Centuri T-Bird Rehab

I bought this already assembled and painted Centuri T-Bird off eBay, I’ve been starring at it sitting on a shelf for too long. It looks like originally it was all red, but it had a hard life from there, some of the fins have been broken off and poorly reglued with way too much glue and the fins were poorly painted gold. Well, overall, it just looks poorly. Looking inside the tubes I don’t think this was ever launched. This version has the plastic nose cone, it’s been damaged, but repairable.

Most of the fins for the 1st stage were already just hanging on by a thread, so I started there. At first I tried to sand the gold paint off. This was not working, the paint just quickly gummed up the sand paper. What really worked well was is using my hobby knife blade on edge and scrape the paint off, followed up with sanding. I recommend wearing a mask or go outside when doing this. I finished scraping the paint of the 1st and 2nd stage fins last night. One fin on the second stage is not an original and I will be replacing it, as it is way to thick at 1/8 inch. It was obvious it was not original and wrong, so I didn’t both to scrape the paint from it. Have the 3rd stage fins to go. It’s a slow process, but I think the results will be okay and I can bring life back to this neglected bird.

It is alway neat to be able to see the original factory printing on the balsa fins labeling the parts and the root.

Thank goodness disassembly is complete and all the gold paint is virtually gone. Here are the 2nd and 3rd stage fins along with the replacement 2nd stage fin.

I have it reassembled. Not perfect, but I didn’t have perfect expectations since I was already starting with imperfect materials. Overall I’m pretty pleased with it so far.

Before I had glued any of the fins on I did a test fit of motors in the mounts to check fit. Glad I did. This later specimen was after Centuri stopped pre installing the engine mounts, the thrust blocks in the 1st and 2nd stage were installed wrong. When assembled with engines, the stages would have lacked about 3/16 of an inch of fully going together. I carefully removed them and installed new ones in the correct position, all fits together nicely now.

For the fins, I started with the first stage and tried to get al the fins aligned and straight as I could. I let that cure overnight. The next day I assembled the 2nd stage, but before the 2nd stage had fully cured and was still a little pliable I clamped it together with the 1st stage so they matched as close as possible.

I have a decision to make on the decals. I could leave them intact and mask them off. Or I do have original Centuri decals to replace them.

As for paint scheme, don’t know yet, thinking about the 1972 red with a mix of black and white fins, or just paint the whole thing red like the original builder.

Out of curiosity I checked and right now it weighs in at 2.5 ounces. 1967 catalog weight is 2.8 ounces and 1972 is 2.9 ounces. Still needs to get prepped for paint and painted though.

It has sort of an interesting reclaimed, distressed wood look to it. I thought about clear coating the original fins, painting the body red, and paint the new fin I had to create on the 2nd stage black. This would not be the first time I’ve left a vintage rocket naked to show off the printing. I guess if I don’t like the clear coat I can always still paint it.

[Rehab started 6/15/2020]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *