One of the pioneers in French aviation before the beginning of The Great War was Armand Deperdussin. After building up a successful airplane company, Deperdussin was accused of engaging in some shady business practices and was arrested on charges of fraud in 1913. The company went into bankruptcy and renamed Société Provisoire des Aéroplanes Deperdussin, or SPAD for short. The company was close to collapsing when a consortium lead by Louis Bleriot took over and removed Deperdussin's name resulting in Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dérivés.
XIII was an upgraded version of the successful SPAD VII. The SPAD was designed
by the company's chief engineer, Louis Bechereau. The VII was armed with a single
machine-gun synchronized to fire through the propeller arc. The XIII was armed
with twin synchronized machine-guns. The VII was powered by a 150 hp Hispano-Suiza
in-line engine. The XIII had some teething troubles using the 200 hp Hispano-Suiza
engine, but once these were worked out, the XIII became the primary fighter for
both the French Escadrilles and American Squadrons. By the time production of
the XIII ended in 1919, 8,472 had been built by 8 contractors (A.C.M., Adolphe
Bernard, Bleriot, Kellner, Levasseur, Nieuport, Borel,and Société anonyme
francaise de Constructions Aeronautiques) in addition to the Société Pour
L'Aviation et ses Dérivés.
When I started getting back into modeling in 1985, I discovered the Glencoe WW I kits. These were essentially re-worked versions of some of the earlier Aurora kits, with the infamous engraved markings removed. I bought a bunch of the kits, including the SPAD XIII. The mistake I made was in trying to build the unbuildable Austro-Hungarian Albatros D-III first. I couldn't get anything to fit right, and I shoved all of the Glencoe kits into the closet of doom, figuring they were all equally difficult.
Rigging a SPAD at first looks daunting. However, once you look carefully, it is pretty simplistic, kind of geometric. You need to drill a lot of holes into the lower wing and fuselage, and partial holes into the top wing. Other than that, just use whatever your usual technique is. I use silver thread and ca, but stretched sprue or EZ line work just as well.
Painting provides a nice challenge. The SPAD VIIs were camouflaged in a two-toned yellow scheme. While some of the earlier XIIIs also received this treatment, the majority of the XIIIs were camouflaged using the French 5-color scheme. The top of the wings, tailpane, fin and the top and sides of the fuselage were covered in a pattern of dark green, light green, brown, black and something called ecru. While there was a suggested standardized pattern, the companies building SPADs all had their own take on things. I decided to use the "Blackfoot" scheme, the one with the prominent black looking footprint on the upper right wing. I think that the Model Master's Middlestone is a nice match for ecru. For the dark green I used MM RAF Dark Green, the light green was MM RLM 62 ,and the brown was MM French Chestnut brown. Black was just plain old MM flat black. The undersurface of the wings and fuselage was either a light yellow or light gray. I decided to do this one using MM light gray. .
The decals in the Glencoe kit immediately shattered upon hitting the water, even after a coating of clear gloss. This is a shame because the sheet has some great options. Fortunately, I had some spare SPAD decals picked up over the years, including a sheet from an Osprey published book on SPAD Scouts compiled by Glencoe Models. It had the side pennant with the Grim Reaper that I wanted to use. The remaining French cockades and rudder were sourced from an Aeromaster sheet on the SPAD VIIs.
Escadrille 94 had gone through several escadrille markings before using the Grim Reaper. The sides of the fuselage from the cockpit back to the tailplane were painted in a black pennant. The Reaper was painted white with the aircraft number close to the tailplane. The airplane number was repeated on the top wing. I don't know which pilot flew #8 and I couldn't find a picture of it in Jon Guttman's excellent book on the Escadrille, "Grim Reapers French Escadrille 94 in World War I", Aeronaut Books.
This was a real fun build, so much so that I went and bought a few more Glencoe SPADs in case I find the Eduard kit too much of a challenge. I hope to build the Eduard XIII in the near future, but I won't shy away from the Glencoe kit any longer. As for the Austro-Hungarian Albatross D-III, that kit will remain in the back of the closet of doom under as much stuff as I can pile on top of it.
Photos and text © by Mike Muth