Revell-Monogram 1/48 PBY-5 Catalina
Media: Injection-molded styrene
Price: $20 (at Wal-Mart) ($30 for the Pro-Modeler PBY-5A)
Options: Decals for one ship throughout its combat career.
Review and Photos by: John Lester
The PBY 'Catalina' is arguably the most successful flying boat ever produced, and was made in larger numbers than all other flying boats combined. Despite being declared obsolete by the U.S. Navy in 1939, the 'P-boat' served throughout the war in the service of the US (Navy, Coast Guard and Army Air Force as the OA-10), Britain, Canada, France, Australia and the Netherlands. An extremely versatile aircraft, it was used in a wide variety of roles besides search and rescue and patrol; in the South Pacific, for instance, the 'Black Cats' of VP-12 and other squadrons are credited with sinking more than 10,000 tons of Japanese merchant shipping.
Monogram's kit depicts a standard PBY-5 (a PBY-5A is produced under the Pro-Modeler line; most of the following comments should apply to it as well). The kit, which contains 124 pieces, is molded in light grey and clear styrene. Also included is 16 page instruction booklet complete with four pages of drawings showing decal placement. Decals for one machine, USN PBY-5 BuNo 2360 of PATRON 14, are provided. They depict the aircraft throughout it's short combat career (7 Dec '41- 26 Aug '42). The completed model spans 26 1/4" and is 16 3/4" long (41cm x 67cm), and scales out dead-on, according to my references. I have problems with the painting guide which I'll get to later.
This is a (mostly) beautiful kit! The interior is standard Monogram - detailed enough to satisfy most folks, but with plenty of room for the serious detail hound to make improvements. True Details makes a resin 'upgrade' kit, which includes a bulkhead and new instrument panel; the kit detail was enough for me. The exterior is extremely well detailed with recessed panel lines and rivets, and nicely textured surfaces depicting fabric covered surfaces. Clear parts are very clear (though thick) enabling you to show off most of that fancy interior. My sample came from one of the better days at Monogram. There was no warping, not even of the huge wing and fuselage pieces, and almost no flash and no sinkholes. The only real negative is the location of sprue attachment points on many of the smaller parts, which require tedious clean-up on fragile parts. My sample also had huge ejector pin marks on the fuselage interior - fortunately in places where they could not be seen after it was assembled.
Construction was a breeze, for the most part. Fit is excellent and I used almost no putty -except where I gouged surfaces while removing them from the sprue. I built and painted the interior first, then gave everything a light wash of dark grey to bring out the detail. After this I care fully weathered the floors and compartment doors by drybrushing with steel and rust. The fuselage is too big to glue together all at once (believe me, I tried!) - instead, glue it in sections. Panel lines matched up beautifully across the fuselage halves and the pontoons fit snugly inside the recesses on the wing (I built mine in an 'in-flight' pose). I thought of cutting out the elevators and repositioning them (to show a landing or take-off), but this would have required too much work to clean up the stabilizers and control surfaces. Ditto opening up the tunnel gun, which would have required scratchbuilding the interior around it. In the end I contented myself with just bending up one of the control tabs and turning the nose turret. I also opened up the oil cooler housing - which could benefit from some detail inside, except that none of my photographic references show what that area looked like. The cockpit glazing had a small gap in the front, and the fuel vents didn't fit snugly in their indent. Also, the waist blisters required careful sanding to get them to mate cleanly with fuselage. All gaps were easily filled with thinned white glue or putty. It would have been nice to have some ammo belts to feed into the waist guns, and an ammo can for the nose gun.
I kept the wings and fuselage separate until after painting, and left the radar antenna and other fiddly bits off as well. The blisters, nose turret, and cockpit framing I masked and painted by hand. There is a Fast Frames set available - but after using it (and junking most of it) I'd advise saving your money. Nothing lined up well, especially on the nose turret and cabin glazing. Must be the kit: I've used other Fast Frames sets and had good results. Ah, well. Be careful masking and painting the windows - I accidentally pushed one of mine in, and there's no way to fix it without breaking the fuselage apart!
My model is finished in the standard early war scheme of blue-grey upper surfaces and light grey undersides. The particular shade of blue-grey used is a matter of debate; based on the few color photos I've seen I decided to use Testor's Model Master FS 35164 Intermediate Blue. It's not clear from the painting guide, but the leading edges of the wing, stabilizers, and tail should be a dark grey. As usual with Monogram kits I've built, the clear backing wasn't exactly transparent. I find that coating the area where the decal will go with a bit of Future floor wax, along with the judicious use of setting solution/decal solvents, eliminates silvering and opaque backing. A coat of dullcote hides the wax well. I lightly weathered the exterior by drybrushing with silver and tiny amounts of rust, and added exhaust stains across the top of the wing behind the engine stacks. Finally (after the decals) I added the various radio aerials, which I made from very fine copper wire.
I chose to use Monogram's decals build this machine as BuNo. 2360 as she looked on 7 December 1941, and here's where my biggest beef comes. Monogram would have you believe that this aircraft wore a large national insignia (the blue disk, white star, and red center dot) on either side of the fuselage behind the waist gunners' blisters, and on top and bottom of both wings. This does not jibe with any of my references - including a clear photo of a formation of VP-14 aircraft dated February 1941. The photo shows PATRON 14 in the standard pre-war neutrality patrol scheme of blue-grey over grey, with a small national insignia on either side of the bow under the front windscreen and larger insignia on the upper port and lower starboard wings.
The scheme Monogram depicts on the box is accurate for Jan-May'42 (the result of the January, 1942 directive issued in a vain attempt to stop 'friendly fire' incidents). The painting guide for this scheme is wrong, however - the national insignia ought to be on both wings, top and bottom. I've seen a couple photographs that show the top-side national insignia of Jan- May '42 stretching from the leading to trailing edge, but this was probably a non-standard scheme carried on the machines of a specific squadron.
The photo I have of the pre-war VP-14 in formation does not show the homing transmitter/receiver arrays on the wings - but these did not start appearing on PBY's until later in 1941. Not all aircraft carried them either - so check your references before deciding to use the parts. Some aircraft also sported a ball mount for the .30 cal tunnel gun in the rear-most window. As with any other subject, research is the key.
As you can probably tell from the image above, my model won't be winning any contests. Overall, though, I'm extremely pleased with my 'Cat and highly recommend this kit. Get it at Wal-Mart or one of the other large discount chains where it's $10 - $15 cheaper than the hobby shops, and save that money for the Pro-Modeler PBY-5A.
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