GWH 1/48 T-33 Shooting Star 'Early Version'

KIT #: L4819
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: New tool kit (2016)


The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star is an American-built jet trainer aircraft. It was produced by Lockheed and made its first flight in 1948, piloted by Tony LeVier. The T-33 was developed from the Lockheed P-80/F-80 starting as TP-80C/TF-80C in development, then designated T-33A. It was used by the U.S. Navy initially as TO-2 then TV-2, and after 1962, T-33B. While there are no more military T-33s still in active service, the type is very popular with the jet warbird crowd. Many T-33s spent over 40 years on active service before being retired.


The T-33 has always been a somewhat popular subject. Regarding 1/48, in the 1960s we had one from Hawk that was reissued several times by Testors. Twenty years or so after that we had a much nicer version from Hobbycraft that was reboxed by Academy. Nice as it was it was still lacking in the detail we expect today, though it did not have the big shape issues of the Hawk kit. Now, GWH has produced a thoroughly modern mold for the T-33 fan.

If you have seen any GWH kit you know that the detailing is excellent. Nicely engraved panel lines and rivet detail, though nothing overboard. I know that some modelers don't like engraved rivets, but they are part and parcel of modern aircraft kits. Most of us do not mind at all. All the parts save the clear bits are in GWH's light grey plastic. Inspection of the parts showed no ejector pin marks that would be visible save perhaps one in the center piece of the main gear well. Gear doors and the face of the inside intake showed some light sink areas that would have to be dealt with, but nothing major.

Reading through the instructions I saw a few areas that made me raise my eyebrows. One is that one was supposed to completely build up the landing gear prior to installing the gear wells into the appropriate areas. This is, for me, just asking to break bits. It looks like the landing gear can be installed after painting and that is what I'll do. Another is that all the gear doors, and this includes the speedbrakes, are molded shut as a single piece, requiring the builder to cut them open. I've not seen this on a modern kit in many years. I also question the order of parts installation in steps 3 and 4 as it seems they want the fuselage together before adding the inner intake pieces. When you see it, you'll see what I mean. Most modelers will be able to work around this without any issues. As clarification, these are not molded shut on the lower wing, but as a separate piece.

The kit's cockpit is really nicely done. The one piece tub has raised side console detail, though one could put decals on them if one so wishes. The seats are each seven pieces and while there is no belt detail, they look very nice. Something new to me was that the instrument panels are in two pieces. One is to trap an instrument decal between the two pieces. This will allow one to prepaint the panel and then have glossy instrument faces. It will be interesting to see how this works out. Rudder pedals attach to the back of the instrument panels. 

You are provided with pretty long intakes and while there is no engine compressor face, they are long enough to make it believable. There are a few ejector pin marks on the inside of the outer intake pieces so you may want to deal with those. There is a single exhaust tube that has a compressor piece attached to the back. The instructions show the nose gear well attached to the underside of the cockpit and an area to put weight, but no amount is suggested.

Wings are a single lower piece with two upper ones. To pose the flaps lowered, each lower wing side gets four actuating pieces. The main gear well is a single piece with a separate piece between the wells. There are holes in the lower wings for pylons, but none are supplied. I should also mention that the nose guns are plated over.

All the control surfaces are separate and while one almost never saw the flight control surfaces any way but neutral, the speed brakes were often down and one could also find the flaps lowered while on the ramp. Landing gear is nicely detailed and as I mentioned, the instructions want these installed rather early. I suggest leaving them off until later if you can. The underside of the aircraft has a number of small pieces that fit there including four little bumps in between the flaps. I have no idea what these are. Perhaps something to do with air flow. There is an interior piece for the canopy and the instructions show this in the open position.  A nice ladder is provided as a single piece so no fiddly steps, though one will have some quality seam removal time ahead of them.

The instructions for the kit are in three different sheets. One is a map-like fold out with the construction steps. I mentioned that some of the sequences did not seem to follow a logical progression so keep that in mind. All the color call-outs are with MIG or Gunze paints. The reference diagram for these paints is on another large sheet that includes the sprues layout and the aircraft history. Then there is the full color painting diagram. All the planes are shown in a base color of flat aluminum. The box art plane is with the 78th FIS in 1957. Then there is a Bundeswaffe plane with a tulip nose from JG 71 in 1961. The rear fuselage and outside of the tanks are shown as being red, but looking at period photos, I'm willing to bet they are da-glo. Finally an Italian version with a radar calibration unit. Most of this airframe is the standard orange in which Italian trainers were painted for years. Having the center of the aircraft in unpainted metal makes for an interesting scheme and a bit of a masking challenge. The large decal sheet is nicely printed and should work just fine as I've had positive experiences with GWH markings. 


For this one, the first step was to do some prepainting. I painted all the wheel wells with FS 34097 as that seems close to the dark chromate green used on planes around this time. I also painted the cockpit with FS 36231 dark gull grey. Both are Testors enamels. The seats were then assembled and painted flat black. Note that the lower piece below the seat proper should only be attached at the back or you won't get the side pieces to fit properly. I left the cushions off to make it easier to paint them.

During this time, I assembled the tip tanks and the wheels. There is a deep center groove to the wheels that some might not like. Meanwhile the nose gear well was glued to the bottom of the cockpit tub. After detail painting the front of the instrument panels, I placed the instrument decals on the back of each panel piece and then, after checking that the alignment was good, glued the front and the back together. Because of the decal, one has to be careful when cementing and basically only the lower and very top portion got glue. I'm not real jazzed about this arrangement as it means you'll see a seam on the panels as there is nothing to cover it. The rudder pedals attach to the back of the panels.

