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Accurate Miniatures 1/48 SB2C-1C Helldiver Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2005 (Updated July 2011) Manufacturer Accurate Miniatures
Subject SB2C-1C Helldiver Scale 1/48
Kit Number 480405 Primary Media Styrene/Photo-Etch
Pros Excellent exterior and interior detailing, photo-etched details Cons Decals (see text); window templates not correct; difficult build, soft molded details on canopy
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


The SB2C Helldiver was one of the most effective dive bombers developed in World War 2 and served well into the 1950s. Ironically, the Helldiver spent more time as a prototype than a combat aircraft during WW2. For those who remember the movie 'Dive Bomber' that was released before WW2, there was a silhouette of an aircraft at the end of the movie - the XSB2C-1. The Helldiver was entering flight test before the war and might have retired the Douglas SBD early if all had gone well.

But all did not go well. The prototypes kept experiencing structural problems that resulted in in-flight break-ups during dives - not a good trait for a dive bomber. The problems persisted to the point where the Curtiss-Wright company was targeted by the Truman Commission which recognized that since the issuance of the production contract in 1939 through the present (1943), Curtiss has yet to develop a single Helldiver that the US Navy considered to be an effective combat aircraft.

While many of the major bugs had been ironed out, the SB2C-1C was released into service in late 1943 to fill the urgent need for combat aircraft. Recognizing that many problems still existed, the pilots were given restrictions on portions of the flight envelope to keep crews from experiencing the wrath of the Beast.

VB-17 was the first US Navy squadron to take the Helldiver into combat on 11 November 1943, launching from the USS Bunker Hill against the Japanese-held island of Rabaul. The VB-17 was the second strike into the Japanese anchorage and the Zeros were waiting. Despite heavy opposition from fighters and flak, the Beasts were able to fight their way into the target area, dive upon the ships below, strike several effective blows, and fight their way back out, all without a single casualty. Several Helldivers were seriously shot up and a few had to ditch near the carrier group's destroyer screen, but everyone made it home from their combat debut.

Note: VB-17 did not fly the SB2C-1C at Rabaul or anytime on their first Helldiver cruise. Thanks to Brian O'Neill's efforts for showing that the VB-17 Helldivers at Rabaul were SB2C-1 Mod III versions with twin 50 calibers in each wing instead of the later single 20mm in each wing. One historical reference for this is on the bottom of page 18 of Bert Kinzey's SB2C Helldiver in Detail & Scale. In fact, in Peter Smith's Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, VB-17 never flew the SB2C-1C in combat. When they completed their tour in the SB2C-1 Mod III, they were re-equipped with the SB2C-3 and SB2C-4 before returning to combat.

All of the speculation is over. Accurate Miniatures has released their duo of Helldiver kits based upon the Pro-Modeler molds (Revell-Monogram). This release is the SB2C-1C, the first version to see combat. In general, the details between this version and the late-war SB2C-4 are few but visible. All are addressed here.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and features some beautifully scribed detailing on the exterior surfaces and nice interior detailing as well. The kit is presented on four parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts and a single fret of photo-etch.

The first four trees are common to both kits. The fifth tree is the new three-bladed propeller and two-piece spinner common to the SB2C-1, A-25A, and Helldiver Mk.I.

The photo-etch parts are similar to the fret from the SB2C-4 kit except this set lacks the perforated dive brakes of the late-model Beast. This new photo-etch set, made by Eduard, is the same as the set in the SB2C-4 kit except the perforations in the dive flaps were deleted. The sawtooth trailing edge of the upper dive flaps should have also been deleted and will need to be trimmed away. The photo-etch provides seatbelt buckles and gun sight details as well as an ignition harness in addition to the dive brakes.

Another notable difference in the SB2C-1C is the window behind the pilot's cockpit. On page four of the instructions is a template to help you to modify the fuselage halves with the 'correct' shaped windows. While the window behind the pilot on the left side was an inverted 'L', the window on the right side was rectangular.

Those of you who've built the Pro-Modeler SB2C-4 kit already know how well this kit goes together. Those who haven't are in for a treat. The kit features beautifully detailed front and rear cockpits as well as a nice weapons bay on the flipside of the floor. A pilot's figure is also included.

The engine looks a little low-tech on the parts tree, but when treated to a good paint job, the photo-etched ignition harness and installed inside that tight cowling, you would be hard-pressed to tell it wasn't an aftermarket resin engine.

The wings are unfortunately not set up for an optional fold, but they are nicely detailed down to the stub rocket launchers, wheel wells, dive brakes and outboard slats.

The other minor nit of the kit, not of Accurate Miniatures' doing, is the retractable rear fairing. The Beast would lower the rear deck aft of the rear cockpit to allow better clearance for the rear guns' barrels. This retractable deck includes the leading edge base of the vertical stabilizer as pictured in the Accurate Miniatures profile on the instructions. A little surgery with an X-Acto knife while you're modifying the fuselage for the additional window will fix this.

Profiles and markings are included for two examples:

  • SB2C-1C, White 4, VB-17, USS Bunker Hill
  • SB2C-1C, White 18, VB-2, USS Hornet

Actually, as you'll see in the decal image, Accurate Miniatures has provided a variety of numbers to replicate 11 different aircraft - check your references. According to the instructions, if you want maintenance stencils, you'll need to find Aeromaster sheet 148-120.

Update Note:

A follow-up note on the decals. It turns out according to Bert Kinzey's book SB2C Helldiver in Detail & Scale, that VB-17 didn't take the SB2C-1C to Rabaul. They were still operating the SB2C-1 Mod III Helldiver which differed visibly by its wing armament. The SB2C-1C (and later) Helldiver was armed with a single 20mm cannon in the wing root, as depicted in the Pro-Modeler/Accurate Miniatures kit. The SB2C-1 Mod III was armed with twin 50 caliber machine guns in each wing root. If you want to do a VB-17 Rabaul raider, you'll need to add an additional gun port in each wing - a minor backdate. These decals are accurate for VB-17 at Rabaul. If you do want to build the kit straight out of the box, you won't be doing a Rabaul aircraft, but since the Accurate Miniatures decals are essentially generic markings, you can check your references and apply the markings accordingly.

This kit is a detailed straight out of the box but it is a challenging build. Nevertheless, with all of the detail in this kit, even the AMS modeler should be satisfied without additional aftermarket details. While the folks at Accurate Miniatures may have gotten their history off slightly, we still have the first-ever option to backdate the ProModeler Helldiver with minimal effort.

For a look at the build review of the SB2C-4 kit, look here. If you can't find this kit in the Accurate Miniatures box, Revell reissues this same kit periodically so you can get one then.

Thanks to Accurate Miniatures for this review sample!