Project Viper Holiday Special

Seasons Greetings to all, wherever you may be in the world.

Still very much a work in progress, but here are some glamour shots of the current state of the Viper, to help celebrate the holiday season:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! May you have a healthy and prosperous year in 2021.

Exhausting Work

Work on the Viper has progressed a little of late, in between work, family, other hobbies and life in general.

One of the tasks at the top of my list was to strengthen the structure of the wings, so that I could replicate the mounting points at the engine housings, without the need for an additional (and unsightly) mounting at the intake. This is based on the original filming model, Revell and Moebius models, and unlike the full size mockup. To do this I added some longitudinal bracing and cut out holes to reduce weight.

I ended up with three longitudinal braces and they all add a great deal of strength to the structure, so much so that it is rigid under it’s own weight and solves my mounting point issue.

I’ve also been keen to get the high engine exhaust nozzle constructed and mounted.  I know this was going to be laborious and time consuming, due to the detail.  I found the best way to do it was to do a little at a time, an hour here and there to break up the monotony.

After much cutting, drilling and riveting I was finally able to position it and see the big picture, ready for the final steps.

Then some further work and mounting.  I paid particular attention to the recessed gap between the rear engine housing and the exhaust nozzle.  I wanted this to look right and it was worth the extra effort – I’m happy with the outcome.

Just a little black to give that burnt exhaust nozzle look.

Still a little more to finish up the nozzle but it’s looking the part.  Then a further two more to build…

I’m planning on putting the wing sheeting back on, as well as the tail fin for a pre-Christmas / build status photo shoot, so stay tuned for that in the next few weeks.

Stay safe out there. 

A Few Greeblies More

I’ve been working on some of the engine greeble details recently, trying out different ideas. I’ve looked at various configurations and materials to arrive at something that looks like the filming prop and has a realistic used look as well. I ended up using some various sizes of copper, aluminium and pvc pipe, plus some very special greeble shapes to arrive at this:

I then did some test weathering and added some of the extra piping:

Further piping was fitted, along with the greeblies at the rear of the intakes. These required careful thought and planning to create the original look of the prop, but I believe I’ve arrived at a suitable solution. There are 6 of these per intake – they’ll take some time to create, but they should look the part.

Just for fun, I also had a play with some red racing stripes:

That’s about it for this episode – until next time.

Winging it

I’ve had one major component to do, to complete the overall shape of the viper – the wings!  I had laid out the frame some time ago, but upon review I discovered some of the angles were not quite right.  I ended up having to unpick some of the frame work to get it looking right.

I built some formers out of 1mm aluminium sheet and angle, cut out lightening holes and dimpled them for strength.  Then I laid out the basic structure.  The problem was, not having enough table space to accommodate the structure – at around 4 metres long it’s a large component.  I made do with what I had and began assembly.

With the base structure assembled, I figured it was an opportune time for a test fit and some photos.  I had to move everything half a metre sideways so that I could sit the tail fin on top of the high engine.  I then sat the wing frame in it’s approximate position on the port side engine housing.  I’m happy with the overall shape – everything seems to line up and fit where it’s supposed to.  Whew!!

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Next it was time to cut to size some 0.6mm aluminium sheet for the wing skin.  I attached the skin with clecos and did a further test fit of the wing – just so I could stand back and enjoy the sight of an all aluminium 1:1 Colonial Viper.

Note the wing leading edge is slightly angled, as per the filming models and full size mockup – this was some interesting geometry to work out and it took me some time to get it looking right.  I think I’ve got it reasonably close.

I still need to work out how to mount the wings so that they can be removed for transport.  Also, building the wing with enough strength so that it can be mounted at the engine housing and support the front tip on which the guns are mounted.  I noticed on the full size filming mockup, an additional wing mounting existed on the side of the engine intake.  I’m hoping to avoid this and build it as per the miniatures, with the mounting points only on the main engine housing.

Well there we have it, true to my original vision, a full scale aluminium viper work in progress, reminiscent of the WW2 era warbirds like the P51 Mustang or P47 Thunderbolt in natural metal.

