1/72 Revell Republic F-105B


"Thunderbird THUD"

by J.C. Bahr


In memory of Al Superczynski


For the start of their 1964 season, the USAF Thunderbirds (T-birds) traded their North American F-100C Super Sabres ("Huns") for Republic F-105B Thunderchiefs ("Thuds") which would be the shortest-serving of all the T-birds many different aircraft.  If you saw the T-birds showcasing the F-105 in their gorgeous red/white/blue markings, you are truly one lucky individual, for they only flew six airshows with this machine before tragedy struck.  In the early evening of May 9, 1964, the T-birds had just arrived at Hamilton AFB, California, having just finished their sixth airshow of the season at McChord AFB, Washington.  The team flew an abbreviated show sequence at Hamilton to get acquainted with the surrounding area before concluding with a formation flight down the runway and a sequential pitch-up by each individual aircraft for landing.  Captain Eugene Devlin was T-bird 2, the left wing pilot of the T-birds diamond formation.  Devlin was the 2nd to initiate his pitch-up maneuver when his Thud (57-5801) suffered a catastrophic structural failure above the weapons bay in the spine of the aircraft and disintegrated (fatally), with the bulk of the airframe coming down on Hamilton's main runway.

Unknown to the T-birds at the time, it was later disclosed during a post-crash investigation that this particular aircraft (before being chosen and modified to serve the T-birds) had been involved in an air-to-air refueling incident where a tanker drogue basket had been pounded against the spine of the aircraft by turbulence.  The resulting damage was repaired and there was no evidence linking this mishap to Captain Devlin's fatal crash, but it leaves one to wonder if it was a contributing factor.  The crash resulted in the entire USAF Thud fleet being grounded for a short period and instead of canceling the rest of their 1964 airshow season, the T-birds switched back to the North American F-100 in favor of the newer D-model Hun instead of the C's that the T-birds had originally flown.  The plan was to transition back to the Thuds once suitable modifications had been made, but supposedly due to priorities stemming from the coming storm that was to be the Vietnam War... the Thuds would never fly in T-bird markings again and the team would retain their Huns for another four more years before starting their 1969 show season with the F-4E Phantom II.  Ironically, the B-model Thuds that the T-birds had flown, would never see combat in Vietnam... with only the later D, F & G-model Thuds being used.  Why the T-birds could not have transitioned back to the B-model Thuds in light of this is an interesting question.  It is believed that the powers that be had lost faith in the Thud as an aerobatic performer and did not want to risk another tragic crash... and it would take the Vietnam War for the Thud-series to gain the legendary status that it has come to be known for.

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The Thud has always been my most favored of all the T-birds aircraft and in my opinion was the prettiest of the T-birds line.  In the book titled "Diamond In The Sky" about the T-birds, authors Carol Knotts & Pete Moore start the Thud chapter with the following quote: "If I cannot influence the Gods, I shall set all Hell in motion" - Aeneid VII, 312 Vergil.  This is a very fitting statement in regards to the F-105 Thunderchief, considering its awesome size and power... and it is a crying shame that more people were not able to experience a T-bird show with these aircraft as I have always heard that the later shows with the F-4E Phantoms were some of the loudest and most spectacular shows in all of the T-birds history, but I have a feeling that the Thud had to have eclipsed the Phantom in this respect.  

As not only was the Thunderchief plenty loud, but aesthetically speaking, the Thud was a much prettier aircraft in it's shiny natural metal finish.  I have always abhorred the T-birds switch to the over-all white paint scheme as the natural metal/silver just had such a classic look to it, but I have been informed that the white paint scheme makes the aircraft easier to track by spectators at airshows.  Can only imagine what the F-4E, T-38 and F-16 would have looked like in an overall silver paint scheme.  It could have been a possibility considering the weight that the already applied white paint must add to the airframe, so why not silver paint?  Oh well, unfortunately we will never know.

Building of this kit had been rattling around in my brain for many years, at least ever since I came across one of Hasegawa's history sets on the T-birds that included their B-model Thud, but I was never impressed with the quality of the decals in the kit (and lack thereof of the main markings in this kit... although later separate kits from Hasegawa provided more substantial markings on the decal sheet, but I cannot comment on their quality).  I also have never been impressed by the Hasegawa F-105B/D kits.  They are a product of their typical 1970's ancestry and are not very well detailed and not very accurate.  Later, I happened into a stash of a bunch of Revell's 1/72 Thunderchief kits (much superior to Hasegawa) at a rediculously cheap price in a local flea-market/surplus/salvage-shop as they were part of the remnants of a train derailment.  They were not in the best of shape with many broken and missing pieces due to the boxes having been mangled in the accident, but amazingly enough after a nice letter explaining the story and detailing the specific pieces needed, Revell/Monogram were gracious enough to replace ALL the missing/broken pieces for FREE!... Which I am assuming these pieces must have been pulled from their F/G-Thud kits since the D-model had been long out of production by the time this had taken place in the early-mid 1990's.  Luckily, none of the D-model specific pieces had been broken/lost, but here is a big public thanks to Revell/Monogram for their help!

