MPC 1/72 Space 1999 Hawk Mk. IX: Disaster Recovery Alan Carter Style

My family and I had driven an hour up the road to visit my grandparents on Easter Sunday. It would have been simple enough to just ride up with everyone else in the station wagon. However, that simply would not do. Not in the least.

The previous year my parents had given me a wonderful high school graduation gift – a 1982 Pontiac Firebird. I didn’t ride anywhere with anyone. I drove my Firebird.

So despite my dad’s protests about how much gas would be used up in the venture, I arrived at the small country church more than a few minutes ahead of my family. Dad, of course, was concerned that I’d perhaps exceeded the speed limit. However, I assured him I’d driven in a perfectly safe manner, and had simply found a favorable traffic flow. He raised an eyebrow, but let it go.

Time For The Biscuits

I always loved being with my grandparents in their small country church. It had a wonderful familiarity. Even if the piano was a bit out of tune, and the preacher did not have as many letters after his name as my larger home church’s pastor, it was a special place.

But as special as it was, once service drew to a close, I was ready to go. Just a few miles away was Grandma’s kitchen. And in her kitchen was a mound of biscuits, cooked up ahead of time for us to munch on after church while the meal was prepared.

Those biscuits were legendary. I could eat them by the sledload. In fact, Grandma usually made a small tin of them in the toaster oven just for me. They served about the same purpose as a rodeo clown – a distraction to keep me occupied while the rest of the food was put on the table.

My little brother and I jumped in my Firebird, and with the music blasting, peeled out of the parking lot in hot pursuit of biscuits.

There’s A Bend In The Road?

The drive was only a few miles, with most of it being a long stretch of dirt road. As we crossed over the main highway and on to the dirt I’d walked and driven many times before, I decided to put on a show for my little brother. Amazingly, he was still talking to me after our last (mis)adventure.

Mashing the accelerator to the floor, the white Firebird surged forward. Even over the blast of the music we could hear the engine roar. I had my shades on, my mullet was looking good, and as I looked over at my brother, I raised my eyebrows a few times as I grinned. He yelled “Yeaaaaaahhhhh!

Away we went.

As we careened down that old dirt road, I noticed something I had never paid attention to. There was actually just the slightest bend in the road ahead. Not a turn, or even a curve… just a slight bend. At the speed limit of 35, it was not even noticeable. However, at the speed I was driving… which was definitely more than 35 miles per hour, I began to have some concerns.

As we entered the bend, I noticed something else.

Think Fast

My car had been purchased used. The tires were already in need of replacement. In the time I’d been driving it, I’d been less than careful with them. The slicker they were, the better the car handled. On the road. When it was dry.

The thought began to make its way through my mind that perhaps having almost bald tires was not a good thing at high speed on soft sand. Ironically, the sand and the car must’ve been thinking the same thing, as the tail end of my precious white Firebird started to drift to the left.

At that point, the tires had no grip at all. I did have the presence of mind to let off the gas. Of course, this shifted the weight forward, causing the back end to float more, and the front to start digging in. Worried we’d flip, I remembered something my dad had told me. “When you’re starting to spin, turn into the spin – not away from it.” In the split second that flashed through my mind, I turned into the direction of spin.

Amazingly, the car quit rotating. which was good. What was not so good was it was now pointed at an angle, floating across the sand, headed straight for a long, wide ditch. As the car’s nose dipped down upon entering the ditch, the drift was checked, and we began to plow through the dirt and mud. I looked over at my brother. He was gripping the dashboard hard enough to leave marks. His eyes were wide open, and his jaw clenched like he was trying to push out three days at the all you can eat cheese festival.

I thought to myself “Wonder what dad will say about this?”

High Hopes To Finish

After getting the Hawk Mk. IX primed, I was hoping to get it painted, decaled, and weathered, all in one week. That would give me a nice write up about the kit, and I could move on to the next one.

