Hasegawa 1/72 B-24J Liberator Kit First Look
|Date of Review||March 2009||Manufacturer||Hasegawa|
|Kit Number||00947||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Easy build, nice details||Cons|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$82.95|
The B-24 Liberator was a mixed blessing to the war effort. It was produced in much larger numbers than the B-17 even though production didn't begin until after the start of the war. Thanks to Henry Ford, the first real aircraft mass production line was established in Willow Run, MI and B-24s were reaching all theaters of operations.
Despite their greater availability, bomber crews preferred the B-17. Even though the B-24 was faster, more modern, and had greater capabilities, it was also less stable and much more work for the pilots. Cartoons from the period indicated that B-24 pilots could be spotted at the pub because of their one massive left arm required to keep the aircraft in the air. Copilots were recognized by their massive right arms.
The Liberator was not only flown by the USAAF, the RAF operated a number of the aircraft, as did the US Navy. In fact, the Navy built the ultimate B-24 by stretching the fuselage, replacing the twin vertical stabilizers with one huge fin, and creating an effective maritime patrol aircraft - the PB4Y-2 Privateer.
One pilot of the B-24 moved through the ranks of command during his time in the Mighty Eighth Air Force. Actor-turned-pilot Jimmy Stewart had to work hard to be recognized for his skill and leadership made difficult by his star status in Hollywood. Nevertheless, Stewart worked hard to stay out of way of the press so that those that served under him would receive their well-deserved recognition. He enlisted as a Private at the start of the war and by the end of the war he had risen to full Colonel, not as a token public relations figurehead, but as a true combat leader of a B-24 squadron and later as the operations officer of a B-24 bomb group. According to General Hap Arnold, if the war in Europe had lasted another month, Jimmy Sterwart would have been commanding his own B-24 bomb group.
When Hasegawa announced this special edition version of their still relatively new 1/72 B-24J kit, I decided it was time to take a first look at this new tooling. For the longest time, your only choice for a B-24 in 1/72 scale were the Academy/Minicraft line of Liberators. While these were reportedly not bad kits, they were good basic models of the airframe. So what is different about the Hasegawa tooling? What would happen if the engineers at Trumpeter designed a Hasegawa kit? You'd get a super detailed model straight out of the box! That's just what we have here.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on nine parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts. The layout of the kit is fairly conventional, but they've done some innovation to make the project easier. One of the complaints with the Academy/Minicraft Liberators was the windscreen. Hasegawa has taken a different approach to the entire nose as we'll see shortly. As you'd expect with a contemporary tooling from Hasegawa, the surface detailing is finely scribed and no sign of any 'mad riveter'.
The first thing you'll notice about the project is the interior - Hasegawa has developed a nearly full-length interior for this model. The interior for the main fuselage runs from the nose break right at the rear of the cockpit, encloses a detailed bomb bay, sets up the waist gunner compartment, and ends aft of that area. The gunner's area has the gun pintles and .50 caliber machine guns, but you won't see much in there with the waist windows closed. Should you open the windows, you can add some additional details there for the ammo boxes, O2 bottles/regulators, and the hydraulic jack that hangs from the ceiling to extend and retract the ventral turret.
The wings have a main spar that carries through the fuselage and provides a solid join at the wing/fuselage joint. The joint looks like it will make adding the wings after you've painted or metalized the model much easier, which in turn makes painting far easier.
As I mention, the bomb bay is nicely detailed and armed. The bomb bay dooes can be posed open or closed.
Hasegawa went the extra mile with the engines - they have these with the complete twin banks of cylinders attached to a rear firewall rather than a simple plug that goes inside the cowling. When you look into the cowlings, you'll see the depth.
Which brings me to the Achilles Heel of every US WW2 bomber model - the windows. The B-17 and B-24 in particular were getting different window configurations, especially in the nose. If you looked at a B-17G for example, there are something like five different window configurations depending on early or late B-17G and which factory produced the aircraft. The B-24 was also the recipient of window changes.
In this kit, Hasegawa tackled the window fit problem found in other B-24 models by molding the entire nose in clear. The side windows in the cockpit are molded separately so you can select the correct windows for your project - bulged or non-bulged, both of which are provided. The windscreen and overhead windows are all one part that also extends forward to include the top of the nose and the navigator's astrodome. This allows Hasegawa to swap these clear sections to render different variants easier, but still make the model easier to assemble.
Where this innovation goes awry is up front. The box art depicts the window configurations correctly with larger, almost square side windows in the nose behind the turret and beneath the astrodome. This is the correct configuration for the real 'Dragon and its Tail' B-24J, but the kit and instructions depict this same window as a narrow rectangle as found on the 'Dragon and its Tail' warbird that is flying the airshow circuit. You can see in the close-up image the small rectangular window at the top behind where the turret installs.
Below that window is a larger window that goes on either side of the bombardier's nose glazing. That window should be further forward where the ejector pin part is, and for some odd reason, there is a panel line and rivet line molded right across that window as well as where the window should be. The window designer and the panel line designer didn't coordinate here.
It is nearly impossible to get all of the windows right in every B-17 and B-24 kit without going to the expense of tooling all of those little differences and passing those expenses on to us.
The kit includes decals for one B-24J Liberator:
- B-24J, 973, 64 BS/43 BG(H), 'Dragon and its Tail'
The decal sheet provides the instrument panel in decal form and these markings are really nicely done.
This is one of the more colorful 'nose' art renderings applied to any US combat aircraft and Hasegawa has used this with an equally impressive new B-24J kit. The details and options in this model clearly make the Hasegawa series of Liberators the best B-24 models in any scale.
My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!