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Ryan NYP
'Spirit of St. Louis'

by Rogério 'Rato' Marczak


The Ryan Spirit of St. Louis


Testor's 1/72 Spirit of St. Louis is available online from Squadron.com




Here is my Testor's Ryan NYP, the famous Spirit of St. Louis, in 1/72 scale.

I decided to built this kit about a couple of years ago, when I received a Williams Brothers' 1/8 J-5 engine for reviewing. I wondered it would be nice to display both the Spirit of St. Louis and the J-5 engine in the same base.

Incidentally, at the time Lindbergh's transatlantic flight was commemorating its 75th birthday. Well, now I'm a bit late, and I'm still working on the J-5, but here is the Ryan NYP.



The Kit


I think this kit has its origins in old Hawk's offering from the 1950's. The kit basically comprises  two fuselage halves, a single solid main wing and a few more bits. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish the smaller parts from the sprue itself.

Interestingly, the model features only recessed panel lines. But in this case they should be raised, particularly the ribs embossment over the wings. Even worse, all decal placement positions are also recessed (remember these?)! Anyway, I was interested in a simple display model and decided not to wait the new Pegasus Spirit of St. Louis in 1/32nd scale. Besides, the 1/8 J-5 engine will probably shadow much of the little Ryan.  



Construction Starts


The kit has no cockpit, and since the prototype didn't have a canopy, not much can be seen. I added a very basic cockpit using photos as a visual reference. I used a left over control panel decal from which some instruments were removed to act as a fake cockpit panel. A control column was made of streched sprue. The basket type seat was made from plastic sheets and bent paper clips.




The fuselage halves were then glued and the seams sanded flush. Instead of sanding the seam along the fuselage spine (what would destroy the fit of the wing's trailing edge with the fuselage), I glued a 0.2 mm thick styrene strip all over the fuselage top surface using MEK... no more seams to sand. The elevators were scored with a scriber along their hinge lines on the botton side, and bent to a more realistic appearance after softning the line with MEK. Both upper attachment holes for the forward main wing arms were filled with styrene rod, sanded flush, and re-drilled with a smaller diameter. At this point I also decided to drill two holes under the belly, just aft the pilot's seat. I saw them in many pics of the Smithsonian (where the original Ryan NYP is displayed), and they seem to represent the bottom of two cylinders that protude outside the fuselage skin. Later I discovered that this feature was added to the aircraft a while after the famous transatlantic flight...

The next step was to add the missing details around the tail surfaces. The kit has no supporting struts for the horizontal stabilizers, so I added them with stainless steel wire. I also glued the tiny tabs which linked the control rods and drilled the correponding holes. The link rods are stretched sprue cut to proper lengths. A new tail skid was scratchbuild (the kit's one didn't look good at all) and glued after the painting to avoid damage.

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Correcting the Nose


The kit's nose is very bad, mostly because of the crudely molded cylinder heads.

I vaccum formed a new nose section and drilled the nine holes for the J-5 engine cylinders (to know how to built your own vacuum forming table, check my article at Large Scale Planes website). The holes for the pushrods were also drilled, and this job deserves careful measurement. As for the cylinders, I made resin copies from an Aires P&W R2800 engine... not exactly like the J-5 cylinder heads, but they do the trick. After finishing the model, I discovered a Russian company called Silniki which produces a resin Wright Whirlwind J-5 in 1/72 scale. Too late, again.

At this point the fuselage was virtually done. The recessed locations for decal placement on the cowling and rudder were filled with super glue and sanded smooth. I then installed the lateral windows and embossed some prominent rivets on the nose panels.



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Finishing the Basic Airframe


Next, the wing was attached to the fuselage, along with its supporting struts. The three windows were polished, brush coated with Future, and masked with Tamiya tape to avoid bluring during the further handling.

Many spots required filling, but a thick coat of Mr. Surfacer was enough to handle most of them.




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Small sections of styrene rod were glued along the control surfaces recesses to simulate the hinges. I then applied a very light coat of Mr. Resin Primer around the nose and tail areas to look for blemishes. These were the more heavily worked areas, and I didn't want to leave a rough surface for the metallic finish that would follow. In any case, the entire airframe was polished with a piece of soft cloth, including the primed areas.



Adding Details


Next, a number of smaller details took my attention. I was particularly disappointed with the propeller and the wheels. The former had a spinner molded integrally with the blades, and was devoid of any surface details. The same applies to the wheels, with some visible details missing. They laked the teardrop shaped covers of the landing gear axle, and the stitches which secured the canvas cover of the spoked wheels are not represented as well.

