Aircraft Resource Center


1/4 inch Aurora Sopwith Triplane

"Black Maria"

by Mark McClellan


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I started building models when I was a little kid many years ago.  I cut my teeth on Aurora, Hawk, Testors and Monogram Kits, and I used to do my chores to earn the privilege to go to the dime store and spend my allowance, usually one or two dollars, depending on how much trouble I was in the previous week.  When I visited a hobby shop (not my usual one) and saw this kit all tattered and lonely, no shrink wrap, I asked Dave “How much?”  He told me that for $15.00 I could have it.  A quick check revealed that it was complete (even with the original packing tissue) so I jumped at the chance.

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I am not a collector, I am a builder and when I looked at this kit, many happy memories came flooding back.  I was not really impressed with the black moulded plastic, and as I had actually seen a real Sopwith Triplane at RAF Hendon on my last trip to London, I found the photo I took and lo and behold it was Olive Drab.  A reasonable facsimile anyway, so I decided I’d make mine green.


I really wanted to do the kit justice so the first thing to go was the original moulded in roundels.  A quick sand and they were gone and I didn’t damage too much.  There was little putty needed, only a tiny bit on the bottom.  The parts are quite detailed considering the age of the kit.  Date stamp inside says 1963.  Assembly was straight forward, but I could have really detailed the cockpit, there is a lot of room in there to show off the ribs and stringers, etc.

This kit sold originally for 79 cents, and if you were lucky, the dime store may have had Aurora’s revolutionary new enamel paints “Speed Dry Enamels”.  These came in a set for 79 cents also or sold individually for 10 cents each.  So, out of my two bucks I could get a model, paints, glue (another 10 cents) and that left me with enough money to but two Hershey’s bars!  Woo Hoo!  This kit took me about 20 hours to build.  In the olden days, I would have built it on a Saturday evening and played with it on Sunday.  It may have lasted until Monday, if it didn’t get shot down!  I had also discovered BB guns about that time….

I must thank the RAF Museum at Hendon for links to pictures of the real aircraft, and I even have a history from first build to present day of the Triplane that is on display there.


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Photos and text © by Mark McClellan

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