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Mike

B-17F/G Flying Fortress - 1:32 HK Models

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B-17F/G Flying Fortress
1:32 HK Models


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The B-17 that first flew in 1935 was quite a different beast than the one that flew during WWII, having a glossy bare metal finish, a traditional vertical tail with no fin fillet, and lots of glass. The press coined the term "Flying Fortress" because of the number of gunnery positions around the aircraft, which stuck and was later trademarked by Boeing. Its first attempt to gain approval and induction into the USAAF was foiled by an unfortunate accident that wrote off the prototype and killed the pilots, but it was given a second bite at the cherry because of its comparative performance, and was eventually accepted into service with more powerful Cyclone engines and without the blister-type waist gunner windows.

The E model was probably the first "real" fortress, with a large expanded tail, tail gunner position and guns in the nose. It also has the familiar ball-turret on the underside that stayed with it throughout the rest of production. The F model brought in some more changes, most notable of which is the almost frameless nose glazing, which afforded the bomb-aimer a much better view, although he must have felt commensurately more exposed as a result. The G model with its jutting remotely operated chin-turret was the final mark of the war, and fought doggedly over Europe with a formidable offensive armament consisting of 13 guns. This of course was at the expense of bomb-load, which diminished the further the Fortress was tasked from home.

Post war the B-17 was converted and used in a number of civilian roles, as well as some remaining military and pseudo-military roles such as Coast Guard and search and rescue. There are still a large number of airframes in airworthy condition, and most Brits that have been to the airshow circuit have seen the Sally-B at some point in their lives.

The Kit
This is a pre-release sample of the kit, and as such doesn't come with instructions, decals or even a finalised box. As a result my review will be a little out-of-the-ordinary compared to my usual offering, but I will try to cover as much of the build process as I can, which you can appreciate is a little tricky, given that there are no instructions. I spent a couple of hours poring over it with a pal, plus a few more on my own with my trusty Tamiya tape, and have divined where the main structures sit, as well how the supplied stand works.

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The first thing of note is that this is a huge model kit. If you have the B-25 and think that's big, you'll need to think again and reassess how you consider model kit sizes. With large size comes problems of strength because styrene isn't the strongest of materials, as anyone with cats or toddlers will have found out at some point. Each wing is a shade over 45cm in length, and the fuselage width maxes out at the wing root to 8.5cm, so you're going to have a total wingspan just scraping in under one metre. That's around 39 inches in old money. The fuselage measures at 71cm without the rear guns, which is around 28 inches. It sounds odd, but it has a presence in excess of those dimensions however, and it looks "right" to my eyes. It's difficult to judge the shape of a kit whilst still in the box, so the major parts were taken off the sprues and taped together to get a feel for it, and work out how some of the parts fit together.

The fuselage and wings are covered in over 800,000 rivets, which are very nicely done, and can barely be felt by running your finger over them. A coat of primer followed by a couple of coats of airbrushed paint and varnish should see them looking quite realistically minimised. There are also raised panels, and a couple of different widths of panel lines around the airframe, which give the impression of the aircraft's skin very well, and enhance the initial wow-factor.

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It is important to consider the structure of a styrene model of this size, and how it will hang together both initially and in the longer term. There have been some clever techniques used by the designers that will please many potential purchasers, the first of which is the inclusion of a wall-mount for the completed model. It is on a small sprue of its own, and consists of a base plate with a circular depression in the centre, and a cross-shaped set of slots in the bottom of the depression. This allows you to screw the supplied anchor to the wall using a single screw/wall-bolt, and then slot the stand onto it in any one of four orientations, up, down and either side. The four legs slot into corresponding holes in the fronts of the bomb-bay bulkheads, so you'll need to glue the bay doors in the open position to utilise this feature. If you're not going to use the stand, you'll need to fill the four holes with the four disks that are hidden away on the sprues to make good, because they're around 6mm across and not present on the real thing. The pairs of legs are of different lengths, allowing the tail to drop slightly toward the wall, and the opposing directions of the pegs stop the model from slipping off over time. The legs are secured in the base by four styrene pins that slot into holes on the side of the base, but I'd consider replacing those with metal pegs, just in case.

The next aspect to consider is whether the kit can be built so that the wings can be removed. This is a resounding "yes", as the wings once complete are offered up to the fuselage slightly forward of their intended position, then slid back into place with a satisfying clunk, where they stay very firmly without glue. I've been handling the taped together fuselage and wings during my exploration, and had no cause to doubt that the wings will stay put. The strength of the wing join is bolstered by the two bomb bay bulkheads, which span the entire inside fuselage, and are backed up from the inside by a pair of short stub spars, just like the real thing (only shorter). The wings themselves have strengthening ribbing inside them, which makes them quite strong in their own right, and not prone to droop or flex. There are a number of other full-section bulkheads within the fuselage that will enhance the strength of the join, resisting the dreaded cracking of the top fuselage joint due to the weight of the wings over time. The top of the fuselage - the "crew blister" if you like - is a separate part that fits rather neatly on the top of the fuselage, with a large contact surface and stepped joint that should result in a very strong union, further enhancing the rigidity of the join and making cracking seams very unlikely. The assembly didn't even really creak once the bomb bay was installed, despite being only lightly taped together.

