Cutting Edge 1/48 B-26K conversion
|For Monogram/ProModeler kit|
photo isn’t much for detail, but will serve to show the sheer volume of stuff
you get in the conversion set. Monogram B-26 fuselage not included, of course!
(Notice I have filled the turret hole on this fuselage with white sheet
styrene, as described in the text below.)
Let’s look at the pieces in more detail. The reason for this will become apparent when we get to the “Snakenomics” section below.
Packaging and Initial Impressions
The set comes in a substantial and semi-elegant looking black box about the size of seven packs of king-size cigarettes. And the box is nearly full of Cutting Edge’s distinctive dense, pinhole-free gray resin! (I counted three different shades of gray in my set.) FOR EXPERIENCED MODELERS ONLY! the package warns, under the B-26K profile drawing that seems to be a reversed image of a profile in the original Squadron A-26 Invader In Action book. The set seems to be very complete for external modifications--maybe even TOO complete, as we’ll discuss in “Snakenomics” below.
Having been both guided, instructed, and occasionally amused by other Cutting Edge instruction sheets, I found this one a bit of a letdown. It seems to have less information on it than the sheet for their A-26B 8-gun nose (included in this set), which is also sold separately. There’s no callouts for the various parts (although the antenna designations are inscribed on their sprue), and not much more than grainy photos of installed parts to show you where everything goes. Most disappointing is that there’s no indication other than a photo as to placement of the under wing pylons. Did I say you’ll need two other extras before starting this conversion? Make that three: Add a good reference book. The second Squadron A-26 Invader in Action (#134) has good drawings of the under wing pylon locations, and Warbird Tech #22 has a good diagram of the various antennas and where they go. (I know that the instructions were the last thing CE did on this set before they went out the door, so maybe they’ll find time soon to produce a more typical CE-like set of instructions for it. Here’s hoping!) (Editor's Note: Steve has told me that CE is redoing the instruction sheet. A new one will be sent by request to those who have already bought the conversion.)
Cockpit and Engines
This’ll be quick: There aren’t any. B-26Ks all had a dual control cockpit, which Meteor/CE has promised to tool up for us eventually. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later so all you cockpit freaks can finish your builds. I’m not a cockpit guy so I’ll be pressing on with the kit guts. (B-26K interiors, including the bomb bay, were black.)
The B-26K should have the bolted-gearcase type R-2800 engines, which are not included in the conversion set. Cutting Edge recommends Teknics engines, or you can pirate some from the AMT F7F-3 Tigercat or a pair of Hasegawa F4U-5/7/AU-1 Corsairs. Me, I’ll probably just use the kit engines and get on with my life.
Whey they’re called “Congo cowlings” I have no idea, as all the pics of B-26Ks in the Congo I could find showed aircraft without them. For that matter, most of the A-26A/B-26K pics I looked at had the standard cowlings as found in the Monogram kit; only a few of the Nimrods in Thailand seemed to have the modified cowlings (no carb scoop) provided in the CE set. Check refs for the airplane you want to build. Bottom line is that unless you deliberately set out to build a bird with the Congo cowlings, you might well discover that the one you want to do doesn’t need them. (More on this under “Snakenomics” below.)
Separate hubs and blades, which makes painting easy--nicely done! You can’t just file the tips of the kit props square, as the B-26K blades are much broader in chord. You need these parts, and they’re good.
They’re in two pieces each, are left and right handed, and are beautiful. No more sacrificing a T-33 or A-37 kit to get these (not that those are completely correct in the first place). They don’t fit over the wingtips; you have to cut the tips off, but that’s a small enough sacrifice to make for the conversion.
These are just little gems! The detail is amazing, and they’ll save you hours of work making them. As mentioned before, you’ll need the drawing in the Squadron In Action book to show you exactly where they go.
All three wheels are included, and the delicacy of the detail on the mains is just breathtaking. They have flat spots on the bottoms, but are not excessively bulged like some aftermarket resin wheels we could name. Good stuff!
Fuselage Turret Filler Plug
Rather than just plug the turret hole, CE gives you the whole section of upper fuselage the turret’s mounted in in resin. Good idea for the sake of completeness, but not IMHO the best way to handle the problem. I just filled that hole in the Invader I’m working on by laminating some sheet styrene, cutting/filing two pieces of it to semicircle shapes, and welding them into the fuselage halves with Ambroid Pro-Weld. It cost me nothing and took no more time than will cutting and fitting for this piece will . But that wouldn’t work in resin, because you couldn’t “weld” it in, and if it popped out while you were sanding it after the fuselage halves were assembled, you’d be screwed.
