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S-2E Tracker

Kinetic 1/48 S-2E Tracker Build Review

by Fotios Rouch

Date of Review March 2011 Manufacturer Kinetic
Subject S-2E Tracker Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48024 Primary Media Styrene, White Metal
Pros First kit of this aircraft in 1/48th scale and best kit of the subject in any scale Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $89.95

 

 

Introduction

The Tracker has been one of my favorite Naval Aviation subjects. I was happy to have procured three resin Trackers from Collect-Aire one of which I built some years ago and two stashed away for future builds. I was so certain nobody would ever bring out a Tracker in plastic.

Never say never and here we are with a brand new injected plastic Tracker. After the Hawkeye (another kit I did not suspect to see in plastic) Kinetic now brings the Tracker. The Kinetic kit in-box review and a short history is here.

As soon as the kit was reviewed, Mr Cybermodeler sent me the review sample for construction. I was eagerly awaiting to fondle the Tracker parts and see what we really were up for!

Inspecting the kit contents it is obvious that more Tracker variants are planned. With new wings and a new fuselage the shorter early version can be made. If Kinetic is going to create these new parts remains to be seen. As such the kit can be made only as a late Tracker.

I was privileged enough to help with the research of the wonderful Collect-Aire Tracker so I had enough material in my possession to get going immediately with the Kinetic kit.

Construction

Starting from the cockpit I made the following observations. Kinetic tried to keep things simple with their tooling. Minimum detail in the cockpit is the general flavor. No center console, no detail at all molded on the overhead instrument cluster, seats with no armrests, wrong layout (good for the early Trackers) with the yokes coming out of the instrument panel instead of having their own columns and no detail at all molded on the cockpit side walls or bulkhead.

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I made a conscious decision to upgrade the kit a bit but not to go overboard and spend too much time and use too many valuable resources on this kit.

I scratch built some small details using plastic Evergreen sheet and strips and built armrests, a central console and some more small stuff.

I did not use too many of my Reheat photo-etch cockpit details as this is a rare commodity that has gone extinct and nobody else has come to fill the void. It is nothing spectacular but it keeps things looking busy and a little more representative of what exists between the seats and makes the seats a bit more realistic.

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Next I painted the cockpit parts, choosing drab colors for the seats and the belts, dark gull gray for the interior and clear orange for the radar scope. The way Kinetic molded the instruments in the instrument panel they cannot by painted well or have added detail. Someone else will have to come in with resin or photo-etch to address this.

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I filled the holes for the yokes on the instrument panel and built columns to accept the yolks. The rudder pedals are wrong too coming out from the floor as opposed to hanging from behind the instrument panel. I left this one alone as it is not going to be very visible.

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What I have left to do is the seat-belt buckles, some weathering and then the cockpit is done.

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The cockpit bulkhead has a bunch of ejector pin marks. Kinetic could have had them on the invisible side that faces the aft fuselage but instead they chose to have them on the side that shows through the cockpit. Since I was not going to have the torpedo bay doors open I chose to flip the bulkhead to its good side and skip filling in the ejector marks. The bulkhead has a cutout for the torpedo bay housing and this will not work if you are going to use the torpedo bay housing.

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I then moved on the assembly of the main parts, fuselage, wings and nacelles.

Generally speaking the parts fit OK with no great surprises. One of the nacelles would not fit well to the wing and I chose to create a makeshift spacer.

The general feel so far is that Kinetic tried to cut costs with avoiding adding details wherever they could, such as less cockpit detail, no exhaust details at all on the nacelles, no detail in the torpedo bay, etc. Then again they added good detail on the wingfolds which are very visible and the landing gear bays.

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Funny how sometimes we just follow instructions without questioning.

Well this was one of those times and I just stepped in it big time. Kinetic is just learning how to make models and this is to be expected I guess but it is just so silly since someone knew down the road how plane really looks.

Here is what the problem looks like. Port nacelle gets done per the instructions.

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Starboard nacelle gets done per the instructions.

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Nacelles get inspected for any issues and then I notice how stupid I was for following the instructions!

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The nacelles are mirror images of one another all the way to intakes and wheel well detail! No idea why this happened. I guess nobody looked at the CAD drawing before tooling.

After I realized this error I removed the little intake, masked the surrounding area and started the repair process.

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I filled the depression and the slot and sanded the offending areas flat.

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In the end and after priming the offending areas will look OK but there is no excuse for this. Why? Because if you go through the later parts of the instructions where they show the aircraft in later stages everything looks where it is supposed to be! A quality control person is certainly needed at Kinetic.

Speaking of dumb things, what is the deal with the front landing gear wheel inserts.

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Although I do admit that the idea of making separate hubs from tires is a great idea for painting lets not ruin it by making silly molding decisions.

The sprue gates mold right into the fine and visible lip of the wheel hub. It would have been just as easy to have the sprue gates on the outer edge of the hubs where nobody can see the separation marks. Look at the image and you will see ho easy it could have been to enhance the modeling experience. Such as it was I spent some time cleaning the hubs. Painting was easy and end result was very pleasing.

I was unclear why Kinetic left the overhead console completely devoid of any detail but I guess it is clear now. I noticed that Lucky Model has the color photoetch set from Kinetic (KIN K5012) done by Eduard which includes details for the overhead console, the missing center console, a better instrument panel and many more details. So now the kit with the photoetch already crosses over the $century mark.

