Monogram's Draconian Marauder.

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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks (Pt 1):
Building The Draconian Marauder

By John Lester - images & text © 1999

Scale: 1/48ish - based on the size of the cockpit.
Parts: 30 or so styrene, 1 "clear"
Instructions: 8 - they're not unhelpful
Decals: 8 - typical Monogram, well printed and registered
Molding Quality: 8 - little to no flash, no sinkholes or other flaws.
Detail: 5 - not a lot of it, especially in the cockpit.
Accuracy: 8 - looks like a Marauder to me
Fit: 7 - not bad, not fantastic.
Ease: 9 - practically falls together
Price: $30-50 - it's long out of production.
Overall Rating: 9 - a fun project you can do quickly.

[Vintage Box art]

I must confess, I was never a fan of the Buck Rogers TV series - that stupid little robot always ruined my enjoyment of the show. That didn't stop me from building Monogram's models of the Earth Directorate Starfighter and the Colonial Marauder when they came out, however.

[Parts is parts]

[parts get paint]

[Parts get pilot]

[Parts get covered]

^ Evolution of the cockpit. From top to bottom, the area is filled up with various cockpit-looking parts, gets painted, gets a pilot, and gets covered. Notice in the last picture how all the detail, though blurred now, is still visible.

Ah, the late 70's - s/f modeling's golden years, when even a series like Buck Rogers could inspire a model kit or two from the Big companies .....

Flash forward 20 or so years. Monogram never reissued the two kits from the series, and both command what I consider too high prices from collectors. Not that I was all that driven to own one, mind you. However, I had the opportunity to trade new Star Wars kits for the Marauder and another OOP model - so I jumped on it.


Monogram was in their prime in the late seventies. Kits from that period were considered state-of-the-art, and though lacking things like engraved panel lines they still hold up quite favorably to today's standards, at least for fit and exterior detailing.

The Marauder is no exception. All the parts were cleanly molded with very little flash, and ejector pin marks where they would not be seen - for the most part. Typically - for sci-fi kits of that era and for ours - there was almost no detail inside the cockpit, just a seat. Not that it mattered much - the canopy covering the area is a deep and oily partially transparent red plastic, obscuring much of what might have been placed there. The thirty or so parts, which included a stand since there's no landing gear, were molded in a salmon-colored plastic (Molded in Authentic Color!, screamed the boxtop). Decals were provided for the death's head insignia the Draconian fleet used.

One look in the box convinced me I was not going to build this as a Draconian Marauder. No way some bright pink ship festively decorated in giant skulls was going to grace my shelves, no unh-unh! With a little help from the spares box and slightly more imagination, I thought I could come up with something more interesting (you all can be the judge of how well I succeeded). Eventually, I had the idea that this ship would be part of a security flight for a mining operation in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant .... say, Saturn. It would have a jettisonable cockpit so the pilot could eject from a disabled fighter and survive the experience, either in space or in the upper atmosphere. It would also have secondary armament of some type that would not rely on energy or particle beams - things that might not be terribly useful in an atmosphere filled with hydrogen.

Finally, it would belong to a huge multinational based in Japan - mostly because I had a ton of Japanese characters on decal sheets.


[Zoom!] Construction was simple and straightforward - so much so that I had the basic subassemblies cut from the sprue, sanded, and assembled in about an hour. Fit throughout was good - as good or better than anything either Monogram or ERTL are putting out today. The only spots where I had problems were my fault: the outboard wing panels underneath, the cockpit-to- fuselage assembly and the engine pod-to-fuselage seam. Had I puttied and sanded the gap on the wings before attaching the weapons pods, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. As it was, I finally gave up and covered the offending area with a strip of .020 styrene (since no one would ever know the difference).

I decided it would be easier to paint and detail the engine assembly before attaching it to the fuselage. I was right, but there's a rather large gap all the way around that's hard to fix after everything's painted. I solved that by deciding the gap SHOULD be there - mechanics pull the engine out completely to service the craft, sure, that's the ticket..... I accentuated that interpretation by placing arrowhead decals at strategic points all around the seam, as if they were painting to latches or bolts.

I spent most of my construction time in the cockpit. I took a pilot from an old Monogram P-51 kit and altered him to fit the seat by sawing partway through his legs and back until I could easily bend him. Once I was satisfied with his posture, I filled the resulting gaps with superglue. I painted him with leather headgear, brown pressure suit, and grey seat harness - in other words, just like the WW2 pilot he would have been if I built that P-51. If I'd had a small transparent bead, I would have drilled it out to make a glass bubble helmet for him - for sorta the Buzz Lightyear look.

I added arm rests, seat cushions, joy stick and an instrument display on a moveable arm to the seat. I then fleshed out the cockpit walls with various bits of sprue, gizmos, styrene strips and generic greeblies from the parts box. I wasn't too concerned with what was going in there or how detailed it looked - after all, much of the detail would be lost once the red canopy was in place. What I wanted was a busy cockpit - so when you look inside, you see a pilot and lots of controls, panels, etc - and that's what I got.

Once everything was painted and the pilot in his seat, I grabbed that red canopy. This was cracked, but careful gluing and polishing with jeweler's rouge (a paste used to clean jewelry, available at any drug store) it mostly disappeared. I then dipped the part in a bath of Future acrylic floor wax - you'd be surprised what a difference that makes. Minor scratches are filled, and parts become clearer and more transparent with Future. Once that had dried (about a half hour), I fixed one side to a cockpit half using white glue - there was no way I could make the part fit where it needed to be if the two halves were already joined. After that was dry, I glued the two halves of the cockpit together, running a bead of white glue around the edge of the canopy piece. There was an ugly step at the back and a seam that needed filling in the gap between the top of the canopy and the horn that juts out of the top of this assembly. I fixed those with putty, then sparingly applied more white glue to fill gaps between the canopy and the cockpit walls.

When all that was dry, I glued the completed cockpit to the fuselage. Big mistake - I should have painted those parts separately. There's a gap between the two that I could not properly fill (it's awful hard to get a sanding stick or filler under there), and I ended up disguising it with a bit of yellow/black pin striping and more arrowhead decals. Those would have been ever so much easier to place if the cockpit assembly had not been in place!

To complete the package, I decided the craft needed more obvious weaponry, and since I had a pair of miniguns from an Italeri helicopter I wasn't using, these were planted on the outboard edges of the upper wings, on the "plates" that fit over the intakes. These assemblies were left off and painted separately.


The model was done and I hit the hardest part of the project - determining how I would paint the darn thing. I chose yellows, oranges and reds as camouflage colors for this environment - mostly because I had several jars of those colors that were going bad and needed to be used.

After an undercoat of grey primer, the fuselage got a random mix of yellows, oranges and reds (mostly Testor's enamels), with metallic platinum mixed in there for contrast. I then masked off the cockpit pod and the red canopy and painted it gold (I figured the thing was gold plated, in part as radiation shielding and as an aid to finding the pod if the pilot was forced to eject it). When that was dry to the touch, but not fully cured (about an hour later), I buffed on some gold SnJ metallic powder. This gives the pod a slippery, metallic feel I thought came out nicely. The engine was painted gold as well, with the exhaust nozzle interiors painted black and various contrasting details picked out in other colors. The piece was then dirtied up with various black and metallic washes.

The wing panels were painted gold, and their outer panels a metal flake lime green I wanted to practice spraying. The minion mounts were also sprayed green; the miniguns and other weaponry were painted gunmetal, appropriately enough, and their barrels drilled out and painted black inside. Finally, the protective caps on the on the miniguns were painted bright red.

Markings, with two exceptions, came from spare decals left over from other things. The red and white stripes are from a Canadian RF-101; many of the Japanese characters were from the Wave Sakura Wars robots.




[Miss Mischief]

^ Fortunately, the opposing gunner missed "Miss Mischief" with that shot .....


^ The green tabs identify this as a New Kobe Station ship; the red and white striping indicates this is the flight leader's fighter, and the minigun - that means business.

[Other Side]

[Coming atcha!]

The yellow and black warning stripes on the fuselage, under the cockpit, are from pin striping made for car modelers. Large green X's on the underside of the wings are to aid in recovery of the craft; they came from an old Hasegawa Betty bomber. The only non-spare markings are the craft's "wing art"; the words "Miss Mischief" were added to a scaled-down Betty Paige image I found on the Internet, and printed with my ALPS printer.

I still felt something was missing, so I added a bit of battle damage and scarring. I scuffed the paint in various places with 400 grit sandpaper to reveal the primer below, then lightly touched those areas with SnJ Aluminum powder. The crater on the port wing was made with a dremel tool on low, filled in with black and drybrushed with metallic silver.

Satisfied, I gave the ship a flat clear coat to seal everything, unmasked the canopy, and glued the wing plates and miniguns in place. Then, because I'm out of shelf space, I mounted the model to a wooden plaque I then hung on the wall. The plaque received custom decals as well, spelling out the ship's assignment: "Surabashi Mining Corp., Security Flight, New Kobe Station".


This was a fun project, especially since I did not feel compelled to exactly recreate a studio miniature (not that I found a single reference for the Marauder anyway). In just 20 hours of work spread over three weeks it was completed - and later got me a Bronze award at the Butch O'Hare Fall Model Contest (with a better base, I think I could have gotten a silver!). The model is simple to build, and easy to detail - if you can find one for a reasonable price, I highly recommend it.

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