It seemed crazy to work on an expensive Thunderbird 2 model kit when I could work on a cheaper Angel Interceptor model kit first and work out any flaws in wiring for lights. I knew had photographs of them with red lights on the right wing and if you watch them launch in the episode ‘Attack On Cloudbase’ you can see for yourself. As they are applying standard lighting protocol, the left wing would be green. In those days, they didn’t have the luxury of LEDs so most of the various sized models used didn’t have lights simply because you couldn’t scale them neither.
I did think that the lights were only used on the larger models. After all, the wings are thin and there was a need to conceal the wires. It’s going to be bad enough doing it myself on the IMAI model kit and the Airfix model kit is of an equally small size and certainly smaller than the ones Derek Meddings and his team worked with. Looking at the kit, the wing section can be wired separately to the fuselage and the fuselage attached last which saves a lot of problems with spraying, adding decals and details to both sections.
The main difficulty will be inlaying the LEDs and wires and drilling a line into both thin wings deep enough that can be covered in filler without destroying them. As this will be four wires on each side, the dilemma is one line for two wires or one rut for each. With the ‘A’ decal on top, it does need to be reasonably flat. I do have a vague memory of seeing one of the Angel Interceptors with a searchlight or a collision light on under its wings but having a hard time to find a reference photo for confirmation so it meant re-watching the series.
At least there are no obvious lights in the cockpit to worry about but a need to paint a line over it and the edge in gun metal.
I did a verification check and looked at ‘Attack On Cloudbase’ and found proof that there is a green light on the left wing and then on 25 minutes, with the Angel flown by that Scarlet chap, a white collision light at the back of the top wing. It looks like there’s only one which is right for a collision light and, looking at the model kit, there’s room inside the chassis to conceal most of the wiring. Looks like those who did the Angel Interceptor blueprints are going to kick themselves because they should have paid attention to this.
It would be all right saying its Rhapsody’s dream but she’s an Angel pilot and I doubt if she’s make such errors. It does mean a little extra work on the chassis but mostly two exposed wires to the bottom wing section but as they can all be linked in a connector, that shouldn’t be a problem. Modifying the Angels for lights makes sense for night scenes but for something that is the penultimate episode does raise a question mark unless they thought there was going to be a second season.
It’s very weird looking at the Angel Interceptor with modern knowledgeable eyes. I mean, you do have to wonder if Derek Meddlings was originally planning for the wings to level up in flight and then why did he forget the idea? Objectively, it looks unique as it is but having hinges or several versions of the same aircraft for three pilots might have been a cost problem, not to mention extra footage once in the air.
I should point out that the LEDs will protrude but they did in the original lit models. When it comes to Thunderbird Two and possibly Thunderbird One, I’ll try to make them more inlaid to the wings.
WATCHING THE SERIES AGAIN
Anyway, research meant looking at all the ‘Captain Scarlet’ episodes again in case I missed something else. Originally, the focus was on the Angel Interceptor and then on any other aircraft that showed lights. In ‘Model Spy’, where the helicopter has lights, both red/green on the sides and white collision lights. In ‘Shadow Of Fear’, the Spectrum helicopter here had a red light on one visible wing and headlights. I did wonder about making the model kit until I saw the price.
What suddenly became very interesting was ‘Expo 2068’ with a few seconds footage of the Angel Interceptors taking off from Cloudbase at night with their lights on that matched ‘Attack On Cloudbase’. If nothing else, it would dispel any Anderson fan thinking it was only Symphony’s dream in ‘Attack On Cloudbase’. The following episode, ‘The Launching’ has the Tribune aeroplane at night. Its wings dipped like the Interceptor and its red light in the same position so one should surmise that there was a trend in dipped wings. Presumably, having wings shaped like that meant a steady flow of air under the fuselage to give it some gliding facility at high speed with the air channelled beneath the fuselage.
