Monogram’s 1/72 Boeing F4B-4

Rusty Keeler shares a couple of classics with us today: Monogram’s 1/72 Boeing F4B-4. Of particular interest is his technique for rigging these classic biplanes.

History
The F4B-4 was the last of Boeing’s F4B series and I believe the last of their bi-planes. The primary difference from the “-3” was a boxed off and extended rudder and a raised spine for storage of an inflatable raft. With a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine producing 500hp for this little plane, it was one of the most maneuverable planes to see service in the U.S. Navy. Although it had its faults, it was considered to be a “pilots plane”. It was one of the last planes that a pilot got in and “wrapped it around him”. The smallness of the cockpit, the ease of reach to all of the controls, the reasonably good vision all around and the overall small size gave the pilot the sense of being a part of the plane.

A testament to this can be seen in the F4B-4 on display in the Pensacola naval air museum. The restoration of this plane brought it back to flying condition and the curator of the museum at that time, Captain McCurtian, had the pistons removed from the engine cylinders quoting “because someone knew damn well that one of us would try to fly the airplane if they didn’t make it impossible for us to do so.”

From 1932 through 1936 VF-6 was flying the F4B-4 from the deck of the USS Saratoga with Felix the cat as their mascot (Later in WWII Felix would be adopted by VF-3 flying from the USS Yorktown).

Flying from the Sara, VF-6 F4B’s sported white stabilizers and rudders. As with most planes of that time the upper wing was painted yellow. Flying in three plane sections with six sections making up a squadron made for some very colorful planes do to each section being differentiated by color. Within the section the section leaders plane was designated with a belly band and cowl painted in the section color. The #2 & #3 planes were recognizable by the #2 planes upper half cowl and the #3 planes lower half cowl being painted in the section color. The #2 and #3 planes had no belly bands. All three planes would have the section appropriate color chevron on top of the wing and the plane number would appear in the apex. (The two planes I chose to build are the #1 & #2 planes from the second section “white”. More on that later.)

The Kit
This is Monogram’s 1:72nd scale Boeing F4B-4 kit. Kit “collectors” would probable cringe since both kits I used were unopened and still in the cellophane, but I wasn’t collecting, I was building. The first kit (which also became the lead plane) was from the “60’s” release with the painted box art while the second kit was the “70’s” release of the same kit with a photo of the completed plane on the box.

One note of interest, Accurate Miniatures purchased the molds for this kit and has just recently released it with decals for the lead plane of the first section of VF-6. However, they made a printing mistake on the decals and have the belly band and chevron in black which is the #10 plane (leader of the forth section) rather then red. I’m sure they will quickly fix this if they haven’t already, but if you purchase there kit, and want to use the kit decals, the plane can be corrected by painting the cowl black and adding an appropriate sized “0” to the side number and wa-la, you now have the lead plane of the forth section. (Ed. note: Accurate Miniatures re-boxed the Monogram F4B-4 and P-6E together as one of their “Air Combat Legends” series.)

Construction
These kits were a blast to build. As far as design of a bi-plane kit goes, Monogram did a great job. Both kits were nice but the later release was not as crisp and had quite a bit of flash to clean up.

Due to there not being any cockpit to speak of and, with the pilot in place not much to be seen, the only thing I did (and the only thing that kept this from being an OOB build) was the addition of some styrene sheet for a floor, guitar string for a joystick and a couple of styrene chunks to make up the butt ends of the twin 30 cal’s. in the nose. If you were to build this kit without the pilot, a seat and some miscellaneous cockpit do-dads would need to be added.

I also added the rigging but l don’t think that changes the “OOB” status. Due to the fact that I added the rigging, I deviated from Monograms instructions slightly. I drilled holes for the rigging wires in the fuselage then mounted the upper wing. Using CA glue and Invisible thread, I glued the thread first into the recesses for the “N” struts then threaded the thread through the holes in the fuselage, pulled the thread taught and CA glued the thread from the inside. I then placed the lower wing in place and glued the “N” struts to the upper wing. Once these were set I removed the lower wing and drilled holes in the “N” strut recess of the lower wing. I glued thread into the holes I had drilled beneath the cabane strut (Note: Thread was left very long to make it easier to handle). This is where a third hand would have come in handy. I first threaded the thread through the proper holes in the wing, then, applied glue to the wing roots and set the lower wing in place. I then pulled the threads protruding through the lower wing taught and with CA glue, glued the rigging thread and “N” strut to the lower wing. With a fine point brush I ran Testors “Steel” along the threads and Wa-La, rigging.

Painting / Decals
I used a mix of Model Masters enamels and acrylics. All the painting was done before assembly with the exception of assembling the fuselage halves before painting.

Several factors came into play with the decals. One, the kit decals were not of the best printing quality and they were old. Two, I wanted to build the planes from VF-6, not the squadron provided in the kit. To make things easy I chose the second section, due to it being the white section. This way I could have the decals printed in all black (all of the other sections have a white “F” on the belly band of the leaders plane) So, with that said decals were a mix of Yellow Wings national insignia for the top of the wing, Starfighter Decals for all of the other “plane specific” items and the kit decal for the instrument panel. The bottom wing insignia came from a model club members stash of left over decals. This was due to the smallest Yellow Wings insignia was still to large for the size of the lower wing. As I recall, the insignia came from a Tamiya 1:48 scale P-47. The decal was meant for the planes wheel cover on the main landing gear.

Rusty Keeler has just come back to the modeling hobby in the last seven years after being away from it since Jr. high. With a strong interest in naval aviation, he builds mostly U.S. Navy carrier based aircraft. It was with this interest and building the Monogram 1:48 scale F9F Panther that Flattops & More Hobbies came into being. Wanting to display the Panther landing on a carrier and not being able to find a suitable base, his wife suggested he make his own. With her encouragement and support, Flattops & More Hobbies was born. For a look at what they offer check out www.flattopsandmore.com or contact him at rusty@flattopsandmore.com.

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