The model needed to have quite a bit of orange paint applied, with sharp demarcations. Some of the parts could be painted before assembly, making that easy. But a few areas, mainly around the crew module and the engine, would need masking. While it could be masked off fully with tape, I realized it would take lots and lots of tiny bits, cut just right, to work. I decided to use masking fluid for the curves and tight edges.

I’d done this many times in the past, and had good success with it. Paint the fluid on, let dry, airbrush over it, and peel it away. Easy peasy. Opening my masking fluid, however, showed it had dried to a solid clump. Off to the hobby shop I headed to get a new bottle.

The Tipping Point Never Announces Itself

The masking fluid I’d been using was from the art store, and was not specifically designed for scale modeling. It was a bit thick, and at times finicky to apply. Figuring this time would be as good as any, I picked up a scale modeling specific product from a local hobby store.

Getting back home, I opened the stuff up. It was very thin, and purple, a brand called The Detailer. Having previously masked off most of the model with tape, I grabbed a brush, and began applying the masking fluid. It flowed on nicely, and pretty soon I had everything perfectly masked off. Once it dried, I headed to the airbrush room to paint the rest of the model white.

I’d opted to paint the orange first simply because masking it would be easier. I knew I could cover up any overspray with a brief blast of light gray paint, and thus put the white down over a monotone gray base. (It had been primed in gray.) 

Alan, Pull Up!

Once the white paint was dry, I started to remove the masks. In previous use of masking fluid, I always made sure the masking fluid partially covered any pieces of nearby tape masking. The tape could be pulled up, and usually most of the mask came up with it. Any remaining mask could then be removed by gently rubbing it, or by sticking a blob of poster putty to it. I’d always had 100% success with this.

Unfortunately, The Detailer masking fluid had other ideas. I pulled the tape up, and the mask stayed. “No worries” I thought. “I’ll just grab the poster putty.”

Poster putty had almost zero effect on it. Tamiya tape worked a little better, but still left the majority of it in place. I even tried to use a large, soft brush and water to reactivate it. No doing. I was left with quite a few large purple marks.

It was on there good.

The Art Of Recovery In Modeling

A while back, I was having a chat with a friend. As we discussed the hobby, he asked an interesting question. “What do you think is the distinguishing factor for an experienced modeler?” I thought about it for a second, and after a bit of pondering, said “Disaster recovery.”

Many modelers, even fairly new ones, do very good work. So the whole “it looks really good” assessment isn’t always an indicator. Plus it’s very subjective. 

But when you’ve built a lot of models, and worked with a lot of materials, you’ve had the opportunity to screw things up. Working through the mistakes then is in – in my opinion – a very advanced skill.

Finding Roads Out Of The Woods

While there can be no single method I can offer for all disasters – because all are different – I think I can define a basic checklist that can help a modeler navigate through most problems.

  • How far along is it? If I’m priming a model, and an area looks a bit rough, I can simply sand it down lightly and reprime. So sometimes simply doing it over is fine. However, there are times – like when your model is fully painted – that such a course of action is not feasible. The shape of the model, or the time require to sand and repaint, simply may not be feasible. In those cases, further questions must be asked.
  • What is the nature of the screw up? In this case, it was a thin layer of masking fluid. The parts that were left were so thin that it was barely discernible to the touch. The “damage” was confined to a few small areas. It could be activated by water, so that had to be accounted for. Sometimes the screw up may not be so simple. A rough texture, or a broken part, may dictate different remedies.
  • What is the best way to cover it up? By that, I don’t necessarily mean “leave it there”. Sometimes that is an option, as it was in this case. Yet often times it is not. What I mean though by “cover it up” is making a determination as to what will make it unnoticeable, or organic to the surface. Sometimes it will take a sand/repaint process, with no way around it. Other times, creative application of other technique may address it. For instance, I’ve covered up errors with scratch built detail. Sometimes weathering will do it. The idea is to make it look like it is supposed to be there.

The basic premise though is to not panic. Almost any problem can be fixed, it just takes some time and thought. This is why a mastery of a wide range of modeling techniques is so critical. While you may rarely use a particular technique, having that “tool” in the toolbox can be the critical piece to getting your project back on track.

