Dragon, from Dragon Models USA, 626-968-0322, www.dragonmodelsusa.comPrice:
Injection-molded, 682 parts (61 photoetched-brass), decalsPros:
Well-detailed; waterline or full-hull options; Korean War aircraft and fitment details; excellent decals; good fitCons:
Instructions are vague, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate
Dragon's series of 1/700 scale Essex-class carriers reaches the post-World War II-era to depict the Bon Homme Richard as she appeared during the Korean War. Alternate parts are provided for changes in weapons stations, island galleries, radars, and aircraft. Dragon includes fine photoetched-metal details for antenna masts and dishes and the complex port-side deck elevator understructure. The option for building a full hull is a modern bonus over the old "waterline" series of kits that made this ship scale so popular.
Dragon's Essex kits are excellent, especially compared with the '70s-era Hasegawa kits. Detail is much more refined (resulting in a huge part count), and alternate parts cover many of the hull-to-hull differences among the class. Because of that, and the inclusion of several sprues of generic guns and controllers, a lot of parts are left over when you're done. Fit is not a problem, although I did not try the full-hull option. I like the inclusion of a pair of little tugboats.
However, the instructions are inconsistent, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, leaving you guessing which parts go where. It seems the beginning steps are for a WWII-era ship, and the later steps for the Korean War ship. For example, Step 2 has you build 31 twin 20mm guns (two tiny parts each), but you end up installing only six of them on the island in Step 7. Also in Step 2, the assembly of the 5" gun-directing radars are the early type with W-shaped antennas. But by Step 7, when they are installed, they are suddenly shown as the later type (with parabolic antennas). The instructions never show that you have to cut the antenna mounts from the director turrets (part No. K16) and install new mounts (part No. h6) while attaching the dishes (Part Nos. h7).
There is also a mysterious measurement shown for placement of unknown parts alongside the aft starboard side of the flight deck. The underpinnings of the port-side, deck-edge elevator are provided in fine photoetched brass - and this looks great. However, the drawings are poor when it comes to folding the fragile elevator- edge net frames. I gave up and left them off.
Dragon provides a small selection of aircraft (all molded in clear plastic) with separate, infinitesimal landing gear; some of the aircraft have separate, folded wing panels. You get two each of F9F Panther, F2H Banshee, F4U Corsair, AD Skyraider, and HO3S Dragonfly helicopters. Also included are a pair of F9F Cougars, though these were not in combat during the Korean War. The instructions show the Banshee's wings folded outward, but they should fold past the vertical until the tip-tanks nearly touch.
I painted the model in the "haze gray" scheme of the period, and used a weathered deck blue for the flight deck. I drybrushed with brown to show wear.
The best part of the kit is the excellent Cartograf decal sheet, with tiny insignia, NAVY, and air-wing codes for all the aircraft. The bottom views of the aircraft markings are wrong - the insignia should be on the bottom of the right wing, NAVY on the bottom of the left wing.
The deck markings went on perfectly without a hint of silvering, even though I didn't use a gloss coat on the flight deck. I think there should be a narrow line of yellow dashes down the middle of the flight deck, but no decals were provided for it.
Dragon's kit turns into a fine-looking model of an important class of warships. It took me 37 hours to finish mine.
Experienced modelers will be able to hurdle the poor instructions, but beginners may trip and fall.
- Paul Boyer