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Robert Knaack
43 articles

The Navy's worst aircraft

April 16, 2020 · in Aviation · · 35 · 3.3K

The joined the Navy in 1943, but had so many deficiencies that it never served in combat. It was considered "under-powered and poorly constructed" and was only used for training by the Navy and Marines. But since it was a WWII dive-bomber, it was a must-have for my dive bomber collection.

The specific aircraft I have modeled was assigned to the Marines' first night fighter squadron VMF(N)-531. As you can see, the Vac Form kit only contains a dozen pieces, so this was my deepest foray into scratch-building and kit-bashing to date. Based on advice from others on the web, I kept this kit on the shelf until I was able to procure a Monogram Pro-Modeler SB2C Helldiver kit to steal parts from. Now, those kits regularly run for $75-$80 dollars, which is a lot to spend for spare parts, so I bided my time. Eventually I found a Pro-Modeler kit for $55 on E_bay, and knowing that was a bargain, I bought it outright. That was still too much to pay for spare parts, though, so that one is going to get built someday to replace my Monogram moving-parts version.
Sometime after that, I spied a Pro-Modeler kit on e_bay for $25! As parts go, that's getting pretty cheap, so I snatched that one up right away. That kit provided a whole bunch of parts - pilot and gunner cockpits, instruments, machine gun mount, tires, wiring harness for the R-2800, bomb racks for the wings, and exhaust stacks for the engine. All of that, along with a Vector resin R-2800 to replace the white metal one that came with the kit, and I was set to begin building.

In order to not overtax my scratch-building skills, I chose to leave the bomb bay and the flaps closed (they were probably rarely opened on the real aircraft!). The instructions gave good advice about gluing the wings together before drilling out the holes in the dive flaps. I ignored this advice and drilled the holes out first, only to discover that the pilot indentations didn't line up from bottom wing to top (grrr). Otherwise the pieces went together with very little filler needed, which was surprising. Despite my best efforts, the elevators are a bit crooked, but hopefully not too obvious.

I painted the inside of the flaps red, and then, to preserve the red, I cut toothpicks and stuck them in the holes when painting the gray and intermediate blue colors. This worked pretty well, only requiring a bit of touch up once the toothpicks were removed. With acrylic this works quite well.

I'm still not crazy about vacuform canopies, so decided to open them up as much as possible to eliminate needing to join them to the plastic without obvious seams. I masked them all with tape(!) then first sprayed zinc chromate, and then finish coat on top of that.

What else? Oh, the tiny little axles on the white metal landing struts were so delicate they broke off during handling, so what I did was - drill small hole in the strut, insert short piece of piano wire and glue in place, insert short piece of aluminum tubing in the large axle hole in the wheel, then drill that out to fit the piano wire. All of that superglued together made a reasonably stout landing gear.

I hope you enjoy my . I don't see any other SB2A's presently on iModeler, so for now I claim the distinction of having the finest SB2A on the site! 🙂

Reader reactions:
13  Awesome

24 additional images. Click to enlarge.

35 responses

  1. The Vac Wings Northrop BT-1 is the only 1/48 dive bomber kit left to add to my collection.

    • Hi Robert. Great job on the SB2A. I’m right with you on robbing parts out of injected kits to save work.

      Since you mentioned the Northrop BT-1, Here’s a link to my (ongoing?) build of the Wings 48 kit.

      Much to my dismay I realized I have haven’t made much progress since my last post ~6 years ago. Time to fire up the forge and get it back on the anvil

      Again great work on your Buccaneer, guess I’ll have to start looking for

      • @fuzzmann thanks, Rick. I've actually read through that whole post a couple of times these last few months. That BT-1 looks like a whole 'nother level of scratch-building from what I did! I'm not optimistic that I'll ever find one of those kits, but I didn't think I'd ever get a Vought O2U or the SB2A, either...

        • @robgenev665, Thanks Robert, I probably made things more complicated than they needed to be on the BT-1. I’m not really very good at scratch building, hence all the robbing of parts. If I remember right I‘ve used parts from the Medallion Models SBD interior, the Hasegawa & Accurate Miniatures SBD’s and an Accurate Miniatures SB2U Vindicator. I have in my stash the Wings 48 SOC & O2U, as well as the Lone Star resin kits of each. Also have the Sierra Vac kits of the SBC Helldiver and the BF2C. I need to get off my dead butt and start cutting plastic lol.

