Monogram 1:48 TBD Devastator

Devastator 5-T-7 (Section Leader) from VT-5 assigned to the USS Yorktown (CV-5).

Build Date: May 2005.

This is one of my favourite amongst my models.   This model along with my Monogram A-10 marked the period when my scale modelling techniques improved to a point where I felt I was able to compete with the best at the IPMS shows.  Whether this is true or not that is the question.  This is also my first model to be published in the TMMI model magazine.

These US NAVY dive bomber aircraft of the “Golden Wings” era were colourful, which made them a favourite subject for modellers.   The movies of the period also made these planes and their pilots flamboyant and fun.   Check out this video of this 1941 movie “Dive Bombers” which featured the famous Tophatter Squadron. The movie was first released to the world in the USA during August 1941. This was just a few months before the Attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941.  This colour movie has fantastic scenes of TBD Devastator and early SBD-2 Dauntless.

Link to movie Dive Bomber

INTRODUCTION  

To build a Devastator in 1:48 scale, the only choice a modeller has is the Monogram kit.   The 1:48 scale Monogram Devastator (Kit 7575) was first produced and released around 1974. The release at that time was touted by Scale Modeler magazine as one of Monogram’s finest offering.  Indeed it was as it was chocked full of details. Compared to today’s offering from Tamiya and Hasegawa, there is no comparison. However, if one is willing to tackle the challenge, it is a diamond in the rough.

I was able to find an original 1974 release from Uncle Bills Hobby Shop in town. This kit forms the basis for this article.   The kit is moulded in a light grey styrene and flash free. Panel lines are the raised type with raised rivet details. The kit is exacting in details such as the wing root detail and the corrugated wing. The cockpit interior is provided with the basic details, and if no additional details are added, it basically captures the look of a Devastator cockpit. It is an outstanding model from the 70s. Details included are: foldable wings, rotatable rear gunner seat, opened access panels to a gun bay and hand crank step platform, and a bombardier sighting compartment located beneath the pilot’s floor complete with sighting window. Armament options provided are a Bliss-Leavitt Mk XIII torpedo and some bombs.

CONSTRUCTION & DETAILING:

Typical with any raised panel line models I built, I start by rescribing all the panel lines to bring it up to today’s standard. The tools I use for scribing is simply a round body sewing needle held in a pin vice and Dymo tape as the guide for the lines. On this model, I tried out a tanner’s pinwheel lend to me by my fellow GOMBs Model Group club member to simulate rivets. I first draw out the centre lines of each roll of rivets. Then I roll the pinwheel along these lines. Any indentations that are not deep enough, I enhanced them with a #80 drill bit.

Using the fine photos from Lynn Ritger’s TBD web site, I scratch built the most noticeable details in the cockpit. Details such as the throttle quadrant, pilot console handles and levers, CO2 bottle, fire extinguisher, pilot seat height adjustment winch, canopy open/close cranks, torpedo sighting gears on top of the instrument panel dash, etc. were all scratch built from thin styrene sheets and rods.  The CO2 and fire extinguisher bottles were made from the leftover model tree stubs that resemble the bottles. To save some time, a set of WWII US Navy resin seats from True Details was used to replace the kit seats.

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The perforated floor plates under the pilot were added using styrene sheets and holes were drilled out. The bombardier compartment under the cockpit floor is hard to see. Hence I only added detailed for the armrests and adjacent ribbings. Sad to say, after the fuselage is assembled this area is just barely visible. Now, I understand why Monogram chooses not to detail this area.

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One of the major, and very noticeable, attractions of a navy bomber is the rear gunner compartment. The kit moulded the chair and the ring type gun mount for the Browning 0.30 calibre machine gun as one piece. As such, the gun mount is just a blob of plastic and it does not show the beautiful lightening holes on the ring and the details of the sliding gun mount. I supplemented this by cutting off the ring “blob” and scratch built the ring and sliding gun mount using styrene sheet. Now it looks more like it.

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The wing folding gear and locking mechanisms are not provided by Monogram. Again, this is another area where it is very visible and required some attention. Using photo references from the Devastator In Action book from Squadron (book #97), I scratch built the locking tabs, mounts, and locking pin assembly using styrene sheets. The locking pin mechanism was made from a styrene rod and wrapped with stretched styrene “thread”.  I like using stretched styrene instead of wires because of the ease of glueing it with liquid cement.

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The other weak area of the wing fold from the kit is the bad joint between the wing rib and the top and bottom wing panels. I can’t sand or use putty here because I will lose all the moulded details if I do that. The solution is to use a strip of stretched styrene “thread” to simulate the rubber wing seal on the real aircraft. The wing seal worked out really well and it covered up the unsightly gap.

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The pitot tube that came with the kit is not an accurate depiction. I made a corrected three prong pitot tube assembly from stretched styrene rods. I also added the air temperature gauge commonly seen in photos of TBDs.

The Browning .30 calibre tail gun provided by the kit is a good representation, however, more details are required. To detail the gun, I built the magazine holder out of 0.1mm styrene sheet. Gunsight was made from stretched styrene and carefully glued to the barrel with liquid cement. The kit’s machine gun grip handle was represented by just a blob. I cut off this blob and replaced it with a styrene handle craved from leftover styrene.

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The Bliss-Leavitt Mk XIII airborne torpedo that came with the kit has a very simple tail assembly, and the counter-rotating screws are not well represented at all. To improve on this, I used an out of production KMC Mk 13 torpedo I happened to pick up from Uncle Bills Hobby Shop. Good news is that Squadron has re-released the KMC set under their True Detail brand name.

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When both fish is compared side by side, the Monogram fish is longer than the KMC version. The overall length of a Bliss-Leavitt Mk XIII is stated as 13′-5″ from two sources on the web. Hence, in 48th scale, 13.42 ft is 3.36″. The KMC torpedo’s overall length measures 3.25″ long. Measurements aside, when I eyeball the shape and relative size of the model torpedo against the real thing on a reference photo, it appears the KMC one is correct.

The KMC resin torpedo is beautifully done with recessed details. The screws are delicately cast. It is so fragile that to cut them out of the pour stub and protective ring one can easily break a screw blade. As such, they provided 2 sets just in case you break one. I am glad they did because I did break one of them.

Landing lights

The TBD has a big landing light right on the port wing leading edge. I can not find any reference photo that shows this in sufficient clarity. Hence, I “eyeballed” it as best as I can. On the kit, the mount for the light is not crisp and if I do not do any improvement to it, the light would not mount well and a very noticeable gap would show. Hence, I cut off what’s there for the mounting and created a better one using a piece from a styrene tube to fit a new light from a railroad MV lens. This worked out very well and is a major improvement.

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Canopy

The kit canopy is acceptable except for the canopy over the pilot compartment. This part is thick and will not sit right if I want to pose it open. I used a Squadron vacuformed canopy to replace this part. I could have used the entire vacuformed canopy to replace all the clear parts here but they are so thin that securing them on the finished model is really dicey.

PAINTING:

The aircraft I am doing is a pre-war Devastator 5-T-7 (Section Leader) from VT-5 assigned to the USS Yorktown (CV-5). Photos of this aircraft are available in the Squadron reference book and it is also illustrated in colour on the back of the book.

Navy aircraft of this era is often referred to as the Golden Wings, and rightly so as the wings are painted in bright yellow. The standard pre-war colour for a TBD from this time period is all interior wheel wells, flap detail, the underside of wings, fuselage, landing gear strut, etc. were painted in silver lacquer. The seat belt is a standard off white for the fabric seat belts. The instrument panel is black with black gauges.

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Reference photos show the Bliss-Leavitt Mk XIII airborne torpedo in the pre-war years in a shiny steel colour with a light grey colour head. To simulate this, the resin torpedo was painted with a Krylon gloss black primer. When dried, a coat of Alcad II Dark Aluminum was sprayed on. The torpedo head was painted with Gunze H325 grey.

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The pre-war Devastators were painted with a silver lacquer. To simulate this, I used Alcad II Aluminum. Alclad is used because the silver finish must be able to withstand lots of taping. The model is prep with Alcad’s grey primer paint. The primer did not require any thinning and was easy to spray. After 2 hours drying time, I wet sanded the surfaces where the silver paint would go to ensure the surfaces are still smooth. Two coats of Alcad Aluminum were applied at 20 psig without a hitch. Alclad is such an easy paint to apply to get great results.

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The rest of the colour as follows: Fuselage: Alcad II Aluminum,  Wing – Gunze H24 Orange Yellow;  Tail- Gunze H327 Red; Stripes-  Model Master True Blue FS15102

With the masking still on, I sprayed all the colour surfaces with one coat of Future. To retain the beautiful metal finish I did not apply any Future clear coat over the Alcad.

The greenhouse canopies were masked off with cut strips of Scotch brand Magic tape. I masked all the vertical frames first and spray painted with Alcald. When dried, I removed the tapes and mask all the horizontal frames and complete the painting. This approach resulted in clean results each time.

DECAL:

The Yellow-Wings decal sheet No. 48-006 was used instead of taking a chance by using the kit decals. The Yellow-Wings decals are very thin and go on fantastic. The colours are opaque and under colour do not show through. The decals settled in nicely with Mr. Mark Softer decal solution.

For the plane I am doing, the decal for the “E” for excellence had the shadow in the wrong direction; the decal sheet has the shadow leaning towards the right-hand side whereas on reference photos the shadows are towards the left. To fix that I cut out the black shadows from the decal and replaced the shadows with a specially cut black decal from my spares box.

Now here’s a bone of contention. The VT-5’s squadron badge decal had a dark red background. Based on the reference photos I have, it appears this background should be much lighter such that the horse and rider show up clearly. One colour photo shows it as a yellow background (I can’t be sure if this photo was not retouched) but the Squadron book shows it as pink. Now, who do you believe? To resolve this impasse, I actually flipped a coin and pink won. I just hand painted the background using a light pink colour and be done with it.

CONCLUSION:

This has been a very satisfying built of a historic aircraft from the pre-war years. The Monogram kit is an old kit, but with a little care and attention, it came out shining. It now stands proudly next to my other models from the recent super engineered kits. This kit also enables me to do more scratch building, tried out new tools for making rivets on a model and used the fantastic Alcad II paint system. This Monogram kit is highly recommended.   Monogram has re-released this kit in 2004 complete with a special book on the subject.

REFERENCES:

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