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Monogram 1/48 C-47 to DC-3 conversion (40 posts)

  • I’ve been an aircraft mechanic for nearly 40 years now, but my early career contained all the adventure moments that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. That part included stints in general aviation, military contact and air cargo before I made the ultimate mistake and went to work for an airline. When I got back into plastic scale modeling a few years ago, I decided I wanted to try to build airplanes that I had worked on, and this will be the first one.

    This is the 1978 boxing of the Monogram C-47, to be built as the Gooney I spent the most time with, N102BL, USAAF s/n 44-76322. She started life as a C-47 in 1944 and was sold surplus and converted to DC-3 standard in 1976. Most of the military equipment was removed, the engines derated and an FAA airworthiness certificate issued, not difficult since the airplane had started life as an airliner. I’ll get into more of the story when the build is done.

    The main differences will be in the cockpit area, so this is where I am starting. Since 102 had panel mounted Collins avionics, there was no need for the radio operator or navigator’s positions, so they and the astrodome were removed. The bulkhead immediately behind the pilot’s seats was moved aft a few feet, allowing room for a jumpseat behind the pilot’s seat, right in front of the escape hatch. All the other bulkheads were removed, resulting in a slightly larger cockpit and a larger cargo area. This was not unusual – I never worked on any two DC-3’s that had the same cockpit layout.

    Using kit parts as templates, I fabricated the new bulkhead from sheet styrene and installed them on the floor. The pilot seat armrests were cut out, and the seats will get photoetch seatbelts. I’ve never used these before, so it will be a learning experience. The third seat is from the junkbox and will get repainted before installation. The instrument panel will be touched up with Airscale instrument decals, The astrodome will be removed and faired over. Not much else will go on up here, because a lot of it will be invisible through the cockpit side windows.

    So here we go…..

    2 attached images. Click to enlarge

    Tags: C-47, Dc-3, Monogram

  • Jaime, fascinating stuff! I will follow this with real interest, as I have the later airline version in the Great Pile of Ambition, as well as the original C-47 with them paratroops. I had no idea they’d derate the engines, though I can see the interior redo.
    Hey, I just love recips. I still look up when I hear one flying by.
    You could (as one of the IPMS guys said to a friend) open the cockpit door on the side of the nose, though I’ve never seen that done on a model. And not much in photos of “old bucket seats”, either

  • Bernard, I guess I shouldn’t have said derate. 102 had Pratt and Whitney R-1830-90 engines, which were originally equipped with 2-stage superchargers. The extra boost wasn’t needed in civilian applications, and also had a tendency to crack cylinders, so an airworthiness directive was issued by the FAA to deactivate the high blower setting. The engines were still rated at 1200 HP at sea level, but this could vary widely depending on field elevation, temperature and condition of the engine.

    All the hydraulic things that motivate a Gooney are located behind the copilot’s seat. These include the hydraulic reservoir, the distribution, shutoff and pressure relief valves, and all the plumbing that goes with it. On many DC-3’s and C-47’s, especially those that carried passengers or were used as VIP transports, the hydraulics were usually covered with some type of trim panel. On the military and cargo airplanes, it’s all out in the open in full 5606 (the mil spec number for the hydraulic fluid, which is red) coated glory for everyone to see.

    102’s hydraulic innards were in full view, so I decided to duplicate them, as they can be seen through the open cockpit windows. The original idea was to scratchbuild the whole lot, but while rummaging through the junkbox, I found a piece of an engine from some long forgotten model that looked remarkably like what I wanted it to, so after a bit of cutting, piecing cleanup and some repainting, I got the result seen here. It’s not totally accurate by any means, but it does convey the look I wanted and it’s pretty close to what the real thing would look like viewed standing outside the airplane looking in. A small piece of clear sprue to simulate the quantity sight glass finished it off.

    I wasn’t happy with the original part I found for the jumpseat (a little flat and two dimensional), so some more rummaging came up with something a bit better. I cut the back off the original seat, grafting it to the new one to get the headrest. One of the kit radio boxes was hacked off and made into the seat base. Last touch was to use another of the kit radios to replicate the avionics rack on the right side by the cockpit door. The mock up is seen in the photo. Since 102 served in both the Army Air Corps and the USAF, the interior colors were a mix of both, with the floor being somewhat interior green where the paint wasn’t worn away by forty years of traffic, and the rest of the cockpit in dark gull gray. The cargo compartment will be in bare metal, but this model will have the cargo doors closed, so no further work will be done there, mainly because there’s really nothing in there to see!

    1 attached image.

