This Revell Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless is one of a series of old 1/144 scale model kits, some of which got re-released in 2013 as 'Micro Wings' series.
As a rule of thumb, kits in this series with higher numbers on the sprue ('27' out of 28 in case of the SBD-5 kit) are more accurate and have better surface detail.
The SBD-5 kit has fine, mostly recessed, surface details and is generally accurate but is showing its age, however with some careful cleaning up and some minor improvements it should end up looking good.
Apart from this Revell SBD-5 kit, Brengun released a pair of SBD-5 kits in Nov 2022 (kits BRP144018 and BRP144019). The only other 1/144 scale SBD-5 models are prepainted F-Toys gashapon models, which were released in 2015 together with an A-24B Army version in 'Wing Kit Collection' Vol.10.
There is a pair of very nice SBD-3 kits made by Brengun (kits BRP144013 and BRP144014), there is also an old SBD-3 kit made by AHM/Mitsuwa and Model Factory Hiro/AKI Products did a highly detailed 1/144 scale resin kit of the SBD-3.
Aside from the rare and expensive MF Hiro kit, the Brengun models are the nicest but are over five times as expensive as the Revell kit was.
The Revell kit is the only one that includes a multi-part canopy, the other models all come with single-part transparencies.
Brengun offers a separate set of vacuformed canopies (cat.nr. BRL144170) containing one closed and one where all parts can be cut out separately.
Brengun also offers a set of photo-etched and resin parts (cat.nr. BRL144166) which includes resin engine and wheels and etched metal dive brake flaps.
I do not know of any replacement decals for the SBD-5 subtype, however the decals in the Revell kit are accurate.
There were replacement decals made for the earlier subtypes by Japanese MYK Design, sets "A-227 SBD-1/2 Dauntless "Pearl Harbor" and "A-228 SBD-3 Dauntless "Battle of the Coral Sea - Battle of Midway" (no longer available).
The first thing to do is to carefully trim any flash (at the wing roots of the fuselage halves, along the edges of the wing halves, along the propeller blades, in the prop shaft hole of the cowling, at the mount for the bomb cradle and at the tip of antenna mast) .
Also plug the hole for the stand using either the tip of the stand or a tapered piece of stretched sprue.
This is one of the few kits in the series that I had not built before and as I had bought a couple of these kits I decided to do the first one without major modifications just to see what the kit looks like.
For fun I decided to build the kit the way I used to do back in the 70ies (before I had any plasticard or similar materials) by using only what is in the box to modify and detail the kit.
Note that the grade of polystyrene used for these kits is rather soft, so any thin parts and fine edges will be fragile and prone to breaking or chipping.
The 'Micro Wings' kit comes with 4-view painting instructions based on accurate scale drawings (the separate propeller drawing can be helpful for correcting the shape of the blades).
The scale of the drawings works out to 1/171 (1/147 for the separate propeller drawing) so whilst the main drawings are too small to be used for checking and correcting shapes, the separate propeller drawing can be used.
|span width tail||5.41||37.6||37.6|
All planned modifications to the model in 'bullet points':
The top of the nose is too shallow, resulting in a gap between the nose and the windshield.
To fix this I cut a 10.5mm piece of the 'DAUNTLESS' name tag, sanded off the lettering and sanded the forward 6mm into a taper from full height at the rear to 0.5mm at the front.
The width of this new piece needs to be reduced slightly to match the width of the top of the nose.
Below the fuselage should be a rectangular bomb aiming window with a shallow recess for the bomb behind it, however for a scouting mission both the window and the recess could be fitted with a cover, resulting in a look similar to the kit.
I started by joining the fuselage halves and letting the glue joints cure for a few days.
Then I sanded the top of the nose flat and level and glued the new piece on top.
The exhaust slots on either side of the nose are too deep but I left this unchanged.
The front of the oil cooler scoop below the nose was first sanded into its correct shape, then its intake was carefully scraped open using the tip of an X-Acto nr.11 blade.
