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Kit build report: Revell’s (Monogram’s!) 1/48 SBD Dauntless

Kit build report: Revell’s (Monogram’s!) 1/48 SBD DauntlessForget you’re probably middle-aged, have a paunch, and argue about the number of rivets on the wing of a P-40N-5 for fun on a modeling forum. Think back to when model building had a real purpose: close-air support….

The American and British soldiers stood nervously in their trenches, watching the advancing German troops, augmented with some alien guy with bug eyes. Two giant Tiger tanks rolled along, flanked by some artillery and another non-descript tank that was there because it was gray.

The firing starts….. soldiers on both sides drop. A rock tumbles out of the sky and wipes out a good part of the Allied trench line. The Tigers roll closer, closer…..

Suddenly, the buzzing sound of a plane approaching. The Allied soldiers look up, high, high into the sun. Barely a speck, the plane noses over into a dive. Faster it goes, the pilot opening it’s dive brakes, flashing their red color. At the last moment, as the commander of the Tiger tanks looks up with knowing finality, a bomb swings away from the dive cradle, obliterating the Axis advance. The Allied soldiers cheer wildly as the blue and gray plane flies off into the sunset, to await it’s next call to battle.

Ladies and gentleman, I’m pleased to re-introduce you to the classic Revell (Monogram…) 1/48 SBD Dauntless.

Front view of Revell’s SBD DauntlessIf you built models in the 60’s and 70’s in the US (and perhaps elsewhere), then you recall Monogram’s SBD kit. It was as much toy as model. The landing gear worked, the propeller turned, the wheels rolled, the dive flaps popped open. And of course, the bomb and it’s cradle really worked.

Times have changed. Revell bought Monogram. Models are less toys for youngsters and have become a hobby (dare I say obsession) for a lot of the same folks who built them as a kid. Thankfully though, the Dauntless is still the same.

Copyright 1960 stamped on Revell’s SBDRight down to the stamp in the bomb cradle area that says “Copyright 1960”. This kit is older than me by 7 years.

I have to admit, I built this entirely for the joy of building. Pure Nostalgia. I decided to forego a lot of after-market parts to bring it up to date. I didn’t sweat whether it’s a -3, -4 or -5 SBD. And I built it so all the parts work.

Cockpit of the Revell SBD DauntlessThe kit itself is simple enough. The shape is about right. The cockpit has little detail- no stick, no rudder pedals, no sidewall detail. There is a decal provided for the instrument panel. I backed it with a piece of styrene to make it easier to mount. The pilots are attached in with tabs and slots on their backs. The panel lines are raised, and it’s covered in rivets.

View of the Revell SBD’s tail gunnerI did do some updating. Knowing I’d need to sand seams and so forth- which would ruin the raised detail, I decided to scribe the panel lines- a first time for me. I used Dymo tape as a guide, using a Testors scribing tool to make the lines, then sanding the surface down. It was a good lesson in patience. I probably spent a total of 8 hours on that part alone, and learned a lot from it. Primarily what I learned was I should’ve taken 12-15 hours. Haste makes waste when scribing panel lines, I found.

Dive flaps on Revell’s SBD DauntlessThe dive brakes on the real plane had small holes drilled in them. The kit had recessed holes. I decided it would look cool to drill them out. I pulled out my trusty hand drill and got to work.

Two hundred and sixty-five holes later I was done. Did I mention there were 265 holes? That I drilled? OK……

Another view of the Dauntless cockpit.The backside of the pilot’s bulhead was open, so I covered that with a piece of sheet styrene. Other than those changes, though, it was basically done just as I built it as a kid.

I used PollyScale colors for the entire aircraft. I painted the undersides with a darkened shade of USN gray, then filled in the panel lines with the un-shaded color. Masking off the undersides, I followed up on the top with USN med. blue, using the same technique of darkening the paint a bit for pre-shading.

Full view of Revell’s 1/48 SBD Dauntless model kit.I can say I was not real jazzed up with Revell’s choice of decals for this re-release. For some reason, they chose to model an aircraft who had been repainted several times, and the stars had multiple shades of blue “painted” around them. With no explanation of why they were this way, I thought at first that it was a mis-print. Turns out it wasn’t, but for all the markings that could’ve been provided for this aircraft, I thought the choice was a bit too obscure and just kinda goofy looking. So I did what any good modeler would do- I got another set of decals.

Close up view of the engine in the Revell Dauntless kit.Superscale’s Decal set No. 48-842 modeled two aircraft, both SBD-3s. The one I really liked had the markings from VS-41 that flew from the USS Ranger during Operation Torch. The stars had a huge yellow circle around the blue, which I thought would look really cool.

Wheels and bomb cradle of the Dauntless model kit.The decals worked out good for the most part. They reacted a bit to much to PollyScale Decal Softener, leaving some wrinkling, but nothing too terrible. The biggest problem was that the decals for the fuselage were a bit oversized. Though they were supposed to wrap under the bottom a bit, I can only guess that the scale of the Revell kit is a bit undersized, because it was quite struggle getting them on. They look a bit exaggerated. Still, they settled nicely and I’m happy with them.

After applying PollyScale Flat to take the shine of the Future coats I applied, I gave the plane a few minutes to dry.

Another view of the Dauntless bomb cradle and swing arm.All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the build. I even left on the raised copyright lettering. This build wasn’t about accuracy, it was about fun. And remembering a simpler time. And it worked, because once the PS Flat dried…….

I quietly reconned the kitchen table, where my son sat unknowingly, building a HobbyBoss 1/72 Bf-109E…..

The -109 just sat there, waiting for the orders about it’s next mission. The pilot leaned against its side, lazily passing the day away.

From high above, a speck passed over. A sharp eye looked down.

Close-up view of Revell’s SBD Dauntless“Caught him napping. Last nap he’ll have.” The Allied pilot pushed the stick over, the engine growing louder as he plunged into his dive, like a hawk stalking a rodent lazily eating a piece of cheese.

The Axis pilot heard an approaching engine. Too late, he looked up, into the sun. He squinted to make out the source of the droning buzz, diving towards him. He thought he caught a glimpse of red dive brakes (with 265 freaking holes in them, he noticed), and then, the last thought that passed through his Axis mind was a horrible realization…. “Did I just see a bomb swing away in a lazy arc towards me in a semi-realistic manner from the bomb cradle and arm?” Yes, you most assuredly did, Mr. Axis pilot man! Say goodnight Gracie!

Score one more for the Allies and the SBD!

Now, don’t mind me, I’m happily buzzing off into the sunset. 😀