I then installed the control sticks, followed by the completed instrument panels. Though I'd thought to install the seats later, such is the rather vague attachment of these that I thought it best to glue them in prior to closing up the fuselage halves. I then assembled the intake pieces and glued those to the interior sides. This was followed by the intake exterior. Fit is very good.

Once those were in and dry, I glued the completed exhaust to the tail and then the interior with nose wheel well. The attachment points are VERY positive and will eliminate any issues with alignment. The kit provides a plastic block that is supposed to be the nose weight. This attaches to the upper portion of the nose gear well. I wasn't convinced that this would be enough so put 15 grams of nose weight in its place. This proved to be more than enough.

I then closed the fuselage halves, trapping the rudder in place during this process. The rudder has small pins on it that will prevent it from being installed later. With that done, the nose cone was glued on. This turned out to be a bit narrower than the area where it mates.

While all that was drying and being attended to, I glued the flap hinges to the lower wing section. These are a bit tricky, mainly due to their small size. The upper wing was then glued on and the flap well painted. I'm not sure if the flap hinges can be done later or not, but if so, it would help prevent them from being broken and make masking the flap well a lot easier. The wing assembly was then glued to the fuselage. Again, fit is very good. This was followed by the attachment of the tail planes.

At this time, I thought it might be a good time to do some overall painting.


While the kit options are quite nice and I've had good results with GWH markings, I wanted something a bit different. There are quite a few T-33 aftermarket sheets out there, however, most of them are for the later T-33s. I finally homed in on Aeromaster 49-266 for Korean War T-33s. It is the only one that has the later tip tanks on one of the options. I first filled the various wells with silly putty and taped over the cockpit after attaching the masked windscreen. I also taped over the flap wells and the exhaust.

This was followed by a nice overall coat of Alclad II dark aluminum. I like the dark stuff as it provides a smooth base. I then broke out the polished aluminum and sprayed that on the airframe. This provided a surface that isn't as bright as just using aluminum. When dry, the tail was masked and the tip sprayed with a medium grey. The lower nose was painted white then red while the nose radome got some black and the anti-glare panel a bit of OD. The decal instructions did not show the inner tip tanks in black so I did not paint them that shade.

When all that was done I installed the main landing gear and the nose gear. I had already built up the nose gear assembly and it is quite fiddly. I found I had to sand on the attachment bits some to get it to fit into the well. I then glued on the retraction struts to the main gear legs. I did not find out until all was dry that I may well have had the main gear angled a bit too far forward. The fit is a bit loose on these.

I then started applying decals. During the decal application process, I continued to add a few pieces here and there, leaving the nose decals until last so I would have somewhere to hold the airframe. The Aeromaster decals went on without any issues aside from the tip tank decals. These are obviously made for the Hobbycraft kit as their fit is not the best. There are some wrinkles that I was unable to completely removed even with stronger solutions. The rest went on without issues though it took the better part of a week to get them all on. For the stencil and data markings I used the kit decals. These are very thin and can easily fold if one is not cautious. The glue disappears from the sheet rather quickly once the decal is ready to remove from the backing. Note that the flap warning decals are meant for when the flaps are up. It would have been nice to have small slivers of decal for the upper flaps themselves, but there it is. At least the sheet included the wing walk areas.

Back at attaching parts, I glued on the wheels, which are keyed and then added the rest of the doors. These have some very small and fiddly parts so you need to be careful when attaching all these bits. The doors themselves have positive attachment areas, but the small rods and things are a bit vague on their placement. The speed brake actuators are a real poser as though there are positive mounts on the brake, getting the lower actuator piece attached at the right angle is nearly impossible.

Once all the doors and stuff were on, I attached the flaps. These are open only a small amount so keep that in mind. I also installed the seat cushions and glued on the landing lights. The canopy had the interior frame attached and when dry, the bottom of the canopy itself was painted black before masking and painting the outside. I also painted the cockpit sills black. Some paint for formation lights a bit of black for vents and the final step was attaching the canopy. Note that on this part, if you want to model it closed, you'll have to trim a piece from the back of the hinge area, a reason you can't use the canopy to help mask the interior when painting.

Oh yes, GWH provided an one piece boarding ladder so all one has to do is clean up the mold seams and paint it. This provided a bit of an issue as the instructions don't tell you what color. I had thought it would be red, but I found very few color photos with this piece in place and all were French planes where it was black. I did find an image of an Eduard color p.e. ladder and it was yellow so yellow it was painted. Like the real deal, it simply hangs on the cockpit sill.

Overall I'm quite pleased with this one. There are a few areas where you have to pay attention to things while you build, but overall, GWH has done a fine job engineering this one. It builds without the headaches of some kits and definitely puts the Hobbycraft/Academy T-33 into the second tier category. If I had to fuss about something, it would be having to cut apart the gear doors, as well as the iffy fit of the nose cap. I'm still not sure why model companies want you to build up the landing gear before doing major air frame assembly, but that sort of thing seems a lot more prevalent than it was.

Those small quibbles aside, this is a great kit. I fully plan on doing another when these reach the dealer's shelves and if you are a T-33 fan, I'm thinking you will want at least one as well. Now the aftermarket folks can help us out with replacement tires and perhaps some seats with molded on harness as well as a decal sheet or two. Pick this one up when you see it. You'll be glad you did.


10 June 2016


Thanks to Great Wall Hobbies for the preview kit. These should be on store shelves soon.

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