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Friday, January 9, 2015

Northrop Delta (1/72 scale Williams Bros Gamma Esoteric Models conversion)

(This is the step-by-step article, for the completed model please go here on this same blog:

I have been always fond of this Humpty-Dumpty plane.
Many years ago, Mr. Jim Puget-Schubertingson kindly sent a reasonable amount of printed references as a starting point.
Years went by and no manufacturer would release a model of it, so plan B it was.
Thanks to two good friends and fellow modelers, the above-mentioned Schubert-San and Lars The Abominable Styrene Man from Alaska, I got an Esoteric "Body Job" vacuformed set that is meant to be used with the Williams Bros. Northrop Gamma kit. I know, it sounds like "Tyrannosaurus meets Triceratops", two old, outdated dinosaurs tangled to produce a stumpy little transport.
The Esoteric partial conversion kit depicts a Northrop Delta 1D, that is the version with the "roundish" top and not the one that looks more like a Lockheed Orion. That's kind of a drag, because the candidates I had in mind were AerovĂ­as Centrales S.A. of Mexico, or perhaps a TWA machine. As it is, I could go with The Richfield Eagle, the Honeywell Delta - but I'd have to modify a bit the windshield- or the Ellsworth Antarctic Expedition (modifying it to adapt the skis). These candidates are not indeed very colorful, but the other potential candidates are utterly boring. Of the three, the first two belonged to big corporations, the first one to an oil company; so may be it is not such a loss that those planes will not be the chosen ones, since I have very little appreciation for big corp in general, and the oil industry in particular.
The Esoteric Models conversion is very old, and it is after all something meant to help modelers to have a replica of the Delta, conspicuously absent from the market otherwise, so it is kind of unfair that one would criticize it. Let me, then, be unfair, and say that it is quite bad. It is very crude, the molding is indistinct, the wing karmans have a too prominent edge, the stab fairings are overdone, the cowl stretches the styrene into a thin film at it's front, the location for the stabilizer halves is a deformed blob, the fuselage nose again has a too prominent edge, and the instructions don't instruct and do not include a 1/72 drawing of the parts. Oh, forgot to mention that the windows and door are inaccurately located, by quite a bit. Any good news? well, the outline matches quite well the plans I have. It had decals for the Coast Guard, but I relinquished them. So why or how is this conversion useful? I am still hoping to find out, but the said hopes become lower and lower as I acquaint myself with it.
The Esoteric "Body Job" conversion is very simple: one vacuformed styrene sheet with two fuselage sides, a -marred- cowl, and the fin/rudder also -and predictably- in two halves. I have nothing against the Coast Guard, but I rather build a civil plane.
There is no interior whatsoever, no engine, no clear parts, no prop, etc. Depending on what you are building you may use components from the William Bros. Gamma, but consult references, since engines and props and other bits (not to mention interiors) were very variable. And since you are at it, check the windows and accesses, that also varied greatly from plane to plane and even at different times for the same plane.
Now go and get a W. Bros Northrop Gamma if you have this conversion, if that's not the case...good luck. Alternatively you may want to wait until I finish this laborious conversion at which point a kit is very likely to hit the market.
Here the contents of the Esoteric conversion minus decal sheet:
 The styrene:
 The William Brothers Northrop Gamma kit. Have been around since the times of the Pre-Socratics:
 More W. Bros bits:
 Nice decal sheet, by the way, but useless for this conversion:

 The Esoteric parts are separated from the backing sheet in a matter of minutes:
 The predictably doomed (and not domed) cowl that is molecules-thin at the front for excessive vacuform stretching:
 As you can tell on this side view:
 The cowl front (at the extreme left) is filled with epoxy, to be able to confer to it more rigidity and sand the blemishes hopefully without destroying it. To its right alternates from the spare box are tested just in case:
A view of the inside of the cowl:
 And the outside, showing how effective the epoxy was in avoiding losing the cowl:
New locations for door and windows are marked and cut out. The kit's are wrongly positioned.
Beware also that there were variations from plane to plane. Ellsworth's plane had some windows blanked out:
The only parts of the Gamma I will be using for this endeavor. Since Ellsworth plane was equipped most of the time with skis, no landing gear is necessary, and since this plane had ailerons, no "park bench" ailerons are needed either. Ailerons and flaps will have to be marked on the wing. Toying at the moment with the idea of lowering the flaps, will see...:
 As you can see one of the sides of the pantaloons was short-molded, and will have to be reconstructed. The lower sections of these parts will be transformed to reflect the changes in shape that the use of skis imposed:
 Here is a view of some components already glued together, like wheel pant halves, rudder halves, and the wing halves. I cut the flaps off and engraved the ailerons. The wing surface detail is of the old raised type. The halves' match is not really good and some areas have to be worked. All openings on the fuselage have been cut at this stage:
The structural elements of the fuselage interior are cut. The landing gear trousers are chopped and then given some styrene pieces for later re-shaping, I saw this adaptation of the LG in an Internet article by a fellow modeler about the conversion of the Northrop Gamma for skis. The additional fuel tanks this plane carried are also fashioned. As with any conversion that implies a certain amount of scratch-building (and head-scratching) there is a lot of work involved, but also a lot of fun:
The rudder provided in the kit is inaccurate, so I cut a sliver at its trailing edge and added some styrene sheet that will be later on reshaped. New parts (more bulkheads and inst. panel) are seen and construction progresses:
The wing's lights recesses are filled, the ailerons engraved. The fairing or reinforcement that runs forth-back at mid-wing will be removed, since I found none on photos of the Delta. :
Some dry-fitting:

