By Darren Bertrand - images & text © 2006
The Viper Mark II was the second model of Viper introduced during the Cylon War. It became the main fighter craft for the Colonial Fleet in the latter part of the war, quickly replacing the Viper Mark I. It proved to be faster and more maneuverable than the Mark I with a sleeker design and more powerful engines.
Image: Mounting pins for the gear and wings
Image: Holes for the pins
Image: Early test fit, closeup
Image: Test-fitting engine placement
Image: Cockpit, painted
Image: Canopy, dipped in Future and framed
Image: Aligning the wings
Image: Landing gear, test fit
Image: Landing gear in place
Image: Paint chips/scratches
Image: Weathering applied to the RCS tthrusters
The Mark II gave the Colonial Fleet fighter supremacy, which eventually led to the Colonial victory against the Cylons. After the Cylon War, the Viper Mark II stayed in service until it was eventually replaced by the Mark III. However, the Mark II is the most remembered fighter craft of the Cylon War and holds the legendary status as the best fighter in the Colonial history.
Sci-Hi (formerly Alex Creations) always posts progress reports on upcoming kits so I had a pretty good idea as what to expect when receiving this kit in the mail. Still I could not help but be impressed with the final product upon opening the box. I immediately took the kit to my workshop, washed the parts, and dove right in.
Breaking the kit into subassemblies greatly simplifies subsequent work and finishing. Instructions include lots of helpful pictures to help the proces along. Parts were cleaned of flash as I went along. This was an easy process as the kit is pretty well cast as such with the exception of the nose section, top fin, and the gun-mount shields on the main wings. I did not possess the e-mailed instructions at the time (first run kit); but once I received them, I found that my process did not vary much from Alex's suggestions. Parts were glued in place with super glue which was also used to fill in any gaps. I had some trouble with the gun mount sections as they come as a single cast piece which is intended to be cut into two. It took a lot of investigation as to what the piece was in the first place. Subassemblies included: the main body, cockpit parts, canopy, main fins, central engine, central engine cover and top fin, landing struts, and guns. I chose to attach the main engine nozzles and the landing strut bay covers to the main body as there was no reason not to - though I admittedly did break off one cover during the weathering process. The covers come as a small sheet of styrene that you are to cut into appropriately sized pieces. This is done by matching the size to the corresponding bay. Fixing pieces like this at this stage allows one to make size and fit adjustments when it is easy rather than after painting - which can lead to tedious adjustments.
Perhaps the most challenging assembly decisions lay with the main fins and the landing gear. I wanted to leave these as separate subassemblies to ease painting but I also wanted to be able to simply slip them into place when the time came. I chose to temporarily attach the main fins with a dot of superglue and then mark the fins and main body for mounting pins and holes. I positioned the fins to the main body by simply placing the main body against the painting diagram (rear cross section.) This is possible as the diagram is in scale with the kit. Then I simply aligned the fins with the ones on the diagram and glued. Once the fins were in place, I marked where I would place pins in the wings and the corresponding holes in the body. I then broke the wings off, drilled holes, cleaned the joins of glue, and placed pins. This was tedious work that could have been avoided had there been some sort of positioning guides molded to the kit.
The landing gear required an extra step and have a boxy base which is intended to fit into the gear bays. This base needs to be sanded to fit. Also, the landing pads need to be attached at a slight angle to the gear for proper alignment. The e-mailed instructions have a guide that should be followed. First, I sanded the bases. Second, I placed the gear into the bays and marked pin placement. Third, I removed the gear, drilled pin holes, and placed mounting pins. At this point, I also hollowed out the landing gear struts for accuracy. I used a pin vise, hobby blade, and tiny slips of sandpaper for this. I also drilled through the vertical center of the gears and inserted a rod for accuracy and strength. I left the rod protruding past the bottom of the gears to use as an attachment point for the pads. To attach the pads, I temporarily attached the gear to the main body and drilled holes in the pads to accept the gear rod. I then slipped the pads onto the gear and stood the whole assembly right side up on a flat surface. I aligned the pads with the body and carefully glued the joints. Then I removed the landing gear/pads as a whole, cleaned them up, and detailed them with styrene rod.
The vacuum-formed canopy needs to be trimmed for a proper fit. The kit comes with a blank that should be used for this purpose. I placed the canopy over the blank and sanded away the excess plastic - being careful to keep the two pieces tightly together.