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The fin is integrated into the fuselage mouldings, with a separate rudder that is trapped between a pin and hinge whilst gluing the fuselage halves together, while the elevators have a robust attachment method, due to their quite large size. There are two small bulkheads that slot inside the tail area, which have large tubular rods that protrude from the elevator roots, approximately 3cm apart. The elevator halves are glued together around a socket part, and the elevator then slides over the two pegs and is cemented in place, making another strong joint that should stand the test of time. The elevators themselves are trapped between the two halves of the tail planes while constructing them, so can be glued at any angle, or left loose to attract small fingers to play with them. On the wings, the large flaps can be posed deployed, and the ailerons are trapped between the wing halves when gluing.

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The interior is slightly less clear at this point, as it's initially difficult to see where some of the sections go without instructions, and the small parts remain even more tricky to identify unless you know the internals of the beast intimately. The main crew area around the pilots is fully floored, and has detailed bulkheads in front of the pilots and behind the upper turret, with instrument panel backs, plus radio gear moulded in, as well as the navigator's table toward the rear. The pilots armoured seats are well depicted, although the armoured backs do have a little sink-marking, which may have been fixed by the time the final release is with us. If not, a swipe with a sanding stick, or some filler will quickly fix that, unless the seat covers it completely. The inside of the fuselage is covered in rib-work from front to rear, although there are a large number of ejector pin marks to be removed, which despite being a tiresome task, is hardly something you could reasonably complain about, as without them, the parts couldn't be removed from the moulds. Hopefully, a great many of them either won't be seen, or will be hidden by equipment that is added during the build.

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The clear parts are all on one sprue, and there are a lot of them, as evidenced by the size of the sprue, which has a number of legs to support and protect the delicate parts until you're ready to cut them from the sprues. The parts are beautifully clear, and are also commendably thin, allowing a good view into the interior if kept that way. The nose glazing on the later marks was almost frameless, and it looks just great on the sprues, almost as if it has already had a dip in kleer/Future, it's that glossy. An interesting point is that the turrets have been very cleverly designed so the glazing can be added pane-by-pane. The top turret has a styrene frame to which the individual panels are added, and the Sperry ball-turret is made up from a clear and grey styrene two-part central cylinder, with clear outer parts making up the ball. It is supplied with the Y-shaped yolk that allows it to rotate, and although I've not looked too closely at those parts yet, looks like it can be made to stay mobile after building. The waist guns are staggered, and have beautifully clear glazing with ports for their guns that should afford a good view of the interior, and the cheek guns are separately glazed into the framework that is moulded into the fuselage. The prominent chin turret is fitted into the underside of the bomb aimer's area, and Norden bombsight is included. Finally, the Cheyenne tail turret has a large curved gun shield, through which the two .50cal Brownings project, with their ammo feeds snaking away to the large boxes that make the passageway behind the gunner so cramped. The gunner's glazing is again remarkably clear, and his sight is visible through the glazing. The curved rear section of the glazing was bullet resistant, so should be treated with a thin wash of greenish clear paint to depict the hue apparent in this type of glass. A bike-style seat is supplied to save the gunner's knees, which would become quite cramped during extended engagements, especially when taking the cold into account. It appears that some of the ammo boxes were constructed of plywood, while others were made from sheet metal with strengthening straps riveted around corners and across the large surfaces. It would add some visual interest if you were to depict them as wood using either decals or the oil-over-beige technique. The .50cals are supplied as breech parts with slide-moulded slots for the barrels, which are also slide-moulded to give them a hollow barrel, and they can also be added later - a boon to the clumsy modeller! I couldn't see the intimidating flash-suppressors for the rear gunner's guns, but hopefully they are in the sprues somewhere too. If not, a piece of suitably sized and shaped tube would do the job instead.

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Moving out to the wings, the internal structure that I mentioned earlier takes a great deal of the flex out of the wings, which should allay any concerns about droop over time. The engine nacelles are also moulded into the wings a far forward as the firewall, where the cowling is added, the parts for which are included on four identical sprues that also contain parts for the wheels, oxygen bottles, guns and crew seats. The cowling is a single part with the cooling flaps moulded to a ring with spokes joining a central hollow cylinder. There are two extra cooling-flap rings on the other sprues that only have one section with no flaps, rather than the two on the other parts. It looks like you'll have two left over for the parts bin.

