Mr. Mulligan - Building Dekno's 1/72 Scale Kit by Wayne E. Moyer

Benny Howard’s immortal Mr. Mulligan, DGA (Dammed Good Airplane) -6, shouldn’t need much introduction to SIG members; the only airplane (tail number, not type) to win both the Bendix and Thompson Trophy, the only multi-seat airplane to win the Thompson, and the only successful American racer to be developed into a successful commercial airplane, the Howard DGA 8, 9, 11, and -12, which were scaled-up (38 foot span instead of 31’8”) Mulligans with different engines and interior arrangements. In spite of the airplane’s fame, there has been only the ancient Hawk/Testors kit of Mr. Mulligan, which isn’t too bad but is the wrong (1/48) scale for me. The lack of kits isn’t hard to understand - - there are no alternative schemes; Mr. Mulligan at the 1935 NAR is it. And it’s not an eye-catcher; high-wing cabin airplane that doesn’t look out of place today in an overall white scheme with no flashy graphics. So when Dekno began their series of 1/72 air racing models I immediately put in a request for Mr. Mulligan. Albert indicated some interest so my friend Geoff Hays and I sent him everything we could lay our hands on, including the Paul Matt and Cleveland Model plans and the decal sheet from the Dumas stick and tissue kit. The result is what you see here; sometimes you DO get what you wish for.

This is a resin kit (Photo 1), period! Just 32 parts, 26 in Dekno’s now familiar blue and six clear resin windows and windscreen. The castings are as good as any I’ve ever seen, with just a “ragged edge” along the wing leading edge (Photo 2), some thin flash in the side windows (Photo 3) and more edges to be sanded on the fuselage halves. Some care is needed in cutting the small parts from the pour blocks, but the “joint” is very thin. I make multiple cuts AWAY from the part (Photo 4) and was even able to cut the thin control sticks loose and sand them smooth without damage. I didn’t try that for the tiny vertical wing strut braces, though; it was quicker to make them from 0.5 mm brass wire. This is the first resin kit I’ve seen with slots and tabs for the horizontal tail, gear legs, and wheel pants. The tabs for the legs and pants are cast at the correct angles for easy alignment too.

After cleaning up the parts I checked them against the Matt plans which I’d reduced to 1/72 scale with Photoshop to avoid “Xerox stretching” errors. The wing (Photo 5) looked to be a bit long; calipers and calculator confirmed it was 0.2 inches (that’s 14 scale inches) too long. That was easily fixed by sanding the tips to the correct length and shape (Photo 6). Given the size of the one-piece wing and resin shrinking variables, I’d recommend checking your wing before grabbing the emery board and sandpaper. Everything else (Photo 7) laid right over the plans.

After reading the really excellent Paul Matt history of Mr. Mulligan (HIGHLY recommended, Historical Aviation Album Vol. XIV) I decided to make a change to the cabin. Dekno includes the rear seat but Benny and Gordon Israel flew the Bendix with a large fuel tank and oxygen bottles in place of the seat. A kluged-up multi-tank (and valve) arrangement and lack of oxygen led to a forced landing and damage that put Mulligan out of the 1934 races but Benny had everything right for ’35. The oxygen bottles would have been removed for the Thompson race, but it’s doubtful that the big tank would have been pulled. Entering the Thompson was a last-minute change of plans and the empty tank wouldn’t have weighed much. Even if the tank were pulled the seat wouldn’t have been installed; it was probably back in Chicago anyway. Using the Matt plans as a guide and checking the fit, I built the tank (Photo 7) from balsa covered with 0.010” sheet plastic. It’s not perfect, but it fits (Photo 9) like the plans and few photos show and you can’t see much of it once the model is closed up anyway.

I believe that Albert will include the tank in future castings and I’d bet he’d send one on request. I mixed a mahogany color from Tamiya Brown and Red (all color references are for Tamiya paint, by the way) for the cabin sides, used Model Master “Leather” for the seats, and flat black for the panel with gloss black on the raised instrument faces. I glued the rear of the fuselage together with thick, slower-setting “Super T” CA glue which gave me time to make sure the sides were aligned properly. When that set the front was taped together and a bead of Hot Stuff CA was run along the fuselage seams (Photo 10). I filled the small seams with brushed-on coats of thick primer and sanded them smooth. Before gluing the clear resin side windows in place with Kristal Klear (Photo 11) polished them with 3200 through 12000 grit cloth and dipped them in Future.

I  When that was dry they were masked with Bare-Metal foil and the tank, front seats, and sticks were added (Photo 12). After tacking the wing in place and making sure it was square in all directions, I ran a bead of hot stuff along the joint. My sanding had created a small gap at the trailing edge which I filled, but more careful “fit and try” could have minimized that. Be sure to clean out the slots for the gear legs (Photo 13) and tail surfaces and check the fit before applying any glue.

I made one other addition to the kit: there are five tubular braces that run from the back side of the firewall (or maybe the engine mounts?) to the front side of the wing spar. These are difficult to see in many photos and hard to recognize in most plans, but the old Cleveland plans show them clearly. I drilled holes in the underside of the wing (Photo 14) to accept 0.5 mm brass wire, cut pieces to length, and glued them in place. After adding the gear legs (Photo 15) and wheel pants (both easy to do with the slots and angled tabs) I masked the cabin, sprayed on a coat of primer, and block-sanded that smooth. Other than the small wing root gaps I created, no putty was needed anywhere.

After airbrushing on several coats of white lacquer I mounted the engine and cowl before applying the decals. Three of the four ways you can mount the engine are wrong; one cylinder should be at 12:00 (Photo 16) with the lowest two making an inverted “V”. A small round air scoop should be on the outside of each of those. Fitting the delicate exhaust collector and pipes is a bit fiddly but it looks good when done. There’s a lot of detail on the engine that can be picked out but much of it will be hidden when the cowl is in place. Although I polished and dipped the clear resin windscreen it still was a little cloudy so I used it to vacuform a new one and added the white center cover strip with a piece of decal. I’m not really happy with my replacement, either; the kit part did fit much better. If anyone knows how to make these clear resin castings really transparent, please share the technique!

The crisply printed decals are thin and very easy to apply and the instructions show exactly where they go. Metallic decals usually are difficult to work with but the gold registration numbers went on very easily. I thought the background of the Gulf decals was too pale and replaced them with decals from my model cars spares box. After fitting the struts I used more brass wire (Photo 17) to make the vertical braces and added the prop. I’ve been critical of some of Dekno’s props but this one is exactly right in all respects. My finished model (Photo 17) really looks like the real thing and there’s enough detail (Photo 18) to make it very realistic; can you tell this is a 1/72 scale model? There aren’t a lot of decals but they’re accurate and correctly proportioned. I was surprised at how big Mr. Mulligan was; the Gee Bee wasn’t a really small airplane, but Mr. Mulligan makes it look that way (Photo 20).

It’s been a long, LONG wait for a 1/72 scale kit of the 1935 Bendix and Thompson winner but Dekno’s model fills that empty hole in my collection beautifully. HIGHLY recommended.