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Robert Knaack
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Helldiver Conversion

September 2, 2020 · in Aviation · · 16 · 3.3K

The inspiration for this project was the photo of torpedoes being loaded onto Helldivers of VB-2 on the U.S.S. Hornet. The aircraft in the photo is the -1C version of the , and since I had a Pro-Modeler SB2C-4 kit that I had bought for parts for my Buccaneer project, I thought I'd try my hand at doing a conversion from -4 to -1C. I did some internet research to find the following list of conversion items:

  1. Insertion of the windows behind the pilot's cockpit.
  2. Scratch building of the turnover pylon now visible in the windows.
  3. Modification of the gunner's sliding canopy back to the –1/3 version, and deletion of the external canopy rail below the cockpit sill.
  4. Replacement of the kit prop with 3-bladed version and spinner
  5. Replacement of the perforated P/E dive flaps with the solid type found on the –1C.
  6. Filling in the recesses for the under-wing rocket stub mounts.

Since most of the interior cockpit detail parts from this kit went into the Buccaneer, I had to cobble together bits from the parts bin for the pilots cabin, and even went so far as to resin cast a couple of parts out of an old Monogram kit - my very first try at resin-casting. After cutting out the turtle back for the window behind the pilot, I scratch build the rollover bar, and trimmed and fitted the pilot's canopy from the old Monogram kit into the window opening. The details in the gunner's position aren't readily visible, so I just left them out.
I modified the gunners canopy and removed the rails, modified the prop spinner by filling in three holes and drilling two new ones, and filled in the rocket attachments. I meant to build it with the lower flaps open for takeoff, but did not realize I needed to cut out the lower flap mechanism from the wing before I glued it all together, so they are closed - bummer! Flaps are just sheet styrene cut to shape and glued in. The torpedo came from the Great Wall Hobbies TBD Devastator kit.
The aircraft is painted in three-tone scheme, with insignia white on the lower surfaces. My airbrush is getting old and won't do fine lines anymore, so I ended up masking it off with tape. I used Model Master enamel for the insignia white, Vallejo Air acrylic for the intermediate blue, and Model Master acrylic for the dark sea blue. The project was marred in the end by the poor performance of the decals, which silvered terribly. I actually removed the smaller numbers and re-applied with white glue for an improved result, but I still have silvering on the big numbers and the national insignia.
All in all, it was a fun project done with a throw-away kit, and even with it's flaws, it's still a good replacement for my Monogram moving-parts Helldiver in my dive-bomber collection.

Reader reactions:
8  Awesome

10 additional images. Click to enlarge.

16 responses

  1. It's an interesting conversion, but having written a book on Air Group 2, I can honestly say I don't know what that photo caption is about (which isn't surprising, the number of incorrect photo captions from WW2 photography is truly astounding). There was never a time when any airplane on the Hornet other than TBMs was ever loaded with a torpedo. I'm pretty sure those torpedoes were on their way past that SB2C to the TBMs behind it. I also did a check and there's nothing in the Schiffer book on the Helldiver (which is definitive) about such an attempt.

    That said, you did a really excellent conversion of the SB2C-4 kit back to an SB2C-1C. You hit all the right notes there, and having done it myself I know it's not that easy. You're lucky you didn't try to drop the flaps - the interior of upper and lower dive flaps is far more complicated than anyone is ever going to do without using the Eduard photoetch set, a project that I can assure you from having done it twice (being a glutton for punishment) will send you up the walls.

    A "like" for creativity and skill in conversion.

    2 attached images. Click to enlarge.

    • You're probably right, Tom. I didn't run across any historical accounts myself to support the photo caption. I originally found these other photos of SB2C-4's with torpedoes and was going to go that route, before I ran across the photo from the Hornet. I was intrigued by the idea of Helldivers dropping torpedoes in actual combat settings. It's a plausible scenario, but as you note, may not have ever happened. @tcinla

      2 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  2. An outstanding conversion/build! On one of my recent builds I hung a Tomahawk cruise missile on a Phantom, after seeing a photo of the two in flight together, in turned out that the F-4 was flying chase on said missile.

  3. This is a great concept, Robert, excellently built!
    I loved reading about all those mods to bring the -4 to -1 status.
    Also liked the fact that this "leftover" kit had its chance to be built.
    Well done!

  4. 🙂 ... Greetings ... 🙂 :
    Very nice conversion job on that model Robert.
    It has been awhile since I last saw a Helldiver model.

  5. A nice looking Helldiver, Robert.
    Maybe an additional layer of varnish could have reduced the silvering.
    Although the silvering is not really that noticeable to me.

  6. Robert, @robgenev665
    This is a neat looking plane, and you did a wonderful job with back dating it to the earlier version.
    It would be interesting to see if it ever did carry a torpedo in combat, but chances are very good it didn't. From what I have been told the bomb bay had to be reconfigured to carry torpedoes. The Avenger's were tasked with dropping torpedoes at this stage of the War. I'm not disputing what you have posted, as clearly you can see a torpedo hanging from the bomb bay. It's always great to have pictures like this when you post up something different.

    I like what you have done here. I pressed the "liked" button too. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  7. Nicely done - always fun to do a bit of conversion here and there to get what you want out of a project. This came out very nice.

  8. @lgardner Louis, thanks for the comments. I learned a few things while researching this topic. Mainly that by war's end, Mark 13 torpedoes could be dropped from 800 feet at 300 knots, after the plane had dived at 20-40 degrees from a higher altitude. I always assumed that the "low and slow" method used in 1942 was the norm for torpedo attacks, but this video demonstrated the new tactics:

    Note that at the 24:50 mark in the video, they are loading a torpedo into a Helldiver bomb bay. Interesting topic, I too wonder if it was ever implemented.

  9. This is apropos of probably nothing, but the SB2C-4 in War Thunder can carry both the Mk13 and the Mk13 Mod 44 as an armament option. Haven't tried it in action yet...

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