FlisKits ACME Spitfire... Steampunk-style

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Random Part-time Hobbyist
Jan 17, 2009
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Wikipedia has a more descript definition of "Steampunk", but simply put, it is a genre that is somewhat of a strange cross between science fiction and whimsical mechanical devices from the steam-driven days from around the turn of the century (think Jules Verne-style contraptions, or the big mechanical spider in the 1999 Will Smith movie Wild Wild West).

There are actually entire sub-cultures built off of this genre, and it apears to be a growing art-form. So why not build rockets to look like they are steampunked? And what better rocket than the ACME Spitfire from FlisKits?

I had already built an ACME Spitfire a few years ago that has had several exciting flights, and it is hands down still one of my favorites. It has also taught me a few things that I wanted to do differently on my next one. To start out with, I replaced the engine hook with an Estes engine hook. I had an engine eject on my other Spitfire and it came in ballistic (surprisingly without damage), so I went with the Estes hook on this one (no offense, Jim!). My other Spitfire also has some wrinkles in the fin shroud resulting in some cracked paint. So on this one I decided to coat the inside of the shroud with epoxy and add some internal supports under the fins.

Construction started with laying out all of the parts (first picture). If you have never built a Spitfire before, the instructions make it amazingly easy. It is really just one BT-50 rocket with BT-70 body tubes cut at angles and glued to the outside with offset centering rings. Each BT-70 tube segment and centering ring are aligned by a black line and a red line that you mark on the outside of the tube. The second picture shows how the included templates are used to cut the angles of the BT-70 tube, and the third picture shows the four BT-70 tubes after they are all cut. The fourth picture below shows the internal fin supports that I added on mine from scrap balsa. These had to be sanded after I attached them so that the shroud would fit perfectly over them. After coating the inside of the cardstock fin shroud with epoxy and gluing it to the first body segment, the rest of the construction (with the exception of the launch lug) was done according to the instructions......




After the rocket was completed, it was time to start adding "fittings" to give it the steampunked look. There really are no rules for making something look steampunked, so I made all of this up as I went along.

External vent pipes were made from 1/2", 3/16" and 1/8" launch lug pieces. Half round styrene strips were glued on in a few places. Panel lines and covers of all shapes and sizes were cut out of a manilla file folder and glued on in various places. I used a few pieces of scrap balsa to make a few of the larger bumps on the body. They were smoothed out with a watered down mixture of Elmer's wood filler. Some of the external piping was made out of 1/4" dowels. A pressure gage was made from one of the yellow spacer tubes that some kits supply to position the thrust ring, and I made a pressure gauge sticker that for it. I made a large exhaust vent at the top from a piece of aluminum screen placed in a frame cut from the file folder. The larger rivets were a combination of different round stickers that I found at Michaels. The smallest rivets were added by dipping a pencil in a pile of white glue and touching the pencil to the body tube.

I had wanted to replace the stock two-piece 3/16" launch lug with one that looked more like a long pipe running the length of the rocket, so I bought a 12" piece of 3/16" launch lug from BMS to use. I also made the launch lug standoff a little smaller than the instructions call for so it didn't stand off from the body so much. I made a cut in the bottom of the fin shroud and the back centering ring for the launch lug to fit into. At the top of the lug I used some pieces of 1/4" dowel to look like a pipe going off at an angle.

These next few pictures show it in various stages of completion with primer already added to some parts. Now I am bummed that I didn't take as many pictures during construction as I did.....

SP 6.jpg

SP 7.jpg


SP 9.jpg
Next was the paint. I sprayed the entire rocket with Testors Metallic Gold from a rattle can. The vents, a few panels, external piping and the launch lug were hand painted with Testors Copper. The frame around the exhaust screen, the launch lug standoff, and the panels that look like they attach the fins to the shroud were all hand painted with Testors Brass paint. There wasn't as much of a color difference between the three colors as I was hoping for. The exhaust screen and the insides of all the little vents were painted with flat black...

SP 10.jpg

SP 11.jpg

SP 12.jpg


Here are a few overall pictures of it. Next I plan to let the paint cure for a bit and weather it with some watered down black paint wiped on then wiped off to give it an aged look. I used my other Spitfire as reference to get the CG dialed in on this one by adding clay to the forward body tube. I hope to have this one weathered in the next few weeks and fly it in the spring.

SP 15.jpg

SP 16.jpg

SP 17.jpg

SP 18.jpg
Wow, that is original and awesome. I am impressed...
Thanks, Brian! That means a lot coming from a national champion celebrity such as yourself.

V E R Y nice job! Very imaginative design, and your craftsmanship looks outstanding!

That Spitfire almost looks too good to take a chance launching! (I said almost)
Fantastic, Jeff! Just fantastic.

That is absolutely awesome. You will definitely need to post flight pics - that's probably my favorite of any Acme Spitfire paintjob/theme that I've seen.
Thanks everyone! It was actually a fun project to work on. But I have to admit that the up-close craftsmanship on this one didn't turn out as good as I had hoped (good thing the pictures are fuzzy to help hide flaws). I am thinking that the weathering should hide a few of the flaws. I didn't want to put so much work into it that I would be afraid to fly it. But thanks for all of your kind words.
Jeff had sent me pix of this before posting this thread, so I've been waiting for this one ... :)

This thing is simply breathtaking. There's no other word for it...

I've said it before, hundreds of times. I may have a good imagination when it comes to certain rocket designs, but what you folks DO with those designs simply stuns me sometimes.

This is one of those times.

I'm at a loss for words. I love it :)
Thanks, Jim! But you get most of the credit for this one - after all, it's YOUR design - I just added stuff and color!
That's the way it should be done! Taking a great kit and making it your own.
A well known comedian once told me: "You can't parody a parody."
Thanks for proving him wrong.
WOW!:eyepop: Very cool Jeff!:cool: Will be impatiently waiting for the 'weathered' pictures to be posted!
I agree with the complements everyone else has given and want to offer more as well.

It is outstanding. Well done.
Most awesome - yet again! What you do as an artist never cease to amazes me Jeff.

Now . . . someone get those pics off to Gary Larsen and show him how a comic is being used today, years after he quit drawing!
Simply awesome! I think you really captured steampunk very well
Amazing! Mine is in the now-boring Redstone skin. Can you tell us a little on how you made the details?

Easily the best Acme rocket I've seen yet...and there have been some great ones! VERY nice job, sir.
Aboslutely COOL!!! That is the best Spitfire I've ever seen. Great imagination and creativity. It looks like it could be right out of the pages of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
I'll have to agree with my esteemed colleagues on this one. This is the best ACME I've seen by a long shot. :cheers:
That is a work of art. My club & I built a 12" diameter SPITFIRE a couple years a go, so I have a soft spot in my heart for that kit. Your work is awesome, I love the weird & different.