Scale: 1/48

Manufacturer: Hi-PM

Price: $39.00

Media: Limited-run injection molded plastic

Decals: SB2U-1 of VB-3 (Pre-War) and SB2U-3 of VMSB-241 (Midway)

Accuracy: Accurate as a SB2U-1, inaccurate as an SB2U-3 (see review)

Overall: Mostly awful, but you can do it

Reviewed by: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (THE AERONUT)

The SB2U "Vindicator" was the US Navy's first monoplane dive-bomber, and other than that is memorable for the courage of a group of under-trained Marine aviators led by Capt Richard Fleming, who actually took this sad-sack airplane up against the Japanese at the Battle of Midway; Fleming's career ended in a pile of wreckage atop the rear turret of IJN "Mogami" with a posthumous Medal of Honor.

With all limited-run injection molded kits, the quality varies from acceptable to awful. You put up with it for the fact it's unlikely the majors will ever get around to doing that particular airplane in your lifetime. Given that the only other injection-molded Vindicator I know if is by Meikraft and even worse than this (the wing is a constant curve in front elevation!) and that I am a sucker for Golden Age Naval Aviation, I had to get it when it showed up at my local hobby shop. Despite what you see in the attached photo, I wouldn't do that again with the benefit of hindsight.

Where to begin with the list of travails? This kit aspires to Accurate Miniatures-quality detail, with old Frog-quality molding. There's a ton of flash on everything and you'll go blind trying to get it off the smaller parts without breaking them. Once you've done that, sand away on the inside of the fuselage until it gets thin enough to look accurate and be wide enough to get the cockpit interior installed. On the good side, there is a lot of detail visible in the cockpit area, and a lot provided. But you'll work your you-know-what to get it done.

The surface detail of the exterior is really quite good, like what one expects with an Eduard kit. (The Czechs got really good at putting surface detail onto their vacuform kits back when they were fenced off from the rest of us, using male and female molds; fortunately, they've brought that skill to injection mold-making.) This good surface detail is where the airplane identifies itself as an SB2U-1/2 and not an SB2U-3: the -3 had four wing guns, and panels atop the wing for gun access. These wings do not have those panels, which would have to be scribed in to make the -3. If you have Squadron's "Vindicator in Action", there are 3-view drawings of the SB2U-3 that will guide you in so doing if you're determined to have one.

The outer wing panels are separate so you can fold the wings if you wish. This is where you're really going to tear your hair. The outer wings are 1/8" wider in chord than the center section and 1/16" thicker than the center section - and I'm not talking "scale measurement"!!! This last fact is what will save you: get out the sanding block and go to work. Sand the unassembled wing halves from the inside until you have a nice thin trailing edge. In so doing, you will eat up that 1/16" and also bring the chord down that crucial 1/8". The attachment for the outer wings is merely gluing them; you have to check the dihedral and forever after treat this as the extremely-fragile model it is.

Test-fit everything before gluing anything. You'll putty every joint on this model. And then there's the canopy: it is coke-bottle thick, though more transparent. I used it as a vacuform mold so I could open it up and display all that interior I had so arduously completed.

The decals are Propagteam, and good. With Propagteam, remember that they're going to stick where you put them. I usually let them float off the paper when soaking them so the glue gets diluted, then use a lot of water on the surface where they're going. Only when they are in position do I apply any setting solution.

In painting the model, I used modelmaster buffing Aluminum for the silver-painted areas (they were not natural metal - this airplane had to go to sea in a salt-water environment) and Gunze Sanyo H-24 Orange-Yellow for the upper wings. This color is the closest I've found to what is called "Chrome Yellow" for US Navy airplanes of this period and I use it on all my Golden Wings airplanes.

In conclusion, this is the only Vindicator available in this scale. If you're interested in Naval Aviation, you'll want it in your collection, particularly with the upcoming Classic Airframes Helldivers and F4B-4. But be prepared. This ranks as one of the worst and most difficult limited-run injection-molded kits I have dealt with.


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