The kit's vertical stabilizer after "elongation":
 The fuselage halves are glued together with the interior already painted and detailed. The level of detail is sufficient, but basic given that the kits themselves are not highly detailed. Since windows are kind of small, the door will be left open to add some interest.
As it can be seen, I did not add windows on the cockpit roof, since they were absent from this plane (but present in others). The seam at the middle will be eventually partially covered about the length of the cabin by a half-round protruding conduit of some sort:
The wing is glued to the fuselage, the areas where the stabilizers go have been removed since they were crude:
 The gaps are blanked with styrene sheet cut to shape:
 The very tip of the fuselage is cut off, since again it was incorrectly molded, and a new tip is made from styrene rod and glued in place, later to be contoured:
 The fin/rudder is glued in place:
 Skis are fashioned from layers of styrene sheet and popsicle wood sticks, still needing refinement:
At this point, both, you and me, have realized that if it may be possible to build a model from the conversion fuselage as it is -without mods-, a good one perhaps it will be not. And all the work the conversion "kit" needs to better it that I am doing, makes the prospect of just carving a fuselage for the conversion yourself very tempting:
Details are added to the wing's intrados:
 Also to the extrados. Notice the conduit on fuselage top, and the temporary removal of the vertical stabilizer to add the stab fillets:
The wheel pants have been glued to the wing; the cowl exhaust openings were drilled; the set of skis is ready, and other small details continue to be added, like air scoops and carb intake. As you can see I decided that I will use the Aeroclub white metal engine, instead of the Small Stuff resin wonder engine. The Small Stuff engine is very well detailed, and this conversion components, even with all the work invested, would probably not make justice to it. The whole point of this model was to use that engine, but I am sure I'll find a suitable home for it:
The vertical and horizontal stabs are glued in place, a prop is fashioned with parts from the spares box:

I have used for the last years Papilio decal paper, with good results. BUT, the last batch (inkjet clear) I bought had to be returned because it was defective having a granulated pitted surface. The company honored the return and sent for free a new batch, but the replacement ream has also issues. As you can see in the photo the decal top layer peels off or wrinkles. Now, I am not going through the rigmarole of returning AGAIN a defective batch, instead, I thought I make it clear what I feel. The film unfortunately is noticeably thicker than in previous batches. I have contacted Papilio (not seeking any kind of compensation or return, just to let them know) who replied to my mail asking for some information. I sent them photos, receipts, comments about the unusable ream of decal paper. I have a conference call with one of the managers coming soon, will see what happens.

 Ready to prime:
 Alclad grey primer applied:
A base coat of gloss black is airbrushed. Do no forget the loose parts:
Alclad in different flavors is airbrushed:
Some smaller parts prepared:
 The model is prepared for a gloss coat before decal application:
Decaling begins. Noticed those three red "blisters" on the right fuselage side, two of them on the blanked-out windows, present in photos and apparently associated with the extra fuel tanks and their filling caps:
The addition of details seems to go for a time:

The finished model post is here:


  1. Have at it, Friend! I have passed this cup from me.

    -Lars, not pre-Socrates (& remembering when the Gamma kit was new...)

  2. You could also just carve a fuselage and vertical tail to substitute for the vac fuselage.

    jim, also not pre-Socratic and remembering when….

    1. Dear Jim
      Ans miss all that fun?
      P/S: and don't be a show off, nobody can remember that far behind in time.

  3. I can hear the molds being milled for the injection molded kit as I read!

  4. I see the secret of your success. No knight should dragon wrestle without the magic,mystical and paintstained clothes peg. If you had any of the traditional "dolly pegs" you could have carved the fuselage- now that would be esoteric. Fabulous job so far. I always thought socrates was a drunken mispelling
    of 50crates.