TBD-1 Devastator "Wake Island"

Published: February 28th, 2013     
Product Image
Box Art
Reviewed by: Bill Kluge - IPMS# 45849
Scale: 1/48
Price: $79.95
Product / Stock #: L4809
Product provided by: Dragon Models USA

For decades, the venerable Monogram TBD Devastator was the only kit of its kind available in 1/48 scale, lauded in its heyday for its cockpit and surface detail, as well as the option to pose the wings in either the folded or extended position. Now, Great Wall Hobby has delivered a new Devastator, and like the original release, this second edition is a quantum leap past the old benchmark kit. When first seen, the GWH Devastator was derided as a mere copy of the Monogram version, but close examination reveals that the new kit is several steps beyond its aged predecessor.

The first thing you notice upon opening the box is the level of care that went into the packaging. Each sprue is individually wrapped in its own re-sealable plastic bag. The clear sprue is wrapped in styrofoam and packaged with the vinyl masks and a paper-covered decal sheet. The cowling is separately cast as one whole piece and separately wrapped (i.e., there are no sprue attachment points to cut and smooth over). The kit provides optional parts for either opened or closed cowl flaps. In an improvement over the original GWH Devastator release, there are new parts for compressed main landing gear for a parked aircraft, as well as fully extended legs to place in the gear wells for an aircraft in flight. There are two canopy sets, one for an open canopy and one completely closed up (more on this later). The wings can be modeled either fully extended or folded up, with cast metal extension arms provided to give the folded wings additional strength. Armament options include two 500 lb. bombs - VT-6's weapons load out for the Wake Island raid - and one "incendiary" bomb (looks suspiciously like an aerial depth bomb to me). No torpedo is included.

Closer examination of the individual parts reveals a very high level of detail. The engraved scribing on the fuselage is very fine, especially when compared to the raised detail on the Monogram kit. The wing corrugation is well done (as was Monogram's). Detailing of even the smallest parts compares with the best molding seen on many contemporary models, and is miles beyond what Monogram did decades back. Case in point - the rear machine gun, with its accompanying ammo box and PE ammo box holder, is exceptionally well detailed, as is the engine, a nicely detailed combination of plastic and photo etch. Very convincing when completed. Much of the kit's included PE is for extra detailing of the wing interior, fuselage interior, and engine wiring.

As with most aircraft models, building begins with the cockpit and fuselage interior. Plan on spending a lot of time here. This takes up nearly the first third of the instruction sequence, with lots of small parts and attachments. There's a range of how easily the parts fit with the interior assemblies, with some parts being easily secured with firm attachment points, and a few parts that are minimally attached with the hope that they're square and will match their attachment point when the other fuselage half is fitted. Eventually, though, it does all fit very snugly into place, and looks very convincing when finished. One nice extra touch is the inclusion on the decal sheet of two complete sets of instrument dials.

The remainder of the build is pretty straightforward, with good parts fit overall. I deviated from the instruction sequence by first adding extra supports to the wing joints to strengthen the extended wings, then attaching all three lower wing sections (left wing-center section-right wing) together, and finally attaching the upper wing parts. This enabled me to align the wing corrugations evenly. Unfortunately, I failed to dry-fit the entire wing assembly to the fuselage before gluing. If I had, I would have noticed the attachment lip where the upper wing meets the fuselage. As it was, I had to stretch the wing assembly over these ledges on either side of the fuselage to get the wing assembly into place, and I split some of the wing glue joints in the process (not the last self-inflicted wound on this build). On the other hand, the wing-to-fuselage fit is good and tight, with only a small bit of filler needed along the forward underside joint.

Only the canopy provided any major fit issues. On the one hand, if you choose to model the aircraft with the canopy closed up, the single, one-piece canopy fits well and looks good when attached. On the other hand, the segmented, multi-piece open canopy parts are nearly useless. They're much too thick to be stacked as was actual practice. Instead, I used the front windscreen from the segmented section, then cut out the three-section center canopy from the one-piece unit. To slide back the pilot's section, I used vac canopy sections that I'd been saving for an old Monogram Devastator. I had intended to slide two sections of the gunner's canopy under the center section, and cut out the two rear pieces of the vac canopy to do so, but I found that stacked together there wasn't enough room under the center canopy section for them to fit. Instead, I stacked the last section under the next-to-last section and placed them aft of the center section. The fire extinguisher mounted on the decking between the gunner and the radioman's seat that prevented my canopy placement proved to be my undoing more than once. It will not fit in place as indicated. The molded-on attachment pins have to be removed and the bottle rotated 90 degrees and positioned in such a way that it won't block the canopy from fitting correctly. Be sure to check that before gluing. The masks provided with the kit are not sticky enough to stay in place around the canopy's curves, and the sizes didn't always match the panels they're supposed to fit. I reverted to the tried and true Scotch tape method. Tedious but effective.

The kit-supplied decals give you two choices for markings: a pre-war Saratoga aircraft from VT-3, or a early war camouflaged VT-6 bird off the Enterprise. To finish my model, I chose a paint scheme not included with the kit's options, using several famous Carl Mydan LIFE magazine color photos as reference to depict a yellow wing Enterprise TBD from 1940, with an interior green cockpit and somewhat irregularly placed wing formation stripes. The kit decals have a few colors that I found questionable, like reds that were too bright and yellows too "lemony". And one of the "T"s in the 3-T-14 fuselage markings was missing its upper bar, presenting a very odd looking "3-I-14" designator. So I chose to portray a True Blue-tailed Enterprise 6-T-5 using markings mostly from Yellow Wings Decals. The VT-6 squadron emblem is from the Monogram sheet, as its colors more closely matched the LIFE photos. Oddly enough, there was no striped decal for the tailhook, so I hand-painted this one.

In spite of the overall high quality of this kit, it's not without some quirks. The kit includes a nice photo etch set, fairly comprehensive and easy to work. But to my mind, it is missing an important element, and that is the rear gun perforated scarf ring. The kit supplies a rather anemic plastic part, so I replaced it with an old Eduard PE part. The wheel wells are completely open with no detailing whatsoever. The kit's vinyl masks, while extensive, are nearly useless. They are thick and don't fit the canopy well. The star masks for the national insignia have noticeably rounded tips. There are none for the wheels, where they are really needed - the outside hubs have practically no definition between the hub and the tire, which I found practically impossible to hand-paint accurately. The decal discrepancies have already been noted, and the paint callouts have a few notable flubs, like the cockpit interior that is labeled with a number call-out, but the color is never defined, and the tail color of the Saratoga VT-3 pre-war aircraft in not defined at all (should be white).

The minor drawbacks notwithstanding, The Great Wall Hobby Devastator builds up into a very nice looking, highly detailed model. My thanks go to Dragon Models USA for providing IPMS with this kit for review, and IPMS-USA for allowing me to review it.

  • PE fret
    PE fret
  • Decals
  • Vinyl masks
    Vinyl masks
  • Mask close-up
    Mask close-up
  • Cowl comparison
    Cowl comparison
  • Tail comparison
    Tail comparison
  • Upper wing construction
    Upper wing construction
  • Flap bay sequence
    Flap bay sequence
  • Left front
    Left front
  • Left front low
    Left front low
  • Left rear
    Left rear
  • Right front
    Right front
  • Left side
    Left side
  • Cockpit
  • Gunner's cockpit
    Gunner's cockpit

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