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Breda 'Metallico', Nanking Government Air Force, 1936

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Chinese subjects interest me greatly. I was surprised to find a while back someone did a kit of this, and when I got one recently, was astonished to find within five minutes I had found detail photographs and a cut-away drawing of the thing on the internet. It is an awfully obscure beast, with only eleven being built, including prototypes, and Nationalist China the only buyer for a production run.


The kit by AZ Models is a typical early-style limited run offering, and before going into what I have done with it, I should point out that if you just put the thing together out of the box, you will have the makings of a very nice model of the 'Metallico'. The kit provides very nice cockpit detail and a decent motor, and wonderful surface detail.


Here are the early stages of the build. I hollowed out the sides of the fuselage, and added structural detail, and also made a new cockpit 'floor' (actually a corrugate frame-work over a fuel tank), in accordance with a photograph of the cockpit of the prototype found on an Italian modeling site. I also came to do considerable work on the wings, though it was not my intention to do so at the start. the upper wing halves are cast with a curved hollow, but the lower wing halves are cast solid, with flat tops. These sort of 'dome' up, and to get a good fit I started to take their centers down. Doing this got me looking very closely at the pieces, and this revealed some problems in contour. It seems almost as if the plastic had shrunk away from the mould as it hardened; one wing-tip had acquired a concave section, and on the other piece, the center portion was noticeably thinner than the rest, if one looked straight on at the leading edge. So I made new lower wing halves from 1.5mm sheet, and added the 'rib' elements with square .25mm rod. This of course did not quite match what was cast on the upper wing halves, so I sanded these smooth and put my own applique 'ribs' on the upper surfaces, too.



Here are the interior elements painted and ready for the fuselage to be closed.

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Here the detailing added to the motor, and the fining down of the cowling. The motor is an early Mercury, license-built by Alpha-Romeo: basically the same thing as in the 'Persian Fury'....



The resin motor fits the cowling perfectly as it is cast, but of course the cowling plastic is much too thick. The engine is fairly visible from behind, so I thought just thinning the edge would not quite do. The kit includes a circular exhaust pipe that goes in front of the motor, fitting behind the cast collector ring, and the cutaway drawing seems to show that as well. After considerable fiddling, which included destroying the cast collector ring on the interior of the cowling, I have decided that this was not really there. There is certainly no room for it behind a collector ring, and I can see no sign of anything but a normal collector ring in the photograph showing the front of the Chinese machine. So I restored a collector ring, and am omitting the circular pipe....

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Here is the fuselage closed.


The two tear-drop fairings near the nose are replacements for fairings moulded on the pieces, which were too small, with the forward ones set too far to the rear. These fairings are where the machine-guns were mounted (ammunition boxes were in the wing).

Here is a close up of the interior, including the instrument panel:


I could not make the kit's photo-etch and film instrument panel work, but the fault is as likely to lie with me as with the parts in question. In any case, I made my own panel, and used Mike Grant instrument decals (I recently bought some, and they are wonderful things...).

Edited by Old Man
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Old Man, you always seem to have the most historically interesting builds. Each little gem has this interesting back-story. I'm particularly fascinated by all these machines that found their way to the "Far East" prior to World War II. I'd be interested to know how the Nationalist Chinese went about shopping for aircraft. I think I remember you mentioning Chinese aviators at least by the 1930s, so these were primarily flown by native sons, and not mercenaries?

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Thank you, Sir.

Fliers in the Nanking government's air force were native sons, generally. The mercenary element is overstated. There was also a significant larding of foreign-born men of Chinese extraction, returning from the U.S. and other Western countries to the land of their parents, but even this 'foreign' element was far from predominating. Foreigners were generally employed to train aircrew, rather than fly on operations, which, prior to the outbreak of full-bore war with Japan in July of 1937, were conducted against other Chinese, rebels and rivals and bandits and pirates.

The leading body of foreign trainers in the early thirties was the Jouette mission from the United States; the U.S. had a long-standing popularity with the Nationalists because a good deal of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary organizing and fund-raising had been done from U.S. territory, and the U.S. had never sought any territorial concession in China. U.S. hostility to Japan played a role as well.