Back To the Hawk

The model is still not fully assembled. This will make weathering much easier.

After removing as much of the fluid as I could, I was left with a few problems. In a few areas, an ill-fated attempt to remove it with a toothpick resulted in small scratches. Other areas were left with the purple masking fluid in recessed areas. In a few places where I had tried to remove it with water, the surface essentially had a…. well…. Purple Haze.

I started by brush painting a highly thinned solution of the orange paint over the problem areas. This took care of a great deal of the smaller nits, and eliminated most of the Purple Haze. (From my brain and the model. 😉 ) 

In the remaining areas, I cut out a small square in a large piece of masking tape. With the orange paint loaded in the airbrush – highly thinned – I placed the tape over specific areas and misted the color on until it was back to the full orange. In areas that had been chipped, I didn’t worry if the paint was built back up smooth – those areas would define where I’d later add painted on chips during the weathering process.

In the end, it took about a four hours detour to resolve the issues. 

Smooth Sailing Again

After getting the masking fiasco resolved, I moved on to decals. After gloss coating the model, I began to apply them. Around 200 of them to be precise. The kit uses A LOT of decals for color applications and surface detail. I’d decided early on not to mask (or hand paint) all the little areas, as I felt doing so would not save much time. Plus, many of the colored areas had line detail over them.

The decals themselves were perfect. If they weren’t made by Cartograph, then it had to be by a close rival. They were sharply defined, very thin, and with almost no carrier film poking over the edges of the decals. While the process took a while (almost 5 hours), they looked very good once applied. Though they snuggled down nicely, I did give them a coat of Solvaset.

With paint and decals sorted out, I realized the weathering would have to wait.

You Boys Alright?

When the car finally came to a stop, I examined my brother and myself for damage. Thankfully we’d been wearing our seatbelts, and aside from a load of dirt and dust in the car, there were no other issues.

Except for the Firebird. It was nose down at about a steep angle, front end buried in soft, fine sand. Trying to back out, the tires just spun round and round, digging a deeper rut.

I was in despair. Though pleased I’d managed to not kill my brother, my fear now was what my dad would say as he drove by and saw his two sons in such a predicament. And this time there’d be no way to blame little bro.

Then I heard it. The sound of a tractor. I looked up… my great uncle was driving towards us quickly on his big blue tractor. Hopping off, he hurried up. “You boys alright?

Recovering Swiftly

After assuring him we were fine, I got right to the point. “We’ve gotta get this out of here before dad comes by.” With a smile and a wink, he headed back to his tractor. Backing it around so its rear end was a few feet from my car’s back bumper, he hooked up a tow rope.

As I applied power slowly, the tractor dragged us out. Once back up on the road, he unhitched the tow rope. The wisdom of his years spoke. “You two get to your grandma’s house and try and get cleaned up. I’ll ride down the middle of the road so they’ll have to slow down.” Brilliant. 🙂

We jumped in the car, and headed on our way.

Making The Best Of It

Unless you know where to look, the Hawk shows little sign of the adventures it has been through. The warts are there, certainly, but later steps should hide them from everything but the very closest examination.

Getting into problems in modeling will happen. In this case, I used a product I was not familiar with, and had not tested, and wound up getting the worst of it. If I’d have stuck with my old masking fluid, or perhaps conducted a few tests with the new one, I might have avoided the problem.

But there’s a funny thing about learning how to recover from disasters. You need to go through a few to learn the skill.

As we sat eating Easter dinner at Grandma’s house, my dad was eyeing me suspiciously. “Your car looks mighty dusty, son.” Without looking up from my plate of biscuits and other goodies, I casually answered “Well, you know, it is a dusty road. And I had my windows down.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him staring at me for a moment.

Down the table, my great uncle’s shoulders were shaking a bit. I could see him laughing quietly. After my dad’s gaze moved on, I stole a look his way. Exchanging a wink, we both smiled.

Now, as then, disaster has been averted.

On to the weathering!



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