The tail fin is too thick, the left and right halves do not match and its leading and trailing edges are rather blunt.
For this model I decided to 'sharpen' the leading edges by trimming the outsides, next time I plan to sand down the insides of the fin as I did with the Micro Wings Wildcat.
To extend the righthand half of the fin I used some stacked strips of stretched sprue, curved to match the contour of the fin and glued down with some Tamiya Extra Thin Cement.
The upper part of the rudder hinge line, from the top hinge to the tip of the fin, should tilt backwards by 10° but I left this unchanged as well.
The trim tab on the rudder has raised lines for outlines, when I shaved the raised lines off carefully I found that some fine recessed lines were still present next to where the raised lines were.
Only a few small parts of the recessed lines need to be scribed to complete the outlines.
The tail hook is represented by a small ridge below the starboard fuselage half.
I decided to try and clean it up first and only if the result was not good to replace it with one made out of stretched sprue.
Some sanding and careful carving later it did end up looking good though.
On the SBD-5 the wooden 'broom stick' radio mast made way for a flatter one.
The mast included in the kit has the correct shape but has square edges that should be sanded into more of an aerofoil cross-section.
If the upper wing halves are fitted to the fuselage at the proper dehidral then a seam of about 0.3mm will remain at the wing roots.
I filled these seams using some stretched sprue, glued with Tamiya Extra Thin Cement.
After letting the glued sprue cure for a couple of days I sanded the seams smooth.
The lower fuselage-wing joins show some gaps, I filled these with strips of sprue and leftover bits of the name tag: one strip along the full width of the rear join and some bits to plug irregular gaps.
Again I let the glued sprue cure for a number of days before sanding.
The kits cockpit is empty, but since I planned to keep the canopies closed, I decided to only add details that are clearly visible through the canopies.
The cockpit needs a simple floor to prevent looking straight out of the main wheel bays.
I turned the large kit number '27' tab and its adjacent sprue into a flat floor of 7.0mm long, 8.0mm wide at the front, 9.0mm wide at the rear. With two small cutouts for the wing tabs at the rear it fits snugly between the edges of the wing-fuselage joins.
A bulkhead with armor plate behind the pilot, fitted with a round padded head rest should also be added.
I turned another piece of the name tag into this bulkhead, its width is 4.25mm, the triangular top part is 3.5mm wide at its base and 3.0mm tall.
The bulkhead should be fitted at 5.0mm behind the edge of the nose and windshield.
The cockpit opening is 4.0mm wide so I cut a small notch in either edge to provide a fixed location. The bulkhead should also help with locating the forward canopy as its location is not properly defined on the curved cockpit edges.
I did not intend to make a seat for the pilot until I noticed that the sprue attachments for the lower wing had the perfect size and shape to turn into seats.
A bit of carving and cutting later, I ended up with a seat for the pilot after all.
I am not sure the seat will be visible through the closed canopy though as it will be the same color green as the rest of the cockpit.
A slice of stretched sprue made for a headrest. The actual headrest is mounted on a thin stalk, looking a bit like a thumb-tack.
For the rear cockpit I added the swivel ring mount for the gun(s). This ring should be clearly visible through the murky canopy.
The ring was made by coiling a bit of heated sprue around the 3mm diameter shaft of a drill bit.
After letting the sprue cool I cut a single winding off, joined its edges and fitted it inside the rear cockpit.
Once the glue had cured I trimmed the inside of the ring to a more appropriate thinness.
The seat for the gunner was again made from sprue, this time from a flat piece, with the back and seat made separately then glued together at a square angle.
The seat was fitted inside the ring, facing rearward.
There should be a flat deck between the front and rear cockpit, exactly below the fixed part of the canopy.
I turned the last remaining part of the name tag into a flat 4x4mm square, then trimmed its edges to fit snugly between the sloping and tapering sides of the fuselage.
As a final cockpit detail I added an instrument panel and a new coaming.