The K fin is exactly the same size and shape as the stock kit fin, but it has a beacon on top and a row of vortex generators on the right side. Although nicely molded, this piece doesn’t thrill me. I can make my own beacon, and I can live without the tiny (almost unnoticeable) vortex generators. The thought of cutting off the kit fin, and securely cementing and blending this one on, frankly frightens me. Besides which, it’s solid resin, which means it’s gonna be much heavier than the stock piece. I’ve already decided not to use this piece when I build mine.
The K rudder was lengthened (or widened, perhaps) six inches, which is 1/8 inch in scale. CE gives you a separate rudder with this modification accurately made. At this writing, I’m not sure if I’ll use it (in conjunction with the kit fin) or not. The bigger K rudder doesn’t really “jump out” at me in pictures of the real thing. The Monogram kit already has a bit of a problem looking too big in the rear end and too small in the front, and I might very well decide to try to sneak by with the stock kit rudder as well. I’d almost be willing to bet that no one would ever notice it.
This piece is the main reason I’m considering staying with the kit rudder. The longer rudder requires the longer tail cone to match it. Using the CE tail cone requires cutting corresponding sections from not only the fuselage but the kit’s one-piece stabilizer as well (CE’s instructions forgot to mention that little detail). There’s gonna be a lot of work here, and many chances to screw the whole project up, and all for what seems to me to be a hardly noticeable change in the appearance of the finished model. And then there’s the weight of all that resin on the extreme tail of the model! If I do decide to use the CE rudder, I’ll have three choices about the tail cone: 1. Do the several hours of work to use the CE cone, and make allowances for the weight. 2. Try to build up the kit tail cone enough to get by with some kind of putty. Or (simplest of all), 3. Display the rudder displaced to one side or the other so that it’s not apparent that the rudder is longer than the fuselage! (Feel free to steal that trick from me!)
Fiddly Bits--Antennas, Scoops, and Fairings
My, oh my, this set has ‘em! I counted 18 little antennas, scoops, and fairings of one sort or another, and I’m not sure I didn’t miss some. I don’t get too excited about this type of part, and in fact usually leave most of them off, because I find that if I don’t lose them in construction, they usually get knocked off eventually in handling, cleaning, or storage, but if you’re the kind of guy who has to have every last antenna on your model, go nuts! (Here again a good reference book will be invaluable for placement.)
I’ve saved the worst for last. I’m sorry to have to report that the Cutting Edge 8-gun nose isn’t right.
This isn’t CE’s fault; it’s Monogram’s. The A-26C kit fuselage (which the nose has been made to fit) is incorrectly shaped. The Invader fuselage right ahead of the windscreen should be straight and parallel to the fuselage centerline until it gets to the nose joint panel line. Instead, Monogram has it start sloping down immediately ahead of the windscreen. CE either had to follow this line, or put a dog-leg kink in the upper line of the nose, and they chose the former. The result is that the top line of the resin nose piece has to slope down too far too quickly, making the whole nose piece look noticeably (at least to me) undersized and a bit too “pointy.” CE has nicely captured the upward curve of the underside of the nose, however.
I must confess to being a bit of a nut about this particular element. On some airplanes, one or two particular features, shapes, lines, or “sit” can either make or break the whole model (in my eyes at least), and on the gun-nosed Invader, it’s the profile of the nose. I admit that this might well be as subjective as it is objective, but the the CE nose shape just does
not look right to me, and I won’t be using it. When you get your set, take a good look at the nose and see if it’s “close enough” for you. If you’re happy with it, fine. But DO give it a good look.
By the way, the CE nose looks closer than any other aftermarket 8-gun nose I’ve seen (not naming names here). And it looks better in person than it does in the pic on Meteor’s website. But it still doesn’t look right to me. Here, see for yourself the CE nose compared to the real thing:
<<<<Cutting Edge 8-gun nose. No, the picture is not upside down.
