This next build is going to be a little different. I have always been a fan of the 1950’s and 1960’s horror and sci-fi movies. One of my favorites is the Howard Hawks 1951 movie “The Thing From Another World”. The movie is set in the arctic at an outpost that ends up fighting an alien invasion. With that in mind, I will be using the Trumpeter 1/48 C-47 and converting it to a R4D-5 for arctic service. The scheme will be the “Tropical Tilly” used in the movie. For the conversion I will be using Lone Star Models (LSM) arctic C-47 conversion set. The LSM conversion kit includes numerous resin parts for the ski’s, cowls, exhaust, nose, and a set of decals for the Tropical Tilly and another R4D called the Que Sera Sera. For research I took some screen captures from the movie and found some color production stills in an old “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine.
Here is the DVD cover as well as a couple of screen captures:
Moving on to the start of the build, to begin with I assembled and built the cockpit. One of the things that I noticed was the kit control arms only had 4 thick levers. I cut these off and used some spare photo etch levers. The kit instrument panel is very nice. It consists of a back panel, a thin film with the instrument faces printed on it, and a clear front panel. These went together very well and look great. While I had some painted parts drying I worked on the nose of the aircraft. The R4D nose is a little longer than the normal C-47. The LSM instructions state to cut just forward of the nose panel line and graft the new resin nose on. After some measurements I determined that the nose needed cut 4.0mm forward of the panel line. The resin nose is a near perfect fit now.
Turning back to the cockpit I built up the seats. The kit provides a small sheet of photo etch that includes the seat belts. After painting them I installed the seat belts and then the control sticks. The next step was to build the avionics rack. The avionics equipment has some details molded on the face. One of the details is the handles of the equipment. I cut these off and replaced them with spare photo etch handles and then detailed the front of all the equipment. I am currently building and detailing the rest of the forward bulkheads.
Moving forward to the next scene in the R4D-5 TFAW build, I continued with the forward cabin details. The bulkhead behind the cockpit was detailed using cloth tape to replicate the padded section. In the next section where the radio/navigator sits I added a lens to the light and detailed the seat. In the movie is a scene where a crewman reads from a magazine article on how the Air Force states UFO’s do not exist. After some research I identified the magazine as the March 1950 edition of the “Air Force” magazine. I decided to take a photo of the cover, scale it, print it out on paper, and place on the table.
There is also a first aid box in the section behind the pilot. I made decals to properly mark the box. The forward section was then installed. Next I started on the cabin benches. These were detailed with photo etch loops and then the seat belts. With the benches mounted I checked how it mounts in the fuselage and marked where things line up so I can detail the fuselage. I filled the mold marks with putty and then trimmed the frame for the top bubble window. Since the window is not on the aircraft, I need to remove it and fill in the hole. The rear bulkhead was detailed and I started to add accessories for the interior. For the blanket rolls and satchel I painted and then weathered them with pastel chalk. Next I will be adding all the ribs and spars on the inside of the fuselage.
Welcome to scene 3 of the R4D-5 conversion. This week I detailed the starboard fuselage interior. I used .02” X .04” styrene square rods to frame in the area. I also removed the bubble window atop the fuselage. The R4D did not have the bubble window. After removing the frame on the outside I used a thin sheet of styrene on the inside then filled the hole with white putty. Once cured I wet sanded it to contour the fuselage. I then went back to the interior details. I used .03” rods for the area across from the cargo door. From the reference photos these are larger than the upper section as they are used to tie down any cargo.
I used a piece of .04” X .04” square rod on the emergency exit window to make the release handle. The kit had the release handle molded in, but since I was adding the spars/ribs I needed to remake it so it was flushes with the ribs. I drilled part of the way with a 3mm drill and installed a photo etch handle into the section.
I then started adding the upper portion with .02” rods. This is very tedious as cutting and fitting each one takes time to trim and fit. It took a few evenings to install all of them. After I finished I checked the fit of the interior section. Next up is working on the port side interior then I can assemble the fuselage. I have heard the fit of the two fuselage halves on this kit requires some work so we will see how that goes.
Moving forward to scene 4 of the Tropical Tilly. This week I detailed the port side of the fuselage. One thing I needed to do was to remove the extra window next to the cargo doors. There should only be six windows on the port side. While the putty was curing on the window area I painted the starboard side interior. I then added some weathering and added the seat belt storage bags.
Turning back to the port side I needed to modify and relocate the control panel to fit within the ribs. Once all the ribs and spars were installed I checked the fit of the interior and after a little minor trimming it fit perfectly. I had a few fellow modelers let me know that putting the fuselage together was a challenge as the interior was slightly larger and caused gaps. I did a dry fit and found that the upper section of the fuselage has a huge gap just behind the cockpit. As it turns out there are a few areas that require some trimming. The first is the bulkhead just behind the cockpit seats. The edges need to be sanded on the sides and the top. The second area is the navigators section. The navigators table sticks out too much and needs to be trimmed to fit the contour of the fuselage. The bulkhead in front needs to have the top sanded down slightly. The last area is the top of the equipment racks across from the navigators section. I sanded down the outside edges and the top. The bulkhead to the cargo area fits fine and does not need any sanding. I still have a little bit of sanding to do on the top of the cockpit bulkhead and then it should fit a lot better. Once I get the fit corrected there are some more details that need to be added to the cargo area interior before I can put the fuselage together.