Another viewing of ‘Attack On Cloudbase’ and although it’s only a split second at 25 minutes, the Interceptor in a horizontal position shows the red light and next to it on the base, a white collision light. I did wonder if it was the furthest green light but it looked too white for that. I should point out that the green light had a slightly blue tinge to it. There is too much footage, well, a minute or less, of the same model showing a green light to think it’s any other colour.
This white collision light is just ahead of the wing section although my colleague Pauline Morgan thinks I might be misinterpreting the green light. Something else that came from the re-watching was the lack of weathering on the Interceptors although I do have a photograph showing some roughened areas. Bearing in mind their white colour and studio lights, the weathering detail was probably washed out and would explain the odd green light showing a touch of blue.
It just gives the problem of how to implant the wiring. All neatly in the wing section of the model kit with the exception of the top wing collusion light but with enough give to wire into a connector. The wires mean two ruts and some allowance to the wire protectors.
I ended up pulling two engraving tool kits. I was in two minds to show what I chose but I think you might be better off making your own selection. If you have to buy one, pay a little extra for one with a variable fast speed, even if you don’t change the speed, and had a spinning saw attachment. It’s less likely to stick in the plastic and have a consistent speed. Raising the speed too high and you risk cutting through the plastic too deeply.
However, as the photos show, I cut a reasonable rut and went back on it a second day to make it a little deeper and wider so the wires would be sufficiently deep. I ended up digging a hole through the centre and then decided it was a good idea. Plenty of room for the wires to go through and then decided why not have a socket and plug for the power wire so had the option of the model displaying without the wire.
I did wonder whether if I should shred the insulation down at the LED end and decided against it and just make sure it gets dug in deep enough. I also found an expensive but superb wire shredder on-line that didn’t take all the wires off the cable and can cut to length as well.
That suddenly presented two problems. My tube of filler had gone solid so needed to get more and then some fines sockets and plugs. While waiting for them to arrive, I built the power cable pretty much how I did it with the Power Loader. Twin wires through a tube, a battery cap and switch attached to one of the wires and a check that it would light a LED so there was no dry joints. Any exposed wire would have to be covered with insulating tape. I discovered that if the exposed wires touch, the LEDs will flash. Bear in mind this is a short circuit, that’s not actually a good idea for LEDS not designed for such an action.
An odd thing. When I was looking up how much smallest LEDs I could get, I came across a need for what is a ballast resistor. Essentially, this resistor is the same voltage as the LEDs but stops a surge that could burn the LEDs out. If I was doing this for myself alone, I haven’t really bothered with this before. As with the nature of any article, it there gets added to my learning curve for those who might want to keep their LED lights on for extended periods.
I’m still debating about doing this. I mean, there are 4 6 volt LEDS ran off a 12 volt battery which should control the voltage and it’s not like I’m going to keep them on for too long or alone.
WASHED BY STUDIO LIGHTS
Something to note about the line detail on the Interceptor is it’s not black but grey. Looking at stills of the airplane and, as I pointed out, it doesn’t look as white as in the episodes. In fact, of all the Century 21 vehicles it looks the most like a model. I think I can put that down to the studio lights washing out the dirtying down all the models have. Whether they realised at the time is debatable. The Angel Interceptors are supposed to be white so they just went with it. If memory serves, there were three sizes of Interceptor, including a close-up to show the pilots inside.
There is also a matter of the base collision light and I don’t think there wouldn’t have been room. The blast looks very much like a Derek Meddings effect and he would have needed to put a squib to explode in one Angel plane. Seeing all 3 Angel planes with lights does raise a question mark. It would have been easier to just focus on Scarlet taking off and save money unless they thought there might be a second season. Likewise, the fact we see one Angel crash doesn’t necessarily follow it was the same one throughout. These special effects people are sneaky and would have sacrificed a stunt model.
The front of the plane is narrow and with landing gear and pilot elevator. Even in the original models, they would have been pushed to put a light that far forward. My inclination is to put it in front and below the wing base which is the normal place in conventional aircraft. In military aircraft, it has been known for them to turn off their collision lights in combat but as I’m having the top fin on, I thought I might as well go full hog.
