Monogram 1/48  B-17G Flying Fortress

Model, Text and Photos by: Mike Grant

Introduction:

I remember a friend of mine buying this kit when it was first released, and bringing the Shep Paine diorama booklet to school to show me. I was insanely jealous as my meager paper-route earnings wouldn't stretch to such an exotic model and I had to make do with Matchbox and Airfix kits from the local newsagents. Thirty years later, and hopefully with a few more skills than I had back then, I finally got to build the Monogram 1/48 B-17G.

Panel Lines:

Re-scribing the kit was the first step, and since I've already been criticized for this decision (one person was actually irate that I'd re-scribed the model) let me take a few moments to explain. Having seen the B-17 'Sentimental Journey' up-close at Calgary airport last year I know it's mainly built of overlapping panels. However there's no way a raised line accurately represents an overlapping series of panels, any more than a recessed line does. And if you're going to get so pedantic about the representation of the panel lines, you should also be covering the airframe with thousands of scale rivets since they're much more apparent than the panel lines themselves. Personally I like recessed lines because they enable me to accentuate them with washes and the model just looks sharper, and at the end of the day I built this for my pleasure.

So, with my rolls of Dymo tape and a pin in a vise I spent several evenings etching the lines into the silver plastic. The smaller access panels were scribed using a Verlinden template set. I then moved onto the interior.

Interior:

Having waited 30 years to build this kit I knew I was only going to be building one in my lifetime, so I tried to balance the instinct to cram it full of detail against the realization that I wanted to actually finish it. The kit's interior detail is quite adequate, and just in case there's anyone else on the planet who hasn't built this kit, let me add that very little can be seen of the interior once it's all glued together. So I built most of it out-of-the-box, except for areas which would be clearly visible- namely the bomb-aimer's position behind the nose glazing, and the cockpit itself. As you can see from the photos I spent quite a bit of time embellishing the various bulkheads but I needn't have bothered; literally nothing can be seen of them now the model's complete. Using a Squadron 'Walk Around' book as reference I replaced the cockpit seats and added Eduard pre-painted photo-etch harnesses (surely the best modeling invention ever). I also used an Eduard interior set for the instrument panel and various other small details.

The navigator's/bombardier's station also received some attention as I added seat belts, detail to the Norden bombsight and a pair of headphones and lamp on the navigator's table. I made extensive use of some wood-finish decal that I printed on the ALPS. The tail gunner's position was bereft of much detail so I added ammo boxes and a seat, none of which can be seen.

The Sperry ball turret proved problematic. It's molded in two transparent halves and eliminating the seam was almost impossible. I did finally achieve it with much filler and sanding, but in doing so I got dust and debris inside the turret which I'd previously detailed. The only way to access the turret interior was to perform a frontal lobotomy and saw the top off, which enabled me to blow compressed air into it and clean it out. The gaping hole isn't visible now that the turret is in position beneath the fuselage.

Assembly:

With all the interior sub-assemblies in place I glued the fuselage halves together- the fit wasn't bad at all. I cleaned up the major seams and glued the pre-Futured windscreen in place. This launched a series of catastrophic events... I'd dry-fitted the windscreen several times and realized that it didn't fit too well, and yet I went ahead and glued it in place with CA glue, deluding myself that it would look OK in the morning. Of course it wasn't any better the next day, so I attempted to rip it out. Not only did the canopy shatter but the surrounding plastic broke, and I also dislodged the pilot's seat. Because of the overhanging roof I couldn't even reach the loose seat to re-attach it, so I sawed the roof off. This wasn't as drastic as it sounds since I happened to have a Squadron vac-form canopy replacement which includes the roof portion, so I decided to use this. I might add that vac-form canopies are the bane of my modeling life and I've never been able to fit one properly. This followed the same trend, and trying to fare it into the fuselage made it even more difficult. But, much filling and sanding later it looked OK.

