Jump to content

As a result of the close-down of the UK by the British Government last night, we have made all the Buy/Sell areas read-only until we open back up again, so please have a look at the announcement linked here.

This site uses cookies! Learn More

This site uses cookies!

You can find a list of those cookies here: mysite.com/cookies

By continuing to use this site, you agree to allow us to store cookies on your computer. :)

Sign in to follow this  

Italeri 1:35 Elco 80' PT-109

Recommended Posts

Elco 80' PT-109
Italeri 1:35


PT-109 belonged to the PT 103 class of MTB’s, hundreds of which were completed between 1942 and 1945 by Elco. PT-109's keel was laid 4 March 1942 as the seventh Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) of the 80-foot-long (24 m) 56 ton class, built by Elco and was launched on 20 June. She was delivered to the Navy on 10 July 1942, and fitted out in the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn. The boats were manned by 3 officers and up to 12 crewmen.

The Elco boats were the largest PT boats operated by the U.S. Navy during World War II, built with strong wooden hulls of two layers of 1-inch (2.5 cm) mahogany planking. Powered by three 12-cylinder 1,500 horsepower (1,100 kW) Packard gasoline engines (one per propeller shaft), their designed top speed was 41 knots (76 km/h). For space and weight-distribution reasons, the center engine was mounted with the output end facing aft, with power directly transmitted to the propeller shaft. Because the center propeller was deeper, it left less of a wake, and was preferred by skippers for low-wake loitering. Both wing engines were mounted with the output flange facing forward, and power was transmitted through a Vee-drive gearbox to the propeller shafts. The engines were fitted with mufflers on the transom to direct the exhaust under water, which had to be bypassed for anything other than idle speed. These mufflers were used not only to mask their own noise from the enemy, but to be able to hear enemy aircraft, which were rarely detected overhead before firing their cannons or machine guns or dropping their bombs.

The principal offensive weapon was her torpedoes. She was fitted with four 21-inch (53 cm) torpedo tubes containing Mark VIII torpedoes. They weighed 3,150 lb (1,429 kg) each, with 386-pound (175 kg) warheads and gave the tiny boats a punch at least theoretically effective even against armoured ships. Their typical speed of 36 knots (67 km/h) was effective against shipping, but because of rapid marine growth build-up on their hulls in the South Pacific and austere maintenance facilities in forward areas, American PT boats ended up being slower than the top speed of the Japanese destroyers and cruisers they were tasked with targeting in the Solomons. Torpedoes were also useless against shallow-draft barges, which were their most common targets. With their machine guns and 20 mm cannon, the PT boats could not return the large-calibre gunfire carried by destroyers, which had a much longer effective range, though they were effective against aircraft and ground targets. Because they were fuelled with aviation gasoline, a direct hit to a PT boat's engine compartment sometimes resulted in a total loss of boat and crew. In order to have a chance of hitting their target, PT boats had to close to within 2 miles (3.2 km) for a shot, well within the gun range of destroyers; at this distance, a target could easily manoeuvre to avoid being hit. The boats approached in darkness, fired their torpedoes, which sometimes gave away their positions, and then fled behind smoke screens. Sometimes retreat was hampered by seaplanes dropping flares and bombs on the boats. The Elco torpedo-launching tubes were powered by a 3-inch (76 mm) black powder charge to expel the torpedo from the tube. Additionally, the torpedo was well greased so it would slide out of the tube. Sometimes, the powder charge caused the grease to ignite upon firing, and the resulting flash could give away the position of the PT boat. Crews of PT boats relied on their smaller size, speed and maneuverability, and darkness, to survive.

Ahead of the torpedoes on PT-109 were two depth charges, omitted on most PTs, one on each side, about the same diameter as the torpedoes. These were designed to be used against submarines, but were sometimes used by PT commanders to confuse and discourage pursuing destroyers. PT-109 lost one of her two Mark 6 depth charges a month before Kennedy showed up when the starboard torpedo was inadvertently launched during a storm without first deploying the tube into firing position. The launching torpedo sheared away the depth charge mount and some of the foot rail. PT-109 had a single, 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft mount at the rear with "109" painted on the mounting base, two open rotating turrets (designed by the same firm that produced the Tucker automobile), each with twin, .50-caliber (12.7 mm) anti-aircraft machine guns, at opposite corners of the open cockpit, and a smoke generator on her transom. These guns were effective against attacking aircraft. The day before her most famous mission, PT-109 crew lashed a U.S. Army 37 mm antitank gun to the foredeck, replacing a small, 2-man life raft. Timbers used to secure the weapon to the deck later helped save their lives when used as a float.

