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SBD-3

Trumpeter 1/32 SBD-3/4/A-24A Dauntless Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2006 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject SBD-3/4/A-24A Dauntless Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2242 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice detailing throughout, excellent canopy engineering for posing the cockpits open or closed with no fuss! Cons  
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $139.95

First Look

SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3
SBD-3

Douglas Aircraft Company developed the SBD Dauntless in a pre-war competition for the 'next generation' carrier dive bomber. The aircraft was two-place monoplane of all-metal construction (except for the flight control surfaces) powered by the Wright R1820 radial engine. The Dauntless was a dive bomber, the steeper the dive, the more likely the bomb will go where you're aiming after release. Like other USN dive bombers, the SBD employed split flaps that doubled as dive brakes to keep the aircraft from accelerating beyond its maximum speed and ripping the wings off the aircraft. Consequently, when the bomb is released, it will accelerate away from the diving bomber. To keep the bomb that is hung on the centerline bomb rack from falling through the spinning propeller (a bad thing), a trapeze mechanism was used to swing the bomb out below the propeller arc during release.

The SBD-3 was the first version of the Dauntless optimized for combat operations. It differed from the SBD-1/2 by having better armor protection and self-sealing fuel tanks. Early SBD-3s were delivered with a single 30 caliber gun on the flexible gun mount in the rear cockpit, but later versions were equipped with twin 30 caliber guns linked to a much larger ammo storage box. A total of 584 SBD-3s were delivered to the Navy and these were the aircraft that saw combat successes over the battles of the Solomons, Coral Sea, and Midway.

The SBD-4 was the next incremental improvement of the Dauntless with the integration of more electronic equipment and the move from a 12-volt to a 24 volt electrical system. The SBD-4 also received the Hamilton Standard Hydromatic propeller which is the most visible difference between the SBD-4 and the earlier SBD-3. While most of the SBD-4s were delivered to the Marines, some found their way into Navy squadrons and were the visible variant supporting Operation Torch.

The A-24 Banshee was one USAAF general's idea of getting Army aviation into the same dive bombing business being used effectively by the Navy and by the Luftwaffe over Europe. While the general might have thought this a good idea, most of the remainder of the USAAF wasn't so keen on steep-diving on targets and while the Banshee did see some combat, it didn't have the results that the Navy and Marines achieved with the type. The Banshee differed from the SBD-3/4 by having a larger tailwheel and the tailhook eliminated. The A-24 was equivalent to an SBD-3 whilst the A-24A was equivalent to the SBD-4.

Here is the second installment of the Dauntless series from Trumpeter - the SBD-3/4/A-24A. This latest release from Trumpeter is as impressive out of the box as the first release - the SBD-1/2.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on eleven parts trees, plus four trees of clear parts, one fret of photo-etch details, two pair of rubber tires for the main gear, and an acetate instrument panel face. According to the specs, there are 257 parts in here and while I'm not going to count them, you can clearly see that there is detail in this box!

As with most aircraft projects, assembly begins in the cockpit. The instrument panel front is molded clear so you can sandwich the acetate instrument faces between clear front and gray rear to get the instruments to show through the bezel glass faces. The rear of the gray instrument panel has the rear of the instruments molded protruding behind the panel so you can see those details when viewing behind the panel.

The remainder of the cockpit is equally well-done with photo-etched seat belts and harness for the pilot's seat and seat belts for the gunner. The cockpit appears to be completely equipped with all of the control levers, dual stick, rudder pedals (foot rests for the rear gunner), and even a life raft canister.

The R-1820 engine is a real work of art. The radial engine has separate rocker arm covers for each of the cylinders, a nice collector ring for the exhaust manifold, the accessory pack that mounts to the rear of the engine with the various vacuum pumps, fuel pump, etc., a nicely done engine mount that mounts to the firewall, and even an oil tank mounted on the firewall.

The superdetailer may want to wire up the engine, but you're going to have lots to see through the cowling face and through the open cowl flaps. To make things more interesting, the cowling is molded in clear so you can leave part or all of the cowling transparent to show off that R-1820, or paint it with the rest of the aircraft. Even the section behind the cowl flaps is molded clear so you can see the rear of the engine if you wish.

After the engine, construction resumes with the rear cockpit and once again, you'll be amazed at the level of detail in here. The 30 caliber gun alone is eight parts, not counting the gun ring it mounts onto.

One of the more important points (at least to me) in this kit is that there are no photo-etched hinges for the flight control surfaces. THANK YOU!! The elevators, rudder, ailerons, and flaps/dive brakes are all separately molded so you can position them as you see fit.

One thing I haven't seen before in styrene is careful engineering of the cockpit transparencies. Of course you can pose the aircraft with the sliding canopies closed (as with most any kit), but what is really impressive is that these clears are thin enough to slide over and under one another so the front and rear canopies can be posed open without lots of fiddling (or resorting to vacuformed parts). Bravo Zulu!

The kit assembly is very straightforward and the details are very nice, right down to the 50 caliber guns that sit on either side of the instrument panel.

Decals are provided for four examples:

  • SBD-3, 2-S-12, VS-2, USS Lexington, May 1942
  • SBD-3, B5, VS-2, USS Lexintgon, May 1942
  • SBD-4, 22-C-13, VC-22, USS Independence, 1943
  • A-24A, 41-15755, US Army

To the casual observer, this kit looks like one of Trumpeter's usual highly detailed kits. In this case, it is clear that they had access to at least one Dauntless and the level of details, especially in the cockpit and the exterior surfaces really show this off. Trumpeter has once again raised the bar on kit quality!

If you're a USN WWII modeler, this kit does for 1/32 scale what the Accurate Miniatures SBD series does for 1/48 - you can give away any other kits of the aircraft as you won't need them!

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!

References:

  • SBD Dauntless Reference Section
  • SBD Dauntless in Detail & Scale, Bert Kinzey, various publishers
  • Walk Around SBD Dauntless, Richard S. Dann, Squadron/Signal Publications
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