Academy 1/72 B-24H Liberator Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||May 2009||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||1693||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Neat WWII USAAF bomber||Cons||Control surfaces all molded solid; Only one marking scheme 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 another Minicraft Academy kit) it was distinguished by a green-house type nose instead of the powered turret on later versions.
One of the reasons for the large amount of B-24’s to roll of the assembly lines is the fact that they were also being built by Douglas, Ford and North American.
The first major modification to the Liberator was found on the B-24G, which was distinguished by a power turret in the nose, instead of the greenhouse type used on the earlier versions. This was soon followed by the B-24H (subject of this Minicraft kit).
The markings in the model are from the 93rd Bomb Group, of the 8th Air Force, in England during WWII. Called “The Travelling Circus”, the 93rd was the oldest B-24 group in the 8th AF.
Because of obvious vulnerability of the B-24 to head-on attack, the B-24H design made by Ford used a nose turret, generally a modified Emerson A-6 tail turret. The entire aircraft was redesigned to better fit the turret; 50 airframe changes were made, including a redesigned bombardier compartment. The tail turret was given larger windows for better visibility, the top turret a higher bubble, and the waist gunner positions were offset, to reduce their interference during battle. (Total: 3100)
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 2 B-24H’s flying through flak bursts and attacking Bf-109G’s. The aircraft in the lead is trailing smoke from one of it’s inboard engines. It is in bare metal, with a red nose and the outside of the rudders painted in yellow, black, yellow vertical stripes. A white letter Z is on the black center stripe. The fuselage code is the star and bar insignia followed by large black letters RE. De-icer boots on the leading edges of the wings and rudders are black. The anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit is olive drab. This aircraft is the one described as the box art above, and it is the only marking option provided on the decal sheet.
A side panel of the box has 4 full color walk-around type photos of the model made up. The other side panel says that the kit is not suitable for children under 36 months and is for modelers ages 10 and above. Features of the kit are listed under the flags of Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Korea and China in the languages of those countries.
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-24H.
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 aircraft on the box art from the 93rd Bomb Group, already described above. Colors are called out in FS numbers (FS=Federal Standard).
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 ball turret panel, machine guns and radio aerials (10 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, dorsal, belly and tail gun turret windows (27 parts)
The decal sheet, already described, holds the markings for aircraft ser. no. 294738 from the 93rd Bomb Group, 8th AF. It is the only marking option provided in the kit and kind of ho-hum. There is a large white letter B in a black circle that goes above the left wing. Strangely, in the 2 black and white photos of the model made up on page 8 of the instructions this mark has not been added to that model.
This is one nice model of a popular WWII USAAF aircraft subject. The kit is still around on eBay and it was also reboxed several times with different signs of the zodiac on the nose. These zodiac series kits are also to be found on eBay.
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.