The propeller started its life as an old 1/72 Revell Ki-61 propeller from my spares box. The blades were carefully removed and the shape of a new spinner was progressively sanded with the aid of a motor tool, always checking the current profile against photos. The most difficult part was to scribe the panel lines around such a double curvature, small part. Several rivet lines were added to the spinner. Once again, I found too late that this type of spinner was not used during Lindebergs's famous flight (in addition, at least three types of spinner were used in the Ryan NYP - one of them with a very round tip). I then reshaped the blades and opted to make molds of everything, just in case. A master for the wheel tear drop covers was made from a chunk of plastic.



To simulate the stitches around the wheels canvas cap, I simply took a fresh #11 blade and pressed its tip against the edge of the kit parts. This is done by free hand, trying to keep the spacing as even as possible. Then it was just a matter of crossing my fingers to the effect show up with a careful dark wash after painting.

Next, I had to work on the engine cylinders... all nine of them plus a couple of spares. Basically, I added styrene rods bent to proper shape in pre-drilled holes to simulate the exhaust pipes. The same method was used for the intake ducting, but soldering wire was used instead of styrene.

Another bit added was a pair of handles on each side of the bottom fuselage, just ahead of the stabilizers. These details are clearly visible in vintage photos, and were used to handle the aircraft. I made them from fine brass wire and installed with white glued in pre-drilled holes.

While the resin copies were curing, I cut 18 little pushrods from stretched sprue. It is imporant to check the rod diameter to assure visual consistency and that they will fit the holes drilled around the cowling.


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Since the kit has no representation of the carburator, a new one was scratchbuilt from pieces of plastic using the William Bothers J-5 kit as a reference. A couple of hoses coming from cylinders 5 and 6 provided hot air to the carburator. They were made from bulb filament coil with cooper wire inserted inside. The wire makes the coil remain with the proper shape after bending.





I used Model Master Aluminum Plate buffing metalizer to paint this model. I mean, ex-buffing. I know many modelers don't like this product due to its bad adherence. Here is the trick (it works with all others MM buffable metalizers, too): take a new bottle of metalizer and leave it open overnight. Because its solvent is highly volatile, what you will find in the next morning is a disk of pure metalizer pigment on the bottom of the bottle. Don't cry... fill the bottle up with 2/3 Model Master sealer and 1/3 Model Master metalizer thinner. Shake, shake, shake... The result is an almost-non-buffable metalizer paint with the same adhesion properties of the MM metalizer sealer. Now it can be masked like any enamel paint. Same pigment, same coverage, we just exchanged the paint carrier fluid. On the other side, it is now much harder to be polished, but during the experiences I achieved different paneling effects by polishing the surfaces with SnJ powder or fine glitter.

The resulting finish is a bit different than the original metalizer, too. In the case of MM Aluminum Plate the recipe gives a slightly darker aluminum color, but to my eye this is a perfect match for aluminum doped surfaces... exactly what I was looking for.


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I think the most difficult thing during the painting was to make the paint hit the upper sides of the main wing struts without flooding adjacent areas. Using a Badger 100 with fine tip in one hand and a piece of paper to be used as a barrier in the other, I spend half an hour applying the aluminum finish to the whole model. Half of this time was spent trying to cover the upper surfaces of the wing struts.

The only non aluminum areas were the engine bits and the tires. The cylinders and pushrods were painted with Floquil Engine Black, which is dead flat. Later I brushed the rock covers and the pushrods with straight Future to make these areas gloss, producing a distinctive contrast with the finned region. This effect is very characteristic in vintage radial engines. The wheel tires were painted with the late Aeromaster Tire Black enamel. The canvas cover was painted afterwards with the aid of a drafting template.



Simulating the "Brushed Panels"


The most challenging step of this project was to replicate the 'brushed' panels around the nose. The Ryan NYP was in fact a modification of another Ryan aircraft, where every available space was used to store fuel, including the nose area. To add the necessary strength and avoid direct sun light, the windscreen was removed while the whole nose was paneled. Since this was a one of a kind aircraft, no steel tool was produced to forge these curved panels. Instead, they were manufactured by hand. I still don't know whether the panels were brushed to force the plates to conform the (wood) patterns or it was just an aesthetic measure.

It is worth to note that the original Spirit of St. Louis on display at the Smithsonian Museum currently shows a distinctive gold hue on these panels. Judging from vintage photos, it was not this way back in the 20's. This is probably a result of progressive oxidation of the steel panels. I mention this here because I found some models of the Spirit of St. Louis with their nose painted with gold tints. I think this is incorrect unless you are building an exact replica of the aircraft as displayed today.