          • @fuzzmann the Vac Wings SOC is on my wish list for my float plane collection, though I swore I'd never do another vacuform biplane. I recently discovered there's a Sierra Models F8C vacuform kit in 1/48 - an early fighter/dive bomber I'd like to add to the collection...

  2. Well Robert @robgenev665, you have more guts and patience than I. I don't think I will ever tackle a Vac kit. This turned out rather nice. "Liked".

    As for the Pro-modeller kits, they ebb and flow on Ebay. I've been hoarding them for a few years now and have 5 in the stash for two future builds. I needed one more kit to complete my needs and could not find one. Luckily one of the members on here new where one was at a Hobby Store and I was able to secure it. You definitely got a steal on the one for $25. My prices ranged from $32 to $66 plus shipping, averaged out at about $55 per kit. I have all I need now, but still keep an eye open.

    Well done on your adventure!

    • @jamesb Thanks for your comments. Sounds like my $55 kit was just about average for ebay. I've seen people out there trying to sell their Monogram kits with the moving parts for $85 and up - they obviously don't know what they have! I actually bought one of those recently for $5 just to see if I could use parts out of it - that was before I found the $25 bargain pro-modeler...

  3. Aaaaah LOVE it! World's 2nd biggest Brewster fan here. That is a great model, beating that into submission has got to be one of the greatest achievments ever. Oh maybe a little exaggeration there, but really that is some job. I am a devotee of Brewster aircraft for some reason, just like the looks of the tubby things. Worst Navy aircraft? I think not...Seamew comes to mind or something like that. Was the Brewster really much worse than that "Big Tailed Beast"? That it looked a lot like anyway? Anyhow you beat my build of the Special Hobby 1/72 SB2A by a bit...haven't started it yet. Also very much like the BT-1, my kid has one of those Vac kits. Too much work for my lazy A--. Anyways great work and you are right, it's the best SB2A anywhere.

    • Bill @billkoppos, I believe the Brewster SB2A was worse than the SB2C-1 in performance and that's pretty sad. The Helldiver didn't hit it's prime until the -3 and the -4 models were even better. It's kind of uncanny how they have similar lines. As for being the worst, tough call but you are on the right track with the Seamew IMHO.

      Care to guess at what replaced the SB2C-5 (which actually served with the French in the early days of the Vietnam experience between 1951 and 1958?

      • Uh... Grumman bearcat? I don't think the Martin Mauler was used by the French. But I'm not much on postwar stuff.

      • Douglas Skyraider?

        • Bingo Robert!

          Bill, the F8F was never used in combat by the US. It was however used by the French between 46 & 54, and the RVAF from 56 thru 1960. They were replaced with A-1 Skyraiders and T-28 Trojans.

          The Corsair was used by the USN in a close support role in Korea. The French used it up to 1964. The last combat mission of a Corsair was in July of 1969in Honduras.

          Wikipedia is always a good source! 🙂

          • @jamesb I really, really wish there was a 1/48 scale kit of the Douglas SB2D Destroyer - then I could build a collection consisting of BT-1, SBD, SB2D, AD1 - all the Douglas attack planes...

      • @billkoppos @jamesb Yes the Seamew was a failure, but at least Curtiss was a functioning company. Brewster was a mess, and quality seems to have suffered because of it.

        • Ah, Curtiss was a bit of a mess toward the end, too. Ever see the P-62?

          Anyway here's a story (Hopefully not too long). I was showing the secretary at my job some of my models online, she saw one and said Hey, a Brewster Buffalo! Says I, how do you know that? Says she, "I used to work for Dayton T. Browne (engineering) and they had pictures on the wall in the Office". Recognize that name? Dayton T. Browne was a co-designer of said Brewster F2A with Alex McCart. His Son runs (Ran? This is 10 years ago) this Engineering business (Aircraft parts) in Bohemia, New York, 10 minutes from my house. The building is still there with the DTB sign outside, big building too.This is very cool to me the Brewster fan as the lineage does still go on. Brewster, for better or worse, was a part of Long Island's aviation legacy. 'Tis indeed a small world.

