I don’t know that the S-2 (or S2F) Tracker is a model I’d ever thought about building. It’s not fast, nor sleek, and aside from some very colorful markings, unless you’re just a fan of this type of aircraft, it’s not the typical “hey I have to build that” kit.
Still, when I was asked to build this as a commission model build, I decided to give it a go. If nothing else, it would be something different to build.
The kit I used was Italeri’s reboxing of Kinetic’s kit. Despite a warning from a friend that said it was a very difficult kit, I went into the project with my usual attitude- it’s only plastic. If something doesn’t fit- make it do so! Happily, this kit was no problem.
The cockpit is a bit sparse. While the basics are there- instrument panel, seats, control columns, etc. it’s really void of detail. The floor is flat, the aft firewall is flat, the upper console has no detail, the seats are essentially flat. Of course, much of the interior won’t be visible with the fuselage closed and clear pieces in place.
However, I did want to dress it up a bit, so I opted for an Eduard pre-painted set to liven it up a bit. It fit perfectly, and was no problem to apply. And now that it is finished, what can be seen from the outside does look good. Personally, I thought it was worth adding these pieces.
With the office finished, test fitting showed closing the fuselage around it would be no problem.
Next up was the weapons bay, as this had been requested to be positioned open with torpedoes in place. This area, too, was void of detail. And while I doubt the model will be picked up and flipped over very often, I wanted to make sure there was something besides bare plastic showing.
Looking at photos showed this areas was extremely “busy”, far more than I wanted to attempt to replicate. Eduard did provide a nice photoetch set that looked great, but it seemed extremely complicated. Finally deciding on a “approximate and simulate, not replicate” approach, I added some various bit of sheet plastic, spare photoetch parts, and some stretched sprue to the area. In the end, I was satisfied with the results, as it accomplished my purpose- avoid a bare weapons bay.
With the cockpit and weapons bay sorted out, I closed the fuselage. A few spots on the underside could have used some bits of sprue to help avoid a few “ledges” in the alignment, but correcting it afterwards was not difficult. There were no gaps, simply the typical seams that need to be treated. A coat of Mr Dissolved Putty ensured that after sanding, everything was smooth. Panel lines were restored with a razor saw and Tamiya scribing tool.
For the wings, you can build them either folded, or extended. I was asked to build them folded, and though doing so is not difficult, my personal opinion is that fully extended would certainly look more impressive.
I built each of the inner wing sections as sub-assemblies, as I wanted to test if it made more sense to paint the fuselage and wings and then join them, or join them first and then paint.
A clear answer did not really emerge, so I decided to try the former- paint them and then join them- as I thought it would make finishing the inner nacelles much easier.
Like many models with tricycle landing gear, this one is a tail sitter. The problem I faced though was that unlike many jets, which have a long nose to weigh down, the bulk of this airplane is aft of the pivot point- the main gear. And because of its short, stubby front end, there’s not a lot of room to stuff weights.
I ended up placing weight aft of the engines, in the area forward of the cockpit/nosegear bay, and the area aft of the firewall, which is literally stuffed with lead fishing weights, held stable by modeling clay. I lost track of the total, but it was around 4 ounces.
Yep- a Quarter Pounder. (Royale with cheese in France… 🙂 )
So make sure you test it very, very well.
The nacelles and wing parts go together without any trouble. Make sure to clean up the mating edges, and use clamps if needed. You will need to do some filling and sanding- not for gaps, really, but just to clean up the join lines. Check your references though! A few of those join lines may be seams.
With those assembled, I went ahead and painted all of the major sub-assemblies: fuselage, inner and outer wing parts, and horizontal stabilizers. When they were all painted, I glued them together.
The horizontal stabs need some trimming to the join tabs, so test fit those. Once properly trimmed and cleaned, they slot in reasonably well. Just some Mr. Surfacer was needed to hide a hairline join gap.
The wings fit nicely over spars that extend from the fuselage. Some sanding and test fitting will ensure these slide freely. You want them to slide freely, but not loosely. Once in place, I glued the join, did some light sanding along the upper surfaces, and sprayed on a bit of paint. The underside join needed a little Mr. Surfacer, but that was easily sorted out and some paint sprayed over the top.
With the airframe ready, I primed and painted the model.
For the undersides, I used Tamiya XF-2 White, and for the upper, Gunze H51 Light Gull Gray. While the Gunze paint looked nice, I forgot it goes on glossy, and for my preferences in weathering techniques, I want flat. So that was a bit of an annoyance.
The kit decals, from Cartograph, went down perfectly. The only adjustment I made was the name of the ship- the USS Bennington- as the customer purchasing the model served on her in 1968 in its Vietnam tour.
With the decals on, I did some light weathering- exhaust stains, a few streaks here and there, nothing too dramatic. The final bits and pieces were added. Gear doors, weapons bay doors, antennas, props… lots of little protrusions. With those on, the folded wing parts were slid in place, and I set it aside.
This kit is not hard, really. It’s a bit tedious. Definitely not the picture of speed and maneuverability. Still, now that it is completed, I’m quite happy with the result, and with the build itself. It’s different.
And it was fun.
That’s all I really need from a model airplane.