Revell/Matchbox 1/72 SB2C-1 Helldiver
|PRICE:||£3.00 (On ebay some months back)|
|NOTES:||Requires putty and patience, but a good result|
To cover the Helldiver's full history, warts n' all, you'd probably have to write an entire thesis! Readers wishing to know more about the Helldiver saga should check out Tom Cleaver's build reviews of the ProModeller scale Helldiver on this site, (here and here) which give an excellent account of the type's troubled history.
The first thing to state about this kit is that it is a re-issue of the old 1970's Matchbox kit, coded PK-104 (I know the number because it's plastered over all the sprues!), and so this is by no means a modern kit. I bought the kit before I knew this, but it was so cheap I wasn't complaining - in fact, it's not a bad little kit. The sprues come in a plastic bag packaged snugly in a surprisingly small box, and the breakdown of parts is pretty conventional. There are 40 peices moulded in dark blue plastic, and two clear parts for the pilot's and gunner's cockpits respectively. Rather oddly, the panel lines on this kit are part raised and part recessed, the rear fuselage and tail having the raised detail.
build begins with the cockpits, as you'd expect. This being a rather basic
kit, there is very little interior detail and this is a problem because
there is so much glazing to see through. There is a pilot's seat and
backplate provided, and something loosely resembling an instrument panel is
moulded into the cockpit coaming. Two lumps moulded into the inside face of
the gunner's cockpit to act as a seat, another even sturdier pair to mount
the gun, were the only details in the rear.
I added alot of detail to both cockpits,
including floors for both and a control column for the pilot's cockpit. I
then raided the spares box for various other bits of radio gear etc. The
cockpit was painted Revell SM360 Fern Green (a close match for
Although the oil cooler outlet is moulded in the open position, the opening is moulded solid, so this needs cutting open while the fuselage is still in two halves. It's also at this point that you're supposed to insert the arrestor hook, but the kit item bears no resemblance to the real thing as it is a rather toy-like length of plastic with a hook on the end. Perfect for playing deck landings with a bit of elastic, but not great for a desktop model (remember, this was meant as a toy when Matchbox first released it). Being as I was finishing the model as a shore-based trainer, and several of those had hooks removed, I decided to leave it out. The fuselage halves join nicely, although the spine between the two cockpits has no locator pin so care has to be taken to glue this accurately and strongly. A bit of scraping and sanding saw to any joint imperfections, no putty required. So far, so fun!
The wings were next, and following the 'toy' theme the wings were designed to fold on huge, clunky hinges. If I were a few years younger I'd say they were cool, but they bear no resemblance to reality. Each wing is made up of four parts, with upper and lower inner and outer sections. I assembled the wings and then glued the hinges in the 'spread' position, making sure the inner and outer sections were nicely aligned. The gap in the hinges was still enormous, and so I used alot of putty filling these in and sanding smooth. This was trickier than you might think as the thickness of the inner and outer sections was different in places, and this meant that the sanding was as much about removing mis-matching areas of plastic as it was about smoothing the filler. I eventually reached a point where the joint disappeared and the wing tapered smoothly. I then attached the wings to the fuselage, with some putty being required in the undersides of the wing roots, but nothing major.
The tailplanes are moulded complete, they just needed cutting from the sprues and and glueing in place. They have alot of raised panel lines, and with more time and patience I would have removed them and re-scribed. With alot of time already given to the cockpit detailing and wing filling, I decided to leave them alone. They're quite subtle, so they don't look too bad.
The engine/cowl section was next, consisting of a one-peice cowl and the engine divided into two parts- a backplate with the rear row of cylinders moulded into it, and a seperate part consisting of the front row of cylinders and the reduction gear casing. I painted the interior of the cowl a very dark grey, and the engine and backplate were painted in gun metal with a black acrylic wash to give depth. The engine fitted no problem, but a major flaw is that the hole for the prop-shaft is moulded way off-centre. I decided to remove the pin from the prop and simply butt join the back of the hub to the crankcase in a central position. The prop blades are moulded with the hub, with a seperate spinner ( I attached the prop during final detailing, so it was out of the way during painting). The prop-less engine/cowl was then mated to the fuselage, and it made for a good fit.
Wanting to pose the model 'flying' on a stand, I glued the landing gear in the raised position. If you build yours gear-down, watch out for the rake angle of the legs as a couple of other builds I've seen have legs raked too far to the rear. The bays are shallow so the wheels are in fact half-thickness, taken from my spares box (saving me the trouble of sanding down the kit wheels) and glued directly into the 'roof' of the bay. With one or two lugs removed, the landing gear fairings then laid in on top nicely. I drilled a small hole in the belly of the model to take the wire stand, which I made from a cut down wire coat hanger. I have limited space to display my models, so raising them up in flying poses on a wire stand is a great way to save space, and they look pretty good 'flying' out from behind the other things on the shelf.
I then added some final details, including
exhuast stubs made from scrap sprue. The bulges for the exhausts are there,
but I had to carefully gouge a hole with the tip of a blade to make sockets
for these pipes. I also attached the bendy pitot probe to the left wing, and
the big radio mast in front of the cockpit.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Colours and Markings:
The kit gives two marking options, one for an
aircraft of VB-17 in early 1943, and the other an aircraft of
based on the US East Coast in July 1943. In either case, the colour scheme is
the same, being the characteristic three-tone
I then added the prop as described above, and
the tailwheel. Finally, I added the drop tanks, which I'd pre-painted with
Humbrol 27001 Metal
This is by no means the most advanced SB2C kit on the market, but if you just want a weekend build that looks OK when it's done, you'll be happy with this one. Yes it does need some filler, and those raised panel lines need dealing with, but for a 1970's 'toy' kit this one really isn't bad - and you can't argue with the price. This is the first WWII US Navy aircraft I've built for years, and I'm really happy with the way it turned out.
American Warplanes of World War II, by David Donald, Aerospace Publishing ISBN: 1874023727
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