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1/18 French SBD-5 Dauntless UPDATE 18/11/16 FINISHED!

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**UPDATE 12/02/16**

Hi - it’s been quite a while since my last update, and quite a lot has happened.

First of all, I finished off the forward gunaccess panels / IP coaming assembly. In these two images you can see the old SBD-3 style coaming with telescopic gunsight, and the newer style applicable to the SBD-5.



Many of my reference pics are of restored machines, so I can’t be 100% sure if I’ve modified mine correctly. However, the general consensus seemed to be to cut it down, and fill in any holes. The basic shape is now there for further detailing. It was necessary to do this before attaching to the fuselage. Oh yes - and I radically thinned down the leading edge: as in other areas of this kit, it was way too thick. Because I’d forced the fuselage halves together in certain areas, I had to widen the IP coaming at the rear, and add quite a lot of plastic scrap and filler once it was in place.



This view shows the bottom of the part - at front are the bun troughs for the forward fifties. These can be partly seen through the open engine access panels, so I added a few details with riveted pewter, and plastic. On the right, the butts of the forward fifties which protrude into the cockpit. Minimal detailing was required as not much of them can be seen.


The part could then be attached permanently:


Next up - skinning! I’ve now covered 80% of the fuselage with pewter panels. One of the major downsides to this kit is the fact that every single rivet is recessed - an unforgivable error in this scale as the exact opposite is the case on the real aircraft. I knew right from the start that I would have to skin the aircraft in metal. I did try and follow Peter (Castle from Airscale’s) example as seen on his Tigercat build, and use litho plate. However, after a few experiments I reached the conclusion that it isn’t for me - at least not on curved areas. It just isn’t malleable, or forgiving enough for my tastes.That’s not to say I wouldn’t use it on large, flat areas like the wings - but for now I am using up my stash of pewter.

Enough talking - here are some pics:





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You may have noticed this detail:


These small sliding doors were added to late model Dauntlesses that had been fitted with twin 0.50 cal rear guns. The kit, representing an earlier model, does not have these. To add them required chopping a section out of the fuselage on either side, and then scratching the doors and their rails from petwer. Here you can see one sie done. The topmost rails will attach to the bottom of the gun storage tunnel’s doors:


You can see on this image the modified cooling slot openings characteristic of the SBD-5 (the earlier models of Dauntless had shorter, fatter ones). I’ll add the mealwork for these later.


Finally for this update, here’s a photo of the giant 1/18 etched dive flap set that I had especially made at huge expense…at bottom right is the 1/32 version for size comparison:


and again, little and large versions:


But that’s a story for another time!

Final image - a quick test fit. Starting to look like a real plane now!




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Rich, I am in awe. It really does look like the real thing!!! Glad to see you're still building this behemoth.

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Hi Rich ,

Stunning work the detail is just like the real thing keep up the good work.


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*update 27/3/16*

Hi guys, Happy Easter!

It’s been a while since my last update, and I have been concentrating on the wings. A huge job, with many compicated facets, but one which I couldn’t put off any longer

First up, the wing ‘mailbox slots’ names for their similarity to, er, mailbox slots at the time. They were designed to improve airflow and aileron control at slow speeds. Unfortunately, the kit is badly let down in this area with the openings moulded closed - really a poor design and totally unacceptable in this scale:





Here’s the real thing to give you some idea of what it looks like:


The easiest way to emulate it was to chop out the offending sections completely in both the top and bottom wing halves. I then built up the inside curves and sides using plastic sheet, strip and rod. The two dividing strengtheners were shoehorned in, and any resulting gaps filled so everything ‘flows’.

Here’s the internal structure attached to the inside of the bottom wing half:


Here’s what it looks like with the top wing half on:


and from underneath again:


By the time the pewter skin panels are cut to shape, riveted and attached, you end up with this:





Daylight from bottom to top - as it should be!


Next up, the main gear legs. I did have the scale aircraft conversions white metal ones to replace the kit parts. Unfortunately they are a direct copy, the problem being that the oleo struts are completely extended. As I want to give my plane a full bomb load for a change, this wasn’t good. Anther problem arose when I checked my ref pics. Here’s the real thing. Notice how the top of the leg is reinforced and bulked out with two adjoining sections, and how that section sticks out below the level of the wheel well:


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The kit part is a 50% accurate representation, which sacrifices authenticity for rigidity and, to an extent, workability. The gear legs are designed to be pinned in place and movable. Also, when in place, the gear legs sit too high up into the wheel well, and lack lots of detail. Here’s hwat I mean - compare to the above picture:


A metal rod goes from back to front through the visible hole and pins the gear legs in place, whilst leaving them free to retract - no good for me as I meed stability and strength.


