I have been building models on
and off since I was a kid, and I love the old Monogram / Revell kits that I grew
up with. I had never heard of
Hasegawa or Tamiya, and did not discover resin or photo-etched details until
about six or eight years ago. One
of the kits I built as a kid was the Monogram AH-64 Apache.
As with most of my models back then, I glued it together in one day,
painted only some of the cockpit parts and rotors, and placed the decals right
on the bare, olive-colored plastic. Iíve
learned some patience since then, and prefer that my models look a little more
realistic. But I still build for
the fun of it, and Iím just not that concerned with being technically
accurate. I just want each aircraft
to look good sitting on the shelf, and know that I enjoyed building it.
I had an old Monogram 1/48
AH-64 kit that I bought on Ebay and decided to build my own out-of-box version
of my favorite helicopter ever. I
was very inspired by Rodney Williamsí four-part article of the Monogram Apache
in the ARC gallery. I was not going
to attempt the level of detail and scratch-building that he did, but I enjoyed
seeing what could be done with this old kit.
I started with the cockpit, painting all of the panels flat black and
dry-brushing the details, adding some red and yellow here and there to make it
pop. I also painted the pilotís
MFD screen gloss green. I know
itís bright for a screen that is turned off, but I wanted it to be noticed.
I used some scrap pieces of the low E string from my guitar to make hoses
on each seat. The seats were
painted with Model Master Acryl US Army Helo Drab, with gray cushions, and I
used the molded-on seat harnesses. I
masked the interior of the canopy with scotch tape and painted it Helo Drab.
This was my first time to use this masking technique, and I was really
happy with the results.
Next, I worked on the weapons.
I began by sanding the horrible mold lines and drilling out the backs of
the Hellfire missiles. After seeing
an AH-64 on static display at the Wings over Meridian 2008 Airshow a few weeks
ago, I noticed that I did not drill out a large enough diameter.
Oh well, itís better than it being solid on the back.
I did not modify the rocket pods at all, but I wanted to make the gun
more detailed. I started by using
the point of a brand new X-acto blade to ďdrillĒ out the end of the barrel.
I removed the molded-on spring and replaced it with one that I made by
wrapping a thin wire around a small drill bit.
I saw on the real Apache that there is a rod inside the coil, which I
left out so that the detail is more noticeable.
I also added a wire on the other side to replace the molded-on wire.
I did the same to the landing gear struts.
The rotor heads were an area that I wanted to add some detail. The large wires on top of the main rotor are present on some Apaches, and not on others. I have no idea what they are for, but I wanted them on my model to add detail and interest, and just to see if I could do it. I used some black wire of unknown size that was lying around in the tool box, and I used strips of a soda can to make the braces. The wires added to the tail rotor are a smaller size guitar string, cut and super-glued in place. I wanted the main rotor to have some sag in the blades, so I heated the plastic over a candle and bent them by hand until they had the right curvature to them. Be very careful if you ever try this because leaving the part over the direct heat of the candle for too long can distort the plastic. I almost did this. Happy with the rotors, it was time to move on to the fuselage.
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There is a lot of work to do to get rid of the seams after the fuselage halves have been joined, and I didnít do as much as maybe I should have. I took care of the main areas, mainly around the main rotor, in front of the cockpit, and on the tail. I was afraid of loosing the rivets on the rest of the aircraft to do too much sanding. I mainly used the technique in the Tools and Tips section of applying putty and then smoothing it with nail polish remover. I need more practice, but I really like this method. The entire Apache is brush-painted with US Army Helo Drab, since I donít have an airbrush and could not find this color in a spray can. After gloss cote, decals, and dull cote, the brush marks are not that obvious and I am happy with the results. I did not glue the end cap for the rotors in because I wanted to be able to lift the rotors out if needed. So both rotors just sit in their respective openings.
The big endeavor in this project was to scratch-build an engine. I began by opening the engine nacelle on the starboard side, and added bracing with strip styrene. The engine itself is not accurate at all, but rather loosely based on photos and diagrams until I thought it looked good. Again, I just wanted something to look cool on the shelf. I wasnít going for authenticity. I used a cross section of a Bic ballpoint pen for the engine, with the screw-off tip of some other click-pen for the bell-shaped exhaust. Then I just glued on some parts from the spare box, copper wire and other wires, painted it and dry-brushed it, and decided that it looked as good as anything else Iíve ever build from scratch, which is nothing.
In conclusion, this old kit was a very enjoyable build, and I learned a lot about working with wires and other materials to build from scratch. I love that this hobby is enjoyable for everyone: those who strive for precise technical and historical accuracy, those who build models that are ďclose enough,Ē modelers who make things up, or those in-betweeners. Iím glad that Steve has provided the Aircraft Resource Center website where everyone can see what each other is doing, get inspiration and ideas, learn new techniques, or just return and look at some of our favorite subjects over and over. As long as there are models to build, I plan to keep building them. And I hope you do, too.
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Photos and text © by Darren Crull