Inspired by Lyle Vasser and Steve Forest’s success flying their Top Flite P-51 Mustangs together, a friend and I decided to put together two Top Flite FW-190’’s. It would not look good to have two nearly identical ARF’s flying around together, nor would it help in identifying which plane you were flying. The plan was put together and it was decided that I would build both aircraft and scale them out to paint schemes of our choosing. Some of our goals would be:
Use “Best Pilots” Gunther Rall figures in both aircraft, Change the schemes to something that looked good and was distinctive, and scale them out as much as possible while retaining the stock MonoKote base.
Since there are many threads about the building of the FW-190’s, I will concentrate on the techniques and products used to improve the appearance, making them worthwhile homes to the excellent Best Pilots figures.
The first figure is of Gunther Rall, as Received from Best Pilots pre-painted. The other figure is from Best Pilots, but is a representation of the FW-190’s owner using the “That’s my Face” option offered by Lyle. We’ll call him “Von Owen.” He came pre-painted as well, but I elected to change his jacket to leather with sheepskin collar to make him a bit more distinctive. Not only does it look just like him, but it’s a younger version as well making it more representative of a pilot who would have flown in WW2.
Let’s start off the build. First thing that needed some help was the tailwheel. The Robart tailwheel offered does not look very scale. We elected to use a 1/5 scale FW-190 unit offered from Sierra Giant Scale. It took some modification, but in the end it looks much more scale and has the added benefit of being taller when down. In combination with the larger wheel, it should make the planes ground handle much better.
I then cut out an opening and mounted some hardware that holds the two screws. In the photo below you can see the opening that will allow the allen screws to be inserted into the top of the tailwheel piston.
Two pieces were made, one for the mount up in the rudder, the other for the front of the tailwheel. Below is a photo of the items I made that got the job done.
I glued the front spacer in place and used a screw to help anchor it to the former. Once the mount was installed I but the balsa sheeting back in place. I glued it all together with the hope that I will never need to get up in there. The final product is a tailwheel that retracts much like the original, and has a much better scale look than the Robart version.
Choose a subject
First step is to find the scheme you want to use and develop a plan to replicate it. The Top Flite 190 is considered an A3, but can do a fair job on the models up through A7. A8 has the distinctive Gun hood that would be tough to do without a lot of work. I decided to do my plane in a scheme used by Sigfried Schnel (FW190A4), and my friend picked a scheme used by Anton Hackl (FW190A6). I ordered Graphics from Callie Graphics that worked great and were very accurate. I highly recommend her products, and she has a wide variety of schemes. Neither of the schemes we picked were shown on her site, but she had no problem replicating them.
Before painting, I added some scale panels to the planes. I like to use aluminum ducting tape to cut out various panels. Rivets and hinge details can be easily impressed into the aluminum prior to peeling and sticking them on. The adhesive is very strong, so there are no worries about it ever coming off. Look at some panel documentation and duplicate the access panels for the scheme you picked.
I would draw out the items and cut them out with scissors. When applying to the film covered balsa, I would add the rivets and details before sticking them. On the cowl and canopy, you can add the details after you apply them. Use sharpened small brass tubes to create various size screws or rivets.
A ball point pen does a good job of etching hinges or access latches. I painted them Gray before applying to the plane. I found some gray primer that closely matches the stock gray MonoKote color. Here’s a photo showing one of the hatch details after it’s applied. It’s not easy to see, but will be more noticeable once some weathering is done during the final detailing stages.
Both schemes we picked use the common three base colors, RLM74 Green-Gray, RLM75 Violet-Gray, RLM76 Lt Blue-Gray. The Green MonoKote is not too far from RLM74. The Gray color on the bottom is missing some blue content, but in the interest of keeping it simple I did not change it. Violet-Gray, RLM75 needs to be added.
I first matched the MonoKote Green color using some Testors paints. It took a bit of blending, adding some Gray and white to Dark Green, but I was able to match it even better than the stock paint on the cowl. I then used the green to blend the edge of the monoKote where it meets up with the gray.
I used some Testors Gray Violet with my airbrush to add that color to the Wing and vertical Stab as well.
Here I am blending the green as well as adding the splotches that were part of my scheme. I used an extra fine sanding sponge to rough up the MonoKote a bit prior to painting to help adhesion.
I also used the airbrush to add the Violet-Gray color to the Horizontal Stab and wing. My friends Hackle scheme does not have the Eagle on the side of the plane, so I removed the stock Eagle and re-covered with the correct colored MonoKote. A bit of black and gray mixed together is airbrushed on to give the look of exhaust staining that was common on the 190’s.
Here you can see the green, Violet, and the black exhaust staining.
