1/144 Minicraft Boeing 737-300

Gallery Article by Carl Jarosz on Oct 23 2018



Boeing 737-300 Western Pacific Airlines “Crested Butte” Livery

It shouldn’t be surprising, in light of previous ARC submissions, that I’m taken by the lively livery used by our nation’s air carriers (e.g. United, Eastern, Western, Delta, et al.). I hereby offer my latest airliner build, in the common 1/144 scale, of a Boeing 737-300, used by Western Pacific Airlines (now defunct) in the 1990s. In that decade, several Colorado towns, all located in the relatively inaccessible high Rocky Mountains, teamed up with Western Pacific Airlines to decorate some of their 737s, with colorful landscapes of the area applied to the fuselages of the chosen aircraft. Not sure how successful it was, but it must have had some, as a number of 737s were basically flying advertisements for western towns. Las Vegas, Nevada, and some Texas towns also teamed up with Western Pacific Airlines for their own promotions.

Daco Products, Ltd., a company out of Belgium, seems to have cornered the market on flashy decal sheets that capture the advertisements various towns paid Western Pacific to paint their airliners. More on the decals later; it was not a perfect, effortless build!

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The basic Boeing 737-300 was one of Minicraft’s established releases. It gives a good amount of exterior detail for the aircraft. The interior is non-existent, but weight must be added to ensure the aircraft sits on its tricycle gear. I use a mix of BBs and play-dough wrapped around 10-15 of the metal balls. It’s important, though, to fashion a backing plate/disk, out of styrene stock, then glue this to the interior mold line of the fuselage at a selected cross-section. The disk prevents the working loose of the play-dough/BB mix, not allowing the dough and BB balls to roll around the inside, and destroying the sitting tricycle gear effect.

The wings and horizontal stabilizers were finished in normal colors; no ‘N’ registration numbers were applied to the wings (the registration number is found on the vertical stabilizer, small print).  The fuselage, however, is where the special advertisement-as-fuselage-painting was located. Each town seems to have had a separate color assigned to its livery. For Crested Butte, Colorado, purple was the chosen color. I had two options to get the correct shade of purple: either mix my own signature brand of blue and red; or break down and purchase the proper shade of purple from Daco. I chose the latter. It arrived in a Humbrol type tin. And another important point: Daco sells its own thinner, which I strongly urge one to purchase, as it greatly facilitates paint drying on the model. The good news is, there was little difference in lustre when I applied a coat of Future; I could have left the dried paint alone and had a glossy lustre.

The near nightmare on this build came when I applied the broad, colorful decals showing outdoor action scenes (ostensibly from the town advertised). The decal was on the thick side, probably because Daco didn’t want their elaborate decals to crumble or shred in a modeler’s hands, with subsequent loss of return sales, plus a damaged reputation among the modeling milieu. But being thick posed application problems: First, it took many more minutes in warm water than normal to begin to work loose the decal film from its backing, and then I had to work inward from each edge toward the center of the decal; Second, once I worked loose the decal, it refused to stay on the backing, which means I had a mess on my hands, especially with the long broad decals wanting to stay affixed to my fingers rather than the plastic. Third, once I had the decal on the plastic, the curves on the model required me to lance, or cut the decal where a crease developed with an X-acto blade. Daco sells its own decal setting solution - and I used it - but it didn’t compensate for the wrinkling/creasing of the decal during placement.

I should point out that Daco knew decal wrinkling would occur once applied to curved surfaces, as some decals had printed splits on the natural sheet. Don’t expect the split sections in the decal to close up neatly and result in a seamless final lay on the model! I spray painted the base fuselage color along the decal edges where the printed splits failed to join up, using a fine mist setting on my airbrush. This method worked to eliminate visible separations.

Two final decaling notes: First, pay attention to the order of decal placement, as wrong order will obscure final model detail. For example, apply the colorful broad action decals on the rear fuselage section before applying the window strip decal, as one needs to have the windows perforate the action decal, rather than the action decal cover up a number of windows (preventing paying customers from seeing out of the airplane). Second, make every effort to locate the decal where it’s to reside on the model before sliding it off the backing: the decal wanted to adhere where it first touched the plastic. I had to almost pour MicroSet on the decals to allow for final adjustment on the model, and even then I had minimal movement ability. But once in place, the decals are stunning!

There are other Daco action/advertisement decal sheets one can purchase. Each has its own memorable scenes. If you desire to build one yourself, just use Daco’s premixed paint color(s) – each decal offering on their website has a list of colors that are needed to create the shown product - and its thinner for their paint. Then have plenty of time and especially patience when applying the decals. The final model is uniquely stunning. 

Carl Jarosz

Photos and text © by Carl Jarosz