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1/48 DML Spad XIII

by Caz Dalton


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SPAD 13.C1




The airplane, which has survived the years as the symbol of the United States during World War I, is the SPAD. It has been featured in novels, short stories, and motion pictures. The type of SPAD used in connection with American Squadrons refers to the SPAD 13.C1.

Originally, the initials SPAD had stood for Societe pour les Appareils Duperdussin (the Company of Duperdussin Products). When taken over by aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot because of financial difficulties on the eve of World War I, it was renamed Societe pour Aviation et ses Derives (The Company for Aviation and its Derivatives), thus retaining the same acronym.

In their general structure, SPAD aircraft were a fairly conventional design for their day. The sole exception was the tie-struts at the midpoint of the wing span, so positioned as to prevent the flying and landing wires from whipping in flight. This innovation gave the Spad the appearance of a two-bay biplane, although it was actually a single-bay biplane.

The upper wing was a one-piece structure, with a slightly longer span and chord than the lower wing, which was a two-piece construction. The spars were built up of a number of sections joined by linen-wrapped scarfing. The leading edges were made entirely of spruce and the trailing edges were cable, which were tightened and doped to give a slightly scalloped effect. Both wings were without dihedral.

The fuselage was of wood, with transverse bulkheads of heavy-gauge sheet steel with lightening holes. There were four longerons joined by transverse elements, the whole structure braced diagonally with piano wire. The fuselage structure was covered with doped linen from just aft of the cockpit to the rear, with plywood and sheet metal covering the area aft of the cockpit forward. The top and bottom deckings were rounded. The vertical and horizontal tailplanes were constructed of wood and cable and covered with doped linen.

The undercarriage legs were formed in a single piece built up from laminated poplar. The axle was articulated at the center. The function of shock absorbers was performed by elastic cord (bungee) between the wheels and on the steel-bound wooden tail skid.

All SPADs, with exception of the rotary-powered A2, were powered by 8-cylinder 90 V-type Hispano-Suiza engines, ranging in various models from 140 to 300 hp, and cooled by a nearly circular radiator with vertical shutters for temperature control. The main fuel tank was fitted beneath the main fuselage structure and connected to a fuel feed well suspended from the upper wing center section; the smaller secondary tank was fed by a pump driven by the engine, which also drove the oil and water pumps.

The SPAD 13 bore a strong family resemblance to its predecessors; the SPAD 7 and SPAD 12, however, it was slightly larger. The fuselage was five inches longer than the SPAD 7 and the wingspan was one foot five inches longer. The SPAD 13 was also heavier weighing 1,888.5 pounds, compared to the 1,544.5 pounds for the SPAD 7. The cabane struts were given a slight forward stagger, although the wings were rigged with no stagger.

The SPAD 13's primary improvement over the SPAD 7 was in its armament. The SPAD 13 carried double the firepower of the SPAD 7 with two Vickers .303 caliber machine guns being mounted in deep troughs on the upper decking in front of the cockpit. Ammunition boxes were located in the fuselage between the guns holding a total of 800 rounds (400 rounds per gun). The guns had individual triggers and could be fired separately or together. Spent shell castings were ejected into a chute that funneled them away from the pilot and out through a port on the lower fuselage just above each wing.

The main fuel tank was varied slightly also. Displacement of fuel to the front and rear of the main fuel tank during dives and climbs (when fuel levels were below 30 to 35 liters; 8-9 gallons) caused interruption of fuel to the engine. The solution was to partition the fuel tank into two compartments, each with its own feeder pipe.

The SPAD 13 at first retained the 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8C engine, but later models utilized the 220 hp type 8BEa Hispano-Suiza. Tests using the latter engine gave a speed at 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) of 218 kph (136 mph) and 203 kph (126 mph) at 5,000 meters (16,400 feet). Time to climb was four minutes forty seconds and eighteen minutes thirty seconds, respectively. The aircraft's theoretical ceiling was given as 6,800 meters (22,300 feet), however, it is doubtful that any SPAD 13 ever achieved this altitude.