Next step is to add the colors needed. The Hackle scheme has a white tail with yellow band around the fuse, while the Schnel scheme has a yellow rudder with a Violet-Gray band around the tail. I also sanded and re-painted the cowls as needed to better match the schemes we had chosen. Once the main colors are added I moved to the panel lines. I used a silver sharpie and a black fine line sharpie. First I would apply the Silver, than go over it with the black to get a bit of “3D” affect.
Once the lines are drawn on, us the airbrush with some black/Gray to highlight the lines. The best place to practice your technique is on the bottom of the wing.
Keep the paint level low and make sure you’re not getting a sputtering. You need a nice smooth paint flow to get the right affect. Most 190’s have dashed lines on the wings showing the no-walk areas. Hackle’s plane had black lines, while Schel’s used gray. I masked off the lines and painted them on. 2mm X 4mm dashes are correct since the full size plane used 10mm X 20mm. It’s a time consuming process, but added much to the wing. I laid down tape to give the 2mm stripe, then cut 4mm strips to make the dashes. Use the airbrush to lightly paint to minimize the paint running under the tape edge.
Now you can add the graphics. They can be put on wet with a soapy water solution to aid in positioning. If you put them on dry, you only get one shot. Instructions come with the graphics.
Once the wing is painted and graphics applied you can add a bit of wash affect. You must be careful, or you’ll run some of the dashes or panel lines. You can first spray on some clear to help. Testors Model Master dull coat makes the wing look very good. Use a paper towel to very with a bit of Black and gray paint to make very light streaks in the direction of the airflow. The final affect looks much more realistic than the typical film covered wing.
I added some rivet detail using the silver sharpie on the front armor plate. The FW-190 had some distinctive large headed fasteners in this area. In some cases you may want to run the panel lines over the graphics, in others not. Here’s the side of the Schnel fuse showing this affect.
The standard “guns” provided are OK, but with a little work they can look much better. The inside wing cannons are fine as is, but I modified the outside cannons and the guns on the cowl. Using a lathe, I shaved them down to look close to the real guns. Research on line to get a reasonable profile for what you should try to achieve. Once I turned the Cowl guns, I cut some holes into my aluminum tape to make the heat shields. Stick them on and paint the guns black or gunmetal.
Here you can see the gun in the center has been cut with the lathe. The gun on the bottom has the guard added and has been painted.
The outboard Cannons on the A4 had a bit of shape to them as well, so I made some modifications to them too (not shown).
Add a bit of gun wash in front, and the effect is complete.
I mounted the guns using Zap Goo, a silicone type adhesive. I would recommend it to mount most things, since it is not going to come loose due to vibration. I even used it on the wing gun blisters. I first stripped off the covering under the blister, then mounted it with Zap goo. Epoxy works too, but can crack due to vibration over time.
All FW190 control surfaces had bendable trim tabs. I used some thin plastic cut to shape, then made a groove using and X-acto knife. Make sure you widen the groove enough to take the plastic without forcing the balsa apart. I then glued them on with CA. Paint them red, add some dotted lines to represent the openings (allowed fabric to be wrapped under the trim tab on the real plane). The decals provided with the Top Flite kit are red, so they won’t work. I made my own with a decal kit.
My goal is to use the provided cockpit kit, but make it look decent enough that the Best Pilots will not looked overdressed or “too good.” The color the stock kit comes painted is not too far off. To add realism, use some other gray colors and an airbrush to add some affect. Some shading and a bit of scuffing around the wear areas also helps. Use the silver sharpie to add some silver at high wear points and on rivets where they would be rubbed. I needed to make some details that were missing. This includes the Throttle, Canopy crank handle, control stick, and backrest support. I also made a control for the fuel tanks using a straight pin and small aluminum tube. Smash the tube on the straight pin, cut to length, and stick it in the correct position.
Here you can see the left side of the cockpit showing the throttle arm I made, as well as the fuel selector control. Use some fine paint brushes to paint the gauge bezels, then add the screw detail with a silver sharpie. Even though it’s likely the WWII 190’s had all gray bezels, it adds a bit of detail to the gauges that makes them look much better.
Also, after applying the gauge decal, spray some Testors gloss coat on them. It gives the appearance of glass gauge faces. For the gauges that are applied to the top of the panel, spray some gloss coat into a paint lid, then apply it with a brush.
To make the control stick, I used two pieces of wood dowel. One larger piece for the handle, and a smaller piece for the shaft. Use a Dremmel sand drum and an X-acto knife to carve the handle to shape. I added a small plastic piece on the top where the gun button would be added later (with paint). I drilled a hole in the grip and glued it to the shaft.
In this picture you can see the control stick, as well as a bit of detail added to the armored backrest. Adding the two little pieces will make it look like the backrest is attached to the canopy.
