Bluebird Blue - The Answer!

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Mike Bull
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Bluebird Blue - The Answer!

Post by Mike Bull » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:32 pm

I thought this warranted a special posting of it's own! Following the many discussions in the models thread and elsewhere about 'Bluebird Blue' I've had a little conflab with Bill and we've decided that fun as it's been to have sat on the truth about Bluebird's paint shade for so long in the name of letting the old girl keep one of her secrets, it's more in keeping with The Bluebird Project way of things to teach everyone about the boat and that it's now time to put the world out of it's misery re. the colour!

Now, Bluebird was painted several times during her long career, and these shades of blue varied wildly- from a fairly light cornflower blue to a very deep, almost greenish(!) tinged blue towards the end. Then of course, the repaired air intakes were a different shade again. (EDIT- See Below) So with her recovered exterior such a mess of paint layers, what blue do you trust?
Well that was easy- her Gnat tail fin was only painted once, so that was her definitive 1966/1967 colour. Bill had this colour analysed years ago, and it turns out that the boat's final paint layer was quite simply chosen from the standard RAL paint chart. The magic number? 5009, 'Azure Blue'.

RAL5009 is a most beguiling, deceptive shade of blue. We used it as the guide coat in the preparation of the exterior cockpit skins, and here they are under the fluorescent lighting of the workshop, minus any camera flash-
'Ugh!' you might say, 'surely that's not it?'

Well, look again under camera flash-
Looking more like you'd expect now? Here's the same layer of paint outside in some fairly neutral daylight-
Having been privy to the paint code, team member Jordan had his Flying Fifteen 'Anemone' painted in 'Bluebird Blue', complete with a silver boot top to allude to the planing wedges. Here's 'Anemone' illustrating for us how the colour works in various lights- note the huge variation between the three shots-

...and finally, here's the original paint on the tail fin- two photos, one with flash, one without-

So there you have it- the 1966/1967 'Bluebird Blue' is RAL 5009 Azure Blue.

The 66/67 Air Intakes-

It's long been said that following their repair in 1966, the air intakes were a 'different' shade of blue, and they clearly look to be different in most of the subsequent photos, be they black and white or colour-
-however, the evidence to hand- i.e, the actual paint from the recovered intakes- seems to suggest that the air intakes were actually painted EXACTLY the same colour as the rest of the boat. So how come they looked different..?

For a time we thought that the difference lay in what was underneath the paint- for their repair the air intakes were totally paint stripped and they have only ONE very thin layer of the blue, applied directly to the bare aluminium with no primer coat whatsoever. Even the tail fin had the blue applied over a thick grey primer. So we thought that maybe the visual difference was down to the application, and not the shade.

But again- the blue on the original intakes skin today is EXACTLY the same as that on the rest of the boat, so what changed in 34 years underwater? Why did the difference disappear? Then the penny dropped, and the answer seems to be quite simple; think about when you polish and wax your car- the polished bit looks darker!
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