Sand until the edges of both pieces align. Alex provides a bit of automotive striping tape with the kit. This is to be cut into strips and placed on the canopy as framework. I cut my pieces thinner than the instructions suggest and I also varied thickness in some areas to match the CG images. After, the whole thing was dipped in Future Acrylic Floor Polish for a lovely shine.
The paint guide is excellent…though I did not follow it. I used Tamiya Fine White Primer on my model as a base for pre-shading. It was at this stage that I noticed surface pin holes (resin frothing) at various points of the model. These tiny buggers hold air pockets and will resist being covered by primer at any cost. However, I was easily able to deal with them using Mr. Surfacer (a wonderful product.) Once the model was primed, I proceeded to airbrush dark-gray acrylic pre-shading directly onto the primer. This was directed at seams and deep recesses in the model. With this dry, I airbrushed on my base coat which was a simple white/black acrylic mixture matched to the paint guide. This coat was also mixed with Model Master Semi-gloss Clear to make the coat slightly translucent. Once the base coat is on, the pre-shaping shows through faintly. The Semi-gloss also gives the surface a nice sheen.
I gave the base coat a few days to dry then painted on the stripes using Model Master British Crimson (toned down with a drop of turquoise.) Masking these stripes was surprisingly easy and the results are fantastic! I used Tamiya Masking Tape (gorgeous stuff.) Immediately after painting, I took a razor blade and lightly scratched into the stripes to form chips and scratches. This was an impulsive move that paid off, as the result was perfectly in scale and finer than what I would have achieved with a brush.
I placed decals at this point. Included decals by JBOT are detailed (down to pilot badges and HUD screens) and good quality. The alternative Battlestar markings are good, but the limited (TV main characters) pilot Call-signs are not. Alternate registry numbers would have also been appreciated. The included decals lack stripes ... which is why I painted mine. Markings are accurate and the decals are easy to use. A more complete set is available from JBOT Decals. I used the included decals but cut up and rearranged the registry numbers and added home-made Call-Sign decals. With this done, I sealed everything with semi-gloss clear.
Before painting the engines and detail, I decided to give the model a base wash to accentuate the seams and recesses. I use oils to wash because I feel they have a more natural finish than other types of paint and they are super easy to handle- if you don't mind the long drying time. I washed the parts with a simple dark grey made from Titanium White and Carbon Black thinned with Mineral Spirits. After four hours, I went back and removed excess with cotton swabs. With the oil still wet enough, I took the opportunity to smear some burn streaks around the maneuvering thrusters. I repeated this process the next day to deepen the effect and then put the kit aside to dry for two weeks.
The kit was sealed again before adding engine and detail colors. To paint the main engine nozzles and access panels, I masked them off and painted them on the model. The central engine, guns, and gear were separate and painted by themselves. I brush-painted the main body rear panels, nose and engine intakes, and the detail on the sides of the fuselage. Again, a simple mix of white and black acrylic matching the paint guide was used. This had a bit of gloss clear mixed in to give it a good surface for washing. Once dry, a dark grey wash was applied as described previously.
With this done, I approached the cockpit. To simulate the iridescent sheen of the Pilot suit, I primed the pilot with white and then applied several washes of an olive-green/gold/semi-gloss clear acrylic mix. The result has more life than using solid color. Details and the helmet were painted after. It's a shame that the pilot is obviously not accurate as the cockpit is a focal point on the model… I also masked the cockpit tub and airbrushed it, the seat, and the HUD panel with charcoal (simply white and black) acrylic. I hand painted the landing gear bays with the same color…. And that's as far along as I've got.
Next up comes some intense weathering. Weathering makes the Viper infinitely more interesting than leaving it clean. One simply has to compare early TV stills of the clean life-sized mock-up with later weathered versions.
This is a kit that you will want to invest time on (8 months for mine.) Ease of assembly is good on the basic forms but do get difficult on detail parts (landing gear) and the lack of positioning guides on the wings make them a challenge. Fit is excellent, though it looks that aligning the canopy in a closed position may be difficult (mine is open.) Parts breakdown hides any join seams. The longest cleanup is on the canopy - and you want to take time there. One disappointment was the guns which were misaligned and this can be devastating on tube- shaped pieces (I ruined a pair trying to reshape them.)
All-in-all, though, awesome work Alex!
This page copyright © 2006 Starship Modeler. First posted on 27 September 2006.