The entire cockpit was trimmed and glued into the plane using Zap Goo. I later found that it is advisable to add some reinforcement to the bottom seat mount to provide a more secure mount for the pilot (5 oz.). I did it after the fact, but it would be easier to add a balsa block prior to gluing it down. If you miss it, you can drop it in from the bottom and throw a light ply brace across to strengthen the mount.
I decided to use some brown vinyl to simulate the leather combing on the edge of the dash. Once again I glued it on with Zap Goo, then added some aluminum tape to provide the edge detail. Add some tan paint to give it a more “weathered” appearance. I cut two holes in the side and added aluminum tape trim to represent the handles found on FW190 dashes.
I built a gun site out of some stuff I had laying around and cut a hole in the top of the dash to mount it.
I added a piece of balsa to provide something to glue it down to. The cross hatch sticker on the gun site lens was an alignment mark found on the FW-190 graphics that came with the kit.
I glued the cockpit into the plane with Zap Goo, then painted any wood that was visible from the top. I also painted the edging and added a bit of scratches with the Silver sharpie. The wood area you see under the dash has since been painted with flat black. Notice that the foot pedals were removed to allow the Best Pilot to sit in the correct attitude in the cockpit.
I made a spacer using balsa to prop up the pilot. I painted it green to simulate the parachute that most pilots sat on. Note that it needed a bit of camber to make sure the pilot sits right, leaning forward just a bit so that his feet touch the floor of the cockpit.
Before gluing the seat into the cockpit I added some seat adjustment rails using some plastic I-beams. (not pictured)
The seat is glued to the floor mount using Zap Goo, then commercial grade Velcro is applied to the top of the seat and the pilots butt. This allows removal if required, but should never come off in flight.
The distinctive backrest support was made using a piece of plastic. Once again I used some aluminum tape to make the detail where it attaches to the backrest. I built up layers to make it thicker. A small piece of balsa triangle was used to help make sure it does not come detached where it hooks to the backrest. A piece of balsa supports it in the rear. I cut an opening in the plastic so the mount would glue directly to the wood underneath. Make sure you get the angle correct, the backrest support should follow the line formed by the top of the canopy.
To make the canopy edging look a bit more scale, I cut and stuck some aluminum tape on the front. This allowed me to add rivet detailing as well as scale weathering. I also used aluminum tape to make the “hinge” on the top of the canopy. A piece of plastic was glued on along with a representation of the front antenna mount point. Here you can see that the backrest support lines up well to the top of the canopy.
This photo shows the pilot positioned correctly in the cockpit, as well as a closer view of some of the canopy detail. It’s a bit of work to mask and paint the canopy edging, but it looks a lot better than the stock canopy.
The Best Pilot figure fit perfectly and seems to be the right scale for the plane.
Canopy in this photo is not glued on yet, but when ready I will attach it using Zap Goo. It will hold it on, but if the need arises it is possible to remove it.
One of the easiest ways to determine that an FW-190 is a later model is the antenna mast on the Vertical Stab. Since I was representing an A4 and an A6, it was a mod that needed to be made.
I used a piece of aircraft ply to shape the mast. Started out thick, and thinned it down. This gives me a base and allows it to look closer to the real thing. I mounted a post into it and cut out an opening in the Stab. A brass tube in the stab also allows a smooth and tight fit. I attached magnets to the mast that pick up screws on the inside.
I’m afraid the small magnets may not be enough to hold the mast in flight, so I may use a touch of silicone to keep it in place.
There you have it, much of what I did to make the ARF’s look quite a bit better. Not everything shown. I painted the stock wheels black and added some detail, as well as other items such as nomenclature decals and painting the prop and spinners the right colors. Even so, it should be enough to get your FW-190 looking good enough to provide a proper mount for a Best Pilot figure.
The photos of the nearly completed planes in the basement are attached. I still have to glue the canopies on and add some clear coat to set the panel lines and details in. I’ll use Testors dullcoat on the top, and Satin Polyurethane on the bottom.
Stay tuned for full photos of the aircraft at the field, as well as in-flight pictures. It’s below zero in Iowa right now, so the outdoor photo session will have to wait.
Thanks a bunch Todd for the article. This guy has a bunch of talent and he flies as good as he builds! Also, Ol' "Hot Rod" Todd and the Cedar Rapids Skyhawks put on a great airshow - Warbirds Over Iowa! Don't miss it in 2014! This show has really grown into one of the "showcase" RC Warbird shows in the Midwest! And hey, you just might get to see a couple of Mustangs "tangle" with these awesome FW-190s! - Lyle
5/28/14 - UPDATE, Both aircraft have succesfully flown! Enjoy the sweet sounds of Success Todd & Gary!