|PRICE:||Originally under a dollar, it's $23 when you get the Accurate Miniatures boxing with the P-6E|
|NOTES:||Starfighter Decals and cockpit set.|
The Boeing Company was formed around Seattle in 1916, and really got started producing airplanes in quantity when it landed a contract to build 200 Thomas Morse MB-3 fighters for the Army just after the war. Boeing made some improvements in the MB-3A, including a metal fuselage replacing the wooden one, and later produced a biplane fighter prototype development, designated XPW-8, and a mid wing monoplane fighter, the XP-9. Neither was successful.
I n the
early twenties, Boeing developed a taperwing biplane fighter influenced somewhat
by the Fokker D.
Boeing’s final efforts in the biplane fighter category came with the Model 83 lightweight fighter prototype for the Navy, and the Model 89 for the Army. These were powered by the 450 hp. Pratt and Whitney Wasp radial, and were originally manufactured in quantity for the Navy as F4B-1 and the Army as P-12. Early production models had fabric covered fuselages and small tail units, but eventually, Boeing used the monocoque stressed skin fuselage of the XP-9 to produce the F4B-3 and P-12E variants. These evolved into the P-12F and F4B-4, the most popular versions, although earlier models remained in service, some with F4B-4 tail units on the old fuselages.(Incidentally, there is an old Airmodel Vacuform conversion kit for the fabric covered fuselage P-12/F4B-2, and if you can find one, it will allow you to build the early models, even if you only have the Matchbox kit.)
Navy’s F4B-4 had an enlarged fin and rudder, and a headrest that also contained
a liferaft. These were powered by a
500 hp. P.W. R-1340-16 engine, and a total of 92 was built.
They were used by a number of Navy and Marine Corps units, including
In 1968, Monogram produced a series of 1/72 scale models of aircraft of the thirties, including the Curtiss P-6E, the Curtiss F11C-2, and the Boeing F4B-4. These were excellent models in their day, and are still useful today, over 40 years later. They were designed to be easy to construct, and had the cabane struts and the outer landing gear struts attached to the fuselage halves, making alignment almost idiot proof. They were very sturdy, and easy to attach the wing and gear struts to. The kits were accurate, cheap, and had very little trimming required. They had good detail and slightly raised panel lines. In their day, they were the easiest and probably the most accurate biplane kits available. The only thing lacking was cockpit detail. This was filled up by the pilot figure anyway, but for those of us who consider that “we” are the pilot and discard the pilot figure, it leaves hole to be filled.
Fortunately, we have been rescued. Starfighter Decals has produced a very neat little resin cockpit conversion kit, which includes a floor, two cockpit sides, an instrument panel, machine gun breeches, control stick and seat adjustment lever. These are moldings originally done my Alex Bernardo, and are $7.50 each from Mark’s Models and Toys, 124 Highlander Rd., Stephens City, VA, 22655. The set comes with a full size instruction sheet, in color, outlining the parts and how they go together in the conversion process.
To make up for the lack of decal choices, Starfighter offers three sets of decals for the Monogram F4B-4. They are as follows:
72-102 F4B-4 Part 1
72-103 F4B-4 Part 2
72-104 F4B-4 USN USMC1930 Pt. 1
addition, they offer decals for 1.72 scale
(All of these sheets and the cockpit set have been reviewed here in MM and are
in the appropriate sections of the archives. Ed)
(All of these sheets and the cockpit set have been reviewed here in MM and are in the appropriate sections of the archives. Ed)
Once I had a photo of the aircraft I was going to model, I began. I decided on a Marine Corps F4B-4, BuNo 9242, Number 22, operating from MCAS Quantico, VA, in 1934. Instructions are given in the decal sheet. However, a photo in Larkins’ U.S. Marine corps Aircraft, page 53, shows some interesting differences. The instructions show a red cowling and wheel covers. The photo, taken at night after a forced landing, shows part of the cowling as light colored, either grey or white. The wheels are probably white or grey, but they don’t show in the photo. There is no radio mast or tailhook installed. A short LF antenna runs from the fin to the wing center section just ahead of the windshield. The instructions show a red cowling and wheel covers. I opted for the photo version, with white cowling. Apparently there was a red-cowled F4B-4 with a black number 22 at another time, as I recall seeing a photo of it somewhere, but it’s not the one in the photo I have, and the serial, or bureau, number doesn’t match.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I hand painted the cylinders black at this point, trimmed the pushrod housings in silver, and inserted the engine into the cowling. The exhaust stacks had been painted a medium grey, and these were then glued onto the rear part of the cylinders on the left side of the airplane. With the prop completely painted (the tip decals actually work out OK), the prop can be inserted into the engine. I heated the end of the shaft, making a permanent installation. With the gunsight and windshield now attached, the model was ready for decals. All masking tape was removed.
A coat of Testor’s Glosscote was applied before the decals were applied. I selected the proper decals from the sheet, and cut them out individually. I did not need to trim them. They all went on flawlessly, and there was only one problem. The “U.S. Marines” on the top wing was way too small, so I replaced this with a set of proper size from the spare decal box. I think they were old Microscale. That problem solved, I let them dry and gave them another coat of Glosscote.
I use unstranded electronic wire for rigging, so I cut out enough wires for the job and began the process. The wings have only two sets of landing wires on each side, plus four sets, in two pairs, of flying wires. I measured the lengths, and applied them with little spots of white glue. Parallel wires are not difficult, and it took about 20 minutes to rig the entire airplane. The horizontal stabilizers and fin required two small bracing wires, but these were easily made from scrap from the longer wires. This is an easy model to rig.
These old Monogram kits are little gems, and are certainly worth building. The fuselage interior really adds to the realism, and it is not an awful lot of work for the effect you get. Without the pilot figure, you can actually see inside th3e cockpit, and the model looks complete. Now I’m anxious to do Starfighters’ F11C-2 and P-6E and see how much better they look than the ones I did years ago without interiors. Highly recommended.
There is a lot of material on the Boeing fighter series, as they were often photographed by collectors during the thirties during stopovers at civilian airports. Many books have extensive coverage of these aircraft. A few of my sources include:
Squadron In-Action Series: P-12/F4B
Profile Publications: Peter Bowers. Boeing F4B-4 (A P-12 booklet also exists)
J.V. Mizrahi, Carrier Fighters, Volume 1.
Munson and Swanborough, Boeing: An Aircraft Album, No. 4
Thanks to my kit stash and my wallet for the model. And Thanks to Alex Bernardo for doing the masters for the cockpit set.
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