Mach 2 Republic RC-3 Seabee
There are certain kit manufacturers out there whose products challenge the modeller more than most. For modeller's of vacuforms, Combat models must head the list for great subjects, poor execution, virtually never built. In the world of injection-moulded kits, France's Mach 2 must lie at or near the top. Their subject matter is eclectic, but includes many highly sought-after types. You rarely ever see a finished Mach 2 kit. There are reasons for this- in ten years of turning out limited run kits, Mach 2 have yet to mould a canopy that didn't resemble the bottom of a Coke bottle. Matching halves- who needs 'em?! Detailed instructions- leave those for beginners! This is not to say that Mach 2 kits are unbuildable- however they demand a great deal of work to be completed to a reasonable standard. If you look at the improvements in quality other limited run manufacturers have made in shorter periods of time, it seems Mach 2 could take a few lessons from the Eastern Europeans.
So what do you get for your £12.75? A brightly coloured box with a sturdy base and flimsy lid, the inside of which contains pictures of the box art of some of Mach 2's other tempting releases. Inside, about 40 parts, moulded in a light green, soft, waxy styrene. All the parts have a coarse texture to them. The single "clear" part is a canopy incorporating the cabin roof and all the side windows. While this bodes well for being able to neatly fair the part into the fuselage, the windows are up to Mach 2 usual standard. They are thick, uneven, distorted, and only barely translucent.
Where appropriate, the parts feature recessed panel lines, though strangely there is no demarcation for the flap and aileron hinges on the wings. Raised corrugation detail is present on all the flying surfaces. I thought this was a little heavy, and could stand rubbing down. Large ejector pin stubs are present inside many of the parts. Small details are fairly crude- the instrument panel is very softly detailed, and the engine intake grille is indistinct.
Instructions consist of a single side of one A4 sheet, with exploded view diagrams showing some of parts, plus partial painting and decal placement guides for the three schemes on the decal sheet. These include a French aircraft in Indochina in the late forties, which carries French roundels, a French Overseas (Outre-Mer) civil registration (F-OABR), and an American civil registration (N....) on the tail. Full markings for this scheme are provided, including two sets of wing registrations, although no indication is given to the placement or orientation of any markings on the underside of the wing. A second set of N numbers are provided for a US civil scheme, while the final scheme is for an Israeli Seabee in sand and navy blue camouflage. Only the large white aircraft numbers for this scheme are provided- Stars of David will have to come from the spares box. The decals are printed with a matt finish, and look somewhat thick, particularly given the corrugated surface texture they will be applied over.
Rather than be predictable, I chose not to start with the interior, and instead started assembling some of the parts split in halves. These included the outrigger floats, the wing, and the engine nacelle. All matched reasonably well. Take care to mount the rear engine bulkhead/prop mount from the inside of the nacelle- I didn't and needed to carve a hole in the bottom of the nacelle to install this later. The nacelle is missing hinge and latch detail, as well as a pair of exhaust openings. The intake grill is provided as a very shallow moulding, with poorly defined bars. I chose to replace this with a scratchbuilt part later in construction.
The interior consists of a floor and rear bulkhead, four seats with some detail on their backs, and instrument panel and coaming, a large control wheel, and what appears to be a joystick. Before I say anything else- the one-piece cockpit transparency is so thick and distorted, anything more than a token effort to improve the interior is unlikely to be worthwhile. Despite this, I chose to do a little work, adding seatbelts, an instrument panel that looked more like a typical early civilian example, and a dual control yoke with new control wheels from wire. I'm a bit baffled by the presence of the control stick as well as the wheel- anyone out there have any idea what this is supposed to be? The instructions note that the instrument coaming must be cut down to fit- I believe the kit part is moulded correctly, however the thickness of the transparency means that the coaming must be mounted below the top edge of the fuselage moulding. The inaccuracy of this was evident when my smaller control wheels still fouled on the seats. Everything was painted a dark maroon, to simulate a vinyl, car-like interior, then the fuselage halves were glued together.
I sanded the canopy with some 1000 grit paper, polished with rubbing compound, toothpaste and car way, then repeated dipped it in future. After this, it still is about as translucent as waxed paper. Anyone hoping to turn out a contest model would have to consider vacuforming a replacement. The one-piece design makes it easier to fair into the fuselage, however I still found mismatches in the width of the canopy and the fuselage. I also needed to sand the back edge of the canopy to get the front to align. Having checked out some photos of the real thing, it was evident that the trailing edge of the wing should mount even with the back of the cabin. This necessitated trimming the mounting tab on the top of the fuselage and filing the canopy to match the leading edge of the wing. With the alignment of everything looking okay, loads of superglue was used to get it all held together.
