Recreating the Wright R-1820 “Cyclone” (5)

In this post I will finish the first cylinder of the R-1820 “Cyclone”. It will be the “template” object, which I will clone eight times around the crankcase when I finish the other parts of this engine.

Although in my previous post the cylinder head received the full set of its cooling fins, it still lacks some details. One of them are the reinforcements of the valve covers:

Figure 87-1 Asymmetric reinforcements of the valve covers

As you can see, these reinforcements break the symmetry of the left and right valve covers. Both of them resemble a thick plate, but one is oblique, while the other is vertical. They are not the most prominent features of this cylinder head, and it took me some hours to determine their probable shape. Finally I classified them as the secondary features of the covers, which I have to recreate, for the assumed level of details.

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Recreating the Wright R-1820 “Cyclone” (4)

The fins of the air-cooled cylinder heads are a state-of-art piece of metallurgy (Figure 86‑1):

Figure 86-1 Fins of the R-1820 cylinder head

At the first glance, it is hard to believe that they were cast as a single piece. But when you look closer, you will discover that these fins “grow up” from the solid parts of the head as naturally, as the hair from the head (Figure 86‑2):

Figure 86-2 Close-up of the fin details

Try to imagine the shape of molds used in the production of these parts, and the challenges faced by their manufactures! (There is an interesting post about this. It describes production of the R-1830 Twin Wasp cylinders). Basically, modern producers of the heads for the air-cooled aircraft engines use the same technology as eighty years ago.

In my model I will recreate these fins in a somewhat simplified form, as a few separate Blender objects. I will also skip some fine details of their shape (for example the small features that I marked in the figure above). Such a simplification conforms the moderate level of details that I assumed for this model. It is always possible to make a more detailed version of this object later.

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Recreating the Wright R-1820 “Cyclone” (3)

One of the most prominent features of the R-1820 engine cylinders are their rockers. More precisely – their covers, cast as the part of the cylinder head (Figure 85‑1):

Figure 85-1 Cylinder valves and their rockers (a cutout)

The R-1820 was a classic four-stroke engine. Its cylinders had two valves: single intake valve, connected to the supercharger via a wide pipe, and single exhaust valve. Movements of these valves were controlled by cams, via pushrods and rocker arms mounted in the cylinder heads. The covers housing these valves and rocker mechanisms were placed on the right and left side of the cylinder head.

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Recreating the Wright R-1820 “Cyclone” (2)

In this post I will recreate the main and the front sections of the crankcase, and the cylinder basic shape. Let’s start this model by forming the middle section of the crankcase (Figure 84‑1):

Figure 84-1 Central section of the R-1820 crankcase

This section is always obscured by the cylinders, so you cannot see it clearly on any photo. That’s why I used here the original drawing from the manual. Generally, this barrel-like shape contains nine cylinder bases. It is formed by two steel castings, bolted to each other. (These bolts are hidden inside the crankcase, between the cylinder openings).

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Recreating the Wright R-1820 “Cyclone” (1)

The engine is the heart of every powered aircraft. In the case of the SBD it was the Wright R-1820 “Cyclone 9” (the “G“ model). In fact, this engine was one of the “workhorses” of the 1930s: designed in 1931, it was used in many aircraft, especially in the legendary DC-3. “Cyclone” was a reliable, fuel-saving unit for the Navy basic scout type. (Remember that the “Dauntless” was not only the bomber: it was also a scout airplane). In general, the R-1820 is a classic nine-cylinder, single-row radial engine (Figure 83‑1):

Figure 83-1 The Wright R-1820 “Cyclone”, mounted on the SBD-5 airframe

The R-1820 G had been produced for over two decades, not only by the Curtiss-Wright, but also (under license) by Lycoming, Pratt & Whitney Canada, and Studebaker Corporation. Thus various less important details of this engine “evolved” during this period. In this post I would like to highlight some of these differences. I will focus on the forward part of this engine, because at this moment I am going to create a simpler model of the “Cyclone”, intended for the general, “outdoor” scenes. Inside the closed NACA cowling, you can see only its forward part. (Thanks to the air deflectors, placed between the cylinders – see Figure 83‑1). In such an arrangement, the visible elements are: the front section of the crankcase, cylinders, ignition harness, and the variable-pitch propeller governor. While the front section of the R-1820 crankcase remained practically unchanged in all versions, and the governor depends on the propeller model, I could focus on the cylinders and their ignition harness.