The real thing. Notice that it’s blunter, rounder, and flatter on top than the CE part.>>>>
Now, I realize that the CE nose part will look fine to many of you, and you’ll use the part with no problems. It doesn’t look right to me. If it doesn’t look right to you, either, you have a couple of options:
1. Build a glass-nosed B-26K. This is what I’m gonna do. There are at least three attractive schemes available for glass-nosed Ks (four, if you count black nacelles with the glossy green-and-gray scheme as a separate scheme), and I’m going to build mine as one of these. Note, however, that all the A-26A Nimrods that went to Southeast Asia had the 8-gun noses, so if you want to model a combat vet, you have to resolve the nose problem one way or the other.
2. Make your own nose. This is what I’m doing with the B-26B I’m currently working on, even though it will require reshaping the fuselage ahead of the windscreen. It’s the only way to get exactly the shape I want.
3. Start with the ProModeler A-26B version of the kit. I’ve never owned or even examined this kit, but I’m given to understand that the nose contours were reworked to better match the kit’s 6-gun nose, which seems to be pretty close in shape to what it should be (judging from net pics I’ve seen of others’ builds). Redrill the nose for the 8-gun arrangement (as far as I can tell, the 6-gun and 8-gun noses had identical sheet metal contours), replace the early type canopy with Squadron’s vac glass, fill the underside turret mounting, and you’re ready to rock on.
One more thing here: CE recommends cutting the Monogram A/B-26C fuselage 3/16” in front of the nose panel line for correct overall length and fit of the conversion nose piece. My own measurements indicate that correct length is reached by making this cut about .075 in front of that panel line. Experiment to see what works for you, if you use the CE part.
Again, I’m not saying the CE 8-gun nose is junk. You’ll have to make that decision for yourself after studying the part and your refs. But do do this research so that you’ll be happy with the way your model looks after you’ve put all that time and money into it.
As self-proclaimed “Cheapest Scale Modeler on the Net,” cost of any given project is always a concern to me--and I’ll bet it crosses your mind on occasion, too. This conversion set sells for forty dollars. That’s not a lot of money to some people, but it is to many of us. It’s twice what the basic Monogram kit typically sells for on eBay or swap meets, and it means that you’ll probably have $60--or even more--invested in building an accurate B-26K/A-26A.
I’ll tell you right now that the CE set is worth every penny of $39.95. If you figure your hobby time is worth only minimum wage, you couldn’t begin to do this conversion on your own for $40 worth of time. And I’ll bet you couldn’t do it as accurately, either--especially those gorgeous wheels.
I’ll also say that the CE set is cheap in relation to their other prices. Compare the prices on some of their other parts and conversions with what’s included in this set and you’ll quickly add up more than $40. The B-26K set might very well be the biggest bargain in the whole Cutting Edge catalog!
All that notwithstanding, there are a lot of modelers who simply can’t or won’t pay $40 for any conversion set, no matter how good it is or how much of a bargain. I think Cutting Edge would be missing a bet by not trying to pick up a few sales from those fellows as well. Therefore, I’d like to see them offer a stripped “basic” B-26K/A-26A set for the budget-minded modeler, or those less concerned with having every last detail just perfect, or those who like to do some of the work themselves. Is it possible to get a set of necessary, usable parts down to the $15-$20 price point? I think so.
First off, unless you’re emotionally attached to a particular airplane that had the “Congo cowlings,” you can live without those. (All the Southeast Asia A-26As were painted the same way and looked pretty much alike.) Deleting those should knock close to $10 off the set price.
You do need the tip tanks, under wing pylons, props, and wheels for any B-26K or A-26A, and those parts are all difficult to scratchbuild, so those definitely go in the “keep” pile.
You can get along just fine without the upper turret filler, as I’ve described above. That can go.
The 8-gun nose can go, too. Many of us won’t use it, and if needed it’s already available separately in the CE catalog.
The antenna sprues would be nice to have, if they can be included and the price kept down. If not, they can go too from our “basic” set.
That leaves the fin, rudder, and tail cone. For a real budget build, I could get by without all three (as described above), but it might be nice to have the rudder.
New instructions would have to be written for the “basic” set, telling how to fill the turret hole with styrene and how to either display the rudder (if included) offset or build up the tail cone with putty to match it.
So there you have our “basic” B-26K set for, let’s say, $19.99--tip tanks, pylons, props, wheels, and maybe the antennas and/or rudder. I could build a very presentable B-26K model with just those parts, and I’ll bet Cutting Edge could sell quite a few sets of them to other guys, too--guys who won’t buy the “full” set at $40. I do hope that CE will give the idea some consideration.
Thanks to Meteor Productions for the reviewed sample. Thanks also to Jim Rotramel for additional information used in this review.
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