Monday, March 26, 2012

Monogram Douglas TBD-1 Devastator

The Monogram 1/48 scale TBD-1 Devastator was the most advanced model kit I built during my early days on J-5. I remember buying it at Peterson's; my friend Phil was with me, and he pointed it out. Phil was a more experienced modeler than I was, and he liked large kits with lots of detail. I on the other hand had bought mostly reissues of older kits from the 50s and 60s. On the day I got the Devastator, Phil got a Hasegawa 1/32 Boeing P-26 Peashooter. We took our kits home and starting building immediately. Phil let me use some of his paints, and I put the TBD together fairly well. It was one of my pride & joy kits on the shelf.
Monogram released the TBD kit in 1974. It was a time of renewal for Monogram; they hit a low spot in quality in 1970, and came back in 1973 with their 1/72nd scale F-82 Twin Mustang. In '74 they released a 1/72 F-15A Eagle, and three 1/48 scale WWII airplanes: P-61 Black Widow, Do-335 Arrow, and TBD-1 Devastator - all fine kits. There were two versions of the TBD-1 released within a short period of each other. The original release in 1974 was packaged in a "tall box" and included a black & white pamphlet on building dioramas by Shep Paine. It shows a crashed TBD in the water during the battle of Midway. Later editions were packaged in a "short box" and did not include the diorama sheet. On the short box version, the nice color picture panels of the factory model on the box sides are cropped on the top and bottom, and part of the lithography on the box top is rearranged. I got the original 1974 version at Peterson's, and for my rebuild, I found a sealed one on EBay. There are however tons of later "short box" versions up for auction.
When I started on this rebuild, I took each step very slowly, and painted each piece as I went along. This was a more time-consuming method of construction, but it reduced some problems such as over-spray and touch up during final assembly and painting. I chose to make the pre-war version with silver fuselage and yellow wings & tail. I used Tamiya spray yellow, which is a fine product, but it's a little thinner than Testors, and did not cover the ribs on the wings very well. About seven coats were required to get it acceptable. Because the kit was still factory sealed, I expected the decals to be like new as well. Just the opposite was the case - they were dried-up and almost completely unusable. I was extremely disappointed; all the other vintage Monogram kits I had rebuilt up to this point had decals that gave me no trouble. I didn't want to have to buy another TBD kit in hopes of getting a good decal sheet, so I soldiered on with the originals using two thick coats of Micro Decal Film, Micro Set, and Micro Sol. A lot of TLC was needed to apply each decal, especially those on the wings which had to conform over the ribbing. After the decals dried, I coated them when Testors clear acrylic, and Micro Coat Gloss. It took almost as long to put the decals on this model as it did to assemble it- about a month all together.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hawk SNJ

Here's the other kit I got at the dime store in La Mirada back in the summer of '76: the Hawk 1/72 scale U.S. Navy North American SNJ trainer. What a nice little kit for its time. In an era where manufacturers were cranking out toy-like plastic model kits that could be slapped together in an afternoon, Hawk went the extra mile to create an accurate, finely detailed kit of this famous airplane. They made it in two versions, the Navy SNJ you see here, and a USAF T-6 Texan. It has recessed panel lines and fine, flush-rivet detail. The only exception is the cockpit interior, which has two slightly over sized ape-looking pilots. This kit has been around since the late 1950s, and is still available by Testors. That first SNJ I got in La Mirada was molded in thick, white plastic. Navy SNJs were painted gloss yellow as illustrated on the box cover, but I chose to leave it white, either because Steven didn't have any yellow paint, or I just wanted to finish it in a hurry.
When I was searching for Hawk SNJ kits on EBay to rebuild, I noticed they were molded in different color combinations including white, orange, and yellow with black wing! I took a chance and got a factory sealed one, and upon opening it, I was pleased to find I had gotten an all-yellow molded version. The natural yellow of the plastic however was a little too dark, so I was going to have to spray it a lighter shade of yellow to match the Navy's. At least I wasn't going to have to paint black plastic with multiple coats of primer and yellow! And so it came to pass, I built the kit in a day, and sprayed it with Tamiya gloss yellow. The decals were still usable, but they were very thick. I knew this was going to be a problem with the black anti-glare panel piece. On its own, it didn't want to conform to the curvature of the nose section, and the cowling. On top of that, there are two steps forward of the front windshield which the decal has to conform to. Copious dousings of Micro-Sol along with some small incisions with an X-Acto knife were necessary to get this decal piece to properly adhere. It worked well in the end, and prevented me from having to paint this panel black instead (I like to use the original decals whenever possible.)
The hawk SNJ looks great in yellow, the way she's supposed to look. I might build the T-6 version as a companion to her some day. They'd make a great pair!