Kitwise, that is. Nowadays we're all a little bit spoiled by the various offerings coming from those companies who provide us with the kits for our hobby. Even an economy that seems to be spending most of its time hiding in the cellar hasn't stopped the new releases, and it seems as though we're getting a new "dream kit" almost every month. Those new kits are great examples of the kit maker's art, putting all that came before them to shame. Or maybe not.
We've talked about the Once Mighty Monogram several times before, and each and every one of those times we've taken the position that the offerings from Morton Grove were, and in many cases still are, right up there with the best ever made. There's no doubt some of our readership will argue with that, mostly because they don't care for raised detail and are put off by the fit issues that all older kits, not just Monogram's, have experienced. In that one respect they're actually right for once; a great many "classic" kits have problems with fit that would lead most of us to drink, and Monogram's offerings are all too often right up there in the lousy fit department.
OK, then, what is it about those old Monogram kits that make them so wonderful? That's easy; a great many of them are more accurate in dimension and shape than the whiz-bang wunderkits that have replaced them. It's true that some of the really old offerings were pretty dicey in almost every respect, but The Big M turned over a major leaf when they released their ground breaking P-51B way back in the middle sixties and most of what followed was absolutely superb, albeit with the occasional gaffe to keep us all on our toes. Take today's example, for instance:
Somewhere back there in the mid or late 1970s, we forget which, Monogram decided to produce a 1/48th scale AT-6 Texan. That was a pretty amazing thing in and of itself since very few people ever bother to kit trainers, but Monogram did it and it was quite simply a revelation at the time. There had been only one previous kit of the AT-6 in that scale, Aurora's ancient AT-6/SNJ offering, and it had become distinctly long in the tooth (not that it had ever been very good in the first place). The Monogram kit was a quantum leap ahead of that and is, for that matter, still our Texan of choice in 1/48th, handily eclipsing the far more recent Occidental/Italeri offering of same. It is, and always has been, The Best Game in Town, and today we're going to take a quick look at it.
Monogram originally offered the kit molded in silver, with parts to allow a more-or-less accurate model to be built of any T-6 variant from A through F (or SNJ from SNJ-2 through -5), as long as the moder knew which details to tweak. A mid-80s attempt at marketing saw the kit offered as a racer, which was significant because that kit included the spinner, upper cowl deck, and canopy set to allow the kit's completion as a T-6G (as long as the modeler added the ADF fairing or DF football found aft of the canopy). There was a remarkably detailed single-piece engine, beautiful landing gear, and an interior that was almost adequate out of the box, needing just a small amount of detail and a set of belts and harnesses to be presentable. The nay-sayers all had bad things to say about the rivets, and the fit, but those rivets belong there since the real thing is absolutely covered with universal head rivets. As for the fit; well, it is pretty awful in places, but in theory we all possess the modeling skills necessary to fill a couple of seams, don't we? DON'T we?
So, besides that fit thing, what exactly are the issues with this beloved dinosaur of a kit? Lessee now...
The tailwheel and strut are clunky and awful, simply screaming for replacement. We're not entirely certain what we need to replace them with, but they need some serious help.
The mains are pretty darned good and honestly just need a little bit of cleanup, and the tires aren't bad either. The wheel covers are another story, requiring a little help in order to look right. Of course that won't matter if you're building a T-6G with open wheels; just rob the wheels and tires off the P-51 kit of your choice and life is good.
The gear doors are pretty thick. That's why there's sheet styrene, so replace them with a scratched up set if you feel the need or ignore them if you don't.
The engine is over-simplified and doesn't have a gajillion parts we'll never be able to see once the model's been assembled. If that matters to you then you'll need to go find yourself An Expensive Resin Engine to replace the kit offering with. If, on the other hand, you know how to use a paint brush and fine wire, the issue becomes almost entirely irrelevent. Of far greater concern is the cowling, which has a small "dent" in it to accomodate the single nose gun mounted on the early T-6s back when it really was an attack trainer. You'll have to fill it with a little putty, then sand it to make that dent go away. It's just a little more Modeling 101; you all should know the drill by now.
The spinner's a little clunky. If you're building a T-6G and if that bothers you then you can always steal the spinner off that Occidental kit.
The horizontal stabs are a little too thick and that, my friends, is truly a major problem. Since it's highly unlikely that any of the aftermarket resin folks will bother to issue a set of T-6 stabs in our lifetime, said worthies being far too involved in creating detail sets we honestly don't need, we're going to have to either ignore the issue or rebuild what we've got. The somewhat deranged staff over here at Replica (that would be me) is going to do the former because we're inherently lazy and don't want the extra work, but those stabs do need some help if you're of an ambitious nature. Don't say we didn't tell you.
The fuselage steps (those little tab thingys sticking out of the port fus) are too thick and too clunky. Yep. They are. You can replace them if you want to.
The landing lights are very Old School and need replacing. We advise cutting out the "lamps" that are molded into the wings and replacing them with MV lenses. You'll be amazed at how much that one little thing will add to your completed model.
The upper cowl decking provided for the gunless variants doesn't fit. It doesn't, in point of fact, come anywhere near to fitting, at least not on the kit we're presently building (the current issue "Revell" made-in-China edition). You're going to need your modeling skills for this one, but since the fix requires little more than filling and sanding you're still in pretty good shape.
