Skip to content

Build report: Special Hobby’s 1/48 Fairy Barracuda

special-hobby-barracuda-34Drew Hatch sent in this very detailed build report of his Special Hobby Barracuda. Drew did a great job adding detail to this kit, and the results speak for themselves. Great work Drew!

The Fairy Barracuda started life on the drawing board in November 1937 as a replacement to the Fairy Albacore as a torpedo/dive-bomber. 35 Barracuda Mk I’s were produced until the more powerful Merlin Mk 32 was ready. In total 1670 Mk II’s were produced. The first squadron to take delivery of the Mk II was 827 Sqn of the Royal Navy. First and made famous for their operation in Norway and against the German battleship Tirpitz.

Starting with the 1/48 scale Special Hobby kit what I found in the box was what was expected from a limited run kit. Plastic on the thick side and soft detail overall.

Since there was little to no detail inside of the plane itself I added the Griffon detail set and would scratch build what ever else I deemed necessary. I first removed all the major components from their respective sprues. Clean up of the parts is what you can expect from a limited run kit. It took an evening of TV to clean them all up. The resin parts for the cockpit are quite adequate, however with the detail on the resin components, the IP is very bland. I started there with the intent on using the now out of production Waldron British instruments. I took the kit supplied IP and used it as a template to make a new one. Tracing the part onto .030 sheet stock, cutting out and repeating the process onto .010 sheet stock. A quick sanding and I had two blank IP’s. Using a sharp pencil and ruler, I drew lines horizontal and again vertical where the instruments should be located. Where they intersect I drilled an appropriate sized hole using my punch set as a gauge. Once the instrument holes were drilled, I glued the separate parts together. Then I started adding the various switches and knobs that photo’s showed. I made the switch guards and safety latches by punching out a medium sized disk from .010 card and cutting it in half carefully gluing them to the IP. Once finished the assembly was painted black, then the instruments and placards added.

Next step involved the rear gunners decking. I needed to remove the molded closed deck and some of the side fuselage. Following the (very vague) Griffon instructions I marked out what was needed to be removed. Using a circular saw blade chucked in my dremel I removed the majority of the plastic needed. Knife blades, files and sanding blocks finished off the job. Once completed, I turned my attention to the resin insert provided. Removing the entire casting block was not an option to me. I wanted the support on the bulkhead. Once done, I added the tiny photo etch loops to the tops of the ammo cans and set it aside.

I recalled reading a review on this kit some time ago claiming the cockpit bulkheads were too wide for the fuselage. I tried to tape the basic cockpit together without success. Going for the glue was the only option. Once the basic cockpit was together I found a few components that required some sanding but nothing major. I felt I could still detail the two rear components even though the assembly was mostly completed. Once I assembled the basic cockpit it was evident what was too wide. A few passes with a knife blade was all it took to fix it.

Next step was to detail the radio/navigator and gunners cockpits. This had to be almost all scratch built. I started be getting some of old casting molds out. I have several British interior detailing sets I made molds of for this purpose. Casting single mold parts is easy and using them as scab on details makes the difference on a build like this. I first added some (not all) interior structure with .010 strip stock. I wasn’t too concerned with accuracy here, just something to make it look like there is something there. I used the panel lines on the exterior as a reference for them. Then I started adding the resin bits I cast and some copper wire. All in all this took about two hours to complete. Not much considering the amount it adds to the finished model. I painted the interior Xtracylics British interior gray/green and an assortment of other acrylic paints. Several dry brushings and a wash of burnt Umber later rounded out the painting. A few leftover placards added just the right amount of detail.

Detailing the kit’s radiator was a necessity. The etch provided in the kit didn’t fit according to plan. The screens are too large a diameter to fit in the confines. A fast solution was to raise them up about .020 to fit in the fuselage. To do this I wrapped .010 x .020 strip around a brass tube the approximate diameter, taping it securely and then wrapping the entire section with several layers of masking tape. I dipped this into boiling water for about a minute to ensure the heat made it’s way through all the plastic and the shape would be retained. I then cut all the plastic down the length of the tube giving me several ‘rings’ to use. I took two of them and glued the ends together and added them to the radiator duct. I painted the interior of the ‘rings’ black giving them some depth. Adding the chrome screens un painted really made this work well.

Once the fuselage was together and seam work started, my attention moved to the resin gear wells. There was a lot of grinding to do to make these fit. Just removing the wells from their casting blocks proved to be an exercise in grinding. Using a flat router grinding bit in my Dremel, and wearing a mask, I was grinding for quite a while. I had to call my wife in to vacuum me off as I looked like frosty. After sanding the top of the wells as thin as I dared I started to grind the inner wings. I took about half the thickness out before there was a hint that these were going to work. Once I finished grinding I finished by thinning all the edges to a more scale appearance. I sanded the trailing edges down about half of what they were, they are still too thick but I stopped as I feared I would run into troubles with the gear wells if I went any further. I started on the landing light, quickly realizing that Special Hobby sent the wrong clear Sprue to me. There was no landing light cover nor even an attachment point for it. So I took some .005 clear sheet and heated it over a hot stove element. Once it was pliable, plunge formed it over the wing to get the shape I needed. Once cool, I traced out what I would need and cut out a rough shape. I stopped at this point until I had all the work to the wings finished and I knew the exact size I needed.