  • Be watchin’ this one with interest, Jaime. By the way, Bernie…if ya ever want another platoon of paratroopers, lemme know – (I still got ’em biouvaced in the “figures holding area” (never used ’em).

  • I, too, will have an unneeded complement of pooper troopers, so if anyone needs any, please let me know. Along those lines, I could use a pair of the later paddle blade props. If anyone reading this has a set they could part with, please let me know. I’d be happy to work something out. I think those props can be had from the Monogram AC-47 and B-17 kits.

    First try with the photoetch seatbelts was a little frustrating. Too many small parts and I couldn’t get them to bend over the seatbacks like I wanted. They’ll look ok, but I think I’ll try the self adhesive fabric ones next time, or return to my tried and true method of scratching them from masking tape. The molded on painted ones on the jumpseat look just as good!

  • Thanks, Craig! That’s kind of you.
    Jaime, makes sense they wouldn’t need them superchargers for commercial application. I have this photobook on Alaskan non-sked use by recips, Reeve and folks like that. Real interesting, seeing older propjobs still earning their keep in real tough conditions. C-46, Electra, Dc-6/7.

  • A little more work done in the cockpit. Seats are done, and I learned the hard way to bend the photoetch before you install it instead of trying to do it after. I messed up one set of harnesses on the copilot’s side, but managed to salvage most of it. I don’t think it will look too bad after it’s installed in the fuselage. Added one more radio rack to fill in some space opposite the jumpseat. This cockpit is going together mainly from memory, since I never had a camera handy while working, as holding a camera and wrenches sometimes is just not possible. The instrument panel has been painted and gloss coated in prep for the instrument decals that will go on.

    The fuselage shot is to show the locations of two components not normally seen. The two white gauges are for hydraulic pressure – one for system pressure, the other for the landing gear. The gauges had art deco faces and looked more like they belonged in a steam locomotive than in an airplane. And yes, they were white! Just behind them are the cowl flap controls, which are also hydraulic.

    2 attached images. Click to enlarge

  • The cockpit is just about done now. I modified the hydraulic panel a bit after looking at photos to refresh my memory and I’m happier now with the way it looks. The control columns are in, and I added the landing gear and flap handles next to the copilot’s seat, and the landing gear latch lever on the pilot’s side. The latch lever is red on the real thing, though the gear and flap handles were painted red on this model simply for visibility.

    In the middle of putting Airscale decals on the instrument panel. They make a world of difference, but are microscopic and a pain the empennage to install! A magnifier is a must. I found it’s easier to do them in multiples of three or four, because the water from subsequent decals tends to float the first one off the panel. After I get a few on, I hit them with setting solution, then walk away to let them dry. I’m about halfway through the process.

    The astrodome mount on the upper fuselage was dremeled off and a plug made from sheet styrene. Fuselage fit is somewhat less than stellar….

    2 attached images. Click to enlarge

  • Cockpit is now complete and ready to install. Adding all those itty bitty decals to the instrument panel came out really nice, but is all for naught as none of it will be visible without a light once the fuselage is assembled. As they say, I know it’s there…

    Side windows are in, and the cargo door was glued into place, using some sheet stock to cover the gaps and help secure the door in place. I finally broke the nose pitot tubes off, will have to add them back once the model is finished.

  • Fuselage has been glued together. As expected, all of the cockpit pretty much vanishes from sight when everything is closed up. Fit was not very good at all, there will be a lot of putty on this one. The pointed DC-3 type tail cone was not installed on this aircraft, as 102 had the flat cutout between the elevators where the tail position and formation lights were located. Behind this would have been the fittings for glider towing. A razor saw and some scrap plastic stock took care of this area.

    Outer wing panels have been assembled, still a bit of work to do on the center section before it’s ready to go.

  • Been a while since I was able to work on this one. Engines are painted and have been installed in their nacelles. Outer wing panels are ready to mate with the center section after a bit more detail work. One disappointing omission was the oil tanks, which are installed in the nacelles just aft of the firewalls and are very prominent in the wheel wells. Would anyone happen to have a spare 1/32 P-51 coolant tank they can part with? It’s about the right size for this application.

  • More photos!

  • Working on it, Bryan. The holidays put a big crimp in the model building!

  • Jaime, AMS question- where would some nut find pictures of the landing gear bay(s) of a Gooney Bird? Saw your comment about the oil tank. Sorry I don’t have one to give you.

  • Thanks for sharing your Gooney bird build, I had this kit when Monogram first produced it, I was going to convert it into an AC-47 gunship back then. Got started but never finished it and since lost the whole project over the years. Now fast forward Revell has since repopped it as an AC-47, DC-3 and the original C-47. I have the AC kit, so I will follow your WIP. As I follow along your project.