The actual full-size panel is in three parts:
I omitted the tall panel on the lower right as I do not expect it to be visible.
The two upper panels I made out of a number tab, sanded flat and trimmed to shape.
These panels and the head rest add some black details to the all-green cockpit.
The kit did come with a coaming below the windshield but it did not look good and did not protrude beyond the edge of the windshield, so I sanded it off before replacing the top of the nose.
I turned another sliver of sprue (2mm by 2mm) into a new coaming. I carved a tiny groove along the edge facing the pilot to represent the padded leather covered rim.
The canopy comes with a separate part for the gunners canopy.
The canopy parts are not very clear but are thin and fragile, which makes polishing the parts rather tricky.
The outline looks good but some edges need careful trimming:
There are faint outlines for the frames on the canopy parts, most of these are accurate.
The wings look good and well detailed with well defined 'letter box slots' in the leading edges and all of those notorious dive brake holes nicely represented by dimples, most of which are in the proper pattern with just a few strays.
I decided to fit the upper wing halves to the fuselage before fitting the lower wing half, so I could align the wings properly and reduce the gaps at the wing roots.
The edges of the main wheel bays are somewhat jagged and show signs of retooling, the rectangular recesses for the legs should have a constant width of 1.5mm.
There is a round hole in the port wing leading edge, this represents the square window for the landing indicator lights, so the hole should be made square and fitted with a bit of clear plastic, sanded flush with the wing contour.
In the center of the wing is a peg for mounting the bomb, as I planned to fit an empty cradle I cut this off.
The rear inboard edges of the upper wings protrude beyond the edge of the lower wing half and need to trimmed back.
Inside the upper wings are faint worn away signs of tubes for fitting the landing gear legs, a 2mm tall disc cut from sprue with a hole drilled in it should make for a good replacement.
The distance between the top of the legs should be 20.5mm, so I marked this distance inside the wings and aligned the center of each mounting disc with the marked lines.
First I drilled a hole in a piece of sprue using increasingly larger drill sizes to determine what size would fit the landing gear legs best, which turned out to be 0.8mm diameter.
Then I drilled a 0.8mm hole in each of the mounting discs.
Just before joining the upper and lower wing halves I decided to drill open the 312 holes in the flaps.
I simply drilled out each of the dimples, using a 0.35mm drill bit for the outside of the holes and a 0.8mm drill bit to open up and de-burr the insides.
Now that the holes in the center flap were opened, a floor needed to be added between the flap and the rear cockpit. As there were no more flat sections left on the sprue, I cut out a piece of the safety instructions sheet, painted the cockpit side Interior Green and fitted that.
The main landing gear legs are single pieces with the wheel and door molded on, despite this the parts are nicely detailed and accurate, the tire has the correct width and the leg is at the correct inwards angle.
The combined length of leg and wheel is about 1mm too short: at 1/144 scale the distance between ground and wing measured along the legs on an unloaded SBD should be 9mm, whereas the entire kit legs are exactly 9mm including the mounting stubs.
However since the molded-on tail wheel mount is also about 1mm too short, the angle of the model on its wheels is right, so I decided not to lengthen the main gear legs.
To improve the looks of the legs I opened up the space between the landing gear leg and the door, I drilled a 0.7mm hole just above the tire and a 0.4mm hole just below where the door meets the leg.
Then I used the sharp tip of an X-Acto Nr.11 knife blade to open up the holes and make them square.
The wheels come without hub caps and are a fair representation of the original 6-spoke cast alloy wheels.
As I could not find any pictures of operational SBDs without hub caps I decided to add some from scratch.
Diameter of the hub caps should be 3mm, too large for using some of the sprues but fortunately the main bomb has a suitable diameter.
The hole for the propeller shaft is partially covered by flash, making it off-center and too narrow.
The cowling itself looks fine including a well detailed engine face, only the inside edge needs rounding off and the exhaust stubs need drilling out and a bit of reshaping.
