1/48 SBD Dauntless
A-24B, GC I/8 "Vendée", France, late 1944
Text and Photos by: Fernando Rolandelli
It is with the outmost sadness that we modellers receive the new of Accurate Miniatures going out of bussiness.Though having a line of perhaps a dozen kits, each one of them is a real jewel which has definitely improved the standard of kit making. Maybe the moulds will change hands and the models themselves resurrect, à la Trimasterís 190.
THE SBD DAUNTLESS KIT
Like the TBF/M Avengers before it, the Dauntless is moulded in grey and clear plastic pieces. The box is the usual double-floor, to protect clear parts and decals. The pieces are exceedingly well moulded, without any noticeable flash, sporting both recessed and raised panel lines when applicable and accurate to the las panel line. It is a big kit, though not so imposing as the TBF. You can see in Fig. 1 one of the most representative sprues of the kit, showing the separate sidewall detail, the u/c legs and the gorgeous dive brakes.
The instructions emphasize following the proposed sequence, and I did not found any reason for not doing so. The first step is whatsoever assemblying the interior. The cockpitís side panels are made in separate pieces, to avoid sunken surfaces. Seats, pedals, control sticks and instrument panel are added to the cockpitís floor. Everything is supplied, and you would be hard pressed to add even some cables. At first you may feel uncomfortable about the clear instrument panel, but wth a steady hand a good result can be achieved. Seatbelts are Eduard, the decal one included did not look serious to me.
The engine is also superbly detailed, though the ignition wires are way too thick. You can replace them with wire or leave them as they are, like I did.
I painted the interior in Testors Green Zinc Chromate, though Interior Green would be probably more accurate (it would be much less harsh); boxes and instrument panel a very dark grey. The engine was painted in a dark grey crankcases, and black-severely-dry-brushed-silver cylinders, with copper ignition wires (paint them black with only the side facing you in matt copper, they will appear thinner).
Then you glue the fuselage sides; the complete cockpit floor is added from below. Take care to align the rear turret, for its fixing is rather fiddly (maybe you prefer mounting it as a final step); you can even pierce the holes in the mounting ring. The floor is fixed by joining the spars to the proper slots; again, take care to fix it well, as they will support the wings.
I opted to detach the rudder to pose it lightly deflected; this, thanks to the kind nature of the plastic, was achieved without unduly trouble, wire rings providing the links.
In a classical three-piece design, the wings provides some trouble. Though perfect in the way of alignment and dhiedral, the undersurface trailing edge fit is rather complex. It can be made up to a perfect fit with superglue and putty, but you will probably lose the rear landing light in the process (as I did). Fix the problem making a new one from a blob of gel superglue. The whell bays, though very accurate and delicate with their double surfaces, let the upper wing joint be seen. Not being able to reach it in any way, I covered them with shorts legths of wire. The pierced dive brakes look superb, but they are so thin that they tend to curb and show a wavy border; there is little you can do about that, except taking care to straighten them up before showing the model to your club pals. Also, the operating braces are designed to show them partially opened, both upper and undersurface, while the uppersurface ones would most often be flush with the wing, the undersurfaces operating like landing flaps (except, of course, in the dive recovery). I let them be, but you could modify them to suit your taste.
CANOPY AND OTHER DETAILS
The rear turret is well detailed; I added the ammo belts and the ring sight from a general Reheat photoetched. The canopy can be posed fully opened if you take some care. I added the prominent compass which hangs from the upper windshield frame.
My machine is actually an A-24B (Army equivalent to a SBD-5), so it has a pneumatic tailwheel, taken from the Verlinden set (Fig. 3). It lacks the arresting hook, but not its mounting, so I simply cut it off and added the mounting after painting the stripes. Last of all I added the main undercarriage. In Fig. 2 you can see the rather odd angle it makes; its fitting is very positive, leaving no place to mistakes. If the angle do not satisfy you (it really looks too pronounced) you woud have to make a little surgery. I chose not to modify it in any form. Wheels are flattened; this, though probably overdone for a carrier-based machine, looks perfect in my model.
PAINTING AND DECALLING
My machine is not only an A-24B, is also a Frenchie! Decals for the Groupe de Chasse GC I/8 "Vendée" in 1944-45 were provided by Ministry of Small Aircraft Production. They are usually rather thick, but not in this case, luckily. The aircraft was painted in USAAC trim of OD and Neutral Gray (others, painted in the US Navy tricolor scheme, were probably denavalized ex-Marines SBD machines). I stuck to Don Archerís "classical" vision of these two colors, which yields to a darker rendition than "modern" views, such as that held by Aeromaster. Therefore, I used Humbrol 108 RFC Green and Floquil Neutral Gray, as the aforementioned author recommends. I did not make any "preshading", this being of little use in such a dark scheme, but post-shaded the center of panels in Olive Drab lightened with Light Grey 36440. I know that many people lighten OD with Yellow (and thatís chromatically correct), but I think it makes it stand even more, while you want it to seem faded. Control surfaces were consistently lightened. The same treatment was applied to the undersides. Then I laboriously add the Operation Dragoon, the Southern France campaign, stripes (no, they are not D-Dayís!), painting them rather lightly to obtain instant fading. Then I applied Testors Glosscote to the model, and on it went to the decal department.
It must be said that the decals behaved themselves. I always tend to use as much decal as possible, so I refused to paint the rudder flag, applying the decal in its place. Micro Set and Micro Sol ensured its adherence to the relief. The numbers came separated from the flag, so you can paint it if you like. The abundant white markings did show through a little OD, but just enough to look faded. I do not trust Accurate decals, being their biggest flaw, in my view: they are too hard, they do not conform to the surface and tend to silvering.
I then glosscoated everything again (to even out shines) and them matted it, using Testors Dullcote. Finally I applied some washes in black and raw umber to the control surfaces and exhausts (I prefer doing this via airbrush instead of proper washes), and emphasized the fading with some light gray dry brushing à la armour modeller.
You cannot fail with this one. Even out-of-the-box, it builds up to an excellent, superdetailed replica. It is quite tempting to combine it with the superb Verlinden set, and create a masterpiece (take into account that this set is intendend for a SBD)
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