The next day I noticed a seam on the upper fuselage behind the turret, which for some reason I couldn't get rid of it. I'd fill, sand, polish until it was invisible, but then it would re-appear as a hairline crack. I tried CA glue, liquid glue, Tamiya putty and Mr Surfacer, all to no avail. Finally I figured it needed to be glued and sealed from the inside first, so I had the bright idea of inverting the model and pouring liquid super-glue through the turret hole, to flow into the offending seam. What I hadn't taken into account was that there was no way to tell how much of the super-thin glue I was squeezing into the fuselage, or where it was flowing. The first indication there was something wrong was liquid seeping under the canopy, the second indication was when I realized my fingers were glued to the fuselage.

I could deal with having no fingerprints, but the vac canopy was ruined, covered in CA glue on the insides. The only option was to rip it out, order another canopy and try yet again, though I had to leave the model for a while before I arrived at that conclusion. To cut a long story short, that's what I did and although it still doesn't fit perfectly (the vac canopies are marginally wider than the aperture they're designed to fit) it will have to do.

The wing halves are not a good fit, particularly around the engines where there's a noticeable step, involving lots of filling/sanding to maintain a circular profile. But the wings do attach to the fuselage very positively and with the correct dihedral, as do the tail-planes. With the main assembly done I reinstated any missing panel lines, masked out the glazed areas and then primed the airframe with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (grey) which goes on really smoothly, even out of an aerosol can. Once dry (within minutes) it's very hard-wearing.

Painting:

The markings I'd decided on were for '2nd Patches', photos of which appear in the Squadron/Signal 'B-17 In Action' book. The aircraft had a natural metal tailfin/rudder, and an outer wing panel on the undersurface. The photos don't show the upper wing so I took artistic liberties and decided to do a similar NMF section on the top side. Various other panels were also NMF, so I masked these areas and sprayed them Alclad Polished Aluminum. I'd found an excellent double-page wartime color photo of two heavily weathered B-17s in a Flight Journal 'B-17 Special Issue', which showed a very faded OD color and extensive blackening around the engines and exhaust stains. I used this as a guide. Although the panel lines were clearly visible on the photo there was no sign of any pre-shading techniques so I avoided them on my model, choosing to subtly highlight various panels instead. I made the decals using the ALPS and these were applied, after which I began the weathering process in earnest. The photo showed a mass of footprints and scuffs on the wings and around the fuel filler caps which I replicated with a fine brush and Vallejo acrylics. The photo also showed the path of the exhaust stains around the air-cooling vents and I tried to simulate this too. Finally I added some paint chipping using a silver Berol pencil.

Conclusion:

Final details always seem to take the longest. I replaced all the guns with Karaya metal items, and most of the glazing is either Squadron vac-form or my own acetate replacements. The slots in the chin turret were filled, sanded smooth and painted to represent the fabric covers of the real thing, I even made a couple of zipper decals. The upper turret was detailed before being added, and an Eduard PE set provided the forward aerial, windscreen wipers and rear gun-sight. MV lenses were used for the navigation/formation lights except for those on the wings and tail-planes, for which I used CMK resin parts. Brake lines were added to the undercarriage and the wheels replaced with resin items.

The end result has a few compromises to accuracy. I realized too late into the build that the real '2nd Patches' had the staggered waist gun positions- mine doesn't. Nor did the real aircraft have my wife's name below the pilot's side window- I did this as a small tribute to her great patience and useful suggestions during the build. And the 'TV' aerial on the nose of the aircraft isn't visible on the photos I have (though who's to say it wasn't fitted later, eh?).

A couple of comments about the photos. The strange pink hue is not some previously undiscovered shade of desert pink, but the result of mixed lighting and poor photography. The tail-guns are missing from the photos, I was transporting the model to a Contest (the Rocky Mountain Model Club's 11th Annual Regional) the next day so I left them off and added them when I got there. I was delighted to receive 6 awards for the model.

RMX5600 1/48 Monogram B-17G

EU48208 Eduard B-17F/G Exterior set

EU48207 Eduard B-17F/G Interior set

EUXF-166 Eduard B-17G Wheel/canopy masks

SQ9551 Squadron B-17G Flying Fortress Main vac

SQ9552 Squadron B-17G Flying Fortress Nose vac

         

 

   



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