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Heavenly slow speeder: The Polikarpov U-2/Po-2 family. Part I.

The kit. KP’ s 1/72nd Po-2.

Going back to the early nineties, KP kits started flowing into Argentina’s modelling market as the spearhead of later Czech brands. Its range went from obscure, lesser known fighters and bombers from the interwar period to a very complete saga of soviet aerial equipment. At a point being, KP was the only game in town in terms of price and accuracy. Whilst the soft, shiny white plastic was easy to work with, flash was an issue and mismatched wheel sets were commonplace. On the other hand their basic interiors were a nice starting point, but new decals and sometimes clear parts had to be scrounged for. The Po-2 kit is nice but lacking a defined version. Both liaison and LNB versions can be built but the lower right wing lacks the cutout at its root and the machine gun looks like a mixture between a DA and a ShKas. The engine looks a tad small but the propeller is ok for a mid to end of the line machine. The new ICM kits are beautiful but they lack the twin upper exhaust and the prewar type of propeller turns in the wrong way. By fixing these errors and mixing and matching propellers and cutouts you can build pretty much every two-seater version of the Kukuruznik.

The South Front Decals joyride.

For many a long time I wanted to build a host of Kukuruznik because of their pre war deeds as civilian trainers, aerial ambulances and special flights such as cropdusting or polar rescue parties. But with decals lacking it put me off till I found South Front Decals massive selection of machines, both civilian and military. Seeing and buying was all but one matter of fact. You get seventy five colour options with eight bonus ones, for a grand total of eighty-three trainers, bombers, liaisons, ambulances, limousines and sundry, drab coloured, slug slow biplanes. Three big decal sheets and two small addendums are included in the bag and their execution is superb, as we all have come to expect from Begemot. Bright reds, nice yellows and even silver edged badges are included besides a vast host of different styles of stars, numbers and one and a half sheets of black and white letters and numbers. The carrier is glossy and soft but more on that later. All in all, a win-win situation.

I was lucky enough to find on the Internet pictures of option 52, that of CCCP-C138, one of the first U-2 produced at GAZ-23 in Leningrad, first introduced to duties in Gatchina airfield during 1932-1933 while the phase out of the venerable U-1 Avrushka took place. The early series U-2 had some external and internal differences with their latter, more standardized brethren and we'll see to them properly on the following paragraph.

Building an early series U-2.

The most important features of early machines were a rounded exhaust collector and a two-piece, V shaped windscreen for each cockpit. Two large Venturi tubes are to be added to the right side of the fuselage and a gauge to the left hand vertical cabane strut. Painting of the interior for the period was achieved by a base coat of Humbrol’s H-63 Yellow Ochre followed by a wood effect by streaking with Faber Castell’s brown pencils and satin Revell varnish. Later on the  production run interiors were coated with silver paint until the introduction of grey cockpit lackers in the middle thirties. Instrument panels, seats and controls were painted gloss black and picked out with H-27 Blue Gray for a slightly used look. Fit of the fuselage was made good by gently fitting both halves around the fuselage floor and using small clamps until the glue set. You have to be careful with the lower wing to fuselage joint since the latter sits on top of the center surface of the one piece wing. Once sanding and filling of all the seams is completed – and not really a hard work despite the mold’s age – the undercarriage was tackled next. The rounded, open fittings for the spread bar were filed and sanded to a minimum since the original strutting sat on the axle. Once you've glued and made true the undercarriage it eases a lot handling the model and checking the way the wing struts and stabilizers seat against their sockets. The one piece stabilizer rests against the cutout atop the rear fuselage and should not be filled since it could be trimmed both in flight and on the ground. Glue the rudder to the fin after carefully cleaning the piece so as to keep the shape of it and move over to the upper wing and cabane struts. KP provides generous sockets into the pieces so it's fairly easy to settle the upper wing. An advisory word on the latter: some central sections come with a little extra plastic flash on the upper surface so you should take care of it by slowly scoring away the excess and sanding with a fine grit paper. Glue the cabane struts to the fuselage. The gauge attached to the left side strut was cut from different lengths of stretched sprue and metal foil. Attach all of the action arms to the flying surfaces and fuselage since you're to achieve a better bonding prior to painting. A few holes are to be drilled for the flying wires. Leave the upper wing, engine and sundry little bits apart to ease painting.

Early Polikarpov U-2s carried on the colour scheme of their forerunners, the U-1 built on the base of the Avro 504. Early Russian and Soviet aviation colours may seem troubling to pinpoint but thanks to Massimo Tessitori’s web site on Soviet aviation there's a fair idea on what they looked like. Humbrol’s aptly named Russian Dark Green (114) and Blue Grey (115) are excellent matches for the colours used before 1937. They were brushed on in several thin layers and worked quite well.

South Front decals worked remarkably well over and under Humbrol's Gloss and Satin Coats. They weren't treated with setting solutions at all but it might be useful with some more convoluted schemes.

The base was built following the last picture of C138 being tugged out of a hangar.

MiG's Smoke, Rust and Fresh Engine Oil were used for the Shvetsov M-11 and sundry worn paint and stains effects. A silver Faber-Castell pencil provided a very controlable way of chipping any metal areas. Wiring was done with Aeroclub's monofilament. After that, the U-2 was glued to the base and that was it. Here's the finished thing.

After some three years and two months, I finally managed to finish an article. And a model kit. More over, of a subject very dear to me at that. With a little luck and provided fair winds keep blowing this way, it won't take that long for the next installment. Always remember the main aim of this hobby: to relax and have a nice time. Life can give you some bitter oranges to chew upon sometimes, but it's up to one how many of them do we stand before moving onto the  sweet ones. You never know, maybe they even got cropdusted by a Kukuruznik.

Until the next time, good luck and Merry Christmas.

The Modeling Underdog.


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