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Academy 1/72 scale SB2C-4 Helldiver

Kit: No. 12406
Manufacturer: Academy, from Model Rectifier Corp., 732-225-2100,
Scale: 1/72
Price: $22
Comments: Injection-molded, 91 parts, decals
Pros: Excellent detail and fit, good cockpit and bomb bay interiors, canopies can be installed open or closed
Cons: No option to close bomb bay or open speed brakes, gunner's turtledeck molded in the raised position, decal errors
Slowly, steadily, Academy is becoming the go-to brand when it comes to 1/72 scale World War II aircraft. The SB2C-4 Helldiver is its latest, and it's a honey. The recessed details include indentations of the perforated dive flaps, which are molded closed. If you want them open, you'll have to obtain an aftermarket photoetched set. The leading-edge slats, however, are molded separately and can be installed retracted or deployed.

The cockpit and gunner's station interiors are well-detailed, and the canopies are thin and clear. Academy has molded the kit so the sliding portions of the canopies fit properly in open and closed positions. However, the rear turtledeck aft of the gunner's station is molded closed (raised), and it would be difficult to modify the kit parts to show the accordion-fold of the open turtledeck.

The bomb bay is molded with the doors in the open position, and there's no option to close them. The inside of the bay though, has plenty of detail, with a correct curved ceiling, double-bomb crutch, and two 500-pound bombs. The bombs have their own decals for stenciling and yellow rings fore and aft - a nice touch.

Decals provide markings for two sea-blue Helldivers from VB-85 on the USS Shangri-La, a tri-color example from VB- 3 on Yorktown, and a dark-gull-gray and white Atlantic patrol aircraft.

Academy has adopted the fashionable computer-generated shaded assembly drawings, and although they were easy to follow, they don't convey the size of the parts. A few of the tiny parts, such as the angled pitot tube and the bomb crutch, broke when I removed them from the sprues.

Fit, overall, was excellent, but assembling the gunner's seat and scarf ring was a bit tricky. Decals are provided for the instrument faces, or you can paint and dry-brush the raised details.

After masking the complex birdcage canopies, I painted the exterior with Model Master gloss sea blue and let it cure for 48 hours. I like the look of the red inside faces of dive flaps, but with no option to open them, I compromised. I applied a wash of Polly Scale flat white to the perforated brakes, removed the excess with a cotton swab dampened with Windex, then repeated the process with Polly Scale flame red. This gives a visual indication of the red interiors without much trouble.

The decals are beautifully printed and include stenciling in both black and white. There were a few errors. The size of some items was not the same as the features on the kit, most notably the decal for the three underwing ID lights. You'd better cut them apart or paint the lights instead. The instruction code numbers for the fin's lightning bolts were reversed, and the bolt for the underside of the left wing was not provided. The decals are a bit stiff and resisted solvents; I had to cut over panel and hinge lines to help them conform.

The finished model is vastly better than the old Airfix kit, and easier to build than the more recent Sword effort. Academy's Helldiver will surely be the choice among 1/72 scale builders, and modelers who want open speed brakes and closed bomb bays will be watching for new aftermarket accessories.

- Paul Boyer


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