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Dragon's 1/48 scale

by Scott Lyle




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One of the most numerous and popular aircraft of World War 1, the SPAD XIII was flown by a whoís who list of Allied aces during the war. Names like Guynemer, Fonck, Nungesser, and Rickenbacker found the French fighter to their liking and flew it with great success. By the end of the war it was the primary French fighter, and was widely exported to other countries as well.

After reading about the life of Eddie Rickenbacker, I decided to model the version that he flew during the war. By the end of the war he was Americaís ďAce of AcesĒ with 26 kills, and one would be hard pressed to find a character who led a more action-packed life than he. In addition, I really liked the look of his aircraft with its attractive five-color camouflage scheme.



Construction Part One

Construction of the DML kit was very smooth and rapid. The kit includes a very useful fret of photo-etch parts that are very well thought out, easy to use, and add a lot of detail to the model without requiring too much extra work.



The cockpit went together easily, and it was painted in wood tones with the instruments, rudder pedals, and control stick picked out by hand. Once that was finished it wasnít long before I had the fuselage, tailplane, tail, and lower wing all assembled. In order to simplify painting the complex camouflage scheme, I decided not to attach the upper wing to the aircraft at this point.



Painting Part One

After a primer coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 was sprayed on the whole aircraft and upper wing, I sprayed Testorís Acrylic Radome Tan on the undersides of the fuselage and both wings to simulate Clear Doped Linen. I used Testorís Sand, Testorís French Chestnut, Testorís RAF Interior Green, Testors Dark Green B-52 (FS 34096), and Tamiya NATO Black to simulate the five color paint scheme, and these were applied in that order, using Tamiya masking tape where necessary. The kitís instructions and also the Osprey reference helped me figure out the look of the camouflage scheme. Even though the scheme was intricate, it didnít require too much masking because the aircraft is so small!



Construction Part Two

With the camouflage scheme applied, it was time to finish the assembly. The machine guns were painted Tamiya NATO Black, drybrushed Testors Steel, and glued in place. With past biplane models Iíve had trouble attaching the upper wing to the lower wing, but with this kit that task was a joy. There are four struts on the nose that firmly attach to the fuselage. Once they were glued in place it was a simple matter to position the upper wing on top of them and glue it in place. The outboard struts come next, but first you have to attach small photo-etch parts at either end of each strut that will anchor the rigging. I painted the struts, prop, and landing skid to look like wood, and the small rigging anchors were painted NATO Black. Once dry, the outboard struts were glued into position and the aircraft assembly was basically complete.

On to the dreaded rigging!


DML has cleverly included very thin gauge wire to cut and glue to the aforementioned photo-etch anchors. The end result is that the rigging looks taut and sharp, and the photo-etch anchors add a touch of detail that is very authentic. In other biplane models I have built, I usually end up drilling small holes in the bases of the struts to hold the rigging, and I never really like the way it looks. DML actually provides the small anchors that the real aircraft would have, and they really add to the finished model. While they are a little more work, they simplified the task of rigging, and I think you end up with a more detailed model for a minimal investment in time.



Final Painting

At this point only a few pieces remained to be painted. I brush-painted the cowling Testorís Red, mixing in a few drops of Yellow to make it look more like the orangey-red of the kitís decals. The rigging was painted NATO Black, and the wheels were painted Dark Gray and drybrushed Neutral Gray. The edge of the cockpit opening was brush-painted Testors Leather and then masked. I sprayed the entire model with Future to get it ready for the decals, and then set it aside for 3 days to let the Future cure.

Markings & Weathering

I used the kit decals and had no problems with them. I usually use Walthers Solvaset to get the decals to sit down over any bumps or recesses, and it always scares me and then makes me happy! It seems like every time I use it the decal wrinkles up like crazy, making me wonder what have I just done, but then by morning the decals have magically straightened themselves out and beautifully conformed to any features on the surface. Next up was an airbrushed coat of Testor's Semi-Gloss to seal the decals and begin toning down the high gloss surface.


Using a small brush I used a thin wash of 50/50 Lamp Black/Raw Umber to accentuate the features around the cowling and the edges of the flaps. I then airbrushed a very then mix of the same mix around the flaps, wheels, where the wings and stabilizers meet the fuselage, and especially around the engine and cowling to add a bit more grime to the model. I lightly drybrushed a slightly lightened mix of each of the five camouflage colors to bring out the raised detail, which was essentially the ribs on the wings. I decided not to apply a final coat of Flat Finish to the SPAD, as in many pictures it seems like many WW1 aircraft had somewhat glossy finishes. Leaving it in its semi-gloss finish may or may not be entirely accurate, but it seems to add a bit of ďpopĒ to the colors that would ordinarily be lost under a flat coat. My final step was to mist on a bit of Tamiya Desert Yellow around the wheels and rear skid to simulate some dust and dirt.




DMLís SPAD XIII is really a great kit. Their kit engineering is excellent, and they made tackling a difficult biplane model a joy. I highly recommend this model. Iím looking forward to building another one of their kits, the ubiquitous Fokker Triplane.





  • Osprey Publications, Aircraft of the Aces #47, ďSPAD XII/XIII Aces of World War 1Ē

  • Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft in Action #93, ďSPAD Fighters in ActionĒ

  • Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia


Additional Images


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Model, Images & Text Copyright © 2007 by Scott Lyle
Page Created 17 December, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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