Once the gear wells were in place I glued the wings together. This was done in two steps to prevent any problems with the dihedral. Being a flush join, strength was an issue. I glued pieces of .040 square stock to the edges of the wing root. Once I was happy with the fit to the fuselage I glued them in place. Filling and sanding the lower wing joins proved to be the most difficult. I had to be very careful of the rear windows I installed earlier. Assembling the gear itself was a snap. Everything fit well and aligned itself correctly. This is the first time I have used a resin wheel bay assembly and have it be stronger than the original plastic.

Moving onto the canopy I found that there was no good fit. There were steps and gaps that I would have to deal with. So masking first then installing the clear parts was the only option. Once I did that, I filled the low areas with Milliputt for added strength and gaps that would be visible through the canopy with Humbrol Clear Fix. Once the areas of the gaps were painted, they wouldn’t be as visible through the canopy (that was the plan anyway) Moving on to the prop, the break down dictated it had to be assembled then painted. Once assembled and the seam to the spinner dealt with, I painted the prop tips yellow and masked them off. After painting the spinner RAF Sky I made a paint mask for the blades from .010 stock by cutting a slot to go over each blade at the base. I sprayed each blade separately, yes it takes more time, but it’s far easier then masking with tape. A bit of touch up after and it looks the part.

After making the tedious rocket rails I turned my attention to the torpedo rack. Ok, more etch *sigh*. This pony was getting old fast. Fortunately it was not nearly as tricky as the instructions made it out to be. After attaching them to the model the entire plane was given a shot if sandable primer. A few more things to touch up at the wing roots and it was good to go.

For this one I planned on using XtraColor Acrylix. I painted the sky undersides first, giving myself a wide margin of error for touch ups. After that cured for a day I sprayed an overall top coat of RAF Dark Slate Gray free hand. Using these paints and a trusty Badger Renegade I was more than comfortable doing this. Later I sprayed the camo pattern of Extra Dark Sea Gray free hand also. Now I know how they are supposed to be – hard edged bla bla bla. Looking at a DVD I have on Corsairs and showing a few FAA ‘Cuda’s on the HMS Victorious carrier deck, the camo sure doesn’t look anything like a hard edge. That’s my reference and I’m sticking to it! Once a few little touch ups were done I started weathering. I don’t like to do too much until the decals are on and can weather them at the same time. However some shading of each color is easier before they are on for me. I lightened the EDSG with about 20% light ghost gray and thinned it to a wash consistency. I applied it in light streaks and to the centre of the panels varying the intensity each time. I lightened the Dark slate gray with about 10% RAF Sky and did the same as I did to the EDSG.

I decided early on that I was going to represent this plane from 829 Sqn, HMS Victorious that took part on the Tirpitz strikes in ’44. From what I found, 5C fired one torpedo but I don’t know what the end result was or which ship it took aim at. Since I used a semi-gloss paint, there was no need to add a gloss coat before decaling. The few decals to apply went on fast. Special Hobby’s decals are the best I have ever used. They are thin and fragile but white is opaque, they need no softening solutions. In fact Micro-set is more than enough and not really needed. They snug down into every crevice with little or no help – Just wonderful!

With the post shading done and decals on it was time to blend in the patch quilt look I did. Mixing artist oils 60/40 lamp black & burn umber, I thinned with turpenoid it to a filter consistency. I didn’t want a pin wash, which is thinner, as I needed to change the base color to blend it all in. I applied the filter liberally all over the top. Once it dried a bit, about 10 minutes, I dipped a piece of paper towel in some turpenoid. Streaking in the airflow direction (front to back) I removed as much of the wash until the look was just heavier than what I wanted. I knew it would lighten with a clear flat coat later on.

With the weathering and flat coat done, I started on the final details. I determined even before I started that the radar sets & rear guns had to be absolute last. Any slight bump to either of them and they would fly off. I finished the landing gear with all the supplied etch doors and covers (read – pain in the butt) and the entire lower surface before moving top side. Once I added the radar and aerial masts I took a long think session on what to do very last. I decided that since the gun mounts were more fragile (and guns not made up yet) than the ASV Mk IIN radar, they would be absolute last. Making the gun assembly was tedious but the look of the finished part is well worth it.

This model is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of those rare satisfactions to struggle through and finish with a decent model. As final insult to the struggle, after two months of being assembled, the fuselage warp I removed at the beginning came back. The nose now has a twist and the tail also. So much for that contest quality kit. It’s all in the fun and reward of building and I would do it again – on a different subject that is.