The Model
This large kit naturally comes in a large top opening box, with an artists impression of PT-109 at speed. On opening there is an internal lid which opens outwards from the centre. On the lid are the instructions, decals and information booklet. Pulling the internal lid apart the large single piece hull is revealed tightly held on a separate shelf. Pulling the hull and shelf out there are 5 large sprues of grey styrene and the single piece deck, a sheet of etched brass, a clear sheet of acetate with the various windows and windscreens pre-cut, and a small poly bag with screws and two thicknesses of string, one black and the other brown.

All the parts are beautifully moulded with no flash and only a few moulding pips on some of the smaller parts. The one piece hull is a fantastic bit of moulding and must have come from one heck of a large mould, being nearly 700mm long and 180mm wide. There’s no sign of any sink marks and only a couple of gate marks on the keel which will be easily removed with a couple of swipes of a sanding stick. The flanges for the fitting of the propeller shaft supports and exit troughs have finely moulded bolt heads. The single piece main deck is just as well moulded, with planking, small mushroom vents and hatch coamings all included. Again there are no apparent sink marks and only the flashed over holes are faintly visible, but most of these will be opened up anyway or covered over with paint. Any ejector pin marks, and there are surprisingly few are all in locations that would not be visible once the parts are put together.

The build starts with the drilling out of the indicated flashed over holes on the main deck, and the removal of the central sprue from within the deck opening. The hull is then fitted out with various drain hole outlets, fittings and keel strakes that go from the bow to the stern within a deep groove moulded in the hull sides. To the transom the six mufflers and control rods are fitted, three per side. The three prop shafts are then applied with their supports and fitted to the moulded indentations on the underside of the hull, the three propellers and surprisingly small rudders are fitted. Moving back to the deck the twenty three skylights, each consisting of an acetate clear part and styrene frame are fixed into their respective positions along with the bow foot rails, bridge step and bridge deck. The deck is then screwed into place on the hull part with the self tapping screws provided. The screws are covered over with circular blanks. The foredeck hatches are then fitted, with the option of having them open or closed. Giving those who want to go the whole hog and scratch build an interior to show it off. The next parts to be fitted to the deck are the torpedo tube mountings and front rails, along with three vents on the foredeck and two stops to the port and starboard beam amidships.









The build then moves on to the bridge superstructure. Starting with the bridge front/roof section the windows are fitted as is a small skylight, using the acetate parts. To this is added the wheel house bulkhead, also with an acetate window fitted to the wheel house door, the steering wheel, and side bulkhead. In front of the steering wheel the throttle controls are fitted, as is the instrument panel made up of decal instruments, clear part and outer styrene switch controls. Two etched grab handles are also applied to the forward bulkhead either side of the wheel. The starboard bridge side with added life ring, handrail vents and clear window is then added to the bridge assembly. The port side is made up of the main side piece, with one half of the forward gun tub, to which the inner upper gun tub is added along with the radial seat beneath. With the outer parts fitted that pretty much completes the bridge.

Construction moves aft to the engine room deck with the fitting of the six piece deck house/skylight, the windows for which are taken from the acetate sheet, the forward and aft hatches can also be posed open or shut. Either side of the skylight two ventilators are affixed to the deck. The completed assembly is then fitted to the aft end of the main deck opening, with the bridge assembly fitted to the forward end. The bridge assembly has further parts added, which include the rear bulkhead with additional shelves, and storage locker, entrance steps and curved entrance ways. Forward of the bridge an etched step and support is added to the starboard side, whilst on the bridge roof a compass binnacle, made up of styrene and acetate parts along with decals, is fitted, with a second right to the side of the instrument panel.

The final part of the superstructure, the centre section is built up of the roof, with a hatch fitted to forward starboard position, fore and aft bulkheads, starboard side, and port side, with the aft gun tub with the inner radius and radial seat added. All windows are taken from the acetate sheet. Once the main parts are built up more detail parts are added, these include the port handrail, boat hook on the starboard side rotating ventilator aft, life ring and hook right aft and what look like starting handles, but I presume these are for manually rotating the normally powered gun tubs, are fitted to each side of the roof. The completed assembly can then be fitted to the main deck, with another etched footstep added to the port side and a styrene handrail to the outer part of the aft gun tub. Once the superstructures have been affixed to the deck two ammunition lockers with optionally open lids, three 20mm ammunition cans and rear wind deflectors are fitted to the engine room deck.

