Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Monogram 1/48 Northrop P-61A Black Widow

I really like the Monogram 1/48 scale airplane kits which came out in 1974. Monogram was growing with the kids who bought their simpler models in the 60s, and knew they wanted more detail and a more challenging building experience. That's why I really like the TBD-1 Devastator because it's a kit you can really sink your teeth into and enjoy without a lot of frustration. The same goes for the P-61 Black Widow which came out around the same time as the Devastator. Both models were preceded by the excellent 1/48 Dornier Do-335 Arrow, but I have never built that model. Maybe some day though.
Originally, the Monogram P-61 was given to me as a gift by my Godmother in 1977. It was one of the few gifted airplane models given to me which I really liked and was excited about. I know that sounds ungrateful, but as I've admitted earlier in this blog, I was very picky when it came to model airplanes. But I really enjoyed my first building experience with this model. Because it's molded in black, I didn't paint my original, and it looked fine that way. I did however paint all the interior detail in accordance with the directions, and the P-61 (B version) sat proudly on my bedroom shelf for a long time.
I bought the one pictured here several years ago and when it finally came time to open it up and get started on it, I was thrilled. I debated on what version to make it - olive drab - black - A or B - top turret or no turret - and finally decided on a black A with no top turret, factory fresh. I had seen a color picture of a turret-less A sitting on the Northrop ramp right out of the paint shop, all glossy and nice, and knew that is what I had to do. Even though the top gun turret is a prime feature of the Black Widow, the fact that it was temporarily deleted from both A and B versions due to buffeting is historically interesting. Along with that the airplane is a little sleeker looking to me with the flat top.
Construction was straight forward in accordance with the instructions - for that "sleek" look I glued all gun and engine access panels closed, as well as canopy hatches. I didn't like that Monogram molded the right engine cowl flaps open, while the left are closed - you have no options there and it doesn't look right unless you are making a diorama. So I cut between each cowl flap and pushed them inward to the closed position as best I could. I made sure I gave the model two weeks to dry after spraying it gloss black overall to prevent finger prints and smudges. The original decals were brittle, so I only used the small emergency and maintenance stencils. I used a Microscale P-61 decal sheet for the red tail boom numbers and the red wing top walkway lines. It was so much easier using the one-piece aftermarket decal for those red lines on the wing than doing Monogram's original procedure of cutting them to size and fit yourself from a large strip of red decal. That and the open cowl flap cowling are the only beefs I have with this model. Otherwise it's a beautiful, classic kit from Monogram you can still buy today online and at hobby shops.


  1. I have this on my wish list. Looks great! I plan on picking it up sooner than later now..

  2. There's still a lot of them out there. Monogram must have made billions of them. I got this one sealed!

  3. Yes, without a doubt one of the kits I've seen all OVER the place! I finally wound up with one that I got at a good discount because Hastings is going out of business. It's the latest boxing so the stuff isn't as crisp but I'm glad to have it! Enjoying your blog!