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Dora Wings Gee Bee R1

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/48 scale aircraft kit with nice engines
RELATED TOPICS: AIRCRAFT
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Built for the 1932 racing season by Granville Brothers Aircraft, the Gee Bee R series consisted of two sister ships, the R1 and R2. Featuring a radical new design, the R1 would go on to win the Thompson Trophy race, and its pilot, Jimmy Doolittle, would also set a land speed record of 296 mph. 

The only difference between the R1 and R2 were the engines. A Pratt & Whitney R-1340 powered the R1, while the R2 (which was built for cross-country racing) used the smaller, lighter P&W R-985. 

After releasing a 1/48 scale kit of the Gee Bee R2, Dora Wings has now added the R1. The two kits use many of the same parts, including the decal sheet. The R1 kit has a new sprue to accommodate the bigger engine and cowl. 

Molded in light gray plastic, the kit features finely molded parts, however the treatment of the fabric covered area of the fuselage is overstated. Two clear parts are provided for the canopy — while they are fairly clear, they are too thick. A small photo-etch (PE) fret includes interior details, a support ring for the rear of the cowl, and the flying wires. 

A set of vinyl masks is provided to paint the scallop design on the wings and fuselage. The nice looking decal sheet is the same one provided in the R2 kit, having all the markings for both planes. While the instruction booklet is small, it contains clear assembly diagrams and a full four-view painting and decaling instructions.

Once all of the major parts of the cockpit were glued together I used the fuselage halves to make sure all of the bulkheads were aligned. Once dry, the interior was detailed and painted. A decal is provided for the instrument panel. To be honest, virtually none on the interior is visible once the canopy is in place. You do have the option of opening the side hatch by cutting out the opening and using a separate door to show off more of the interior. 

The fuselage halves fit together well but I spent a lot of time working on the lower rear part A6 and the forward vent panel A7. Once I got them to fit, just a little bit of putty and some Mr. Surfacer blended them into the fuselage.

The wings went together quickly. They are thin with good trailing edges. The separate ailerons required careful sanding on the ends for fit. I assembled the cowl but waited to install it until it was painted, bucking the directions. 

The landing gear was assembled but left it off until final assembly. I found that I got a better fit if I drilled out the location dimples in the wing roots and the landing gear locations with an appropriately sized bit. 

Once the wings were glued to the fuselage, gaps were filled with some stretched sprue. After removing excess sprue, Mr. Surfacer was added and sanded smooth. Don’t forget to remove the navigation lights from the wings and fuselage, the R1 didn’t have them. 

The engine parts required a lot of cleanup and at first I wasn’t impressed with the detail, but once it was assembled and painted it looked quite nice.

Using Tamiya paint, I primed the body, cowl, and landing gear with a coat of fine white primer. After checking the seams, I sprayed pure white (TS-26). Once that dried, I applied the vinyl masks and painted the red areas with bright red (TS-49). The vinyl masks worked well. I only had issues with where they went over the fuselage’s heavy ribbing — these areas had to be re-masked with Tamiya tape, sprayed white, and then hand-painted red.

The thin decals are nicely printed and reacted well to Microscale Micro Set and Sol. Once the decals were dry I gave the painted surfaces a coat of clear (TS-13). 

Perhaps the most trying part of assembly was adding the PE flying wires. While they are nice and thin, they curled as soon as I cut them from the fret. I eventually got them in place, but there are a few wobbly ones. If I were to build another Gee Bee I would replace the flying wires.

I spent 44 hours building my Gee Bee R1 — most of that was in parts prep and painting. The finished model matched reference dimensions perfectly. 

While glossy airplanes are not my strong suit, I’ve always loved the Gee Bee. One of my early builds back in the ’60s was the Hawk Gee Bee kit. I think this one might have turned out a little better. 


Note: A version of this review appeared in the February 2019 issue.

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