Something else I overlooked is the tail exhaust. We rarely see the Angel Interceptor from the rear but it seems odd that a jet fighter should have such a thing unless it is to expel heat. According to the various blueprints, this is an afterburner, which in normal Mach speed military aircraft is only used for sudden acceleration and not used all the time and can either be shut and look white or open and painted black.
My choice of two putty fillers arrived in the recent heatwave. Deluxe Perfect Plastic Putty was a little too loose and the wires floated in it. Whether that was the cause of the heatwave or its own consistency is up to debate. Fortunately, I only did it on one side but had to let it dry. My other choice was Revell’s Plasto as I saw it in Matt Irvine’s book ‘Model Builders Manual’. Even so, as the photos show it didn’t exactly dry smoothly and I could see the tops of a couple of the wires which could possibly be damaged if I sand it down.
As this is the underside and likely some of it would be covered by the ‘A’ decal, who’s going to look there anyway. Even so, it is a problem that has to be sorted out for future models, which could even include a second Angel Interceptor if I chose to improve any detail on this prototype.
The instructions say the filler should be applied with a brush but a metal spatula although I think I ought to at least try with a brush to smooth the top layer. With a rut, it might also make sense to build up and let it dry in layers.
Anyway, as we fall back on PVA glue for so many things, I thought why not mix some in with the Plasto as a google check didn’t put up any warnings. If nothing else it, it might give a smooth enough finish that could be hidden by paint. If you do play with such a mix, try a 50/50 mix although that is hard to calculate. I’ll tell you one thing, it dried within 90 minutes.
WARNING: The instructions with all these fillers is to apply in a ventilated room and if you get any filler on your hands, wash off immediately and definitely watch your eyes because there is solvent in these things.
I spent a couple days on and off using a smooth sandpaper to rub it down. There was a red wire still showing slightly and getting it sanded down behind the LEDs was something I decided I ought to leave. Bear in mind this is all learning curve. I’m learning on the job. If you do a similar job yourself, at least you can learn from my experience for your own Angel Interceptor or any other aircraft you try this on.
With the wiring mostly in place, the next thing is to cut down the wires to length and connect to a connector on one side and to the power lead on the other. The micro-connectors really are small and then thought that might work for me but found there wasn’t enough space in the fuselage but something to consider with bigger models. Leave some length of wire on the micro-connector that goes into the fuselage so you can pull it out when making the connection and less of a problem reconnecting the leads should you want to do so.
If you do find you need to put a ballast resistor in the circuit, then you can add it to the power lead as it only needs to be in the circuit.
The wiring should be elementary. Connect all the exposed red and black wires together from the fuselage and wing section and make sure they all light up. Soldering all the wires together in their black and red bunches and respectively wrap the exposed ends in black and red insulating tape. The same must be done with any exposed wire on the power lead. As I said earlier, I accidentally touched two of the exposed wires and cross-circuited them causing them to flash just in case you wonder what would happen. If you want flashing LEDs, buy flashing LEDs but don’t do it this way.
I’ve also discovered the T-8000 glue and totally enthralled by it. The glue has a blue tinge on so you can see where you’ve applied it and is touch dry in 20 minutes although they say it can take up to 12 hours to be fully solid. When you consider the nose of the Angel Interceptor would normally take elastic bands to hold in place then I can see this as a massive improvement.
Oddly, the biggest decision was what to cover the LEDs in when I was spraying. I considered insulating tape to cellotape and finally went with blu-tac. Moulding around the LEDs was easy but be careful with the micro-socket in case it falls off. The decision to paint the underside and sides first makes a lot of sense. While you’re spraying, there are only two parts left, the seat and pilot, so they can be sprayed at the same time. For what you are going to see of them both, the seat needs to be painted red.
The Angel pilot will need a touch of skin tone and hair really and a black spot on the front of the helmet because it’s too small for a Spectrum logo. All in white spray. For once there didn’t seem any point for a primer and with white paint on white plastic, I doubt if anyone will spot the difference. Allow a few hours for it to properly try before turning over. No sense rushing at this stage. I used a red Gundam Marker pen to colour her face as it should be indelible enough.
