Testors/Hawk 1/48 F2H Banshee
In the early to mid-1970s, the 1/48 scale modeler who wanted to build a
collection of Korean War aircraft found the pickings remarkably slim.
There was no B-26 (A-26), no F7F, no Sea Fury, no Skyraider, no F-82, no
Seafire 47, no C-47, no F-94A. Other KW aircraft were represented
only by very old and inadequate kits by the likes of Aurora, Lindberg,
Hawk, and Monogram, many of which were also out of production and already
assuming “collector” status--F9F, F2H, T-6, MiG-15, F-86, F-80, F-84.
Even those few kits that were available--P-51D (Hawk, Otaki) and F4U-4
(Monogram) would be judged only barely adequate or worse by today’s
Things began to change in the late ‘70s with Monogram’s release of the F-80C, F-86F, and MiG-15. Since then, a variety of manufacturers (Airfix, AMT, Hasegawa, Hobbycraft, Modelcraft, Monogram, Tamiya, etc.) have given us new kits of every aircraft listed above--all but one, the F2H Banshee. (They might not all be the versions we’d like or of a quality we’d prefer, but they’re all something to work with). Except for the ultra-expensive Collectaire resin kit, for the Banshee, we’re stuck with the almost half-century old Hawk kit. The only bright spot in this picture is that this kit, once a highly sought collectible (I paid $20 for one in the early ‘90s), has been reissued by Testor and is once again readily available.
Banshee wasn’t as widely or gloriously used in the Korean War as
Grumman’s F9F Panther, but no collection of KW models can be considered
complete without one. The Navy’s F2H might be thought of as rougly
analagous to the Air Force’s F-80: It was their first jet fighter that
could be considered even marginally combat-capable, and though already
obsolescent by the time of the Korean War, it was there when it needed to
be and served honestly and well when called.
It’s also an exceptionally pretty airplane. There is an almost sensuous aspect to the way the McDonnell designers buried the engines gracefully in the wings.
I want a Banshee on my model shelf, and I can’t afford the Collectaire kit. If you’re reading this, I’ll bet you’re in the same boat. We’re not alone: The Banshee appears near the top of almost every “most wanted new 1/48 aircraft kit” list I’ve seen for quite some time.
So far, there hasn’t been even so much as a single hint or rumor that any major (or minor!) kit manufacturer is going to take care of us. While we wait for someone to wake up and smell the opportunity, let’s see if there’s anything we can do with the ancient Testor/Hawk kit to fill that hole on our model shelves.
Our very first problem is trying to round up decent reference material on this red-headed stepchild. Until a Squadron/Signal In Action book appeared late last year (see my Modeling Madness review of it here) , the only dedicated Banshee book I’m aware of was an early Ginter offering, whose drawings and BW photos were mainly useful for paint and markings ideas (i.e., no detailed 3-view drawings, few detail photos, etc.) The Squadron In Action book is a mandatory reference for the Banshee modeler, but it’s weak in detail photos, too. (Worse yet, I’m not convinced that the drawings in it are particularly accurate--they don’t seem to portray what I see in photos, most especially in the case of the F2H-2N. But they’re the best we have for things like panel line placement.)
The Detail & Scale book USN Fighters of the ‘50s, which is included in the Revell reissue of the Monogram F9F-5 Panther kit, has some useful Banshee information and photos, including one cockpit shot. The old Squadron/Signal book USN/USMC Over Korea has some very useful Banshee photos and color profiles, though no detail pics.
There was a Banshee feature article in an issue of Wings or Airpower many, many years ago. It’s far less helpful than any of us would like.
An excellent 3-D reference is the little Airfix 1/72 F2H-2 kit. It would come in very handy for a necessary fix we’ll get to in a minute.
Thus endeth the lesson on “Everything I Know About Banshee Reference s.”
The box says F2H-2. The instruction sheet says F2H-2. The decal sheet includes markings for a pair of F2H-2s. Bombs and rockets and wing tip tanks, which weren’t carried by the F2H-1 (with one exception, which we’ll get to in a minute), are included in the kit. Hell, it even has “F2H-2” molded in relief on the fin!