A butt-load of details were added to the kit parts. Entombed within each one is an old drill bit for added strangth. I also shortened the oleo struts by removing about half of their length. This may prove to be a weak point sometime in the future, but I glued everything back together with the strongest two-part epoxy I could find, so fingers crossed:


In order to glue the wing halves together, it was first necessary to glue int the finished wheel struts, which I duly did, again with two-part epoxy. Is it a 100% accurate representation of the original? No. I had to sacfifice some accuracy for overall strength, but I am happy with the result. The gear struts now sit lower down in the gear bays and are as strong as I could make them. Oh yes - I totally forgot to take pics of the gear bays themselves before shooting a coat of Halfords white primer over them, but rest assured there are many added details.


The undersides will be USN Non-specular white, hence the need to undercoat them before assembling the wings..


Finally, for now, undercarriage doors. Here’s the real thing - note how chunky they are:


Here is one of the kit parts with my replacements, with which I am much happier:


That’s it for now! State of play currently is:

wings assembled, skinning started, main undercart legs attached. Next up is the huge task of making the dive brakes / flaps…..*sigh*

I decided it would be much easier to chop out the section where the wing dive flaps go as I had to get on and get the wings glued together. I’ll add the completed flap sections nearer the end of the build as they will be fragile, heavy and prone to breaking.


Till next time..

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Amazing work as always, Rich :)

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*update 22/11/15*

Hi - time for an update..

last time I showed you the work I had done on the engine accessory compartment. The next item to tackle was the engine itself.

The kit representation is fairly basic. The main shapes, such as cylinders and crank case, are there. The problem being that in this large scale, there is huge scope for improvement.

The first thing to tackle was the cylinders. The Dauntless was powered by a 9 cylinder Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine. The kit supplies these already affixed to their mounting, but in two separate halves. As you can see from this photo, the ‘wafers’ typical of radial engine cylinders are moulded into the parts, but they are crudely done. There should be many, many more of them.


I first considered scratching a master and casting the pieces in resin, but my resin-casting skills are limited at best. I then thought about somehow fashioning dozens of thin ‘wafers’ from metal sheet. A good idea in theory, but a logistical nightmare as I would have to repeat the entire process nine times.

In the end I hit upon a satisfactory solution - refer once again to the trusty pewter sheet! This is thin and maleable enough to mould around the curves of the cylinders, and I could scribe in the lines to represent the layers of ‘wafers’. So that’s what I did..

This photo shows the process - there are five pieces for each cylinder. To get the right shapes, I first made templates with low tack masking tape, placed them on the pewter sheet and cut them out. I then used these parts as templates for the next cylinder and so on. It took several days of cutting, scribing and sticking, but I am happy with the result. I think a coat of grey primer will determine how successful I have been, but that’s in the future..



This photo shows several features of the real engine that I needed to replicate. Firstly, the ‘dome’ on top of the crank case, which isn’t present in the kit. Many of my ref photos show this, so I added mine from plastic card and putty. The black gadget on top is the prop governor.

Also evident are the clips / tighteners on each puch rod - three per rod.


The kit’s crankcase isn’t bad. Here’s my modified version:


The push rods on the kit are fine - I dressed mine up with the clamps shown in the photo of the real thing above. The gadget at the bottom is the oil sump. Further mounting bolts were added for the crankcase, and also at the base of each push rod. I added these from appropriately sized hexagonal plastic rods.


getting there….


rear of engine - more mounting bolts etc. You’ll notice the sheet of thin plastic card sandwiched between each half of the cylinders. Evident on the real machine, although I can only summise that this was for aerodynamic purposes. The holes in it are for the air induction pipes / intakes to be fitted later (more on that in a moment)


Here is one of the aforementioned air induction intakes. There are two - one either side of the crankcase. They extend through the rear of the engine into the accessory compartment, and are connected to the two ‘kidney’ shaped devices found on the top of each side of the engine mount (see earlier posts for details)


I started to build mine up with plastic tube and card, plus some of the ubiquitous pewter sheet. The white gadget on the bottom is the part that attaches to the rear - only the left side one can be seen, and then only half of it, so that’s why it looks like…nothing in particular at the moment! Trust me, once it’s in place it should all come together and it will be obvious what you are seeing (that’s the idea anyway)


Hi Rich,

Caught up with this thread at last. It's really great work you're doing here!

The plasticard sandwiched betweeb the cylinder halves represent the baffles. In 1:1 scale these close off the route between the front and back of the cowl between the cylinders except for the little gaps between the cooling fins. It forces all air travelling through the cowling to pass through the cooling fins and conducts heat away. Without baffles, the air stagnates between the cooling fins due to boundary layers and passes through the big gaps between the cylinders. The air the fins could reject heat to just heats up and rhe engine would overheat quickly even travelling at speed with good airflow through the cowl.