Some may wonder why I did not wait for the forthcoming Trumpeter Thud kits in this scale and honestly, other than recessed panel lines and a little better fitment of parts, I am not so certain that the Trumpeter kit is going to provide much improvement over the Revell/Monogram kits and certainly will be much more expensive.  The Revell/Monogram kits are a much cheaper alternative as God knows I would not be able to replace my Thud stash without a substantial hit to the pocket book... and considering the number of Thuds I hope to build in my lifetime, the Trumpeter kit loses this economic battle!... that is unless I get lucky again and come across the remnants of another train derailment?... but what is it they say about lightning striking twice? :)

This kit started out like so many others in my past... I initially just started tinkering with it with no intention of completing it anytime soon, as I had no really good aftermarket decals to see the kit through to total completion.  But the thoughts are always there of "what if I try this?" and "what if I try that?"... and one thing leads to another... blah, blah, blah.  It was also somewhat further inspired by seeing Ed Kinney's 1/32 scale version at the Kansas City 2006 IPMS Nationals: http://www.hsgalleries.com/gallery04/f105bek_1.htm ... and also the 1/48 version done by local modeling compadre (and fellow ARC'er) Darren Roberts: http://www.arcair.com/Gal1/501-600/gal525_Thunderbirds_Roberts/gal525.htm

So thanks for the inspiration guys!

The bulk of the conversion of this kit situated around using the nose off of the Hasegawa B-model and grafting it onto the nose of the Revell D-model.  There were no existing panel lines to use for reference on either kit, so I free-hand penciled in the line about where I thought it should be on both kits and proceeded to cut, leaving a little extra to work with on the respective parts.  If I recall correctly, I think I vertically cut the Hasegawa B immediately behind the front wall of the gear bay and sanded it right up to the front wall.  I then cut the Revell D about 2-3 mm forward of the front wall of the gear bay.  A little bit of filing/sanding and these pieces matched up almost perfectly.  Cyanoacrylate was used on the inside of the joint to strengthen it and on the outside to fill the joint and I was off and running.  I held this up to the 1/72 plans for the B-model nose in Detail & Scale and it was a near dead-on match (provided the D&S drawings are accurate?)... but the finished model looks close, so I'm not complaining.

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Other mods included back-dating of the Revell airframe by removing the small spine fairing forward of the vertical stabilizer, enlarging the intake at the base of the vertical stabilizer, removing the reinforcing plates on the tops/bottoms of the wings & sides of the rear fuselage, filling in many different vents/openings that did not appear in photos of early B-models, drilling out two vents below and forward of the windscreen on the right side of the fuselage, removing of the antennas towards the top and back of the vertical stabilizer, removing the the Wild Weasel specific antennas on the ends of the wing-tips and the Wild Weasel specific lights that protrude from the fronts of the wings near the wing-tips.  I also had to use wire to replicate the pitot tube on the left wing-tip and bent Evergreen styrene rod to replicate the smoke oil tubing system under the rear fuselage/exhaust-petals.  The rest of the kit build went pretty fast as there's not too much to this kit really, but it did require a little bit of filling and sanding around the wing joints as these are not too great of a fit.  The entire airframe was then sanded to remove almost all of the raised panel detail and then the airframe was painted with Floquil's Bright Silver railroad enamel.

Now, onto the markings.  Besides the national insignias and the red turbine stage warning stripes on the rear fuselage, EVERYTHING else was either 1. Masked/painted... 2. Tediously cut from white decal film (underside white striping)... 3. Hand painted (white stripe on the belly below the canopy and touch-up around some of the wing/tail feathers of the bird motif... or 4. Created and printed on my color lazer printer using Tango Papa clear/white decal film.  Naturally, given my penchant for replicating unique and historical subjects, I chose to immortalize Captain Devlin's 57-5801.

To say that this was the most ambitious markings project I have ever set upon would be an understatement, but it was well worth it as the finished model is very impressive.  I am not so certain that this will ever be a contest entry though, as there were a few minor painting mistakes made that had to be 'repaired' and are visible if one gets too close to the model, so it's a definite '2-3 foot model,' but I am happy with the way it turned out.

The Thud bug has definitely bitten hard and by the time you are reading this article, I will probably be putting the finishing touches on my Project Northscope/Ryan's Raiders F-105F which will be the subject of a future article, so stay tuned.


P.S. - I was just putting the finishing touches on this article when I heard of the tragic passing of fellow modeler Al Superczynski on 1/23/2007.  Al was one of several guys I had done some collaboration with via e-mail on this project within the past few months and this news was certainly a shock to hear and a very sad loss to the modeling world at large!  The least I could do is to dedicate this article to his memory.  Take care Al, you will be missed.

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Photos and text by J.C. Bahr