As I commented about, under studio lights, the Angel Interceptor appears a stark white but some close-ups do reveal the larger versions in the TV series had a slightly blue sheen although that could still be from a studio light so ignored that. If you chose this and bear in mind the close-ups also show various tinges for texture, probably adds a bit of realism. The lines on the model aren’t black but grey. Hope you have a steady hand because then you have the decals to put on. You would think some company would come up with the means to do decent straight lines on rounded chassis models. The lines in the model can only be used as a guide after all.
The inner side surrounding the cockpit and the tiny girder on the canopy ended up being painted with Humbrol 56 where, oddly, two coats of paint actually made it a lighter grey. With such a line, it’s inevitable that some paint will run. What I did to clean it up was to rinse a cotton bud in white spirit and dab away the excess and probably saved dabbing in white, although I did end up fixing the odd red that got off my fingers onto the model.
Be careful with the canopy, I nearly lost it twice. In the end I secured it to a helping arm with a cardboard tube under it while waiting for the paint to dry. Saying that, it’ll probably stay there until I need to stick it in place. The inner part of the cockpit is black but you’ll find it a lot easier to paint black on top of the grey.
Although little will be seen inside the cockpit, I used Humbrol 19 gloss for the orange of the seat and Revell 388 Metallic for the back of the seat and the edge of the canopy and the ridge on canopy strip. I’m mostly picking the right colours from what enamels I have to hand so don’t be afraid in your own choices. The red-tipped wings and those nacelles on either side of the air inductor on the sides ended up being Humbrol 132 Satin Red.
Going too bright with the colours at this scale tends to make it more model-like and it still has to match the red decals. Considering when the original models were made and painted in the original series, a lot of the time they even went for wall paint. Anything to make it look less like model paint. Choosing model paint is more a cost and size necessity but don’t necessarily consider going for the brightest choices if you want it to look ‘realistic’ at small sizes.
One thing the aerosol spraying revealed was a slight ridge between the two halves of the model. A little sandpapering should make that smoother and as a decal stripe is going to be covering it shouldn’t need a repaint.
I did have a problem with the Gundam Marker pens I bought in that the nibs are too big. They do do a finer version but it’ll take at least 5-10 days before they arrive from Japan via UK Amazon. The speed of delivery from Japan, even in the lockdown, has still been as fast as a delivery in the UK and will be worth the wait. Getting fine lines on any model is an art, more so when you’re working onto a mostly built model but if you do it before putting on the decals, if you go wrong or need to correct, you can do so with paint or a respray.
It took just over 3 weeks to get the Gundam Marker Sumi-Ire, Ultra Fine Type by GSI Creos, Set of 3 (Black Grey Brown GM01 GM02 GM03) pens. This time have a link so you get the right ones as this was the only way to get it unless you know better or have an open model shop near you stocking them:-
and was worth the wait and stuck to the grey pen. I do know one tool that needs to be made a selection of small straight edges to do straight lines. I lost some of the model lines in the paint and still how to improvise. Where I made mistakes, I painted over with white lines, conferring also with my ‘ITC SF Mecha Graffiti’ and the Japanese ‘Captain Scarlet/Joe 90/The Secret Service’ books the most from my collection although there are other books showing the Angel Interceptor detail. Oddly, when I took photos mid-steam, the flash obscured some of this detail but I quickly got this work done and left waiting for the paint to dry before a final inspection.
Putting decals on is always a nervous point of decisions. Which do you put on first? How long does it take to dry. Not to rush. Constant checking to photos.
I ended up putting the red line along the back of the Interceptor first, very happy that after a little soaking it eased off the backing. I kept a pair of tweezers ready but found I could do more with a wet finger. Even so, drying times can be awkward. I put a few more decals on before leaving to dry, working my way forward to the back. Always leave spaces where you can hold the model without touching the decals. It’s very weird that when you put the livery on that it starts giving the model some life.