Lies, all lies! The length and wingspan of the model scale out perfectly to published dimensions of the F2H-1, which was 14 inches shorter in the fuselage than the -2. (Published wingspan of the -2 is longer than the -1, but this is accounted for by the non-removable tip tanks.) This is disappointing because the -1 Banshees saw only limited production and service, and NO use at all in the Korean War. Conversion to a -2 would be a semi-major undertaking. But then again, “conversion” to a good -1 would also be fairly major.
Problems, Problems, Problems
There’s no cockpit. There’s no gear well detail, and no front gear well at all, just a hole for the nose gear to mount into. The landing gear and wheels are extremely simplified, and the gear doors are basically just slabs of plastic. Control surface lines are engraved, but raised decal placement markings are molded on. The rockets and bombs are unusable, the guns
are just lumps in the fuselage, and the wing tanks are wrong. There’s no pitot tube. The wing trailing edge is a bit too thick. And remember, it’s the less-than-desirable -1 variant.
But all these problems pale compared to two others--the canopy and the “black hole” of the wing intakes.
The canopy and windscreen are molded as one thick unit, and don’t fit the fuselage especially well. The lower section of the canopy frame is actually molded as part of the fuselage--on this one, I scribed the canopy frame out fairly deeply to give the idea that it’s supposed to be a separate part.
But the canopy is too short in length, giving it an odd appearance when compared to photos of the real thing. No aftermarket vac canopy for the old Hawk Banshee exists; if you want to fix it, you’ll have to carve your own master and vac it yourself.
Ah, but wait a second. A careful “read” of the photos in the Squadron/Signal book shows that some of the early -1s look like they might have had a different shape--somewhat shorter in length, and perhaps a bit taller in height than later units. If you have the book, check it and you might see what I mean. Perhaps this was the shape Hawk was going for back in the mid-50s? Hard to say--the kit canopy isn’t an exact replica of this shape either, but it’s closer to it. Hmmmmm.....
Now we hit this kit’s really big problem, the intake section of the wing. The wing is molded in two big, simple pieces, top surface and bottom surface. The intake and exhausts are open, and there is nothing whatsoever in there. It’s one big open bay from the tip of the left intake all the way to the tip of the right intake. You can look into the left intake and see straight through the fuselage and out the right exhaust, and you don’t need a penlite to do it--the cavern is so big that normal room light will do. It looks just awful.
The intake area will require some splitter plates standing out from the fuselage, which (if you’ve seen the kit or are understanding what I’m telling you here) doesn’t exist past the wing/intake leading edge. What a mess! It’s difficult to describe exactly what you need to do to fix this area, but if you have the Airfix 1/72 kit handy, a glance at that will show you just what’s needed. (Just one reason why I say the Airfix kit is a valuable reference for building the Hawk kit.)
Looking at this area caused me to put this kit back in the box many, many times over the years. Finally, I came up with a “quick and dirty” fix for the problem, which I’ll describe below.
I had fond memories of the old Hawk Banshee from building it as a kid
(when my standards were even lower than they are today), so when Testor
reissued the kit a few years back, I grabbed a few copies of it and
stashed them away. The overall shape of the thing was accurate enough to
keep me interested in it, once I’d figured out that it was a -1 (i.e.,
“it looks like a Banshee to me, sorta, kinda, except for the canopy”),
but that cavernous intake mess always discouraged me.
Finally, one day while looking through the Ginter book, I noticed that there were at least a few F2H-1s that did not carry the silver leading edges on the wings and tailplanes. Well, fine, I thought, at least I won’t have to worry about masking and painting those. I decided to pimp-slap one of the ancient monsters together strictly out-of-the-box just as a “test run” to see
what it looked like built and what would be needed to turn the kit into a good F2H-2.
