Monogram 1/32 Gulfhawk
KIT #: PA184
PRICE: $1.49 when new
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Michael Stanley


 Hello boys & girls. Buffalo Bob here. How many of you remember the 1950's & 60's? Lincoln logs, Erector sets and your sister's Chatty Cathy doll that you caught hell for when you cut it open to see how it worked. Mr. Wizard chemistry sets. A time in our history when kids built things using their imagination. Do you also remember the early 70's when we put people on the moon? There must be a lesson there somewhere, but don't try to Google it --- the answer is not on the internet.

In the middle of all this I was a young boy growing up. Early on I caught the flying bug. My father and some of my uncles had been pilots or aircrew in "The Big One" and their stories were fascinating. At the age of eight I began building models. Plastic models, balsa stick & tissue models and control-line flying models. As a budding engineer I was particularly fond of the Monogram "Quarter scale" kits with working features. When I was about ten my best friend, Norman received a Monogram Gulfhawk for his birthday. Everyone has a Norman in their past. The kid that always gets everything he asks for. I was so envious. That plane was just so neat. Pull on the prop and you could retract the wheels! Made flying it around the bedroom so much more realistic. That kit was the then huge sum of $1.49. Way beyond my twice monthly allowance and patience to save up. All these years I have always had a fondness for this big orange biplane but couldn't bring myself to build it for fear of all my modeling buddies making fun of me for building a toy. The greatest thing about now being an old phart is that I no longer care all that much what people think of me.


This kit is pretty standard fair for the 60's. Raised panel lines, not the best fit, a rough approximation of the cockpit. At least it doesn't have raised lines for the decals.

A few years ago I picked up two Gulfhawks on ebay. One had been started and the other was missing some pieces. Inventorying everything showed that I would be able to get one kit out of the two. There were two sets of decals, the first one being from the original 1960's release which were pretty much worthless and the 1967 release which were the thick ones that Monogram released when it was part of Mattel. As far as I know there are no aftermarket decals for these markings.

I feel the instructions are one of the nicest features of this old kit. 45 steps spread over eight pages with a nice black & white picture showing details of each step. For the correct assembly of the retractable gear these pictures were essential. To a ten year old it would have really been a great experience to follow those instructions and arrive at result with the retractable gear working.


I followed the instructions very carefully as I wanted at least try to have the gear workable if at all possible. I painted the interior Floquil SP Lettering Gray which is a light gray similar to USN Gull Gray without the brownish tinge. It matches what I have always assumed was "Grumman Gray" that was used in the 30's and 40's. I know that USN F3F's were painted aluminum lacquer in the interior however I went with the gray. If anyone wishes to climb up to the ceiling of the Smithsonian to peek inside the Gulfhawk hanging there and prove me wrong you are most welcome.

I did the instrument panel with Mike Grant 1/32 scale individual instrument decals. I just could not bring myself to use the kit decal which was just some white circles on a black background. The modeler who had one of the kits before me had done the cockpit out of the box and after comparing the two I was very happy with my representation. I also added some seat belts made out of paper and some bent fine wire.

The engine also received some detail. The engine from the box is very plain yet is pretty visible thru the open front cowl. I added a wiring harness from bits from my parts box and also did some detail painting of the crankcase and cylinders.

Another concession I had to make was to not do the "hot screwdriver to flare the  axle so the wheels would turn". Even in the 60's that was too hokey. I also carefully trimmed off the little nubs that Monogram molded into the wings and fuselage that were supposed to catch the sewing thread they suggested for rigging.

After assembling the fuselage I used a strip of .020 plastruct to replicate the flange that ran along the bottom of the actual plane to join the fuselage. It also conveniently covered most of the fuselage seam! I also opened up the air scoop at the top of the engine for just a little more authenticity. I left off the oversized canopy slide rails as well.

The old silver plastic that makes up the gear and gearing for the retract mechanism is now 50+ years old and is very brittle. I had to do some repairs with CA on some of the small bits along the way.


Since this was a "nostalgia build" I also decided to use a bottle of Pactra International Orange that I still had from the late 60's. Some thorough stirring and thinning with lacquer thinner produced just the color of orange I was hoping for. The plan, as they say, was really coming together.

Then it was time for the decals. I have built many of these kits from the 70's and have used the old Monogram decals with widely varying amounts of success. This was one of those that was going to fight me all the way. I coated the decals with Microscale liquid decal film and then futured the kit and let it dry thoroughly. I first dipped one of the smaller decals in very hot water to see how this was going to go. It took forever for the decal to release. When applied they would not lay down for anything. Gentle pressure with hot water, Microscale SolvaSet (the red label) and not even my old and cherished Solvaset that I reserve for only the most recalcitrant decals didn't get results. After a few minutes the decals would curl up at the edges. Things were not looking good in Mudville.

I finally resorted to brushing on future and then gently pressing down with a soft brush as the future set up to get the edges to lay down. There are a lot of decals on this kit and this method worked but it took many days. I was not going to let this kit and good ol' Norman get the best of me.


Finally all the decals were on and I gloss blacked the struts and prop followed by Alclad chrome. The kit assembled well and then I rigged it with .007 music wire measured with dividers and then cut to length. I use white glue as it remains flexible for a long time and gives the wires some "give" in case you bump them. The little wire separators were made from some .020 plastruct painted orange. The antenna is EZ Line.

Even though I am not a figure painter I called a friend in my model club for some advice and came up with a passing resemblance to Major Al Williams to stand next to his little hotrod. When I took the kit to our club meeting my friend said the figure turned out pretty well but I didn't do the final dry brush step enough. Some people you just can't please.


All in all I was very happy with this build. I did try to retract the wheels one time but did not have the nerve to get them all the way into the wells. That old Monogram silver plastic is just too brittle.


Michael Stanley

May 2012

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