The first United States Squadron to be equipped with the SPAD was the 94th, which received their SPAD 13s in July 1918. The SPAD 13 was to equip fifteen USAS (United States Air Service) Squadrons, augmented by the few SPAD 7s that remained in service. In all, 893 Spad 13s were delivered to the USAS before the war ended. All that were serviceable at the time of occupation withdrawal were shipped back to the United States to be used for training, 435 of these being re-engined with 180 hp Wright-Hispano Es.


During the winter of 1918/19 and the spring of 1919, several USAS Squadrons were assigned occupational duties inside Germany to police the Armistice regulations. Eddie Rickenbacker's famed Hat-In-Ring 94th Squadron was assigned to Nieuwied, Germany during the duration and many of the pilots repainted their SPADs in rather colorful paint schemes. The American Flag scheme as depicted on my model was carried on the SPAD 13 flown by Lt. Reed Chambers, who had seven confirmed combat victories at war's end. It should be noted that the pilots of the 94th quickly found out that the performance of their SPAD 13s suffered because of the weight of the paint needed to apply these color schemes.  

I had wanted to do a model of this airplane ever since I first saw a picture and color profile in Squadron/Signal's SPAD FIGHTERS in action. I used DML's Knights of the Sky Series Number 5902 kit of the SPAD 13, which includes decals for this colorful airplane.



The cockpit to this kit is as complete as one can get in this scale. It clearly puts Revell's 1/28th scale kit to shame. It matches the interior photos found in WINDSOCK DATAFILE 32, SPAD 13.C1 by J. M. Bruce to the tee, so much so that I think it may be the same plane used for DML's mold makers.

I first painted the fuselage interior with Polly-S Clear Doped Linen, after which I brush painted the wood longerons and stringers with Gunze Sandy Brown. The wood was also dry-brushed with Testors Tan and Tamiya Flat brown and the recesses picked out with a .005 technical pin and India ink. Piano bracing wire was simulated with smoke-colored invisible thread. The upper cowling piece was brush painted flat black forward of the cockpit area on its interior, as was the top exterior of the two fuselages pieces.

The floorboard, upper decking, firewall, seat, and cockpit area on the upper cowling piece were painted Testors Tan and dry-brushed with Gunze Sandy Brown and Tamiya Flat Brown. The upper decking instrument and fuel control panel was painted sandy brown and dry-brushed with tan and flat brown. (This appears darker in the WINDSOCK DATAFILE photos and are usually the result of either different woods or newer wood and older wood being used together.)

The interior reserve fuel tank was painted flat brown and given a black wash. Securing straps were brushed painted steel and the fuel pipe painted flat aluminum. I also added additional fuel feed pipes using like-sized non-resin solder, which was brushed painted flat aluminum to match the plastic. The fuel gauge pipe was simulated with 34 gauge wire. Instrument wiring was also simulated using 28 and 34 gauge wire.

The seat and rudder mounts were painted flat aluminum. I painted the rudder control tan, shadowed the recesses with a .005 tech pen and India ink, and brush painted the foot pedals steel. I drilled out the center control section and cemented two control wires cut from smoke-colored invisible thread. The joystick was painted Gunze IJA Gray, with the handle painted flat black and given a brushing of skin oil to semi gloss it. The two gun control cables were constructed of 34 gauge wire and the elevator control cables were simulated with invisible thread.

All photo-etched instruments were painted either white or black as per photos in WINDSOCK DATAFILE, after which I sanded the instruments with used 3600 grit sandpaper. This brought out the metal highpoints and left the instrument faces painted. I then super glued the instruments to their proper locations. The two gauges on the upper decking panel were painted white and black, with the needles picked out in black and silver respectively. The fuel control levers were dry-brushed with Testors Chrome Silver and the panel mounts were dry-brushed with steel. The fuel gauge in the floorboard was done by first using a black decal punched with a Waldron #4 punch and following with a white decal done with a #3 punch. The needle was brushed on in black after the decals have dried thoroughly and all gauges were given a drop of Johnson's FUTURE.

The photo-etched throttle control was painted in clear flat and attached to the port fuselage as per kit instructions. The magneto firing starter was painted flat aluminum and cemented to the starboard fuselage half. The cockpit bay was assembled and attached to the starboard fuselage half.

