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Lockheed Vega 'Shell Oil'

AMT 1/48 Lockheed Vega 'Shell Oil' Kit First Look

By Mark Nickelson

Date of Review March 2017 Manufacturer AMT/Round 2
Subject Lockheed Vega 'Shell Oil' Scale 1/48
Kit Number 0950 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Vivid new color scheme, important Golden Age subject, loads of potential for different liveries and modifications, no serious assembly challenges Cons Not a sophisticated specimen of plastic model engraving, unduly thin wheel pants
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $26.99

First Look

Lockheed Vega 'Shell Oil'
Lockheed Vega 'Shell Oil'
Lockheed Vega 'Shell Oil'

The Round 2 folks have reissued the AMT Vega in bright yellow styrene with a striking Shell Oil color scheme. I plan to build one of these OOB, even though my flightline has no shortage of brightly colored airframes on it already.

Sandwiched in between an old Hawk Gee Bee, a Curtiss R3C, and a B-25B, it will flesh out a tribute to (you knew, didn't you?) our own LGEN James H. Doolittle, who flew this plane during his time as manager of the Shell aviation products business.

You can, of course, use this kit to represent the mounts of Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, or just about anybody who's remembered for flying in the 1930s.

The kit, unchanged from its circa 1978 iteration, comes with Wiley Post in a suit, necktie and eyepatch, individual passenger windows that can be installed from the outside after painting, a decent engine and a fairly nice propeller. Parts count: 22 yellow, 11 clear.

The fit where the tailplanes go into the fuselage is sloppy. Filling with stretched sprue will hide the problem with minimal disturbance to adjacent surface detail.

But this kit's greatest virtue is its adaptability. Take a Vega and you can build any of the Lockheed singles from the interwar years, with a few by-no-means-daunting modifications. I mean, the impressiveness of the results will be all out of proportion to the effort.

This statement is not a matter of guesswork with me: I have already converted earlier Vegas to an Orion and the Lindbergh Sirius that hangs in the National Air and Space Museum. Pending on my workbench is the Air Express, with a parasol wing.

For the low-wing mods, you start by adding some plastic inside the fuselage so you'll have something to carve on after you've done away with the vertical siding that reaches up to the wing.

You can adjust the kit windows for any number required. Window configurations varied. Before they started building the same designs in aluminum, the Lockheed Burbank singles were all made out of molded plywood—load bearing fuselage halves that went together pretty much the same way plastic models do. And the windows were where and however many the customer ordered, added to the fuselage with a cardboard template and a sabre saw.

For an OOB Vega, there are two modifications that will improve the realism without any large effort:

  • Sandwich some extra sheet styrene between the halves of the wheel pants. I used 0.060 recently, and these parts could stand twice that much shimming. As kitted, the wheel pants are 'way too thin.
  • Shorten the main gear struts by 1/8 in., to represent a Vega sitting on solid ground with its shocks compressed.

Some of us (an eccentric minority even by IMPS standards), who fancy adding to our coverage of Golden Age and especially civilian aviation, and can face the occasional  conversion project, having AMT Vegas in production and readily available is good news. 

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