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Trumpeter 1/32 SBD-1/2 Dauntless Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2006 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject SBD-1/2 Dauntless Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2241 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


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-1 entered production in 1940 armed with a pair of 50 caliber machine guns in the nose and a single rearward firing 30 caliber in the rear cockpit, as well as a centerline bomb station that used a trapeze mechanism to release the bomb safely beneath the propeller arc.

The SBD-2 was actually the last 87 SBD-1s in the production batch that had its fuel capacity increased by 100 gallons and the installation of an autopilot to assist with the longer over-water flights. The additional fuel increased the range of the aircraft to over 1,000 miles, but the additional weight of the fuel caused many of the aircraft in the field to be stripped of one of its two 50 caliber machine guns and ammunition to compensate.

By the time the US entered WW2, the SBD-3 was entering the fleet, but SBD-2s were out in the middle of the action during the raids on the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, Wake Island, and New Guinea. By the Battle of Coral Sea however, the SBD-2 had been replaced by SBD-3s.

Here is a kit that I didn't imagine a few years ago - a 1/32 SBD Dauntless kit that is a superdetailer's dream. This latest release from Trumpeter is the first Dauntless in this new series, this particular release covering the pre-war/early war SBD-1 and SBD-2 Dauntless. When I opened the box, I offered the usual praise - "WOW".

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on ten parts trees, plus four trees of clear parts, one fret of photo-etch details, one pair of rubber tires for the main gear, and an acetate instrument panel face. According to the specs, there are 227 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 two USMC examples:

  • SBD-1, BuNo 1597, VMB-2
  • SBD-2, BuNo 2103, VMSB-1

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!

If you're a yellow-wing-era modeler, you'll want to stop by Yellow Wing Decals for their 1/32 SBD-1/2 decal set for this kit.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!


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