Finishing the Su-22M4 super-detailed undercarriage

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell I swore it would finish me before I finished it. But I got there in the end. I was getting pretty frustrated with just how long this endless super-detailing was taking. There are no half measures. You either do it right or you don’t do it at all. What is also a little frustrating was seeing somebody else’s build in a Modelling Magazine and see that the text doesn’t even describe the work in the undercarriage bay. The work can be seen in the pictures but they don’t mention it. Guess, with the limits of space that these things get edited out?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the inside of the completed port main gear bay on the Kopro 1/48th scale Su-22M4. I have a LOT of really good references for this area hence was able to go to town in a way I had not on the OEZ Su-7BKL where I was happy with only a rudimentary level of detail. This is so true in the hobby. Your references drive everything. If you cannot see what something looks like then you will just leave it. But if you can see every rivet then it prays on your mind that your model has not got every rivet too. So this is what it was for me: I was not happy until I had reproduced EVERYTHING. So I did.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a picture of the opposite main gear bay so you can see the view you don’t get in the above picture. The scratchbuild involves all the white plastic, the copper & silver wiring and the customisation around the white metal leg. Some small kit actuators were cut down to their true scale size and there are a couple of bits of photoetch there too for the door latches. The grey resin tubes you see are from the True Details Couplings and Connectors set. Useful if a little over-scale here. I used thicker fuse wire for the hydraulic pipes on the legs. Also note here that I have enclosed the gear bay with a lip just like the real thing. This was not as hard as it seemed but it took a bit of work with filler to blend it in to the wing under-side!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a view of the port leg. I have dry fitted the bay doors to this dozens of time whilst I was working on them to ensure they would fit. The legs and bay doors are a highly complex three dimensional shape consisting of multiple parts that have to fold and slot into each other. Nothing out there achieves this or even attempts this out of the box. So you have to measure, measure, measure, cut, dry fit, fettle, over and over. I think I have it right. It isn’t perfect but perfection requires so many tiny changes here and there without guarantee that you’ll get it right or that you won’t cock it up. So the result here is good enough and looks right for me.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the right you can see a picture of all the complete undercarriage bay doors. There are some bits of the kit parts left although I have laminated them with photoetch and layers of plastic card. The various hollows are scooped out with a spherical router in a power tool. I have given some surfaces a coat of gloss black to check for problems. Thankfully there were none. These would serve as good masters for resin replacements by the likes of Quickboost. Once again I am amazed at how the aftermarket industry has completely ignore this topic that is so crying out for simple fixes like these doors!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn now to the nose gear leg. To make this I had to take two whole legs from the SAC set and cut each in half. Then I carefully shaped upper and lower halves so that, when joined together, they portray the correct oleo strut mechanism. Both Kopro and SAC show this as a blob whereas it is a hydraulic strut within a cantilever mechanism that forms part of the front forks. The leg also has a mechanism for steering, some brake accumulators and several visible large diameter pipes. All have been replicated here. I added a couple of small photoetch tie hoops and assembled the various elements in situ to ensure alignment. I only hope that it will be strong enough to support the model. I will add it only at the end of the build prefering instead to use a toothpick to support the model during the painting phase.

 

So what has all this torture taught us? Nothing really. It was worth it in the end but agony during the process. I don’t want to do that again in a hurry. I will buy models with either good undercarriage bays or try and find some aftermarket to suit. Undercarriages are so sorely under-served by the aftermarket boys. You either get a crude white metal blob copied from the kit item or nothing. This is a shame because the technology exists to create metal-cored resin gear legs. Many topics have pretty good resin undercarriage bay “plugs”. I think this Su-22 is a great subject. I see that Trumpeter now have a 1/48th scale Su-9 that is brand new? It is possible that, after I have finished this, that alternative parts may well come available!

I leave with a couple of more views of those luscious legs!

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