Nationalist relations to Fascist Italy in the early thirties were quite good, and based pretty solidly. The great mass-organizing triumph of the Nationalists in the mid-twenties had been the strike against Hong Kong, and hostility to England was a major element of Nationalist outlook. Italian foreign policy, ever since conflicts arising in the Versailles treaty negotiations, had been to make trouble for England where-ever possible. When Maj. Jouette managed to offend powerful factions within the Nationalist politico-military culture, overtures to Italy ensued. The Italians, too, had no territorial concessions from China, and agreed to forego payments of an indemnity dating from the Boxer Rebellion, while the Nationalists agreed to spend this newly available sum on arms in Italy. Nationalist Chinese buyers went shopping in Italy during 1934, buying among other things the Breda monoplanes, and an Italian training mission arrived in China. This predominated in training Nanking air force pilots until 1935, when the conquest of Ethiopia engaged Italian energies.

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I've been vaguely aware of the old "China lobby" and fairly familial relations between the United States, the Nationalist Chinese, and even a tacit respect between U.S. governments and the pre-1945 Communist movement. At that time, our immigration policies were frankly racist, but at the same time a large block of Americans did seem to have a warm feeling toward China, as reflected in movies and other media. (Although, embarrassingly, the Chinese heroes in movies were often played by Caucasians--these old depictions are available on Youtube.). During the 1930s, Pearl Buck's novel The Good Earth, as I recall, had a big impact in the U.S., and as you suggest, the growing U.S.-Japan jealousy made China a seemingly-natural ally. Calling Pearl Harbor a "surprise attack" became fashionable in the U.S. after the fact, but both navies, and a good deal of the U.S. and Japanese population that paid attention to foreign policy matters, saw a looming Pacific War as a big, big piece of unfinished business.

Heh...and as a mildly humorous afterthought: I am told that my grandfather, as a young guy in some very, very lean days during the late 1930s, relied on a local Chinese restaurant in Manhattan to eat. Because they'd sell him a pretty good meal at a low price when no one else would, and his budget was pretty thin. As I remember him, he was a pretty cosmopolitan guy, and not because he traveled a lot in his life. During his younger days in New York, he was as much an "immigrant" there as anyone else, (having come from deepest Pennsylvania) and I suspect he learned something about how people from afar can be good friends to have.

Edited by Fishwelding
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Moving right along on this, Gentlemen. Models with one wing seem to go together quicker than models with two wings....


The wings and horizontal tail elements are straight butt-joints, and were as difficult as is to be expected with a limited run kit. I doubt it would have been any different had the wings been straight kit pieces. I matched the wings to the upper curve of the fillets moulded on the fuselage, and did what had to be done to the lower surface joints. After considerable adventure, I am quite happy with the result. The green paint is not the final color, just a convenient color for testing the seams along the applique pieces, and at the joins and seams of the fuselage and wings and tail-planes. The model will be over-all olive drab (on the green end of that color range...).


The undercarriage legs are single piece resin castings, including the wheels and exposed hubs. I thinned some edges at the bottom of the spats, but that is about all. I matched the curve of the original kit pieces pretty well on my lower wing halves, only minimal trimming, and very little filling, was needed in attaching the undercarriage legs. They are 'primed' with black enamel (I have next to no experience with resin.)

Here are two views showing the interior:



Comment on this machine generally remarks on its surface similarity to the Boeing P-26, and even the Breda designers acknowledged a certain 'inspiration' from the U.S. design. Here is a picture of models of both machines in a similar state of completion....


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I've only recently started to pay attention to the aircraft between the wars, but I keep finding more to like. What a neat little plane, I'm looking forward to seeing more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Further progress here, Gentlemen.

The thing has received its first coat of paint (a mix of Pollyscale US Quartermaster Olive and French Fok Dark Green, at about two to three, which comes pretty close to samples of the olive green employed by the Nationalists at Nanking). After the painting, struts have been placed at the wing roots, and under the tail-plane; the cowling assembly attached, and air-scoop and oil cooler put on; tail skid has been made and attached, and decals applied. The blue of the Nationalist markings looked all right while on the decal sheet, but proved too light on the model: I painted over the blue portions with a darker color (the right tone seems to be a kind of cobalt or Oxford blue, that went greyish pretty quickly under sun); rudder stripes need a little touching up, not just for line, but to continue to the full trailing edge of the rudder. I managed to fold one of the kit supplied decals for No. 702 over on itself irretrievably, and so made my own number decals, from dry transfer on clear film. One of the sevens is a little mis-aligned, and being touched up with paint.



Next steps will be final painting, adding the windscreen, and rigging. For the latter, I will be using .25mm styrene rod: the cables are very thick in the close-up pictures, and I recently used this material to rig the P-26, and liked the result very much.

Edited by Old Man
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  • 3 weeks later...

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