't do it, because I'm soon going to build another SPAD VII, this a Russian one on skis, and it won't look right with the different rigging. Not that many people will notice - I usually have to point out the faults to them first.

Possibly more noticeable to some people is the propeller. I didn't think much about this at the time, and painted it a plain 'wood brown'. But soon afterwards I saw that modellers were managing to depict a much more realistic wood effect on propellers and elsewhere, and I learnt how to do it. The technique involves successive layers of a pale base, then some careful streaking with artist's oil paints, then something like transparent orange. I actually had my niece admire that once, without any prompting! She's usually very hard to impress :)

Another annoying detail is the lack of the faired fuel lines down from the upper wing. The parts came already broken, they were very fiddly and I gave up on them. I felt they wouldn't matter, but it still bugs me because I always spot them when I look at pictures of the real thing. It's not only my imagination, they do stand out more than I assumed.

And we can make a direct comparison. Only a small handful of famous planes from the Great War survive, but this is one of them. Georges Guynemer was already famous and beloved when he moved on to other planes (the SPAD XII and the SPAD XIII), and his SPAD VII was preserved straight away. Here it is, at the Musée de l'Air in Paris. And I bet you've seen the major visual difference before I even mention it. The real thing is filthy, isn't it? I believe in reality it has received some restoration, but they've certainly held back from cleaning it up. It looks like what it is, a warplane which had been through a lot of combat. I haven't got into weathering and all that yet. You don't absolutely need an airbrush for that, but the experts on weathering do use them. So all the planes I've built so far look factory-fresh. Another aspect of the plane's appearance is its colour. There are two main colours, one of the bare varnished fabric, the other a similar colour of paint shade applied to plywood and metal surfaces. Photography is partly to blame for the different looks of model and real plane, but I would still say the tint of the theoretically correct colour I used for that second paint is somewhat off.

Here's a picture of the final model, as currently displayed. I added a nice figure of Guynemer to it, to go along with that goose (it may seem a bit overscale, but I've just come back from a trip to France and saw some geese at one point; really big b---ers they were). One irritating detail is that his principal decoration, Legion d'Honneur I assume, went flying off towards the floor here and there was no hope of finding it. The sculptor had provided it as a separate part, you see!
When I present my Russian SPAD, I want to retire this one. I'll extract Georges, though not the goose, and wait for a decent model of his XII or his XIII to come out.