1/72 Execuform Clark GA-43 vacuform

Gallery Article by Gabriel Stern on Jan 27 2010

   Brazil .
   I mean the movie, Terry Gillian’s.
   That’s what you call aesthetics.
   Ah, retrofuturism.
   What can I tell you. Aviation, and by extension modeling, are for me more than anything else about aesthetics. I see these things as sculptures, architecture, design. Remember your old fridge? the cars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s? the locomotives? How can anything be more beautiful than that? I like those things. And then is when the cottage industry comes to the rescue.
   I got the Execuform GA-43 for a reasonable price, and was happy for what I got. Simple parts that saved me from hours and hours of scratchbuilding, and the possibility of building my model in several configurations, given the fact that includes floats, the two canopies (one for a single pilot and the other for the two pilot version), the wheel pants of the prototype, the fairings of the later versions and a differently-contoured rudder. Also references and good gauge styrene.
   You have to provide bits like prop, engine, wheels, and the like; all of them readily available as aftermarket items. And if you so wish you can add the interior. You can go to town or stay simple, is up to you. Many of us do our own decals when they are not available, or know somebody that can help with that too. Scribing panel lines is not a lost art either.

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  Execuform and many other vac producers like Khee-Kha work hard to make available for us lesser-known types that surely deserve a place in our collections. Their prices are good, and you get something to really play and exercise those skills. I have built several vac models, have many more in the stash, and every single time I enjoy it very much. I never ever regretted or got tired of building these out-of-the-beaten-path models. Heaven bless the cottage industry, for they deliver the goods.
   I have said this before, but I'll repeat it: approach the vacuformed kits for what they are, not expecting a shake and bake protocol. They require specific methods, but not rocket science at any rate. Execuform kits are rather simple and basic, but you can make a very decent replica of them, if you put some care. They are there to help you get that model you want. Execuform catalog is ample and attractive, with types not even in dreams other manufacturers will approach. Yes you will have to work, but you will get something very unique too.
   Oh, yes, the plane:
I never built a model with so many names and such complicated history. Suffice to say that it is known as Faichild 150, General Aviation GA-43, Clark GA-43, and North American GA-43. The “Clark” there is the same one as in the Clark “Y” airfoil, for you aerodynamicists. The plane also has some Fokker strings attached. To explain here all the mergers, acquisitions, take-overs and other financial mysteries would take too much space, so let just say that it was an all-metal ten-passenger plane with –after the prototype was converted- retractable landing gear. It was used by Swissair (two machines), SCADTA in Colombia, Western Air Express in the USA, one ended up in Japan as J-BAEP and yet another somehow managed to fly in Spain on the anti-Franco side. A pretty good story for only five machines built in total. There is a very good article on the subject on Skyways magazine issue of January 1998. On the article you can see an image of one machine temporarily painted with the slogan “Back your president”. Oh man that I was tempted by that one too. In total I counted about seventeen possible finishes, some of them really different, some just minor variations.
   The Model
(this is the very boring part, that says “I glued this to that”, but, on the other hand, also is the part where you may actually learn something, so it is your call):

   I opted to represent the prototype, since its spats and short one-seat canopy had a chubbier look that was very appealing to me.
   Parts were separated from the backing sheet using the well-known tachyon pulse method, and flat-sanded cautiously while testing. References were consulted in order to establish which parts were needed so they could be made with the replicator. Some goodies were beamed-up from an obscure British manufacturer with Klingon ties.
   Do not get rid of the leftovers, many extra parts (like bulkheads, spars, seats) can be cut from them.
  The next thing to do was to establish the position of the windows, door and luggage hatch on the fuselage and cut them open. Five bulkheads and the cabin floor were cut from the leftovers (see, I told you!).
   At this point I decided, after much pondering, to diverge from the Execuform path and separate the stabilizer halves, restitute the tail cone its integrity, and add the stab halves later. Execuform planned the parts to provide some sort of easy keying for alignment, but I rather sand the fuselage smooth and add the stab than meander between the parts later with the sanding stick and the putty.
  The ten passengers chairs came next, each one made of six parts (back, seat, head cushion, two armrests and magazine pouch in the back). As per photos a few metal parts were found in my spares box too. The cavity showing the wing root from inside was closed using sheet styrene. The wing roots in the model are slightly asymmetrical, being one a bit higher than the other. Be careful to compensate for that. The wing halves were glued and their panel lines engraved. Beware that the prototype had longer span ailerons and no flaps. Also some anti-stall small sections were located at the leading edge. Those were replicated carving the styrene and adding a few small ribs. No landing lights were present at the leading edge at the time that this first machine was flown. No nav lights can be seen on the wingtips either, but two were present on the fin and on the tip of the tail cone. The whole interior, as a single unit –see images- was detailed and prepped for his later insertion between the fuselage halves.
   A roof was glued to one side and some detail added on those halves too.
   All these may sound boring or difficult, but it wasn’t at all. Is like solving a puzzle for which you create the pieces as you go. Very Zen.
   Once the fuselage was closed the stab halves were refined and a few parts created to better engineer its addition to the fuselage. To the wheel pants a strip was added and blended to represent the shock absorption arrangement.
   I tried a new –to me- masking product, Mr. Masking Sol Neo. The label is all in Japanese, and although I highly regard sushi and Zen koans, it wouldn’t hurt to add an English translation, would it Mr. “Mr.”?
   The product dried quickly, which is a good thing and a bad thing. The cap has a brush/applicator reminiscent of gone modeling eras. When wet it can be washed with water and soap, but once it starts to cure –fast- I could only soften it with Simple Green (a cleaning product). It won’t dissolve it, but it will soften it enough to be peeled away from the brush. Window cleaners (which usually contain ammonia) had no noticeable effects. Lacquer thinner and acetone sort of melt the cured product away. Once dry it peals off very easily from a flat surface, but not from the brush. I didn’t try it on a painted surface, but only on the transparencies.
   The priming, filling, sanding, re-scribing cycle went on a few times. It is a must –but I don’t have to really tell you this- to remain patient. To avoid unfortunate anxiety-generated wrong moves I started another model, a simple, small, easy-going one -the Mauboussin model that preceded this article here on ARC- so things on the Clark would have time to dry and cure properly.
   Successive layers of paint and masks went on the model, finishing in four shades of metal.
   If you believe that everything should always go smoothly, well, that’s a good thought, but sometimes a few things get in the way. I scratched the finish a couple of times, tinted the aluminum paint too much in a couple of occasions, messed up some panel lines, got the masking liquid in the wrong place, and a few more things. But, you acknowledge the mistake, correct it the best you can, and keep going.
   Once all the painting was done and set, home-made decals and a few external details were added, and the gleaming retro beauty of the GA-43 shone away in all its glamour.
   You can reach Mike Herrill  here:
phone: 760-961-6937
   And as Master Po used to say, a Shaolin monk is not ready until he builds his scratchbuilt, resin and vacuformed models.
P/S: on a statistical note, I think this is article number 100 posted here on ARC.
A good cheer for that.

Gabriel Stern

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Photos and text © by Gabriel Stern