Almost all aircooled engines have baffle assemblies of some sort to improve cooling :)

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ah, many thanks! Glad you've cleared up that mystery

cheers for looking in guys

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**update 17/4/16**

Hi everyone - I feel it is time for one of my periodic updates, so here goes…

In recent weeks I have been concentrating almost exclusively on the dive brakes. These are a very distinctive feature of the SBD, and as they are painted bright red, provide a welcome splash of colour.

You may recall that I got mine custom made in brass, at great expense. Although generally I avoid brass as I don’t like working with it (and feel that it offeres limited detailing possibilities as everything is flat), in this case I don’t think that I could have made the main flaps in any other way - at least not to the same standard and consistency. There are dozens of holes in the dive flaps that need to be exactly the same size - a difficult proposition if scratchbuilding the entire thing..

I started by making the outer flaps. The first step was to glue everything together and add some rudimentary details in the form of strengthening spars from plastic strip of the appropriate diameter.

I mentioned earlier how I cut out the dive flap sections from the wings to make it easier to build them, and I’m glad I did as they require constant handling.


The kit parts are designed to be moveable - the plastic parts are held in place by little brass flanges hidden within the wing halves, and these are in turn held in place by screws. I modified the aforementioned brass flanges and screwed them in place, then reinforced them with the strongest two-part epoxy I could find. Onto the flanges I then soldered the dive flaps. Believe me, I hated every minute! I’m rubbish at soldering, but eventually even my ham-fisted attempts produced a strong enough join. This means that the dive flaps are now held open at the correct angle. The soldered joins take the weight. Once I add the opening/closing mechanism, there will be some additional strength. It’s not rock-solid, but anything less than a direct hit on the dive flaps shouldn’t do any lasting damage…


Unfortunately I was now left with an unsightly mess, so….I cheated and covered up all evidence of soldering with plastic rod, pewter sheet etc. This does mean that things are slightly overscale, and that if scaled up to real life size the whole mechanism would be fouled by the oversize framing, but that’s not really a major issue for me. I had to compromise and I think the result looks OK.


Now for some photos of the real thing - they should show the complexity of the main feature of the dive flaps, which is the actuating mechanism:





Each flap has six actuating arms arranged in equal spacing along a couple of tubes. I gradually made mine from plastic sheet, strip and rod, plus some resin nuts and bolts, adding layers of detail. There is a little artistic licence here and there. I would estimate that each actuating system, plus associated flaps have over 200 pieces in them. Everything was done in batches of 6, repeated ad nauseum…



In place on the right hand dive flap - the final ends of the actuating arms can only be cut to shape and added once the assembly is glued into place…


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This end (the end closest to the fuselage) is subtly different as the entire mechanism joins onto the mechanism for the under-fuselage dive flap



Observe the left hand side of the bottom flap in the last photo - notice the notch cut out of its edge. Unfortunately this isn’t strictly accurate - a mistake during the design process meant that the bottom flaps were made as simple copies of the top ones. The top ones DO have a notch cut out of the edge closest to the fuselage, but the bottom ones do not, as you can just about ascertain from this photo:


I’m not too bothered by this. Eagle-eyed viewers (and no doubt real Dauntless owners and pilots) will probably pull me up on it, but TBH it would take longer to fix it than not. And that’s the least of my problems! This one flap has probably taken 30 hours to make, and I have the other one to do, plus the center flap!

Until next time, any feedback and comments / queries welcomed.


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This is brilliant, Rich.

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This is totally mad, but brilliant!



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many thanks guys! It did test my patience at times but it's a rewarding exercise when all is said and done.. ask me how I feel after doing the other side and the centre one though :banghead:

Edited by richdlc

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This is mad ! but good work Rich just keep your patience for the others though ! it will all be worth it.


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That's really good. What's interesting with the reference photos to me is the centre flap which is painted red inside. Many (most?) of the wartime photographs I've seen show the centre flap painted lower exterior colour inside. Nothing seems hard and fast from US Navy aircraft colours from what I gather, so it would be a bold (or highly informed) person who claimed either was wrong - but it's interesting.

Here's a short video - at 21 seconds in is an example of red and exterior colour inside:

Your scratch building is looking great, by the way!

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This is mad ! but good work Rich just keep your patience for the others though ! it will all be worth it.


thanks very much Guy :coolio:

That's really good. What's interesting with the reference photos to me is the centre flap which is painted red inside. Many (most?) of the wartime photographs I've seen show the centre flap painted lower exterior colour inside. Nothing seems hard and fast from US Navy aircraft colours from what I gather, so it would be a bold (or highly informed) person who claimed either was wrong - but it's interesting.

Your scratch building is looking great, by the way!

thanks for the heads up...this will actually be a French machine circa 1948 / Indochina. From what I've seen the colour scheme didn't change from the one used by the previous owners (i.e. the USN). I might have to do some more research into the colour of the centre dive flap though

Edited by richdlc

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Bonkers - and utterly superb!

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