I used a small 'rats tail' file to remove the flash covering the propeller shaft hole and carefully sanded the inside edge of the cowling into a more curved shape, the picture shows the original cowling at the top and the reshaped one at the bottom.
I cut the rear end of each exhaust stub off at a 45° angle and drilled a shallow hole using a hand-held 0.7mm drill bit.
Then I flared the edges of the hole using a small hand-held ball-shaped cutter head.
Finally I trimmed the rear edges of each stub into a rounded shape and carved a small C-shaped groove along the front of the stubs.
On the picture: before (left) and after drilling out the exhaust.
The kits propeller has straight blades with a broad chord, so the blades need to be trimmed to look like a proper Hamilton Standard prop.
Any trimming has to be done with utmost care as the propeller is very delicate and the plastic is quite soft, so it is easy to break off a prop blade.
The painting instructions include an accurate frontal view of a Hamilton Standard propeller which can be used as a guide for reshaping the blades.
The second picture shows the propeller after sanding the blades into shape. Actually the chord of the blades is still a bit too broad, but this is as far as I dared to trim.
The aircraft depicted on the kit decal sheet is an SBD-5 in three-tone camo of VB-16 based on USS Lexington (CV-16) in November 1943.
The kit decals appear accurate in design and well printed, once again Revell provided insignia with a red border.
The only items missing from the decal sheet are walkways for the wing roots (and a small white diagonal bar on either side of the tail fin, indicating which carrier it belongs to, although I am not sure if it was still applied in November 1943).
The box art and the color scheme on the kit instructions show the Sea Blue patch extending down along the fuselage sides, touching the wings, however Douglas always stuck to the official scheme and painted the entire sides Intermediate Blue with only the top of the fuselage in Sea Blue.
With the Douglas scheme:
Apart from a few black details the entire cockpit interior should be painted Interior Green ANA.611, including the seats.
As I had been adding all cockpit details before painting I waited with fitting the lower wing halve and cowling until after I had painted the interior, that way all of the interior could be reached with a brush without damaging any details.
Engine colors: Engine Gray ANA.513/FS.16081 crankcase, gearbox and magneto; satin black pushrod covers. Cylinders casings were bare aluminum, often with tan heat-stained fins.
For small scale models like this I prefer to use a very pale gray rather than a true white and dark gray instead of black.
|Paints (to be) used|
|upper fuselage, upper wings||Polly-S PCA803 Non-Specular Sea Blue ANA.607|
|fuselage sides, tail fin||Polly-S PCA804 Non-Specular Intermediate Blue ANA.608|
|lower fuselage, wheel wells||Revell 371 pale gray (Non-Specular White ANA.601)|
|cockpit interior||Polly-S PCA821 Interior Green ANA.611|
|insides of wing flaps||Pactra PA26 Flat Insignia Red|
|tires, dashboard shroud, walkways||Humbrol 32 Matt Dark Grey|
This SBD-5 is definitely the nicest kit in the series: accurate, the rough bits are easy to clean up or correct, the kit shows only few traces of retooling.
It turned out that the kit did not need any major modifications, aside from correcting the top of the nose.
The only let down is the lack of clarity of the canopy as it is too fragile to polish.
Building this kit went so fast that I could hardly keep up with documenting what I had done.
Putting a limit on the amount of detail I planned to add and only using kit parts and sprues added even more to the enjoyment of building this kit.
As I plan to build some more of these kits, here is a list of additional things I plan to do to the remaining ones:
Seeing how nice this model ended up looking does make me consider buying some Brengun canopies for the remaining ones.
Alternatively the forward canopy could be cut open, just cut the moving part away and paint overlapping frames on the fixed center part of the canopy.
As an aside I identified the following traces of retooling on this SBD-5 kit:
I assume the retooling was done by Revell Japan to molds that originated from some unknown japanese company.
The scarceness of retooled bits on this SBD kit showed me how nice the original models must have been.