Tamiya 1/48 Brewster Buffalo
KIT #: 61094
PRICE: $29.00 SRP
DECALS: Three Options
REVIEWER: Bill Michaels
NOTES: Original and recent release of the kit compared


The history of the Brewster Buffalo has been well documented in many of the other review articles here on MM, so I won’t repeat it here.

The Dutch aircraft I chose to model is identified as the mount of Kapt van Helsdingen of the NEIAC.   A quick Google search found the following information:

The Netherlands East Indies Air Corps (often referred to as ML-KNIL) formed two squadrons of Buffalos in the summer of 1941.  The second squadron, identified 2-VLG-V was formed in July 1941, and lasted until eventually being overcome by the Japanese in March of 1942.   The squadron’s emblem was a Javan Rhinoceros.

When war came to the Pacific, the squadron was based in Malaya, to assist in the defense of Singapore.  The squadron saw action against vastly superior numbers of Japanese aircraft, scoring some successes, with a two or three to one kill ratio, but attrition was talking its toll.  In January 1941, the squadron was withdrawn to assist in the defense of Java.  

The Wikipedia article describes the squadron’s final fight:

“On March 7, 1942, van Helsdingen was given the order to give air support to Dutch Army forces fighting in Lembang. Despite the Japanese having almost complete air superiority over Java, he nevertheless chose to take off from Andir airfield. He asked all available pilots who wanted to volunteer. All pilots volunteered and van Helsdingen picked four pilots who then jumped in the four last remaining Buffalo's. Just before take-off, van Helsdingen got informed by another pilot that one of the chosen pilots was married. Despite being married himself van Helsdingen took the place of the married pilot, and the four Buffaloes took off.  Almost immediately after taking off, they ran into three Zeroes. One of the Buffaloes was hit in the oil tank and he had to break off from combat, escorted by his wingman. The other two remained above Lembang, but were now fighting six Zeroes. Van Helsdingen was soon shot down, but his wingman managed to escape into the clouds before returning to Andir airfield. The Dutch forces in Lembang surrendered the next day.  Van Helsdingen was awarded the Military William Order, the highest award available from the Netherlands, posthumously on 14 July, 1948.”


Tamiya’s Buffalo kit was originally released with the parts to allow you to build both a US Navy F2A-2 and the export version B-339.   These older releases typically featured an RAF Buffalo on the box art, and included decals for a Netherlands East Indies Air Corps version and an all-gray USN plane.  (Here’s a link to Scott Van Aken’s preview article here on MM.)   Later releases dropped the extra parts for the export plane, and featured markings for colorful yellow wings–era USN planes. 

 A few years ago, Tamiya re-released the kit again, as a “Pacific Theater” Buffalo, with the extra parts and decals from the original release. When compared to the original release kit, the new release compares quite well. The moldings are as good as the original’s, and the decal sheet is better.  Another nice plus is the inclusion of a set of canopy masks.  This is especially convenient, as the Eduard canopy masks appear to be out of production and are getting hard to find.  

I had all three copies of the kit in my stash—an original release, the USN-only version, and the new Pacific Theater boxing.   Somewhere along the way, I had also picked up an old Aeromaster decal sheet for aircraft of the Netherlands East Indies Air Corps, which included the B-339 Buffalo.  

The decals in my original kit were in bad shape, so I decided to build the model as Kapt van Helsdingen’s plane, using the decals from the Aeromaster sheet.  (The plane I chose is also on the decal sheet for the new Tamiya release, but not on the original release’s sheet.)  My plan is to save the new decals for use when I build the new kit.

When you look at the two kits side by side, the first thing you notice is the color of the plastic.  The original kit was molded in light gray, while the new kit is molded in the same dark gray color that they used for many of their German armor subjects.   

The instructions in the original kit are fairly sparse, compared to the ones in the new kit.  On a couple of cases, I found that I needed to refer to the new instructions.  I especially found that the color callouts in the original kit instructions were incomplete, and difficult to decipher.   The new kit instructions are much better, but you have to be careful about the colors referenced.  The instructions seem to call out the colors for an RAF plane, and not for the Dutch version.


The kit goes together well.  One reminder—you do need to decide on which version you’re going to build before you start, and pay attention to the instructions, to make sure you use the correct parts for the version you’re building.

Construction starts with the cockpit, as expected.  The instructions in the current edition of the kit tell you to paint the cockpit interior RAF interior green—that may be correct for the British plane, but I had doubts about that color in a Dutch Buffalo.  I did some research online, which led me to think that the interior of the Dutch aircraft were painted aluminum.  So, I painted most of the interior with Pollyscale flat aluminum, with flat black for the instrument panels.

The kit seat has molded on seatbelts.  I wasn’t sure how I’d deal with them—paint them? Sand them off and replace them with some scratchbuilt or scrounged replacements?  I was doing an OOB build, so I decided to just use the seated pilot figure to cover them up.  (The kit includes a both a seated and a standing pilot figure.)  While I was working on the cockpit, I needed to solve my instrument panel problem.  The kit panel is a flat surface, to take the provided decal.  Problem was, my decals were in bad shape—so I had to steal them from the new kit. (I have an Eduard zoom set I’ll use for the next build.)

The rest of the model goes together quite easily.  This is the second Tamiya Buffalo I’ve built, and both of them have needed a little putty at the aft wing/fuselage joint.  But that’s the only place I needed to use putty during my build!   

I found the model was easier to paint before putting the landing gear, prop, bomb racks, radio mast, etc., so I left those bits to the end.


After doing some research, it seemed to me that Tamiya has the upper surface colors wrong, at least for the Dutch version.  I think the colors called out in the Aeromaster sheet are correct- Olive Drab and Medium Green, over silver lacquer below. 

When it came time to mask the canopy, I wasn’t looking forward to having to mask the all the tiny panels on the fuselage bottom window.  So, I stole the canopy masks out of the new kit to use on my old one.  Made from Tamiya tape, they fit well, and are a real help- especially for the tiny panels on the window on the fuselage bottom. However, I should mention that the Tamiya masks are just printed on a single piece of material, and are not pre-cut. But I found them easy to cut out with a fresh knife blade. 

I’m not usually one to buy canopy masks—but I think the Buffalo is one of those kits where it makes sense to get a set.  (I later found a set of the Eduard masks, so I have a replacement set for my newer kit.)

As mentioned above, I used the AeroMaster decals for Kapt. Van Helsdingen’s plane.  They were terrific—thin, with good color saturation.   The white and orange sections were opaque, even over the dark upper surface colors.  They reacted well to Micro-set/sol, and really settled down.   Now, I’ve always found Tamiya decals to be OK, and I’m sure they would have been fine, though a little thicker than the aftermarket ones I used.


Definitely Recommended.  This 25 year old Tamiya classic still holds up well. Parts in the current release of the kit look as crisp as the ones in my 20+ year old copy of the kit.   

Review kit courtesy of my wallet. Note that while the retail price of the current release is $29, you can find it for less.  Plus, you can find older editions of the kit for decent prices—I found the copy I built for this review for only $10 on a vendor’s table at a local show, and I found the new copy on sale for $20 at a local shop.    But when comparing prices, keep in mind that the recent release of the kit includes the canopy mask, a worthwhile addition.  

Special thanks to Pip Moss for taking all the great pictures.


I found a great Wikipedia entry on Kapt. Van Helsdingen: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2-VLG-V_(ML-KNIL)"

 Bill Michaels

January, 2011

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