Identification of the version differences is the basic step, because otherwise you can build a model of non-existing object that incorporates features from different engine variants.

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Creating the Tail Wheel

The Dauntless had fixed tail wheel of a typical design among the carrier-based aircraft. The tail wheel assembly consisted a fork connected to two solid-made beams, which movement was countered by a shock strut. The beams and the shock strut were attached to the last bulkhead of the fuselage (Figure 82‑1):

Figure 82-1 Tail wheel assembly

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Rigging the Main Landing Gear

In previous post I discussed how the SBD landing gear retracts into its wing recess:

Figure 81-1 Landing gear retraction in the SBD Dauntless

In principle, it is simple: the landing gear leg rotates by 90⁰. However, the parts responsible for shock strut shortening during this movement increase mechanical complexity of this assembly. The figure above does not even show the deformations of the brake cable, which follows the shock strut piston movements.

For some scenes I will need the landing gear extended, while for the others – retracted. In practice, moving/rotating each part individually to “pose” my model would be a quite time-consuming task. That’s why I created a kind of “virtual mechanism”, which allows me to retract/extend the landing gear with a single mouse movement.  In the previous post I already presented its results in this short video sequence. In this post I will shortly describe how I did it.

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Details of the Main Landing Gear

The SBD shock absorbers had to disperse a lot of the kinetic energy of landing aircraft, minimizing the chance that the airplane accidentally “bounce” back into the air. (This is a key requirement for the carrier-based planes). For such a characteristics you need a relatively long working span between the free (i.e. unloaded) and the completely compressed (i.e. under max. load) strut piston positions. Indeed, you can observe that the Dauntless landing gear legs are much longer in the flight than in their static position on the ground (Figure 80‑1):

Figure 80-1 The fully extended shock strut

The working span of the SBD shock strut piston was about 10” long, while the difference between the static and the free (extended) piston positions was about 7.5”.

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Forming the Main Landing Gear

I published my previous post a month ago, but the current stage of this project – detailing – requires less frequent reports. (Otherwise the posts would become rather monotonous: week after week they would describe making similar things, using the same methods). I started this last phase of the Dauntless project by recreating its main landing gear. First, I had to finish it, then I am able to write about this process. Thus I will describe it in this and next two posts. (I will publish them in a short sequence, week after week).

The retractable main landing gear of the SBD was probably a direct descendant of an experimental solution used in the Northrop 3A fighter prototype. In general, it looks quite simple:

Figure 79-1 Main landing gear of a restored SBD-3

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Creating Textures: Tri-Color Navy Camouflage

In my previous post I finished the case of so-called “two-color” U.S. Navy camouflage, which was used between September 1941 and January 1943. You can observe on the archival photos that its non-specular Sea Gray / Light Gray combination was especially prone to weathering, and accumulated every grain of the soot and drop of the oil stains. Simultaneously the weathered Sea Gray paint became more and more white.

The new, “tri-color” camouflage, introduced in January 1943, fixed these flaws, and provided better protection on the vast, dark waters of the Pacific. You can see an example of this pattern on an SBD-5 from VB-16 (Figure 78‑1):

Figure 78-1 Archival color photo of an SBD-5 from VB-16 (April 1944)

However, this historical photo has a technical flaw: its colors are “shifted toward blue”. You can unmistakably see this “shift” in the color of the bottom surface (it was Intermediate White). I was not able to correct this deviation, finding acceptable. Below you can see another photo of a SBD-5 from VSMB-231, which colors are more balanced (Figure 78‑2):

Figure 78-2 Archival color photo of an SBD-5 from VSMB-231

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