With a limited-run kit, you have to go in with the expectation that fit might be…questionable. Conscious of that, I decided to kick off the Fiat with a test-fit of the major airframe components. Overall, not bad, and pretty great for a limited-run mold. There are no nasty steps in the fuselage that I could see, and only one panel line appears slightly misaligned.
One fun surprise is the engineering of the horizontal stabilizers,where it looks as though one slab surface just mates with another. Should make alignment all kinds of fun.
The biggest challenge, though, looks to be the wings. These consist of five parts – the upper halves, lower halves, and a center section that will house the gear bays. There are a lot of surfaces to be joined, but it’s pretty much impossible to get an accurate test fit without the fully assembled bays and the wing spar they attach to. I’m thinking I may tack some sheet styrene inside the center section to act as a strengthener.
Moving on from the airframe, what about the cockpit? As per PCM’s standard practice, the G.55 includes a well-detailed resin cockpit backed up by a few plastic bits (seat, control stick, bulkheads) and Eduard photo-etch details. I’ve worked with resin pieces before, but this will be my first time building a cockpit almost entirely out of the stuff.
First up – removing the pour stubs. For this task I hauled out an old Dremel disc/belt sander that’s more or less useless for anything else modeling-related.
A test fit of the resin components with the plastic bulkhead showed a decent fit, though there’s a tendency for the sides to bow in when the entire cockpit is inserted into the fuselage. I’m planning to work around this by gluing the cockpit sides to the fuselage halves, then working with the floor and forward bulkhead pieces.
The instrument panel fits well, too, both to the cockpit sidewalls and to the fuselage.
After making sure the cockpit resin would fit together, I glued the resin sidewalls to the fuselage halves and took a stab at verde anticorrosione, the interior green commonly used on Italian aircraft. My first attempt, a mix of Model Master RAF Interior Green and Green Zinc Chromate, left me unimpressed.
I went back and added some Testors Yellow Chromate to the mix, brightening it up. It’s no match for the rather muted verde anticorrosione color chip, but it’s a lot closer to the yellow-green seen on a museum display G.55 that pops up frequently on Google Image Search.
The seat – in my opinion the most disappointing element of the kit – I painted with Tamiya AS-12 Bare Metal Silver, then polished using Hawkeye’s aluminum polishing powder.
I painted the instrument panel with Vallejo Black Grey, then killed my eyesight and patience installing the PE instruments. The worst part is removing these from the PE fret. Some of them are seriously smaller than the tip of a toothpick, so holding them down and getting a clean cut is the stuff of nightmares. The bigger gauges were less of an issue. I just held them down with the blunt end of my trusty airbrush needle while I cut them from the fret. To transfer them to the instrument panel, I used a toothpick tipped with a minuscule ball of white tack. Nice and easy!
Once the glue backing the PE gauges dried, I went back with Future and Alclad Klear Kote Gloss to simulate glass. The rest of the cockpit received detail painting and a wash of raw umber artist oil, along with some selective drybrushing.
Main assembly started with the wings while the cockpit was coming together. The resin gear bays and backing spar were added first, and it soon became apparent I needed to thin the tops of the gear bays and underside of the main wings to get a clean fit.
After thinning the resin and absurdly thick plastic, I welded the lower outer wings to the upper wings with Tenax, then added some styrene at the point where the lower outer wings meet the center section. This is just a nasty join, especially with plastic so thick. In a rare move for major airframe assembly, I skipped the Touch-n-Flow and applied Tenax to the join with a microbrush. It’s still nasty, but after some putty and sanding it should be just fine.
With the wings together, I did another test fit. Things went quite well…until I tried to squeeze the cockpit floor in place. It proved slightly too wide, causing the fuselage to bulge slightly and making the wingroot just too wide for the wing. This set up the ongoing theme of the build – resin behaving badly.
- Exhausts – The resin exhaust manifolds have presented a few difficulties. First, the openings in the fuselage were too narrow to accomodate them. So out came the file to grind them open. Then, with the stacks at the proper depth, the forward element of the exhaust sat awkwardly inset into the fuselage. Furthermore, the front of the piece was solid, where on the actual Fiat G.55, it’s open (I guess to duct air back over the manifolds?). I decided to fix the depression and the need for an open front in one blow. The forward element was cut down and replaced by some scrap aluminum from a soft drink can. This was cut to size, curved on a mandrel, then, to use the technical term, mashed into place.
- Engine Detail – Another headache came from the engine detail piece that fits between the two gear bays. I borked this from the get-go by accidentally removing what proved to be a locator tab, but I don’t see how it could have prevented the problem that, when installed, it has to occupy the same space as the back of the exhaust manifolds. No amount of sanding was sufficient to get them to place nice, so I finally busted out the sprue cutters and removed the top forward corners of the engine detail piece. This is buried between the gear bays, barely visible if you’re looking for it, so I’m not terribly concerned. Just annoyed.
With these problems addressed, I moved on to the fuselage. The cockpit floor was glued to the starboard sidewall, as was the instrument panel, then left to cure up in a taped-together fuselage. While you can slot the floor up into the cockpit sidewalls with the fuselage closed, you cannot do so once you’ve glued the seat down, since it catches on sidewall details. So don’t do that.
Once the cockpit was in place, I loaded up the Touch-n-Flow and welded the fuselage together. Amazingly, it went together very well, with no steps and no real gaps to speak of. It’ll still need sanding, and probably a bit of putty here and there, but fit was a lot better than I’d been anticipating.
The wings presented a greater challenge. The starboard side in particular showed gaps at the wing root and leading edge large enough that I plugged them with strip styrene.
The port wing seemed to work out far better, with minimal gaps.
Surprisingly, given how poorly it did in test-fitting, the cowl machine gun panel actually went in without much trouble. The vague stabilizer mounts were also a nonissue, and the stabilizers lined up perfectly, only needing a thin bead of Tenax to weld securely to the fuselage.