04 August 2017

A-Wing Roadster (scale model), Part 1

My main plan and inspiration for getting back into modelling after twenty years is to make projects that are unique and maybe have some personal motivation, but some of the recent Bandai kits have made me want to just build them as "traditionally" (straightforward and accurate to their appearance in the movies) as possible (namely their C-3PO and Y-Wing Fighter kits). In the past few years Bandai has been setting a new standard for kit molds with their amazing attention to detail and the near perfect fit of the parts.

Standard Bandai box art.

I'd already built an MPC A-Wing before, way back in 1993 (I'm even listening to Saga as I build this just as I did back then), but this new Bandai A-Wing was irresistable, so I ordered two, not having a concrete plan, but loosely figuring one would be traditional (as seen in Return of the Jedi, where they first appeared in 1983) and the other would be...something different...maybe a unique paint job, maybe lots of weathering and aging...something would come to me...

A-Wing sprue tree, part 1.

I'd been browsing Pinterest, looking for and finding lots of inspiration for the various model projects I've got in mind and, seeing a lot of wheeled vehicles turned into flying vehicles caught my attention and gave me some good ideas for that kind of conversion...but somehow my brain flipped the concept (perhaps subliminally influenced by having seen Colin Cantwell's original X-Wing Fighter model*) and I realized the basic shape of an A-Wing would lend itself to making a great race car.

A-Wing sprue tree, part 2.

I knew the racing slicks from the Revell donor kit would go in the rear, replacing the cylindrical engines, and I figured I'd simply attach the spoked front wheels to the front of the ship, keeping it compact. But the more I looked at that roadster picture, the more I realized I had to add the chassis frame to the front to make it more "road worthy."

The existing shape of the ship would remain mostly intact and be the main element of the design, so I didn't want to add too many extraneous details, so I'm pretending the engine is contained within the fuselage.

A-Wing sprue tree, part 3.

This kit is amazing, with better and more accurate detail than the larger MPC kit. The big question model builders are still debating decades later is what is the actual size of the ship? Some pictures of pilots in the A-Wing cockpit from Jedi indicate that this kit is really 1/48 scale (and the pilot figure is undersized), but some behind the scenes pics of the shooting model would suggest this is 1/72 and the small pilot is accurate.

The source contradicting itself like this has led to builders making adjustments like adding a 1/48 pilot to this kit (which I'm considering doing, since I have a 1/48 pilot from a Zvezda Messerschmidt I could use (pictured among the Revell parts)...if I include a pilot at all, that is).

Further complicating things is the dragster/roadster kits are in 1/25 scale, and that makes me lean more toward the 1/48 option (otherwise the wheels would be huger than huge!). Whichever way I go, I plan to chop off the back of the canopy, leaving the front bit as a windscreen.

Donor kits box art.

Some Revell parts.

I'm using this kit as a donor for various kitbashing and such (like using the dragster body for my Bird of Prey), so not everything is shown here, but much of this will become part of the roadster. I stripped the chrome off the parts I needed using Drano Max Gel. It took very little time and didn't negatively affect the plastic.

First assembly.

I put the chassis together before snipping and assembling any A-Wing parts just to get started. The shiny, off-white parts used to be chromed.

Gouging for axle.

I didn't have to drill through too much to install my axle at the back –in fact, it was just this one part that had to be channeled and gouged. That specific part is blurry, but you get the idea. At this time I was still planning on using an aluminum rod for the axle.

Widening for axle.

The metal rod that come with the kit wasn't long enough so I planned to use an aluminum rod (I have some leftovers from when I made all those fence posts), but I needed to adjust the wheel hubs to make it fit.

First test assembly.

Much of the A-Wing is assembled (I'm still debating what to do with the cockpit and if I'm going to "scale it up" to 1/48) and the roadster chassis is mostly done, the rest is dry fitted together.

Hidden details.

Back here is where the ship's engines would go, so their absence reveals areas that are too flat and uninteresting for my taste, so I added some car engine parts to hot rod it up a bit –even though you might not see these details because of the big, fat slicks. That cut-out bit on the wing tip is where the guns would go, but I added some more engine parts instead.

I was right.

With the slicks in place, my details virtually disappear (the flat surfaces might have been fine as-is)...but I know they're there...and now so do you. That flat back section will get a parachute pack and eight exhaust pipes.

Not bad, so far.

This is a test fit of the model in its current state. I've got two styrene rods coming out of the side channels of the fuselage (where the concussion missiles launch from) to further reinforce the chassis (which I might shorten a bit). I've added the intake for the engine supercharger to the front of the A-Wing where the double door access panels used to be (I filed them off).

Could be shorter.

I bought an airbrush a few months back and I've yet to try it out and learn how to use it, so, until I get some painting practice in, this is the state in which my A-Wing Roadster will remain. This'll give me some time to figure out what to do with the cockpit, which will determine the final scale of this thing.

Also, I'll need to design a nice paint scheme...maybe something sporty and retro in a 1970s style...a tribute to the era Star Wars came out in while also being a vague homage to these bizarre model kits:

Actual late-1970s MPC model kits.

*Original X-Wing Fighter concept
model by Colin Cantwell.

When I first saw this model it looked to me (and still does today) like Cantwell kitbashed a dragster body for the forward fuselage of his X-Wing, which makes it look faster than using a regular airplane fuselage would. The final X-Wing design used in the films is great, but I like the idea of a flying dragster –maybe one day I'll turn an X-Wing (back) into a dragster...

UPDATE: While doing extensive research for my two Millennium Falcon models, I came across these quotes from The Making of Star Wars book by J.W. Rinzler:

George Lucas: "I wanted a dragster with a long narrow front and a guy sitting on the back. Then Colin came up with the split-wing thing."

Joe Johnston: "Cantwell's was a little bit too sleek and slender. In fact, he used a dragster body from one of Revell's 1/16-scale model kits; he just took that and added some engines and a little cockpit over it."

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