Academy 1/72 B-24D Liberator Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||May 2009||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||1692||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Neat WWII USAAF bomber||Cons||Fuselage stars may be wrong; Sperry belly turret shown on box art not included in kit and may not be accurate for “The Goon” if had been provided|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$39.95|
In 1938, the USAAF asked the Consolidated Aircraft Co. (later known as Convair) to design a heavy bomber with performance exceeding the new B-17 Flying Fortress. Consolidated had been experimenting with a narrow, high-lift wing and it was already flying on a proposed civil flying boat project, known as the Model 31. The new bomber was designed around the wing and the tail arrangement of the Model 31. Designated XB-24, the new bomber looked so promising on paper that the Air Corps ordered seven YB-24’s and another 31 planes were on the books before the XB-24 had even flown. Eventually, the B-24 was named the Liberator and went on to become the most widely produced American bomber in WWII.
The Consolidated B-24 was clumsy-looking alongside the slim B-17 Fortress, and it became common for the B-17 crews to refer to B-24’s as “the crate the B-17 was shipped in”, but the ponderous shape of the Liberator was the secret of its great bomb load. It was also slightly faster and had a greater range than the B-17.
The first production version of the Liberator was the B-24D (subject of this kit), which was distinguished by a greenhouse-type nose instead of the power turret mounted on later versions. One of the reasons for the large quantity of B-24’s to roll from the assembly lines lay in the fact that they were also being built by Douglas, Ford and North American.
B-24D’s were used on nearly every operational front during the war. “The Goon”, depicted by this model kit, was operated by the 308th Bombardment Group of the 14th Air Force, flying in the CBI (China, Burma, India) theatre.
The kit comes in a very large and sturdy tray and lid type box, that is shrink-wrapped sealed. Upon opening this box, it became apparent that it is already 4 ½” too long for the parts contents. Also, if trees had not been co-joined in some cases the parts would easily fit into a carton half the width of this box.
The boxart shows 3 B-24D’s on a bombing run of a city that has thatched roofs on the houses. (Japanese held city in China????). The lead aircraft has the nose art “The Goon”, whom I think was a character in the old Popeye cartoon strips of the day? He is depicted holding a bomb in his left hand. Under the cockpit window are 24 yellow bombs, indicating that many bombing missions The Goon has flown. The aircraft is painted in olive drab FS 34098 (FS=Federal Standard color) above light gray under surfaces FS 36173.
The fuselage stars are white in a blue circle edged in a wide ring of yellow. These stars are not in accordance with what has been published about aircraft in the same group, as shown in the Squadron in Action book No. 80. No yellow rings are shown on these stars on the color profile of the aircraft with the nose art “Axis Nightmare”, which is shown as the second aircraft in boxart, just behind “The Goon”, from the same group. The third aircraft in the background also sports the rings. Which illustration is right? Squadron’s or the box artist? I don’t know.
Another discrepancy is the belly turret shown on the box art. The kit does not include this. Providing just a gun tunnel for lower defense. With the 77th production B-24D (41-11587) the tunnel gun was replaced with a Bendix-designed remote control power operated turret mounting a pair of .50 caliber machine guns. This was identical in design to the belly turret found on early B-17E Flying Fortresses. The Bendix belly turret was retractable and was aimed by a gunner sighting through a periscope. On both aircraft, gunners suffered from vertigo and nausea caused by peering through the periscope sight. After 287 B-24D’s were built, the Bendix belly turret was deleted, returning to the single, hand-held ventral .50 caliber tunnel gun. The belly turret opening was faired over.
Beginning with the B-24D-CO, serial no. 42-41164, the tunnel gun was again replaced by a belly turret, a manned Sperry ball turret, also mounting a pair of the .50 caliber machine guns. This ball turret was identical in design to the one used on late B-17E’s, being lowered into position while in-flight. It is this type of turret shown on the boxart. The Goon has the yellow tail serial no. of 124183. It also has some very dark olive drab splotches on the rudders. “The Goon” markings are the only marking option offered in the kit.
Inside the large box are 3 large sealed cello bags containing 6 light gray parts trees. Four of these trees are co-joined to each other. A fourth, smaller sealed cello holds a tree of clear parts and another holds the decal sheet. The instructions complete the box contents.
The instructions consists of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 8 pages of 8 ¼” x 11 ¾” format.
Page 1 of the instructions begins with a black and white repeat of the boxart, followed by the history of the B-24D.
Pages 2 through 6 give a total of 16 assembly steps.
Step 9 shows assembly of the aircraft with closed bomb-bay doors, and step 10 is for positioning them open. The inside of this bomb-bay has parts provided in the kit for 4 bomb-racks holding 8 x 500lb bombs.
Page 7 has a 2-view illustration of the one and only marking option provided, for “The Goon”, showing a side and above illustration. Colors are called out in FS numbers.
Page 8 has 2 black and white photos of the model made up, followed by Minicraft’s address in Torrance, CA USA, next to a paint listing of colors suggested to finish the model in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Below this is some international assembly symbol explanations.
The instructions do not include any parts tree drawings. This means searching the trees for the parts needed that match the assembly step illustrations of them. Bad move Minicraft. The part numbers are on the trees however, but the trees are not alphabetized…sigh. Extra un-needed work for us modelers.
The first co-joined light gray parts trees, on one of the two trees holds: one half of the fuselage, the rudders, instrument panel, pilot seats, bulk-heads, main wheels and legs, dorsal turret base etc. (25 parts)
To other light gray tree, joined to the above one, holds: the other half of the fuselage, bomb racks, pilot’s cabin floor, engine super-chargers, machine guns, bomb-bay doors, nose wheel, fuselage hatch doors etc. (34 parts)
The second light gray set of 2 co-joined parts trees has the first larger of the two trees holding: the cowlings, engines, propellers and their retainers and halves of 8 bombs. (34 parts)
The smaller one of these co-joined trees holds: the horizontal tail surface halves (elevators are molded solid), fuselage nose halves, belly gun tunnel hatch, machine guns and pitot tubes (12 parts)
The next 2 light gray parts trees each hold the parts of the upper and lower wing halves. (2 parts per tree)
The final parts tree in the kit is the clear parts for the pilots cabin, nose windows, fuselage windows, dorsal turret windows etc. (20 parts).
The decal sheet, already described, holds the markings for “The Goon” and is the only marking option provided.
This is one nice model of a popular WWII USAAF aircraft subject.
Hasegawa makes 2 boxings of the B-24D, also in 1/72nd scale. However, their prices are double what the Minicraft Academy ones sell for. Eduard has a canopy masking set, designed for the Minicraft Academy kit.
The overall detail is very good on this kit. Modelers with AMS might want to add more detail in the cockpit or try to re-position the ailerons, elevators and rudders with surgery.