Before adding the engine nacelle, I tackled the seams around the fuselage to wing joint. For the most part, scraps of plastic and sprue were used to bridge the large gaps. Sanding these down was tricky- the plastic in the kit has a strange consistency, and does not sand very well. When I added the nacelle, I used miliput to fair it into the upper wing, smoothing the seam and removing excess with a wet toothpick.
At this stage, I added the wing struts. These need loads of cleanup, and care to ensure they mount clear of the outrigger bracing struts and main gear pivot points. The Seabee drawings from the SeaWings site proved very helpful for this task. I left off the outriggers and bracing struts until after painting.
My first attempt to mount the tailplanes ended up with the classic limited run kit swept back look. Note that the corrugations should run straight fore and aft, parallel to the aircraft centreline. I subsequently reattached them in a more appropriate position.
Prior to painting, all the parts required a rubbing down with fine wet and dry sandpaper to remove the 'texture'. Due to the ribbing on the wings and empennage, this was not possible. All ribbed parts were sanded down slightly, to reduce the prominence of the corrugations.
After masking the windows, I sprayed a coat of the interior maroon over the exposed clear areas. This was followed by a primer coat over all components. I chose to model the French Indochina based example, though I have no documentation for this beyond the box art and instructions. The colour scheme is aluminum overall, except for the underside of the hull, the floats, and two strips along each side of fuselage, which are in green. The exact shade wasn't specified, so I selected one more or less at random from my paint collection. The rudder was painted in French national colours. I sprayed the green undersides and white for the rudder first, then masked these off and sprayed a coat of gloss light grey to act as an undercoat for the metallic finish. This was sprayed with Humbrol flat aluminium Metalcote. Once dry this was overcoat with clear gloss, as the metallic finish is very fragile, and does not stand up to handling. The masking on the underside and rudder was removed, and the red and blue area of the rudder sprayed. The green stripes/ribs along the sides were hand painted, with any mistakes carefully cleaned up with a sharpened toothpick.
I didn't hold out much hope for the decals, however I was pleasantly surprised. With the aid of loads of Klear (Future), the roundels settled down well over the wing ribs. I carefully cut apart the wing serials, and applied them letter by letter. They are very thin, though this gives a nice washed out look on the finished article. The fuselage roundels need to be applied over top of the pair of prominent ridges. I couldn't see how to get the decals to conform to this, and ended up cutting apart two roundels, and hand painting the centre sections across the ribs. The final effect is not great, but looks fine from a stand-off distance. I chickened out on the underwing serials- partly because I had no indication of placement or orientation, and partly because the floats and struts would have interfered.
Some of the additional details were added at this stage. For the maingear struts, I beefed them up with a wrapping of lead foil, and added torque links from thin sheet plastic (is this what the small v-shaped bits not shown on the instructions are for?) The wheels are poor but usable. The depth of the areas between the spokes is uneven- some are heavily recessed, others barely indicated. The prop is moulded in a tractor configuration, and the blades are very heavy. I whittled the kit part down, and then cut the blades from the hub and mounted them so that the leading edge of each blade was at the front of the plane (i.e. the back of the prop- confusing enough?) The braces for the tip floats in the kit were replaced with plastic rod.
I installed most of the remaining bits prior to a coat of Aeromaster clear flat. Final touches were a mooring point on the extreme nose, and wire aerials, running from the wingtips to the leading edge of the vertical stabiliser, and from the cabin the middle of the lefthand wire. These were done with invisible sewing thread, painted black.
Are you desperate to have a 1:72 Seabee in your collection? Are you willing to overlook transparencies that aren't transparent? If so, then perhaps I can recommend this kit to you. The end result looks nice enough from a distance, but the price seems high for the quality of the product. It certainly is buildable, and given Mach 2's reputation amongst modellers, you can be sure that if you build one, it will be almost unique wherever it goes. Beyond the kit decals, there are endless civil schemes that could be applied. Given the rarity of any sort of general aviation aircraft in this scale, perhaps Mach 2 should be applauded, just very quietly.
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Last updated 4 February, 2002