The problem with having a big backlog of models is that some things stay in there longer than you want them to. The Sweet Arlene is definitely one of those models. Of course, I also feel like I’m always saying that the model I’m building is one that’s been waiting to be built for a while. So, sorry if I’m being a bit of a broken record. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to have moved this to my collection of built models, rather than sitting in the collection of unbuilt models.

So, if you didn’t notice, there’s something a little different about my build than most photos of this model. That’s because I decided to use the alternate build instructions, and built the plane in “flying” configuration, which basically just means that the landing gear is not deployed. This is an official alternative way to build it, and you can get the instructions for it on Metal Earth’s website here. In a way, it does simplify the build quite a bit, as you are really just skipping a bunch of steps. But I figured, why not? It might be cool to have it different. And I can always build the Tuskegee Duchess Arlene with the landing gear deployed, right?

Now, as you can probably judge for yourself, the paint job on this model is pretty sweet. They used a sort of matte-like finish and used the colors sparingly (but effectively). And there’s a bit of actual curvature to the wings, which I really appreciated (though I had trouble capturing it very well in the photographs). I mean, in reality, this is probably the best looking plane model that they’ve released, in my opinion. It feels like a lot less simplifications were cut in the name of building it out of flat sheets of metal, as there seem to be curvatures and nuances in all the right places. Granted, some of them prove to be near impossible to form correctly, but it’s definitely more realistic / accurate (seeming) than some of the earlier aircraft designs. I say “seeming” because I’m no aviation expert.

And the next thing I write is going to be one of the most predictable (and possibly repeated) phrases I use. With that accuracy and complexity comes a bit of difficulty. And yet, I’m not sure how truly difficult it is. I feel like I struggle more with Aviation models that other types. Something about forming the shape of the fuselage is just hard for me. And getting the darn wings and tail fins (tail wings? I have no idea what they are called) lined up to each other. So, while this wasn’t really a super-duper hard build, I feel like I didn’t really do a great job. I can’t get past a feeling that the tail section is either twisted or bent slightly out of line with the front. Because I’m a perfectionist.

Before I get into my experience and tips for the build, I want to point out something that I thought was pretty cool. It threw me a little bit at first, but then realized what it was, and was quite appreciative. In the parts diagram for the alternate build instruction, quite a few non-identical parts are colored red. Though it’s not specified anywhere, they appear to have done that to designate all the parts that are not used in the flying configuration build.

As I said earlier, I struggled a bit with the fuselage. This one has some extra quirks to it, mainly in the aft part of the plane. There’s a narrow section on one side that needs to be curved over to meet the other side, and it’s hard to tell just how much to curve it. On top off that, there is a small bit of the other side that needs to be curved, just barely to meet it. The instructions make it appear that it’s not quite a full half-circle curve, so I went a little short on my build… which is what I think lead to my struggle to keep the tail section straight. So I suggest you go for a complete 180 degree / half-circle curve here.

There are a couple more things to point out in this first step, though. First off, I would suggest that you go ahead and attach part 5 into the fuselage at this point. it’s a lot easier to access before you close up the tail section of the fuselage. And the little strips that wraps around the back of the cockpit… I don’t know what I did wrong, but I could not get them to meet at a flush edge like it shows in the instructions… at least, without the strip sticking out in a weird way. So I resorted to overlapping the two strips and just calling it close enough.

Now, there is another thing I often struggle with on airplanes… the cockpit canopy. Those thin strips of metal that suggest the shape of the canopy are really delicate. And I’m a bit of a kludge with my sausage fingers. However, it wasn’t Part 7 (the thin curvy bit) that gave me a lot of trouble, it was part 6, that front dash. I just couldn’t get it to curve right and meet flush across the front. I’m still not satisfied with it, but I didn’t want to break it. Of course, I still had some minor issues with Part 7, as shown below, but I think that’s a result of the design, rather than my failing. Due to how the tabs attach, the rear side-bars pull the center string level to the fuselage, even though it’s a shorter length. This pulls the back section down a little, so you get this kinda double-bump like shape, rather than the smooth bubble shape the blue arrow in the instructions suggests.

I do rather like how the tail wing / fin / whatever assembly comes together in this model. It’s rather unique, and kinda interesting to attach, but I like it. Still wish mine had ended up a little more straight to the body, but that’s my own issue. Oh, and the cockpit interior was relatively straight-forward, so I don’t really have much to say about that.

Moving along, we get to the wings, where I may have gotten a little pedantic. I decided that the “flaps down” position of the ailerons was inappropriate for an in-flight build of the model, so I kept them more straight-back. Well, technically I started with them tilted up a little, but decided to straighten it out more at the end. Maybe I should have followed Peppy Hare’s imprecise advice and had one up and one down for a “barrel role.”

At this point in the build you see the biggest change from the normal instructions, as it skips over building the front landing gear. Unfortunately, in the process of doing this, they clipped out the bit of the instructions that identifies Part 25 (the bottom of the wings) as well as the teeny-tiny folding of the teeny-tiny strips at the front of this part. I went ahead and grabbed it from the original instructions and included it snapshot below (after editing out a part being attached that doesn’t need to be attached in this alternate build).

Forming those little bombs (or whatever) that hang under the wings is quite an interesting challenge. I like to use my cone forming tools, the ones that AnimateOrange makes, to get more precise cones, but it’s quite a challenge here, with cones on both ends. I still managed to do it a little, then curve the middle section by hand, and close it all up. But… be prepared for a challenge.

Buttoning up the bottom of the plane wasn’t that challenging, except for attaching part 43, the section under the nose. I’m a bit embarrassed of my results here, as it’s just got some ugly gaps, and I’m not talking about the one that’s supposed to be there. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get it tight along the sides, right up where it overlaps the front edge of the wings. But it is what it is.

And, finally, the last thing I want to note is this minor, but amusing, goof at the end of the alternative flying build instructions…

Well, that ends my review of the build. I’m not sure if it’s as useful as my other reviews, I feel a little rushed, but have tried to do my best, given what energy I have available. This beautiful little plane took me a little under 3 hours, though I would imagine it would take a bit longer, if built in the traditional style, with landing gear extended.