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Each engine is built as a layercake of parts, starting with the cooling-flap ring, onto which a circular radial "blanking plate" is fixed, which gives the impression of the rear bank of cylinders, and is then covered with the front cylinder bank, which is nicely done, with very fine cooling fin detail. You could argue that the fin detail should be a little more aggressive, but that is down to personal taste. On top of that the connector rods are installed, terminating at the cylinder heads, which are topped off by another linked part. The magneto bell-housing is then inserted through the centre of the assembly, trapping it all in place. Each part is correctly located by a raised pin running the length of the centre tube, so you cannot install them at the wrong orientation without some serious effort. The wiring ring is moulded to the bell-housing, but you will need to put the wires in yourself to finish the job before adding the cowling, which is also keyed to fit only one way. The bell housing is a little simplified, missing some bolts around its edge, but once the props are on, most people won't notice. I'm sure that some lovely looking resin engines will be forthcoming from the usual aftermarket suspects in due course anyway, if this sort of thing is your bag.

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The landing gear bays are positioned in the inboard engine pods, which requires the turbo-superchargers to be relocated further back in the lower nacelle, with large pipes feeding them from the outboard side of the nacelle. This section of the nacelle is supplied as an insert, as it quite deeply recessed within the nacelle, and here fit is superb. The gear bay is a separate box within the nacelle, and has ribwork, ducting and hoses moulded into its 6-part assembly. It is surprisingly effective, and fits beautifully into the nacelle, even when only roughly prepared and held together with tape. The turbo-superchargers fit into recesses in the nacelles, and have lots of detail to make them stand out, plus a central boss for the little intake/outlet (I don't know which) that has a slide-moulded hollow lip. A reservoir of some sort is included on each nacelle sprue, as well as other parts that look suitable to be used to detail up the bay and engine area, but I'm not qualified to pick them all out off the top of my head.

Moving to the gear legs, it's always a worry for an aircraft model of this size, and modellers wonder whether the landing gear will stand the test of time. The gear on this kit is all styrene, and each main leg is moulded as a single part with sharp edges and not even a hint of sink marks anywhere, which is really rather impressive and quite a surprise. Also surprising is the apparent strength of the parts, which resist flexing manfully, although I'm not the strongest modeller you ever did see. The long retraction jacks are all there on the gear sprues, and as you'd expect the contents of the sprues are all handed where appropriate, as noted in the picture caption. The tyres are styrene, and as you'd are traditionally split in halves, with separate hubs for each side. The tread pattern is diamond shaped and a little soft near the join, but the hub detail is excellent, and includes the brake hose on the outer hub. Whether the diamond tread is appropriate for your chosen subject will require a little research, as a great many period photos I've seen on the 'net show a circumferential tread pattern, although diamond tread is also seen, especially on restored examples.

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The bomb bay, with its structural formers backing the forward and aft bulkheads has a pair of side panels that affix to the fuselage sides using friction fit plugs, and effectively closes off the wing root from view. A false roof is installed at the top of the bomb bay, just as in the real thing, as the life rafts are stored in the small gap there. The bomb ladders fit in a V-shaped profile long the central rail, and you are supplied with ten 500lb bombs, which come in halves, and have some finely moulded two-part stabilising fins for the rear, and fuse propellers for the nose. The bay doors are broken down as the real thing, and have surface detail on both sides, with large hinges on the outboard edges, which mesh with the edge of the bay on the fuselage halves.

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The interior carries the full length of the fuselage in this kit, which is an improvement over the earlier B-25s, and you get a basic walkway through the full 22m or 74 feet of the aircraft. The navigator's station aft of the bulkhead is there, as is the walkway around the ventral ball-turret, and then a simple plank that goes past the waist gunners' positions, and through three bulkheads into the tail gunner's cramped compartment. As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of ejector pin marks to remove, but what you have is a solid basis for scratch-building the remainder of the detail if you are minded to.

Markings
At this stage I have no idea of what markings and schemes HK are planning, but hope to update this section as and when the details are announced. Needless to say, it's most likely to be olive drab over grey, bare metal (including the one on the boxtop), or some combination of the two. Either way, it will look spectacular hung on the wall. HK supplied only the basic decals for the B-25s, so we shall hope that a full set will be provided for this one, as it is an important release. If not, some enterprising folks will doubtless be along to oblige soon after launch.

Conclusion
Well, this is definitely the biggest styrene kit I've seen, and during the process of test-fitting and establishing what goes where, I've become very fond of it. If the parts fit together as well as they have done using tape, it should be a pretty easy build, thanks to some quite impressive plastic engineering. The bomb-load is a handy addition to any bomber kit, allowing you to portray your model loaded with a complement of bombs ready to go on a mission - it's raison d'être.