The seat, having previously been painted, was now attended to. I brush painted the seat cushion Tamiya Red Brown. The photo-etched seat belts were painted Gunze Sail Color and the buckles were lightly sanded and given a brushing of clear flat acrylic. The seat was then cemented into place on its mount. I substituted masking tape for the shoulder harnesses, but used the photo-etched buckles, as I found the tape easier to manipulate into position on the upper decking and into the seat after the fuselage halves were joined. I might add that the two louvered intakes (parts B 8 & 9) were firmly cemented into each fuselage half before cementing the two fuselage halves.

Fuselage and Wings:  

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After dry fitting and reassuring myself that the interior was secure and all pieces were aligned, I cemented the two fuselage halves, upper cowling piece, lower cowling piece, radiator, and lower wing together. After sanding the joints to my liking I attached the two cylinder head fairings. I then assembled and attached the undercarriage. The rear landing skid was painted flat brown and dry-brushed in tan and sandy brown. The skid protector was brushed with steel, but attachment was held off until finally assembly.

The two photo-etched intake covers (Parts MA 3 & 4) were first carefully cut out with a Dremel cutting bit and then a file and sandpaper. The resulting intake bracing pieces were then super glued to their respective louvered intakes. These were clearly visible in Squadron/Signal's SPAD FIGHTERS in action photo of the actual plane. I also simulated two safety cables on the main fuel tank underneath the fuselage wing section with 34 gauge wire.

The cabane struts were glued into their slots on the upper cowling, but I used invisible thread for the rigging instead of the photo-etched pieces provided. I also attached two more pieces of invisible thread for additional flying wires running from the forward cabane struts diagonally to the recessed area in the upper cowling as per reference photos.

The two photo-etched shell casing chutes were cemented into their slots on the two fuselage halves, but I found it easier to cut away the bottom section, bend the top and two sides, and replace the bottom with evergreen strip. The photo-etched vent was attached to the lower cowling piece at this time also.

Machine guns were assembled as per instructions, with exception of drilling two holes in the barrel ends once they were attached to accommodate a section of 25 gauge hypodermic needle for each barrel. These were prefitted and the photo-etched gun sight was super glued in place. The guns were painted Tamiya Gun Metal, given a black wash, and lightly highlighted with SNJ polish. They were then set aside until final assembly. The telescopic gun sight was clearly visible in the reference photo of this aircraft, so the kit piece was used after drilling out both ends, painting it semi-gloss black, and applying two drops of 5-minute epoxy to each end for the lens. I had previously drilled out the rear flashed over hole for the sight, but had to measure and drill the forward mounting hole. It should be mentioned that the gunsight should be offset to the starboard side and not mounted in the center as stated in Military Aircraft Preview; check your references! The gunsight was also attached in the final assembly.  

The windshield framing was painted Gunze Red and attachment was held off until final assembly. The headrest was painted Tamiya Red Brown, given a brushing of skin oil, and also set aside with the final assembly pieces. The exhausts were lightly scribed at the ends with a dental scraping tool, after which they were painted steel, given a black wash on the ends, and highlighted with SNJ polish. These too went into the final assembly box after dry fitting them so as to cement the photo-etched exhaust braces. I also drilled a hole for the radiator drain plug, but this was not attached until painting and decaling was completed.

All strut mounting holes on the upper side of the lower wing and the lower side of the upper wing were given greater depth by cutting them deeper with a Dremel square cutting engraving bit held in a pen vise. It should be mentioned the outer main wing struts were thirty-eight one thousandths of an inch longer than the inner photo-etched wire tie struts. This may not sound like much, but if one attached all the eight photo-etched rigging eyelets before cutting off a little from each end of the main struts, then the inner struts would not fit into the upper wing slots. The wire tie struts were carefully covered with 5-minute epoxy in the wood areas as they appear too thin when compared to photos of the actual thing. All struts were painted sandy brown and given a dry-brushing of tan and flat brown, with all rigging eyelets painted steel. They were then set aside for attachment after the upper wing and fuselage assembly were painted and decaled.