Well, I tried various techniques to replicate the effect on scrap parts. Too many to list here. After posting for help in Hyperscale forum, some fellows came to rescue advising me to do exactly as it was done in the actual machine: to brush the metal. And so I did. The method uses Bare Metal Foil (I used matte aluminum) brushed with a motor tool. I took a good piece of Bare Metal Foil and blured small dots all over the area. The secret is to use an adequate tool to burnish the dots on the foil before its application. After a few trial and error attempts, I elected a small conical rubber-type polishing tool resting for years on the bottom of my accessory case. Sorry, but all I know about the stuff is I bought it in a dentistry shop retail, and it is intended for polishing dental prothesis. I installed it in a slow speed motor tool and painfully burnished endless rows of marks. Very boring, but all it takes is to keep the tool perpendicular to the foil sheet, light fingers (just let the abrasive head touch for a second the foil, then move on to the next one - never put pressure on it), and patience. I almost went blind doing this, but thankfully this is a 1/72 model. Given my lack of talent with Bare Metal Foil, I ruined some sheets during the application and had to go back and make a few more. The sheets were applied by panel using the standard method: cut oversized, trim the excess (use the panel lines as a guide) and move to the next panel. The only deviation was the top panel of the cowling, which has a double curvature area around the wing leading edge. In that case I applied two stripes of foil to make the job easier, then retouched the brushed marks with the motor tool along the joint line. You can't tell where the joint is...



After foiling the whole nose, I burnished the scribed panel lines with a piece of dampened balsa wood. A light wash of black/brown was applied before the installation of the cylinders to highlight the panel lines and rivets. Once I was satisfied, the cylinders were individually pressed into their holes with white glue. Tragedy almost struck when I realized the during the pushing some panels slid a bit from their location. I carefully removed the cylinders, slid back the offending panels and started over, this time tearing off as much as possible of the foil from the holes. Alignment is critical here. I'm still unsatisfied with the position of some cylinders...





The decals were all applied before the installation of the smaller details. I was very concerned about how invisible would be the kit's Invisa-Clear decal film on the rudder, since I planned no top clear coat. In addition, the brushed marks on the cowling could be a potential source of silvering. In the end the result was very good,  with no silvering at all. I don't know what is your experience with Invisa-Clear decals, but I guess that my old indian recipe for the metalizer helped to avoid problems. On de other hand, I found all fuselage decals a bit oversized to fit properly between the panel lines.

The carburettor was then installed. I had to reinstall a couple of misaligned cylinders. Then the tail skid, the wheels and their tear-drop axle covers were glued in place.




Next, all pushrods were individually glued in place using white glue. At this point I test fitted the propeller and retouched some of the engine areas with Future, as mentioned above. As a final touch, rust colored pastel chalk was lightly rubbed around the end of each exhaust pipe. The N-X-211 code letters were applied on the top and bottom of the wing. At the beginning of this project, I decided not to fill the decal placement recesses for the wing decals to avoid rescribing the ribs. I still regret the decision, as the recesses are very visible. To avoid further problems I trimmed off any clear film from the wing decals, only to discover that they don't match perfectly the corresponding recesses. Still passable, though. The spinner received a black wash to highlight the rivets and other scribed details. The propeller blades received logos stolen from another kit. Almost there...

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The frames of the cockpit's ceiling window are thin stripes of Bare Metal Foil carefully pressed in place. The three fuel tank vents on the top of the wing are L-shaped stretched sprue installed in tiny pre-drilled holes. I photoetched a set of very small blades for the wind driven generator, glued them at the end of a styrene rod, painted, and installed it on the fuselage spine. The last detail added was a stretched sprue pitot tube. The weathering was limited to a light wash on the wheel covers, cowling and spinner.

And that's it. The engine/nose area resulted in a lot of work, but careful planning saved me a lot of trouble.  In retrospect, I should fill the decal markings on the wing. Apart from that, I'm very satisfied with the result considering the kit used. I can't wait to see it displayed side by side with the J-5 engine. It was an enjoyable deviation from guns, bombs, and swastikas... but at least I now have a decent model of a historically very significant aircraft.



... and of course, my thanks to many HyperScalers and HotWashers for the help.



Additional Images


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Text and Images Copyright 2004 by Rato Marczak
Page Created 12 February, 2004
17 March, 2004

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