I'm very pleased with the stand, although I'd have liked to see it moulded in ABS for extra strength, and with metal pins, but who knows what the plans for the final issue will be. I'm fairly certain (as far as you can be) that someone will produce a new, stronger stand for the kit, as it would be rude not to. Equally, metal landing gear will be arriving pretty soon, even though I'm not sure it's needed, due to the strength of the kit parts.

Whatever level of detail you choose to finish your B-17 to, you can guarantee that it will be the centre of attention wherever it is displayed, and even if you store it with the wings off in the loft, you'll be visiting it quite frequently, just to have another look at this huge beast of an aircraft. Fortunately for me, my son has already volunteered to have the finished model hanging on his bedroom wall, although whether I'll get it finished in time before he leaves home is another matter. My build output seems to have dropped below glacial at present, sadly.

Yes - it's a lot of money to lay out, but you get an incredible kit for the money. Detail, fit and sheer awesome size of the mouldings makes it good value in my eyes, and I see it making its way into many a stash once it is available on the open market. Will I build it? Oh yes! ^_^

Very highly recommended.

Review sample is courtesy of
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Wow, thats one BIG model looks impressive tooling as well.

Julien

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Hmmm- might just sell off thecrest of my stash to get one. Looks a bit like modelling heaven.

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...and if the missus doesn't like it, you can always live in it ;)

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That looks gobsmackingly goregeous.

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I want... I want... I want... I want... I want... I want... I want... I want... I want... I want... I want... I want...

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I too have a review kit (being part of the team that advised H-K on doing this right) and I can tell you all that it goes together even easier than our reviewer here has speculated. Lots of time spent in painting things, though and it will be time well-spent. The model represents a late production G in the 80-BO series, so only NMF is an option for it. However, Derek Bradshaw is currently working on a resin right fuselage half and early tail gun position that will allow earlier versions. I have opened the doors in the bulkheads and am cutting open the rear crerw entry door, to allow as much light into the interior as possible in order to see everything.

Edited by TCinLA

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Just two comments....

One. I think somebody is playing 'games' on us!!

Two. If somebody from this forum wins in the next couple of months the EuroMillions lottery, I only ask from him to give me 5.000 pounds to buy ONLY the 2013 scale model kits!!!!! Not the 2010, not the 2011 or, the 2014. JUST THE 2013 KITS!!!! :banghead::banghead:

There, I said it!! I feel much better now! :P

Cheers

Sernak

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Looks fantastic, but having had to extend the display shelf for the Revell 1/32 He 219 (which only just fit on it) I don't think that this one is possible, bigger house needed.

Cheers

De

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record - we really are living in the golden age of modelling :)

Looks fantastic, but having had to extend the display shelf for the Revell 1/32 He 219 (which only just fit on it) I don't think that this one is possible, bigger house needed.

Cheers

De

Space must be tight if you're having to cut your signature down Den :wicked:

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I keep telling myself i am not going to get one , i dont have the space etc..........im kidding myself , the minute this hits the shelf i will be selling stuff to get one..........shortly after that i will be selling it part started...lol..... :mental::thumbsup:

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I keep telling myself i am not going to get one , i dont have the space etc..........im kidding myself , the minute this hits the shelf i will be selling stuff to get one..........shortly after that i will be selling it part started...lol..... :mental::thumbsup:

:lol: Nice one... I think I'm going to dare you to finish it :tease:

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Finish it?!! Dont be rediculous man! Its my 40th this September so this is the prime candidate for a pressie

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Sounds like a plan, and don't forget - you can't sell off prezzies :shrug:

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Impressive stuff! I'm not really a B-17 expert and only have a passing interest in it but the first thing I noticed that the vents on top of the wings aft of the engine nacelles look odd to me - it's the contrast in size between inner and outer vents. In fact I never noticed any difference between inner and outer ones when I looked at B-17 pics (and I've been looking at the vents in particular because there's been a lot of discussion in the past about whether or not dirty air comes out of them). I had another look at pictures just now and indeed there is a difference, the inner two of the outboard vents are smaller than the inboard ones, but the outer two should be the same. On this model the outer vents are also smaller on the outboard sets making the set significantly smaller...

Most certainly this wouldn't deter me from buying the kit (if I were a fan of B-17's and 1:32...) even if more inaccuracies were found, but most certainly would I break out the knife and try to enlarge the outer vents.

Jeffrey

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record - we really are living in the golden age of modelling :)

Space must be tight if you're having to cut your signature down Den :wicked:

Whoops

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Superb Mike, Just makes me want it even more though! I can see me walking away from SMW with a few goodies this year!

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Oh...my...goodness....

32nd scale heaven has been acheived!

As much as I would love this kit, I simply don't have anywhere to dispaly it (that's my excuse and I'm bloomin' well sticking to it!)

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It certainly is a biggun. The measurements make it seem big , but when you open the box and see the cord of the wing and that chunky fuselage , you really appreciate how big it is.

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