You would think the big ‘A’ on the underside would be the one to have the least problems with. Alas, it totally disintegrated. It might have been not letting it soak enough but it should at least assure you I’m not perfect. The red decal line in front of it soaked off in sections but didn’t stay straight neither and I was already considering painting it in anyway. It does raise any interesting question why some of the straight lines, not to mention the black decals for the nose, weren’t simply left as a paint job.
If this happens to you, let the water dry naturally. Keep the photo nearby, pencil the ‘A’ shape and paint in black. The decal was an off-blue anyway, so I was contemplating painting it the right colour anyway.
Reading the reviews of Humbrol’s varnish not being satisfactory, I ended up going for Windsor & Newton’s general purpose gloss varnish. Thankfully, it doesn’t dry glossy to fix the decals but at least they won’t move in the water anymore. There is a decal fixer out there but there doesn’t appear to be an aerosol version. I’m more inclined to varnish the entire aircraft than bits of it anyway.
I’m leaving the smallest decals to last. The red triangles furthest back from the cockpit tends to be pretty obvious on all the models. The others less so and I ended up going between the various photos and even allowing for the different sized models, there are that many photos of the Angel Interceptor compared, say, to the SPV so had to made some assumptions, mostly because I didn’t think IMAI would do spares. Even so, those smallest decals need to be varnished first.
Once all of that is settled, stick the pilot into position and use some of Micro Kristal Klear to ensure the canopy didn’t cloud over with age. The first time I’ve used this. You’ll have to find your own brush to paint it on. It looks white and dries transparent. I got some on the canopy and wiped it off but suspect, when it dries, you wouldn’t see it. Then I can take the blu-tac off the lights. I have to confess I did take it off earlier to make sure everything was working and then replaced it for the finally painting and varnishing.
Around the rear afterburner, there is a black stripe and then a red stripe before it with a small red horizontal line touching them both. Probably the best original photo to see this on is when one of the Angels is ejecting. I might have made them a little wide but there are always compromises. Oh, with the underwing at the front of the plane, the rear edge should also be in black. One thing that is solely white is the front landing gear. Unlike the picture on the IMAI box, it doesn’t have a red tip. No doubt someone was thinking of symmetry.
Detailing any model means some compromises have to be made with the detail. Oddly, I was expecting complete duplication across the three sized original models and either they didn’t have the time or didn’t think anyone would notice. Certainly re-watching the series, short of freeze framing, I wouldn’t have spotted any model detail to tell them apart. The closest to their scale was probably their smallest model and I think this model kit is a little smaller than that. Back in those days, shows were lucky if they had three showings and whoever thought we would have video tapes or DVDs to watch time and again and a supply of books on the subject.
Looking at the model now, I’m wondering if I should leave it free standing or put it on the landing ramp as if on Cloudbase. I did glue on the front landing gear, something I might not do if I make another of them. It’s a snug fit and should stay in place.
If you are going to make your own version of the lit Angel Interceptor then I hope some of the above will offer good guidance. My brother suggested I could take the insulation off the wire if I wanted a snug fit in the wings and as long as any filler doesn’t contain graphite (a metallic conductor), I shouldn’t have any problems. Saying that, as I’m considering this for Thunderbird 2, I would ensure the lagging inside the fuselage is kept on to identify which wire is which and to stop any short circuits.
I had to buy a lot more equipment this time around but I suspect future models will benefit from this and be cheaper to work on. Although I think I could probably have done some of it with cheaper equipment or make do with what I’ve got, these model kits are really expensive and deserve equal attention with the right kit. Ergo, if you can afford the models then the same applies there. Personally, I would rather the price of these media model kits be a lot cheaper because it’s probably putting off kids from developing model-making as a hobby let alone experiment like I do with lighting the models.
I hope the photos show some of the work. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction when you’re completing any modified model kit and it all works out at the end. Much of the delays was caused by waiting for certain things to arrive but all goes towards learning patience and not rushing. If anything, I should be better prepared for the next model.