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Still plenty of challenges ahead of me, but now that the overall shape is defined, it’s a big step in the right direction.

Stay safe out there.

 

Greeblies and things

Among other things, I’ve been working on the port side engine.  I’ve completed the skin on the engine housing and attached it securely behind the intake nozzle.

I’ve also started on the greeblie panel located between the port engine and the high middle engine housings.  There was quite a lot of trial and error to get the look reasonably ‘correct’.  Although ‘correct’ is very open to interpretation as the filming models differed from the full size mockup and the Moebius model differs from the old Monogram model.  So anyway, a best guess and some artistic license required on my part.

Next up was deciding on the greeblies for the panel, again some guesswork and artistic license required.  I went for a walk around my local Bunnings Hardware to see what I could find.  I found some items that are reasonably close to the look I’m after and decided to go with them.  Firstly there a two grilles/grates

I cut the sheet aluminium to expose the grilles

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Then I attached some circular greeblies and pipework, similar to the full size mockup, along with two sections of C channel

I then did some experimenting with the engine greeblies behind the intakes.  Lots of variations here as well.  I tried using the full size mockup/Moebius greeblies in the first instance.  Some copper pipe, fittings and soldering.

I wasn’t entirely happy with it, especially once I looked at the greeblies used on the filming models – much more variety and detail.  So I’ve decided to use the filming model greeblies as the basis.

Lastly I acquired some 25mm (1 inch) square hollow section aluminium for the exhaust nozzle detail.  I sliced up one for a very primitive proof of concept fitting and I’m satisfied it will do nicely.  It’s going to be one of those long monotonous jobs…

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Till next time, stay safe out there.

Port Engine Intake

I’ve been working from home during the pandemic lockdown.  Unfortunately this hasn’t provided me with any more time to work on personal projects, but I am at least grateful to still have a job and full pay.  There are many millions that have not been so fortunate.

Lately I’ve been concentrating on the completing the port engine intake and how to successfully mount it.

I spent the best part of a couple of days completing the sheet metal work for the compound curves at the front of the intake.  Quite laborious and monotonous, drilling, dimpling, riveting and repeat for the many required strips of sheet aluminium.  Maybe it would have been easier with an English Wheel to form the curves, but without any experience or access to one, I had little choice but to push on.

I got there eventually and am satisfied with the end result.  Plenty of filler will still be required to achieve a smooth finish, but the basic shape is there:

Next I had to figure out how to strongly mount it to the rear fuselage.  I ended up using two primary cantilever spars and then stitching the inside wall to the fuselage.

Then I had some details to finalise before the final permanent mounting.  The inner walls had to be filled and primed before mounting, as there would be no way to access the tight spaces afterwards.  I used a combination of fibreglass and body filler to smooth it off and then coated it with primer.  The finishing coat will happen when I’m done sheeting all the aluminium.

I also did some detail sheeting around the bottom of the top intake.

Shaping up nicely

Next up I’ll be mounting the main port engine housing and the exhaust nozzles for the top and port engines.

Stay safe out there everyone.

That’s a Big Shiny Ship!

Some progress to report with the Viper of late, after a few months of minimal activity.  I constructed the wing support structure. out of 50 x 50 gal steel hollow section.  The wings will be mounted to this, as well as the left and right engine housings.

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I then moved onto the rear section panel, the one that fits between the three engine exhaust nozzles.  I built a frame and then cut a template to work out the correct shape.  Finally, aluminium sheets were cut and fitted to the frame.  I’ll create a rear access panel to allow entry into the rear of the fuselage – this will contain some of the greebly detail in this area.

After finishing some of the sheeting of the engine intakes, top engine housings, next up I got started on the first of the engine exhaust nozzles, for the centre engine.  This would finally show the overall length of the ship and provide full overview of the scale of the Viper.  I created the cylindrical shape using joined quarter circle formers and a sheet of 0.6 mm aluminium sheet.  I then test fitted it in place on top of the rear panel.

At his stage I plan on adding the exhaust “vanes” using 20mm square hollow section aluminium.  I’ve looked at what other alternatives I can use, but haven’t found anything lighter / better / less expensive.

