The Lockheed 1649 Starliner was the ultimate development of Lockheed's 4 engined piston airliner series which started with the 049 in 1943. It had the fuselage of the previous 1049 model mated to a brand new wing with increased span, which allowed the designers to mount the inboard engines further away from the fuselage, reducing noise and therefore increasing passenger comfort. The increased wingspan allowed for more fuel, improving on the Constellation's already impressive range and improved the ride in turbulent conditions.
First impressions The Welsh models kit is moulded in Welsh's traditional 1.5mm plastic. This is a full vacuform kit with only the engines, propellers and landing gear cast in resin and white metal. The parts are nicely formed, with the finest panel lines I've ever seen on a model kit. They're so fine as to be almost invisible. The kit comes in a plastic bag rather than a box, harking back to Welsh's first kits.
The parts are very nicely formed without any blemishes. The 14 major airframe parts comprising the wings, fuselage, tailplanes and fins are vacuformed on two sheets while the engines are resin and the landing gear struts and propellers are white metal. I always draw around the edges of vac parts with a marker to aid in the sanding process. Once I've sanded up to the edge of the marked line I know that the part will be the proper shape. If I can still see white below it, I know that I need to sand more.
Fuselage The fuselage is moulded in Welsh's traditional thick vacuform plastic with 3 bulkheads to keep it from collapsing. Windows are provided as decals with a note on the instruction sheet advising the modeller to apply the decals as a guide for marking their positions preparatory to drilling them out if clear windows are desired. Nose weight will be required. In addition to the bulkheads, small tabs cut from the backing sheet should be glued to the fuselage halves to help keep then aligned and to add to the gluing surface. Give them a little curl before gluing to keep the fuselage circular. Welsh has captured the Starliners graceful fuselage shape very well. The central fin is supplied as a separate part to be applied after the tailplanes are glued.
Wings The wings are offered in top and bottom pieces for each wing. There is a portion of the underside of the fuselage attached to each lower wing half. This will need some delicate fitting and filling to capture the shape correctly and match to the fuselage without steps or gaps. The main gear wells will need opening up and detailing. The wings will need careful sanding to set the thickness properly and to achieve a sharp trailing edge. A wing spar is not provided, but the modeller can make one using the front view on the instructions to ensure the dihedral is set properly. The 1649 had a very pronounced dihedral angle which will be important to achieve if the model is to sit properly on its landing gear.
Empennage The tailplanes are two pieces each with two fins which interlock into the outboard ends and a central fin each made up of two pieces. They will all need careful sanding to achieve the proper thickness and sharp trailing edges. They will also need some work to ensure the gaps are filled. This is a standard procedure when vacuform kit building.
Engines The engines are offered as solid resin mouldings which include the cowling, cowl flaps, intakes and spinner after-body. There is a small bit of engraved detail which represents the cylinders, but it will be difficult to see once the propellers are installed and everything is painted. The exhaust pipes are simple depressions and are only two per engine rather than the proper three. They should be slightly enlarged (with the third drilled out) and detailed with tubing.The propellers have part of their casting blocks still attached to the spinners and and blade tips. There is also a ring of flash running around the spinner and along the blades. This will have to be very carefully filed off to avoid damage. The engines also have a small bit of the casting block attached. It must be sawn off. Remember to take care not to breathe the resin dust while cleaning the engines up. The engines must be glued with epoxy or cyanoacrylate rather than regular modelling cement.
Landing gear Each landing gear strut is moulded complete with its wheels in white metal. There is no wheel well detail nor landing gear doors (except for one nose gear door moulded with the strut) supplied in the kit. Since they were almost identical with those of the 1049, the details and measurements from the Revell kit may be copied.
Accuracy I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it will look like a 1649
Decals and markings The kit comes with a generic Air France Constellation/Starliner decal. The cheatlines will have to be cut and pieced together to ensure they are the correct length. The instructions and decal sheet give the basics, but the modeller is expected to have a certain amount of familiarity with making decals fit rather than just applying them. The sheet was made for Welsh's Air France Constellation issues and offers 3 registrations, one each for a 749, 1049 and 1649. The modeller is expected to consult references to choose the correct registration. The kit offers two variations of Air France's Starliner colour schemes, involving the amount of white applied to the nose. In 1958 the white top of the fuselage ran in a fairly straight line from the tail to the bottom of the windscreen. By 1961 the white wrapped around the nose in a scallop shape which followed the front of the Air France seahorse logo and terminated in a point behind the nose gear doors. Since few airlines flew the 1649 there are few aftermarket schemes available.
Conclusion This kit is for the more advanced vacuform modeller who has some experience working with multimedia and making decals fit. It could be cross-kitted with the Revell Constellation if desired. The wings could be made to fit the Revell fuselage with the main landing gear bays adapted to the 1649's nacelles. This would allow the use of Revell's beautiful detail parts but it would not be at all cheap. Welsh Models assume that the modeller has had sufficient modelling experience not to need detailed build instructions. In most cases their instruction sheets consist of 1/144 drawings of the aircraft with detail notes describing items to pay attention to during the build.
Highs: Beautiful resin and metal mouldings for the detail parts. Good shapes.Lows: Some modellers are still frightened of vacuforms. Requires some vac experience.Verdict: It will give you a good 1649 right out of the bag.