With the hull, deck and superstructure complete the build moves on to the weaponry. This consists of the four torpedo tubes, each made up of two halves, four control rods, and rear gas release ring with associated accumulator, rear door, with each of the eight wingnut fastenings added separately, additionally there are a number of smaller fittings added to the top of each tube. At the front a cover can be fitted instead of the torpedo nose. Unfortunately no full torpedoes are included in the kit. The tubes are then fitted to their respective positions and the styrene “wiring” fitted. The .50cal machine gun mounts are made up of the central pedestal, gun mount, to machine guns, ammunition belts, inner and outer mount rings and the gun railing which prevents the gunners depressing their guns too far and shooting of parts of the boat when firing. Each of the two assemblies are then fitted to the gun tubs, followed by the two part outer shells of the upper tub. Aft of the engine room deck is the 20mm cannon mounting. This consists of the two piece main pedestal, hand wheel, deck plate, cannon, trunnion arms, shoulder fittings, ammunition drum and the ring and bead gun sight. Behind the cannon mount is another gun depression prevention rail. If the modeller so wishes the kit also comes with the 37mm Army cannon which the crew fitted the day before the fatal voyage. This consists of the barrel, breech, breech handle and muzzle, to which the breech cage and recuperator is fitted, followed by the trunnion and trunnion mounting plates. The elevation wheel is then added to the right hand side. The two trails, trail plates, grab handles and trail locks are then built up. The completed assemblies are then fitted to the axle assembly. The barrel assembly is then fitted to the axle pintle followed by the fitting of the shield and shield support rods. The completed cannon is then fitted to the foredeck on the baulk timbers represented by styrene parts and lashed to the deck with the brown rope in accordance to the instructions. The last elements of the weaponry are the smoke generator fitted to the transom and the two depth charges fitted to the foredeck. These are made of four parts and fixed to the three part rack. Using the black thread they are tied to the rack, again in accordance with the instructions. The final parts to be added to the model are the multi-part windscreen, port and starboard navigation lights, aerial, siren horn, main mast, with associated supports, Aldis lamp and pedestal, bow hawse pipe assembly and the various cleats and bits around the outer deck edge.

The small sheet of etched brass contains the small skylight frames, bridge front window frames and covers, bridge steps and supports, 20mm cannon ring sight, bow hawse pipe assembly, ammunition locker clips, instrument panel, torpedo tube panels, windscreen frame and struts, ensign pole bracket and siren bracket.


Since there is only one option with this kit, naturally there aren’t too many decals. Other than those mentioned above for the compass binnacles and instrument panel, there are also the hull depth markings, ensign and PT-109s codes for either side of the bow, the life rings, bridge front and the 20mm cannon pedestal aft. There are also two large decals for the stands nameplates.


Continuing their large model boat series I guess Italeri had to release one of the most famous PT boats in naval history, even though it was through its association with LTJG J F Kennedy who was to become President of the USA. As is the case with all the series this will build into an wonderful and quite large model. Whilst quite well detailed out of the box, there is plenty of scope for additional detail to be added, particularly internally as there are a few open areas that can be viewed from the outside. It is also crying out to be built as a radio controlled model, which could be done with very little conversion. Highly recommended.

Review sample courtesy of

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for review!

But... I see one seriuos mistake in this kit - 0.5cal gun barbettes on early ELCOs was absolutely perpendicular to the deck. As I can see from sprues photos, in the kit these barbettes are slanted forward, as on late production boats. How Italeri can make such a big and pity mistake for such a brilliant model?! :weep:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

You may be right, but in all the photographs of early Elco 80's I looked at whilst writing the review I didn't, and still don't see that. They all look pretty vertical and not angled aft as they would be if they were perpendicular to the deck. In a purely engineering point of view if they were angled aft then turning the guns forward would be like moving them uphill and wouldn't make for a quick acting swivel. Also I would have thought that the bearings that the moving parts rested on wouldn't have liked being off centre to the thrust line.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Shar2, yes - they are vertical, and not angled aft. But on early boats barbettes was vertical on not moving ship. And when she was running full throttle with the nose up, they became angled aft, causing turrets to "move uphill" when turning forward, as you wrote above. To fix this problem, on later boats barbettes was inclined forward to became vertical when ship is on the move. I can't recall where I have seen this statement exactly. I will try to find source later on.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah right, I see what you're saying now. But if you look at the sprues again you will see that at rest the tubs are vertical, just not in relation to the angled midships superstructure, therefore when the boat is at speed the tubs are in fact angled aft, so correct by your statement. I will check this further tonight and compare them to the Italeri PT-596 which I have in the stash.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...