I decided to add the throttles on my overhead part plus the fuel tank control handles. Not sure that any overhead console instrument details would be visible through the clear parts.

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It is way beyond comprehension why Kinetic chose to leave the search light pod devoid of any detail. I mean you get a pod and a clear cover and that is all. I decided to carve out the cavity and rob one of my Collect-Aire search light lenses and try to give some detail to the pod.

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Next I moved on with attaching the wings to the fuselage and touching up the seams left over by construction. I have to say that the wings attach to the fuselage really nice and if you are careful very little or no putty will be required. Mr. White Surfacer showed me where imperfections were such as sink marks from the large locating pins, etc.

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More Mr. White Surfacer was sprayed and more fixes were performed. The exhaust stacks are completely missing. Not so nice for a 48th scale model. Holes were drilled and hollow tubes will be inserted to represent the exhausts. The clear canopy was assembled and Futured and it seems to fit good onto the fuselage. The tail wings were easy to assemble.

Next step will be to bring it all together and get ready for painting.

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Here is the modified search light pod for the Tracker. The real thing has wires and articulation joints but my rendition for the Kinetic kit does not. It is really puzzling why Kinetic oversimplified this area. I dipped the clear lens in Future and it really came out very well. The search light looks shiny and businesslike too.

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Fitting the search light assembly to the wing was another story. It did not fit very well on the top of the side of the wing.

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It also did not fit well at all on the bottom side of the pod. I cannot imagine that anyone did any dry fitting of the master. I even wonder even if there ever was a master and if the whole project was done in CAD only. In the image you can see that I have alligned the top part of the pod with the receiveing end of the wing but then the bottom of the pod does not match the wing contours at all.

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The solution was to sand down the pod gondola and then add very fine styrene strip stock and sand and fit and some more until I had a reasonably good fit.

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All these little problems eat time as I try to correct them and my predictions for project completion are always off.

The next item that ate a bunch of my time for assembly was the integration of clear canopy to the fuselage. I tried to get it to fit with no seams and not gaps but I was not perfectly happy. Putty had to be applied and sanding was necessary. In the end I was pretty satisfied and running my fingers over the joints revealed not problems. I masked the window areas and applied masking solution as well before painting.

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At this point I have no more assembly work left to do. A white coat of paint will be applied next on the under surfaces and then the light gull gray will follow after that.

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The MAD boom was one other example of things that could have been done better.   This was not due to lack of research but due to tooling or insufficient quality control.  At least in my example the boom tip is not molded well and it is incomplete at the tip.

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The solution is pretty simple and quick.  Just apply super glue, zap it with the accelerator and sand it down immediately to bring it to shape.  If you wait too long the CA dries up and it gets too hard.

Painting and Finishing

First I applied the gloss white paint on the undersides and the control surfaces.  I let the white paint dry for a few days before handing the model.  I masked the control surfaces and used liquid mask and masking tape to protect the clear parts.

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Gloss Light Gull Gray was sprayed on the top and again the model was left to dry for a few days.

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More masking was applied before the black anti-glare surfaces were airbrushed.

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Based on period photos of the exact aircraft I will be modeling I also painted the top wing bumps insignia red.

Next task was to install the landing gear. The front landing gear went in OK with no problems. The main landing gear gave me some trouble and if I were to install it in the provided locations it would look like this. I decided to relocate the struts and superglue them so the correct geometry which is vertical to the ground and not canted in.

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The fuel dumps were not molded well and did not provide the appropriate angle cut to fit the engine nacelles. No big deal, they are easy to trim and file to the correct shape.

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The sonobuoy parts looked interesting enough to attempt some different painting technique. I sprayed them flat black and then I scraped off the paint from the sonobuoy tube ends. I painted red the tip ends and the result was very pleasing.

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I had decided to make this an Australian Navy Tracker and the Hawkeye decals were great for this job. The only snag was that they were printed on clear paper and I had to paint the white backgrounds myself before applying the decals. The decals went down very well with no issues. I like the tiger on the tail and I am glad I found pictures on the internet of the exact plane. I had to repaint some areas to match the photos but it was no big deal. The Hawkeye set by the way contains all the serials for the Australian E and G Trackers.

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The last big hurdle to face was the folded wings. It is just not easy at all for the long wings to stay in their respective folded positions with the small and soft plastic joining attachments. They sag and they practically touch the top of the fuselage. Using brass rod was not an easy option. I decided to use photos of the support rods that are used when the planes are parked with their wings folded and hope that this would be strong enough for the minor transportation necessary to get the plane into the display case. I started with the starboard wing first, I let the CA glue dry with the support of a Humbrol paint tin and then I inserted the support rod that goes between the wing the top of the fuselage. The result seemed to do the trick. I repeated the process for the port wing and there I was.

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The rest was easier. I added the front pitot tubes and the windshield wiper that made from plastic stock. Weathering is light as the Australians kept up their Trackers nicely.

Conclusions

The Tracker is basically done but I would like to address a few issues when I get back from summer vacation.  I have to add weapons or anti-sway brackets.  I also need to relocate one of the fuel dumps.  Small stuff but it will be nicer when all is done.

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As a reference I am including an image of the Collect-Aire Tracker.  Personally I like it better than the plastic kit.  It too has some small issues but overall I found building it more rewarding.

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My sincere thanks to Lucky Model and Stevens International for this review sample!

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