I then did some test fitting and took a photo opportunity to stand back and appreciate how far the build has progressed (and to recognise how far it has to go!).  That’s a big shiny ship!

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Next up will be attaching the side engine intake, engine housing and creating an exhaust nozzle to suit.

Structural Integrity

Just a quick update on my recent efforts to strengthen the structure of the rear engine half of the viper.  The landing gear, wings and the rear engine housings are all encompassed in the rear structure, so I’ve included extra support to ensure adequate strength and durability for transport, etc.

I started by correctly aligning the front and rear sections and then used angled bracing to create a space frame:

Then I added the bottom longerons in 50 x 50 mm steel section, as well as the main spar supports for the wing mounting:

Then checked to make sure everything  lines up as expected:

Next I’ll be mounting the port side engine and building the wing.  I look forward to seeing how it all fits together!

I originally started on the viper build partly to give me something to do while I was waiting for another project to be done.  Well that project has come back into my hands now, so I’ll have to share the love around a couple of big projects now.   Project 1968 Dodge Charger has come back home after a number of years away at body and paint:

It looks magnificent in black and the guys have done an incredible job.  Now I just have to remember how to put the jigsaw puzzle back together…

One thing’s for sure, it’ll be a quite a unique garage/hanger with both a Colonial Viper and a 68 Dodge Charger!

One Small Step for a Man, One Giant Leap for Project Viper…

I took a day off work to give me a long weekend last week, with one of my main goals to build a trolley/dolly for the Viper fuselage, and to move it into the shed with the back half.  I was originally going to build it out of steel section and weld it all together.  After some deliberation, I decided to build a wooden frame at this stage – much cheaper, quicker and easier in the short term.  Cost me $30 in timber and a few hours in effort.  I bought some heavy duty castor wheels, which I’ll eventually use in the steel version of the trolley that I’ll build to assist with transporting the Viper.

After completing the trolley build I slid it under the Viper fuselage, attached it and rolled it out of my main shed, around to the rear shed where it will be located from now on.  I wasn’t able to join the front and rear halves at this stage, as the rear half is on the rotisserie frame.  I’ll have to move it off to allow the proper joining of the two halves.  But in the meantime, I moved the two halves as close as possible, to allow me to visualise the overall dimensions and alignment of the craft.  There’s an excess gap of around 30cm or 1 foot for the time being, but allowing for that it looks very much like the Viper I remember as a kid.

Holy frak!!  There’s a Colonial Viper in my garage:

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It’s very much a work in progress but as a proof of concept, I’ve basically done what I set out to do.  Still plenty of challenges ahead, but I’m confident that the build can now progress to completion.

I’m thinking I’d like to build the left wing next, which will really bring home that classic star fighter shape we all know and love.

 

 

Left Hand Engine Intake Construction

I’m currently working on the left hand engine intake, one of the most difficult shapes in the project to form.  Like the top engine intake, it’s a complex shape to construct out of aluminium sheet.
I thought I’d try a different strategy to form the compound curves for this intake. Instead of overlapping the sheets on the curves, I thought I would try stitching them together, having the sheets butt together and have a joining sheet underneath.

I had hoped that it would provide a surface needing less filler and finishing. My strategy works quite well, however it does take significantly more time. It will still need an amount of filler and finishing, so it may be quicker to go back to my original strategy and simply overlap the sheets.

To visualise how it all looks together, I positioned the intake in the approximate position on the left hand engine of the Viper. I’m happy that I’m on the right track as everything lines up as I’d hoped for and it faithfully replicates the shape pretty well.

Next up I’ll need to finish the structure of the rear section, bolt in the rear landing gear mounting frame, the wing mounting frame and install space frame diagonal angle for strengthening.  I can then sheet the side adjacent to the intake and begin mounting the engine and intake.

I’m also very keen to put the front and back halves together to ensure everything aligns as expected.  But I’ll need to build myself a trolley/dolly on castors before I can move the front fuselage.

So much to do, so little time… until next time.