I started with the engine. As mentioned, this is actually a very credible representation of the Gipsy Major that compares well with what you might find in many modern offerings. But after painting up in satin black and picking out some of the details I added push rods, tubes and wiring using my favourite medium, guitar strings. I just hope I don't break a top E string in the immediate future as I'll be stuck until I can get to the music shop....
I added the tail pieces with no problem, they clicked into place nicely but I had a little trouble with the struts. They were badly bent in the kit and in my attempt to straiten them one promptly shattered into several pieces. After considering my options, I decided to repair it and carefully glued the parts back together. It was never going to be perfect but it would be very tricky to accurately scratch build a replacement.
I stuffed the cockpits and front of the fuselage with wet tissue to mask them and proceeded to the first painting stage. This involved a good coverage of Tamiya fine grey primer partly to prepare the surface for the required silver finish and also to cover the bright yellow plastic that the wings are made from. I do not normally do pre shading as I think it does not produce authentic results, but in the case of a fabric and rib structure as found on biplanes it is worth creating some shadows so I shaded the indentations between the ribs with dark grey. This was followed by two coats of Alclad aluminium and I also painted the wing struts, undercarriage parts and engine cowlings in the same manner at this stage.
I now applied the decals directly on to the Aclad finish, decals were provided by the customer and represented a personalised marking scheme. These were very easy to apply since there was not much to do. The whole model then got a coat of satin varnish to seal the decals and even out the finish.
So now that the basic "out of the box" parts were largely complete, time for the detail work that would drag this kit into this century. The first and most traditional extra to be done is the wing rigging. Without them any biplane model just doesn't look right! I again used guitar strings for this purpose - they are actually an excellent medium for detailing work. They are naturally straight, but can be bent where necessary either sharply or in curves and they keep their shape thereafter - what more could you want? However this is never a quick and easy task. Each wire needed to be cut to precise length to avoid bowing and the ends bent to fit the holes in the wings. Suffice to say that when I had finished there were many rejected bits of wire that I had trimmed too short or bent in the wrong place. Each wire was placed "dry" into the holes until I was happy with the length and appearance and then a drop of super glue placed in the holes to secure the wire in place. All in all this took a few hours to do!
So, proof, I hope, that an ancient kit can be brought up to standard with a little care and effort and I have to say I am very pleased with the result. Of course, it helps to have a solid foundation, and this kit is actually not at all bad if you can see past the rather toy like appearance of the sprues. Some of these old Matchbox kits get a bit of a bad rap these days, but compared to what the likes of Airfix were producing at the time I think this one is a winner. This has also been as much fun I have had with a build in many years, despite a couple of seriously frustrating bits, mainly because of the transformation I have been able to get from the initial expectations.
So I may be seeking out more Matchbox vintage kits soon....