And so I did. Assembly went just as instructed; parts fit wasn’t bad, except for the wing, which left a huge gap across the top where it should have met the fuselage. I plugged this gap up with several pounds (seemingly) of putty and pressed on.
While sanding out this filler, an idea to fix (sort of) the wing intake canyon problem occurred to me. With my razor saw, I cut slots about an inch long into the top and bottom of the wing, right next to the fuselage. Then I slid pieces of sheet styrene into these slots and hit them with liquid cement. When the glue was dry, I trimmed the styrene down top, bottom, and front. I now had some nifty fake intake splitter plates/inner walls! Oh, the fuselage is still hollow behind those splitters, but with the Sea Blue paint, the thin black hole is not too noticeable. You can no longer look in the left intake and see out the right exhaust--from certain angles, anyway! This is not a real fix for the problem, but it’s quick, cheap, and easy, and I can tell you that the model looks about 700% better with the mod than without it.
Shortly after getting that sorted out, I lost interest in the whole project again and set it aside for several years. It was the publication of the Squadron/Signal In Action book last fall that rekindled my interest in digging the Banshee-wannabe project out and drop-kicking it through the goal posts (figuratively, not literally, although the latter thought had occurred to me several times, I assure you!).
One photo in particular in the Squadron book caught my eye: At the top of page 15 is a high-angle shot of the prototype F2H-2, which was in reality nothing more than an early F2H-1 but fitted with tip tanks! Here, in one airplane, was everything I needed: short (-1) fuselage, no silver leading edges, tip tanks, and it even appeared to have the early, short canopy (if such in fact actually existed)! And, for the icing on the cake, it didn’t appear to have the flat black nose radar area--one less thing to mask and paint! Life is good!
Moving with the speed of an onrushing glacier, it took me only a few short weeks to round up all the wayward parts of my Banshee project and get them all back in one box. I’d fortotten how far I’d actually gotten with the thing, and it took only a couple hours of finish-sanding (including removing all the molded-in decals) and priming before my Banshee was ready for paint.
CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS
You see the final result here. Finish is Model Master Glossy Sea Blue thinned with naphtha (lighter fluid); Walmart aluminum for the landing gear and wheels, some sort of silver I found on my paint bench for the exhaust cans, flat white canopy sealing strip, and old MicroScale generic insignia for the simple markings. I forgot to mention that during assembly, I taped (yes, just taped!) a .357 bullet into the nose for weight. I should have gone with a .45 bullet, because the small-bore only just barely keeps it on its nose gear. The cockpit is a black hole, and the nose gear well is just black paint, but it’s finished.
I built this kit and wrote it up here to answer the common question on the model discussion boards, “What’s the Testor Banshee like? Any good? Worth the money?” Well, here’s what it looks like built (mostly) OOB, and I’ve told you what it lacks and given you some idea of what you’d need to do to fix it. Only you can decide what to do with that information.
I built the wing tanks, too, but I’m not particularly happy with them. They don’t “hang” far enough forward to suit me; they don’t look like Banshee photos. I’m not sure if the tanks are too short or if their wingtip mounting slots are just too far forward; I’ll have to do more research on that. I’ve included a couple photos with them on so you can see for yourself. Damn, the model looks so different with them on--almost makes me want to start another one and do it right!
A Plea for Sanity
Some model manufacturer is missing a bet by not bringing out a series of F2H Banshee kits. A whole line could be developed based on a common wing, cockpit, canopy, landing gear, wheels, etc. Then kit up -2, -2P, and -2N versions with a common fuselage and different noses (put me down for one of each), then add a new fuselage and tailplanes for the -3/-4 versions. That’s five variants for the cost of tooling up for about one-and-a-half models! (Yes, I know that the -3/-4 had some minor shape differences in the engine area. Let the aftermarket guys tool up correction sets for that. The guys wanting Canadian F2H-4s will be so happy to have something to start with that they’d gladly buy ‘em!)
What are you waiting for, manufacturers? I’ve got a paid-up MasterCard and I’m not afraid to use it!
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