Revell 1/48 B-17G Flying Fortress Kit First Look
|Date of Review||March 2006||Manufacturer||Revell|
|Subject||Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||5600||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Still the best B-17 kit in any scale||Cons|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$29.95|
In the mid-1930s, the US Army Air Corps had seen the vision of airpower as demonstrated by 'Billy' Mitchell, but were frustrated at the lack of funding and support from their superiors. Despite this, they managed to get a small order of YB-17 aircraft into the budget in 1936.
Meanwhile, Boeing had developed the Model 299 as a private venture to apply the latest technologies into a strategic bomber in the hopes of gaining a contract. Their hopes were dashed when the prototype crashed on take-off, but were later somewhat relieved to learn that the cause of the crash wasn't the aircraft but pilot error - the flight control lock had not been removed before flight.
The first production version was the B-17B, which entered service in 1940. The versions that followed, the B-17C, B-17D, and B-17E, were incremental improvements to make the aircraft more effective and survivable in combat. Some of these aircraft found their way into the RAF as the UK was already deep into war with Nazi Germany. The B-17F was one of the most common versions of the aircraft as it encompassed more improvements that were learned from combat experience.
The B-17G was the most widely produced version of the Flying Fortress, which featured four Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 1,200 horsepower radial engines. The chin turret, which many people believe is the visual distinguisher of the B-17G was actually incorporated in the late production blocks of the B-17F to provide more effective defense and deterrent against frontal attacks.
Even within the B-17G series, there are quite a few variants. Aircraft produced by Lockheed Vega had difference nose window arrangements from the Boeing-produced aircraft. Early B-17Gs still retained the symmetrical waist windows, but these were later staggered to allow the waist gunners the freedom to move around without running into one another. The tail gun position was also updated with the more effective 'Cheyenne turret' in later blocks. These improvements did not appear all at once, but were introduced gradually into the B-17G production blocks.
Here is one of my favorite kits to come from Monogram - the 1/48 B-17G Flying Fortress. This model was first released in 1975, followed up by the rest of their equally impressive bomber line-up consisting of the 1/48 B-24D, 1/48 B-24J, 1/48 B-29, 1/48 B-58, 1/72 B-36, and 1/72 B-52D, all released under the Monogram banner. If you look at all of the heavy styrene in this one line-up, you're looking back at the Trumpeter of a few decades ago. No one, not even Trumpeter, has even taken aim at any of these subjects in their respective scales. Rumors abound about new contenders for a couple of these subjects but for now, these are the still the kings of their respective hills.
In the case of the 1/48 scale B-17 there have been rumors that a Japanese company is developing a new-tool kit in this scale, and Panda actually announced a 1/48 B-17 (though they've announced dozens of other subjects that we are not likely to see in our lifetimes).
What is available is this B-17G kit which is still in production, the Revell 1/48 B-17F which has been out of production for a while, and the Pro-Modeler B-17G which was this kit with updates for staggered waist windows and the Cheyenne turret. As I understand it, many of the parts between the Revell B-17F and Monogram B-17G are interchangeable, the main difference being that the B-17F didn't have much of an interior. There was also a limited edition B-17G from Monogram that featured one of the fuselage halves molded in clear so that you could see all of that nice detailing inside the fuselage more clearly, but this kit is long out of production and highly valued on the collector's market.
When Revell-Monogram hyphenated, we started seeing Revell kits with Monogram logos, Monogram kits with Revell logos, then the same kits with hyphenated Revell-Monogram logos, and more recently everything wearing a Revell logo. The Pro-Modeler brand came about by taking a stock Monogram kit and adding some aftermarket resin and/or new-tool styrene parts. Confused? Don't be - just know that the kits developed by Monogram, no matter what logo they wear, are the nicely detailed and reasonably priced kits from this manufacturer.
This kit is presented on five parts trees. Three of the trees are molded in silver styrene and comprise most of the airframe exterior and many of the interior compartment bulkheads. One tree is molded in black styrene and provides propellers, guns, main gear wheels and the tailwheel, crew seats, and the remaining interior details. The fifth tree contains all of the clear transparencies for all of the windows and turrets on this aircraft.
Construction naturally begins with the aircraft interior. The main floor provides the structure for the cockpit and the nose compartments. The flight deck is nicely appointed with many details that will be difficult to see after the fuselage is closed up. The nose compartment houses the navigator and bombardier who, in the late B-17F and B-17G, also operated the chin turret.
The detailing in here is not bad, though a few details are omitted. Because you can see fairly well into the nose after assembly, the AMS modeler will want to add the circular fairing/chin gun access panel, add the ammo cans and belts for the 50 calibers on either side of the nose, add the parachute rack for the bombardier and navigator (you couldn't wear parachutes in there), and open up the crawlway that leads to the nose entry hatch and back into the cockpit.
The radio operator's compartment is visible (somewhat) through the overhead transparency and gun position. This compartment is also nicely detailed and will look great painted up.
Oddly enough, the kit also features a bomb bay complete with bombs and bomb racks. The problem is that the bomb bay doors are molded closed with no provisions to open them. Go figure.
The tail gunner's position is reasonably detailed and represents the standard tail gun position from the B-17E through mid-production B-17Gs. The dorsal turret and ventral ball turret are also nicely done. Where the opportunity for improvement exists in this kit is at the waist gunners' positions and these are the two largest windows in the aircraft. There is nice rib and stringer detail molded into the insides of the fuselage so the hard work is done. You will need ammo cans, ammo belts to the guns, gun mounts, O2 hoses/regulators, and most importantly - the plywood walkway to keep your feet off of the aircraft's aluminum skin.
Markings are provided for two aircraft:
- B-17G-35-BO, 42-32101, 748 BS/457 BG(H)/1 AD, 8th AF, F, Triangle U, 'El Lobo II'
- B-17G-15-BO, 42-31367, 322 BS/91 BG(H)/1 AD, 8th AF, LG-R, Triangle A, 'Chow Hound'
While I brought up a number of detail areas that could be added to this kit, bear in mind a few things. First, this is a very nicely detailed model straight out of the box, and at an MSRP of $29.95 USD, it is still a bargain for a model of this size and quality. Second, this model was designed for ease of construction for the average modeler leaving room to play for us AMS modelers. Third and most important, this is still the BEST B-17 kit available in ANY scale. You won't find anything close to the interior and exterior detailing from any other manufacturer, and whenever a better model does come around, you can bet that it will command a king's ransom in price to go with it!
If you're reading this and are really wanting to build a 1/48 B-17E or B-17F (perhaps you have a set of those awesome Zotz B-17F 'Heavenly Bodies' decals) but you're not wanting to spend collector's prices for the Revell 1/48 B-17F, don't! The Revell B-17F does not have the interior detail of this kit. If you'd like a closer look at the Revell B-17F, you can see the review here.
And what is a B-17F? With the exception of the very late production B-17Fs, it is this model sans the chin turret and a different side window arrangement in the nose. Earlier B-17Fs didn't have the navigator's astrodome. In any case, these details can be removed and the aircraft backdated if you have some sheet styrene and a little modeling skill. If you really want a nice B-17F, then you really want to start with this kit. If you want to go further and render a B-17E, then the nose 'bubble' transparency needs to be replaced with the E shape that is available in vacuform (I believe Falcon released one). Pick your subject, check your references, and give your Flying Fortress the appropriate nose job.