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HK Models big B-17

One of the most famous aircraft, the B-17 Flying Fortress, has been kitted by many companies in smaller scales. But a 1/32 B-17? Are you kidding me?

Actually, this is HK’s second release of the mighty Fortress in this scale — the first was the later G version. HK modified its G kit to include the non-staggered waist windows and early tail gun position to allow the earlier B-17E or F to be built. There are three markings options in the kit — one E and two early Fs, including Memphis Belle. All include minor detail changes — especially in the nose glass. Not mentioned are parts still in the box for the G — some of which would be usable for a late F.

There are a lot of parts in the huge box — close to 600. Prepare for many hours of clipping and prepping. Because the model is so big, and the attachment points are secure and well designed, I decided to finish the wings, stabilizers, and fuselage separately and mate them at the end.

The interior takes up most of the build time, with loads of detail in every compartment. The instructions for the nose are especially complicated — make sure you’re looking at your selected version. HK has included resin ammunition chutes for the many machine guns — but without positive alignment to the gun breeches, they are a bit hard to mount correctly. All the gun barrels are separate except those mounted in the nose, allowing attachment after finishing. I modified the nose guns using metal beads to allow the barrels to be attached after painting. There are no alignment guides for any of the floor-standing ammunition boxes, so careful placement is up to you.

In general, the fit of the interior parts is outstanding — there may even be too many attachment points. I removed the pins on the side wall of the cockpit, for instance, as they aren’t necessary for placement. Test-fit frequently and you won’t have problems. I had to trim the sides of the bomb-bay walls, but that was the only significant problem.

Because this is such a large, detailed kit, there are numerous ejector-pin marks in the fuselage side and bulkheads. Many won’t be seen, but others will need to be filled or scraped away. I attached the nose and tail halves to each fuselage half prior to assembling the fuselage in the hopes that it would prevent problems with alignment of the large, circumferential seams. That worked for the most part, but fit overall was good enough that it might have been OK to attach the nose and tail as units anyway. The upper fuselage decking on my example was warped, but gluing and clamping a section at a time straightened it.

Details abound in the rest of the kit as well. The bomb bay has a full load of 500-pound bombs available, although there are no marking decals for them. The bomb-bay doors are unfortunately a maze of ejector-pin marks that are difficult to remove. The nose and ball turrets are detailed inside as well. For some reason, the center structure of the top turret does not fit all the way down onto the gun shelf, but it doesn’t matter — it fits inside the mechanism just fine and looks great. Make sure the ball-turret ring and internal support are firmly glued in place to hold the ball turret. Gravity holds the top turret just fine. However, the ball turret is missing ammo cans attached to the turret support. The engines also are nicely detailed and fit together well.

The gear bays are multipart assemblies that include side wall detail. Make sure to carefully clean up and tightly clamp these assemblies so they fit inside the inner engine nacelles without interference. There are optional parts for retracted and extended landing gear, and the kit includes a substantial mounting bracket if you desire to fix it to a wall. The fit of the extended gear legs into the bays was very tight — so tight that they aren’t glued in place. The wheels are a tight fit on the legs as well. Detail purists may wish to replace the tires, as there is an odd, raised tread pattern where the tire halves meet.

The wings are huge parts that fit together reasonably well. I needed filler at a couple of spots on the leading edge and at the nacelle halves. HK incorrectly molded trim tabs on both upper aileron halves and none on the lower halves. In reality the left aileron has a trim tab and the right does not, so I filled the upper right tab and scribed the lower left one.

All the clear parts fit beautifully, and, thanks to the timely release of Eduard’s pre-cut mask set, they were installed and ready to paint in no time. I used the unused radio window and extra waist windows in the kit as masks. Holes for the doors were masked with makeup applicator foam.

I used Tamiya olive drab (TS-5) and neutral gray (AS-7) spray cans to quickly and evenly apply a base coat. These were followed by patchy applications of lightened versions of both colors on the entire airframe, along with faded olive drab on the fabric-covered ailerons, elevators, and rudder.

Decals went down beautifully. The only minor issue is a bit of translucence of the white on the national insignias.

I assembled all the major airframe components after finishing was complete. Fit of the elevators was completely satisfactory. However, the wings only fit well on the bottom, while the wing root was a bit raised on the top surface. On the plus side, the slot and groove attachment method is very sturdy. I didn’t use any glue.

HK’s B-17 is a huge canvas for creative weathering and finishing techniques, and I could have spent many more hours on that aspect alone. As it was, the kit took 94 hours. HK’s Flying Fort builds into an exceptional replica that is achievable by modelers with a few kits under their belt. Bring on the Lancaster, HK!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the May 2017 issue.

HK's B-17 is a huge kit with lots of detailed parts. That means the toolmakers had their work cut out for them making sure the parts trees popped out of the molds cleanly. This results in marks from the pins used to do this, known as ejector pin marks. There are quite a few as you would expect, but most won't be visible and the others are easy to fill or scrape away.


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