1/72 Vacuformed Airframe Gee Bee R-1 racer

Gallery Article by Gabriel Stern on Aug 13 2010


   It is as if my friends were trying to prove that there is no kit impossible to build...as long as it is other modeler who builds them.

   The Gee Bee needs no introduction; it is just a manned, slightly winged, aerial engine cowl.

   This vac -together with a few others- was given to me by fellow modeler Keith H. I am grateful of course but now I may have to build them. Hum.

   In any case, the Airframe vacuformed kit is old but generally nice if your standards are flexible like mine but the styrene in this one is on the thin side (I have seen other offers from this manufacturer with a pleasant thickness) to the point of both flimsiness and glue terror -a syndrome you develop after you melted a kit trying to glue it-.

   The iconic wheel pants were so thin that I decided just to hold the halves together with my fingers and wick down a bit of superglue. I had, nevertheless, to explain friends and neighbors why I was holding a minute white part on my hand for the next two days. Kidding.

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   The decals, by Microscale, were detailed; nevertheless the shape of the larger ones (on the wings, fus, and pants) is not really well designed to wrap around the areas they are supposed to cover. I am not talking here about not being able to stretch and adapt to the model curves (which is understandable to a certain extent) but of shapes that tend not to coincide, being in general a bit large. I wonder if the decal designer ever applied them on a model. If that would have been the case it should have been realized that some adjustments (drastic in a few cases) were in order. My decal sheet was incomplete and badly crackled (nothing to blame the manufacturer for here), a fact that I caught just in time not to use them before spraying on them a few protecting coats to build up a carrier. The plan worked only for the smaller decals, but the condition and age of the larger ones was so bad originally that they shattered anyway. I had to print a set from a scan I took before doing anything with the decals, which proved wise. I also made some louvers that go on the front fuselage. At the end, a total decal nightmare. The Amodel Gee Bee (which I built long time ago) decals were less attractive and a tad pink, but the bits conformed much better to the contours, if the area they covered was smaller (more painted areas to match for the modeler).

    As usual, you have to ride your sparesí box (or supplier) to get engine, wheels and prop and scratch any other things you wish to add. It is worth of note though that a transparent vac canopy was provided. The model compares well to a portrait of a remote auntie I had that was a little on the chubby side.

   Since this was supposed to be a quickie for an informal contest, a succinct interior was added and things were kept as simple as possible, which is never really simple with vacs and small models. Images depict how the parts left on the building board magically attach to each other to eventually form a model.

    Anyway, did I enjoy it? you betcha. I only wish I had had a decent, new, decal sheet, because do you know what happens when you match your cowl and spats to a certain hue of a decal set, and then you have to change decals? Yes, that.

    The rest was pretty fun.

Gabriel Stern

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Photos and text © by Gabriel Stern