The photo-etched bell cranks were painted steel and the photo-etched aileron control rods were painted sandy brown, with the usual drybrushing of tan and flat brown. These were not attached until final assembly. The vertical and horizontal tailplanes were cleaned up and set aside for the painting stage, which I now attended to.

Painting and decaling:

The upper wing, fuselage and lower wing assembly, and rear tailplanes were primed with flat white, after which the upper surfaces of both wings and fuselage aft of the rear cabane struts were painted gloss white. The upper surfaces of both wings were masked and the lower surfaces of both wings were painted with the proper mix called for in the instructions. This color closely matched the beige (FS 23448) used as standard under surface camouflage on SPADs.

The under side of the wings were now masked and the upper sides of the wings and the rear fuselage were masked and painted Gunze Red. The masking outline for the wings on both the instruction sheet and Squadron/Signal's color profile are both incorrect. I used the photo in Squadron/Signal for reference, which shows that the red should run alongside the inside of the struts and the red and white covering every two ribs concurrently. 

The entire lower wing and rear fuselage were now masked and the forward fuselage and under fuselage between the lower wings were painted Gunze Bright Blue. The rear tailplanes and wheels were also painted Gunze Bright Blue at this time. The tires were brush painted Gunze Tire Black after the blue had dried. The hubs were brushed with steel and the entire wheel given a black wash. The tires were also given a liberal wash of Gunze Mud, and the wheels were dry-brushed with mud, as was the rear tail skid and under surface of the lower wing behind the wheels. The tires were decaled and set aside for final assembly.

The radiator was masked and the opening painted steel, given a black wash, and highlighted with SNJ polish. The propeller was first painted flat and gloss white, then masked and painted flat brown, with the wood area given a semi-wet wash of tan and sandy brown. The entire propeller was given a coating of Johnson's FUTURE after the paints have completely dried and the propeller boss was brush painted steel and given a black wash in the recesses. The propeller was set aside for final assembly.

After the paint had dried I started to apply the decals, which proved to be traumatic. The upper wing decal was so translucent that the red and white shown through like a sore thumb. I removed the upper wing decal and immediately called Marco Polo and set about on my quest for two duplicate decal sheets. While waiting the three weeks for these to arrive I carefully cut masks for the upper and lower roundels from a circle drafting template and painted the areas to be decaled gloss white so as to have a solid color backing for the decals when they arrived. I still had to double up on the wing roundels in order to get a dark enough red and blue. The white in the decals is more of a bone color, but I left it as is. Why can't kit manufactors provide us with a truly opaque white decal ink?

I applied the rear tailplane decals and the stars to the forward fuselage. These also had to be doubled up as the white, though not bone colored, was still translucent and allowed the blue undercoat to show through. The yellow strut tape bracing were applied using some victory marking I had left over from an old MicroScale decal sheet for ME-109s. The Hat-In-Ring decals were also doubled up after first applying a solid white decal underneath in the area of the hat band and red and white stripes.

After all decals had dried I washed the model in a light mixture of dishwashing detergent and water and dried it with paper towel. The upper wing and all final assembly components were now attached and the area to the rear of each exhaust was weathered with powdered black pastel. All louvers and control surface recesses were picked out with a .005 technical pen and India ink and rigging was attached using smoke-colored invisible thread. Lifting straps were lastly added, these being constructed from sanded brown auto striping tape.

The model was placed on a base I constructed from a $1.00 wood frame purchased at Family Dollar and an eight by ten piece of mat board that had been covered with self adhesive green felt. The plaque was first done on a WordPerfect processor, after which I had a local trophy shop copy it onto a plaque.



Apostolo, Giorgio, and Begnozzi, Giorgio, COLOR PROFILES OF WORLD WAR I COMBAT PLANES, Crescent Books, 419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016, 1974.

Bruce, J. M., WINDSOCK DATAFILE 32 - SPAD 13.C1, Albatros Productions, Ltd., 10 Long View, Berkhamsted, Herts HP4 1BY, United Kingdom, 1992.

Connors, John F., SPAD FIGHTERS in action, Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1115 Crowley Dr., Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 1989.  

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Photos and text by Caz Dalton

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