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Building Trumpeter's 1/32 SBD-5 Dauntless


Known affectionately as the "Sweetheart of the Pacific", this marvelous aircraft nearly single handedly ended Japan's carrier dominance in the Pacific during the Battle of Midway, scantly 6 months after the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a beautiful aircraft with graceful lines and is hands down my favorite US Navy aircraft of the war. Although eventually replaced by the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver during late 1943 and early 1944, its replacement never lived up to the reputation of the Dauntless. My wife's uncle flew the Helldiver and recounted many times how it easily lived up to its reputation as "the Beast" or "Son of a Bitch, 2nd Class". Plagued with mechanical problems and very tiring to fly due to heavy stick forces it never endeared itself to pilot and crews (or maintenance personnel) like the Dauntless did. 

This is perhaps the best WWII  kit Trumpeter has released in 1/32 scale. Although the 1/32 Avenger was a good kit, the level and crispness of detail in this kit far surpasses it. It is a well detailed kit with a decent engine. The accessory engine bay is also detailed, though the amount of detail is not that extensive. I am assuming most people will leave the area closed up, so there was not a great impetus to go all out. The accessory detail on the engine is reasonably well done, however, and the engine mount, "dishpan" and oil tank are well represented. I plan to open it up and further detail it.

The cockpit is reasonably well done and unlike the Avenger, it is not filled with ejector pin marks. I plan to use Waldron's placard set for the cockpit, however, which will take the level of detail up an order of magnitude. The armament is well done, with well done fuses for the bombs. The kit comes with a single 500 lb. GP bomb for the centerline and two 250 lb. GP bombs for the wing rack. The aft cockpit too is reasonably well done. The kit does come with cowlings with and without the carburetor scoop, which is appropriate, as the A-24 retained this feature.

The kit, however, is certainly not without its faults. Most notable are the Trumpeter ever-present "divot rivets". Rather than rivets they appear more like .30 caliber bullet holes. The rivets in the kit are portrayed as flush (or actually recessed), whereas in fact, the entire aircraft was covered a with raised rivets. I simply cannot understand why they resorted to flush rivets on the fuselage when machining raised ones into the dies is much easier, and certainly more accurate. For about a half a second I contemplated drilling them all out, filling them with pieces of 0.010" styrene rod and then cutting them until they protruded about 0.005". Given the sheer number of rivets (well over a thousand) that would entail, I quickly decided against it. The dive flaps are thick and the detail is lacking and crude. They will have to be re-done.

My tentative plans for this kit include opening up the port side of the cowling and engine compartments, port "fifty", using a resin .50 caliber machine gun for which I produced the master, re-doing a lot of the cockpit details I find lacking with scratch building and the superb Waldron SDB Dauntless cockpit placard set and redoing the dive flaps, which are very inadequate in my opinion. I will use the Eduard dive flap set to save me at least 100 hours worth of scratch building work. Any other additional details will be scratch built from any of a myriad number of materials scattered around my bench but mostly aluminum sheet from soda cans. I like using it rather than just sheet aluminum because the inside of the can is plasticized which makes for a much stronger bond when using CA.

I began the cockpit by cutting off all details on both the forward and cockpit side consoles. They will all be replaced with scratch built details and using the Waldron placards to finish things up.