          Oh yeah, completely forgot the Skyraider. Duh.

          • @billkippos, Very cool story. I really like the Buffalo and will build one in the future. I'd seen the history on the P-62. I've done a lot of research on Curtiss.

            @robgenev665, an SB2D Destroyer would be very cool!

  4. Well done indeed! Believe it or not Robert , along with the TBY Seawolf one of my favourite WW2 Naval aircraft. As with you it took me numerous years to find the kit (the vac-wings kit anyway) but thought I had found gold when I did! I built mine in exactly the same manner as yourself but didn't have the guts to open the canopies! Go for the BT-1! I will keep looking for a TBY!

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

    • @phillyhipower Thanks for your comments, Phillip. If I were to decide to do a torpedo bomber collection, the TBY would be on the list of must-haves. Your Buccaneer looks good, you should post an article so we can see more!

      • Thanks a lot Robert...I may post something later but that Buccaneer is sort of just a lacks all the quality interior work that you achieved and lots of the details were just cobbled together. i simply had to have one in the collection and it was a hasty build...

  5. Nice job knocking this one together Robert. It looks good keeping the Helldiver company. If you try one of these again, instead of getting a sacrificial kit try casting the parts you want to use. Hobby Lobby sells a real nice casting kit with silicone mold material. (Or if you know a dentist, get some dental alginate!) For making things like seats, instrument panels, wheel halves and other items that don't have to be fully cast it works a treat! (You could have even done the seats as you don't see the bottom.) All you need are some small yogurt containers or such and some clay. Mount your part to the bottom with the clay and pour the silicone over it. Once cured pour resin (I just used two part epoxy to cast my lost EE Lightning wheel) in the mold and presto! The silicone really holds on to the details too!

    Who makes this kit BTW?

    • @jpatt1000 Josh, the kit maker is Vac Wings, which is out of business. The silicone casting thing sounds doable, I'll have to check it out. I've got some models with missing parts that maybe could be duplicated with the casting kit you mentioned. Thanks for the comment!

      • @jpatt1000 Is your profile photo showing you standing on the wing of a Martin Mars?

        • Sometimes you run into problems casting missing parts. The brake caliper on my copied wheel is in the incorrect position, but at least there's a wheel there. Yes, I sure am standing on the wing of the Hawaii Mars. Definitely not the Navy's worst plane! It is like a Cadillac. (And I mean good one, you know, from the 50's.)

  6. You did an awesome job on your build! I was really interested in getting one to build as used in British Service as then Brewster BERMUDA. I am not sure what to think of naming a dive bomber after a country, but hey, beggars can't be choosers! Bermuda had an enormous connection to WW2 allied operations in the Atlantic area as well as involving the transit between the US and UK of various things. Maybe it was a nod to the part my little island played in the war?

  7. Nicely done! Your a brave man to face the challenge a vac u form.

  8. Nice work and true dedication. Besides training, these were also used for anti-sub patrols out of NAS Glynco in Georgia.

  9. It's a vac! That's a fantastic job, Robert. Congratulations, my friend!

  10. awesome build…the only one i ever saw built was one in scale modeller magazine built by duanne phister about 1988…such a joy to see

  11. @p38j A google search only turns up a couple of completed kits, perhaps mine will start showing up in searches now 🙂

    • oh for sure Bob...Martin gets imodeller stuff out there...i looked for that scale modeller no joy...if i ever come across it i will remember you but i'm pretty organized it's not here but if i find it on line i think you'll enjoy it...i know you love the dive bombers and torpedo planes...phils buc is gorgeous

  12. Really nice work on a little known subject. Vacs aren't so bad once you get going, and these days you probably aren't going far, so why not?

  13. I'll never tackle a Vac-form kit, but I did see the Special Hobby Buccaneer (1/72), and I'd like to add one of these oddities to my collection! Great job beating this into submission.

  14. Fantastic build and post! Great idea to build all dive bombers too! Persistence pays, Kudos.

  15. Great job and interesting subject. That must've took some work. Bet that'll make some USN fans take a second look trying to figure out what it is.

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