Here we are at scene 5 of Tropical Tilly. This week I detailed at painted the port side of the fuselage. I also noticed that there is what looks like tie down straps along the fuselage above the seats. I used some extra photo etch extras and cloth tape to create these mounts. I scratch built some of the avionics panels near the cargo door and modified the panel in the middle of the fuselage. The next thing I worked on was the overhead console for the cockpit. After detail painting in I noticed in the reference photo that the edge near the hatch on top it was marked with “ESCAPE HATCH”. I added this by making a decal for it.
I then worked on trimming and shaping the interior bulkheads so the fuselage fits together. It is still going to require some putty but the gap is a lot smaller. Moving onto the cargo doors I removed the molded in handles off the crew door and replaced them with photo etch handles. The center light/ air vents for the cabin were detailed and the tail wheel assembly was built at detailed. The tail wheel hub required some trimming as it was too wide for the rubber tire. I installed all the windows and painted the circle in the middle with black rubber. Next I started assembling the outer wings. The kit includes landing lights in the wing. These unfortunately were molded in gray instead of clear. I drilled them out with a 4mm drill bit than painted the inside with chrome silver and filled them with acrylic gel to give them a realistic appearance of the landing lights.
I ordered some resin crates to add to the interior. These were painted with Tamiya desert sand and then washed with Vallejo Mahogany to give them a real wood look. I am now making the cargo straps and rope that will secure the cargo to the fuselage. The cargo straps are being made using the same cloth tape as described in my “Making Cloth Seatbelts” tip.
Making cloth seat belts for aircraft
I should have the interior completed and the fuselage finally together by the end of the week.
Moving forward to scene 6 on the R4D-5 this week I loaded the cargo in the cabin. The two crates were strapped in using straps and rope as depicted in the screen shots from the film. I also added blankets and bags as well. The fuselage halves were then put together and clamped. While the fuselage was setting I started on the R-1830-92 engines. The detail of the kit engines is very good. The only thing you need to be careful with is making sure you don’t mix the left and right engine parts. The keyways are different between the sides which could affect the position of the front of the engine when it is installed later.
With the fuselage together I started to fill the gaps and seams with putty. Aside from the gap on top of the fuselage there are uneven sections along the seam. There is also a gap around the tail wheel well which was carefully filled. While the putty was curing I built up the main landing gear bays into the upper wing sections and installed the engines. Turing back to the fuselage, the seams were wet sanded. The resin nose was then aligned and set in place. Once the putty is cured I will then begin to wet sand and shape it. Next up will be assembling and installing the wings and re-scribing panel lines/rivets.
As we move onto scene 7 of the R4D this week I have the resin nose shaped. Need to scribe some panel lines and rivets still. I looked at the exhaust. The resin kit has the correct version for the R4D, however it was designed for the Monogram kit and is too large for the Trumpeter kit I am using. I used a styrene tube to make the exhaust and some aluminum tubing for the center portion.
With the wings attached I then noticed this kit comes with the long scoop on top of the engines. The R4D uses the smaller scoop. I trimmed the kit scoop for shorter length and shortened the height a little. I used some styrene to replicate the backside of the scoops and blended it with putty. I also needed to fill I n the cut-out above the engine with some sheet styrene.
While the modified scoops were letting the putty cure I looked at the main landing gear and the skis that will go on them. The kit provides rubber tires and they would not fit between the resin ski rails. So I took some measurements and decided to modify the skis. I cut off the rails from the ski and using .020” sheet styrene I made the bottom of the ski and added the rails. The rails have a crossbar. This needed to be removed and replaced. The rails needed to move out .005” on each side. With the skis modified I needed to change the mounting. The axles that came with the kit for the main wheels are too short to fit the skis. I will be using aluminum tubing to make the extended axles.
Just a side note, I do not need to check the tail wheel ski. This will not be used. In the movie (The Thing from another world – 1951) there is a scene with Captain Hendry and the Colonel where they mention on a previous landing the broke the ski off the tail wheel. All of the scenes in the movie with the aircraft show no ski on the tail wheel.
This coming week I am getting the aircraft ready for painting. I have numerous panel lines and rivets to add back onto the areas that were modified and to mask off the areas. I am hoping to start painting by next weekend.
Onward to scene 8, the work this week was spent preparing and painting the base coats. The overall aircraft was painted with Tamiya bare aluminum. I have a copy of the USAF technical order for painting numerous aircraft. I verified the yellow stripe is insignia yellow and the other color is international orange. I then loaded the DVD of “The Thing from another world” into the computer to see the placement of the yellow fuselage strip and the international orange areas. During the research I realized that the boomerang antenna and the forward mast antenna atop the fuselage which were mounted in the kit locations were in the wrong location. After some careful removal I relocated them to the same locations they are on the aircraft in the movie.
The stripe area was masked and painted. The decal set provides a decal for the stripe but I prefer to paint it on. I next painted the international orange areas. While the pain was drying I looked over the decals. The USAF Tech Order shows that the R4D’s used the 40” stars and bars. The decal set comes with the 36” version. I then made my own 40” starts and bars decals. The one on the port side of the fuselage covers the fuselage and both cargo doors. I measured and cut up one of the insignias and put the decal sections on the cargo doors.
While the paint was drying I did some more work on the main gear. I decided to use aluminum tubing as the axle for the wheels and skis. The plan for the upcoming week is to finish the decals and give the aircraft a nice gloss coat then work on finishing the main landing gear. Looks like just a few more “scenes” to finish this one.
Working on scene 9 of Tropical Tilly, the decals are done and the aircraft has been given a gloss topcoat. I then turned to the main landing gear. For the wheel I am using 3/32 aluminum tubing for between the struts and 1/16 aluminum tubing for the axle that extends thru the skis. With the slightly different shape and design of the kit landing gear I had to make changes to the width of the skis, the attachment point to the landing gear, and the rear horizontal stabilizer of the skis. I also added the attachment points for the cables used to keep them horizontal. The opposite attachment points were added to the aircraft as well. The ski bottom also has two skid tabs at the trailing edge. I made these out of tin lead. The skis were then painted with the bare aluminum paint.
I spent some time reviewing scenes I the movie and found some antennas on the bottom of the fuselage. One is in between the main landing gear and has antenna lines running from the front of the aircraft. The other two are on the bottom of the fuselage near the cargo door. I used some spare photo etch to duplicate these. I then installed the landing lights in the wings and am now starting on the engine bell housing and the propellers. I have a few more details that need to be added as well as mounting the cargo doors and installing the skis.
Welcome to scene 10 as the climactic ending begins. I installed the skis and added the safety cables that assist in keeping the skis horizontal using EZ-Line. The engine bell housing and propellers were installed as well as the wing tip lights. One of the things not represented in the kit is the windscreen wipers. I took some spare photo etch pieces and made the blade and arms then installed them. I then added all the antenna wires both under the nose and on top using EZ-Line. There are two small “T” shaped antennas under the fuselage near the tail. I trimmed up some scrap photo etch to replicate them.
Next I used some scrap photo etch and made the cargo door hinges. With all the small details added I thought I had finished the aircraft. While uploading the photos to the computer I realized I forgot to paint on the wing walkways and the anti-glare area on the nose. I painted them as well as the fuel ports on the top of the wings. While the real aircraft has the de-icing panels painted black, none of the screen shots show these painted the typical matte black. I left them unpainted to match the aircraft in the movie. So now the aircraft is complete except the snow weathering which will be added when I mount the aircraft to the base.
For the final week of work I am building a snow base to display the aircraft. I bought an 18” wooden disk which came with a white washed stain on it as well as a Scene-O-Rama snow kit. I currently am still looking for 1/48 scale dog sled team and arctic crew figures. I have a friend who is looking to design files for the 3-D printer but these files may take a while. We went over some of the scenes from the movie (The Thing from another world – 1951) and he is going to pose them as they are returning to the aircraft with the frozen alien on the sled. When I build the base I will add in the footprints and sled marks so these can be added later. So the current display will be just the aircraft on the snow and assuming the crew is down by the buried flying saucer. Stay tuned for the conclusion of this project.
The final scene of the Tropical Tilly R4D-5 has the project completed. With the aircraft completed I then made the display base for the aircraft. Using an 18” diameter plaque I covered it using spackle. I laid out the ski pattern and the tail wheel pattern. Next I added the crew footprints and the sled trail from the cargo door to the edge. After the spackle dried I used the “snow” from the Scene-O-Rama kit and added some Jacquard Pearl Ex powered pigments. I used the Interference Blue color. Mixing this with the snow gave the snow a bluish sparkle effect. I then painted on top of the spackle with Liquitex gloss acrylic gel. This was done in sections so the snow could be sprinkled on the wet gel.
Once cured, I sprayed a light coating of Vallejo gloss to seal the snow. The aircraft was then positioned and the base and using 10-minute epoxy, it was attached to the base. I then mixed the remainder of the snow I mixed previously into a small cup of the acrylic gel. This mixture was then applied with a toothpick to fill the small gaps between the skis and snow. I then used it to create the plowed snow around the wheels and snow on the wheels. The kit came with a photo etch boarding ladder. This was painted, attached to the aircraft, and then I made a trail of snow up the ladder and just inside the cargo doors.
This interesting project is now complete. This has been a fun project. The extra work to the resin conversion kit was required because the resin kit is designed for the Monogram/Revell model and there are size differences with the Trumpeter version. The Trumpeter kit itself was good. The only negative is the interior bulkheads towards the front need to be trimmed down to fit inside the fuselage. Everything else fit very well. I did not use the kit decals so I cannot comment on their quality. The decals included with the conversion kit worked very well. I hope you all have enjoyed this “Hollywood” build.
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