If you're building a T-6G there's no ADF antenna or football and most of the real airplanes (but not all) had one or the other. You'll need to scratch up the former or steal the latter from a B-25J or Hasegawa P-40 kit if you want to build a "G". It ain't no thang, ya'll.
The pitot tube is clunky and doesn't look right, but you can surely fix that problem without any help from us.
The kit offers a cowl gun, a wing gun, and a gun for the aft cockpit, but it doesn't have any ordnance whatsoever if you want to build an LTA-6 or one of the French birds as used during their difficulties in Algeria. You can get most of the underwing stuff from the Occidental kit if you're so inclined, and those (or their Italeri reboxes) are easy enough to find at almost any large model contest, at least here in the States.
Finally, Eduard once offered a detail set for the Occidental kit. You won't need much of what's in there if you're building the Monogram kit but some of the details can be useful. The trade tables at your annual contest may be the place to go to look for these, although your favorite local hobby shop (if you still have one) may be able to order the set from Stevens International, a major distributor that used to have quite a few of the older Eduard detail sets in stock.
So, what conclusion have we reached today regarding this "dinosaur" of a kit? Well, folks, we'll give it to you plain and simple: We'd like a new kit of this classic airplane, preferably by Tamiya (if you're giving us our druthers), but the simple truth of the matter is that the old Monogram kit is, much like its cousin the F-100, still the best game in this 1/48th scale town and the game we're likely to have for some time to come. That's our story and, as usual, we're sticking with it.
Those belts and harnesses are from Eduard's somewhat dubious WW2 USAAF and USN set and they help the model immensely even thought they aren't accurate for the T-6 or SNJ. As we mentioned earlier, there's also an Eduard detailing set available for the Texan in 1/48th, but it's meant to be used with the Occidental kit and a lot of the stuff in there isn't necessary for the far-better-detailed Monogram kit. If you happen to be a modeler of the Old School you'll do most of your cockpit enhancement with what Monogram provided.
Stay tuned as we progress with our T-6 project. The intent, at this moment anyway, is to end up with an overall yellow '50s USAF trainer, although that could change. The point to be taken here is that we're having a whole lot of fun with this kit and suggest you give one a try for yourself.
Things Were Different Back Then
A terrible war had been won but there were still bad guys in the world, and the actions of said miscreants occasionaly caused the Air Force to deploy fighters to Europe. One of the earliest, staged in direct response to the Soviet blockade of Berlin, was the 1948 trans-Atlantic deployment of a portion of the famed the 56th Fighter Group to Furstenfeldbruck in an action named Operation Fox Able. Thanks to the efforts of Mark Morgan (we think---if these didn't come from Mark would the real contributor please stand up so we can give credit where credit's due?) we have some unique photography of that deployment to share with you today.
***And a special note: Within hours of the posting of this blog we'd heard from Mark Morgan, who said the photos weren't his, as much as he wished they were. That leads us to our 2nd Best Guess, Mark Nankivil of the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum, so we've changed the credits. With luck we got it right this time!!!
****And, of course, we got it wrong again! Just when we thought we had things figured out we heard from Doug Barbier, from who's collection these photos actually came. Working on the theory that the third time's the charm, we're going to change our credit lines again. It's the last time, we promise! Maybe...
Many thanks to Doug for the contribution.
They Also Served
When we think of the SBD we most often think of its sterling service in the Pacific during the Second World War, but a significant part of Dauntless operations took place flying seemingly endless anti-submarine patrols in That Other Ocean. Reader Pat Donahue built a model of one of those Atlantic-based SBDs and sent us a few photos. It's a really spiffy model and we thought you'd like to see the pictures too, so without further fanfare:
Under the Radar
Sometimes it's the Mainstream that sneaks up on you. Take today's topic, for instance:
Dave Menard is a friend of many years. He's also the owner of one of the best collections of early USAF photography in the country, with extensive files running into the tens of thousands of images. Fortunately for us all he enjoys sharing those images with others; hence this book.
USAF Plus Fifteen is a photo book pure and simple; 142 pages of color photographs of The Silver Air Force. The pictures presented contain quite a few fighter types, as you might expect, but there's an excellent representation of the bombers, transports, and trainers of the era as well. The photography is well reproduced and is by and large unique, making the work a must-have for any aviation historian's personal library. We can't recommend it highly enough and stongly urge you to track down a copy for yourself if it's not already in your collection. Just thumb back through the pages of this blog and see what Dave's offered in the past. This book is all of that on steroids---it just don't get no better!
The Relief Tube
We've just got one lonely little Relief Tube entry for today, but it's a pip:
Phil: Barrett Tillman started a thread on Zippers today- he pointed out this neat video on the Luftwaffe-
One of the usual suspects, the legendary “Youthly Puresome”, retired A-4 and reserve F-8 driver, had several dets up in Cold Lake against the Canadian F-104s with Crusaders and reported thusly in his own unique style-
Still have the drawn documentation of each fight, used for debriefing purposes. Canuckian chaps great guys, learned not to do any turning: blow thru at heat's speed, go out and come back thru. Their best defensive move was to go head on, beak to beak, because they had no frontal cross section. Of course, we always tried to approach any merge with angle off. Eagle can elaborate, but my memories of flying the thing mostly involve buffeting anytime I pulled on the pole.
But ain't they purty.
OK, ya'll; everybody here knows how much we like the F-104. Just watch the clip and enjoy. Thanks, Morgo!!!
And that's all there is for today. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon.