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Jack Mugan
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Building the Curtiss Ugly Duckling

June 27, 2014 · in Uncategorized · · 18 · 1.7K

The first 48th scale kit of this aircraft I owned years ago was an all resin kit, and the name of the manufacturer now escapes me. I know I traded it off quite a few years back. I also know the real aircraft was a real dog, and the Navy hated it for justified reasons, but there was something about the look of the plane that really hit my hot button. Remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So when brought out an injected 48th scale plastic kit with resin interiors, I knew it was time to visit this weird seaplane once again.

According to the kit fact sheet, this aircraft was named the “Reluctant Dragon” (“reluctant to take off and always dragging”) due to its poor engine performance. Designed to replace the successful SOC Seagull on battleships and cruisers, the Curtiss SO3C-1 Seamew had problems with engine cooling and stability from the beginning. After wind tunnel changes to correct some of the issues, we now have this somewhat interesting aircraft.

Only 200 were built for the US Navy, and when the navy increased its fuel requirements, it no longer could be water launched with a full fuel load. In addition, the flexing of the float in rough water allowed the propeller to slice into the top of the float, which was not acceptable. These issues along with numerous accidents resulted in a withdrawal from the fleet after just two months off service.

Kit construction was uneventful, mostly building it out of the box. The wings attached with a butt fit rather than tabs, so I installed some brass tubing just for strength. Unfortunately, they chose to mold the canopies closed and the clear pieces were fairly thick. I felt the nice resin cockpit detail needs to be seen, so vacuum formed canopies were needed. The resin rear gun came broken in the kit, and was replaced it with a metal one from my parts box. The beaching gear was a little too simple, and as I has some good reference available, a bit of scratch building was in order. The decals went down without any problems. My one complaint was the name “War Junk” was supposed to be in white rather than the red outline provided. There is no weathering done on the model, as it wasn't in service long enough to acquire much service wear and tear.

Reader reactions:
10  Awesome

4 additional images. Click to enlarge.

18 responses

  1. Quite sweet Jack, I can see why it did not need any weathering, I am suprized that they actually took into service.
    Well done Jack.

  2. Beautiful build of an "ugly" duckling, Jack...nice work.

  3. Jack you can make anything "purty". Nice work all around, particularly the finish.

  4. Quite an interesting plane. I never knew it existed! One of the things that struck me was the fillet for the fin. Instead of ending right at the cockpit entrance, they extended it onto the canopy. What did it have for power? It looks set up for a Menasco.

  5. According to the kit fact sheet it was equipped with an experimental Fairchild Ranger V-770 in-line, 12 cylinder, inverted vee air cooled engine. I read elsewhere that the aircraft that went to the British had the engine changed.

  6. Ugly but beautiful building ! great job !

  7. said on June 27, 2014

    As per usual, Jack, exquisite work with a great paint job.


  8. soooooooooooo pretty

  9. Super build - and not one I have seen built-up before. Very nice work Jack.

  10. Jack,
    This is an exceptional example of a significant airplane. You have done an exquisite job on this. I complement you on this build. I sent this kit to my mentor Stan Staples and asked him to build it for me. I felt he was the one to do it justice. Prior to him completing it he passed away and I have no idea where the kit is now. Your model compliments Stan and I thank you for it.

  11. Thanks for your kind words Frank, sorry to hear of your mentor's passing.

  12. Very beautiful model, Frank, I've really enjoyed looking at this (and reading about it).

  13. I like seaplanes - this is very nice and unusual too,

  14. It's not ugly, it's...visually challenged. Nothing they tried with an aircooled inline looked any good. But hey, everything has upturned wingtips now. Beautiful job on a hard kit. Canopies are especially good looking.

  15. Yes, looks very pretty, interesting the upturned "winglets", but nothing survives the curse of being matter how pretty. I've never heard a pilot complain of "too much power"! A freind of mine who flew for a VIP Squadron in the SAAF, commented that the Falcon 900 and the Gulfstream G III were great jets, but for one big difference. At 35 000 Ft cruise, the Falcon's throttles will be set at 98%, the Gulfstreams throttles will be just forward of idle!

  16. Jack, you should get some kind of award for the prettiest job on the ugliest aircraft. Thanks for making the OV-10 look graceful. No matter how much work it was, it was worth it ! You did a great job. I can't wait to see your wheeled version in natural metal !

  17. Wicked good model, Jack, very clean. The Coast Guard flew 45 examples of this plane in WWII, delivered as landplanes with fixed landing gear. Like the Navy, the Coast Guard flew them for 5 months and got rid of them.

  18. Floatplanes rule! Too bad this one was not up to High sea’s conditions ! It’s Kind of an attractive plane . I guess the inline engine made it look slim yet it underperformed I I would love to get this kit myself Someday .
    Thanks for showing this rare model.

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