PB4Y-1 USN "Calvert and Coke" with Two Options
The Consolidated PB4Y-1 was the navy version of the B-24 Liberator. Whereas the Army Air Corps used letter designations to identify the various versions of the B-24 (B-24D or B-24J for example) the US Navy used the same designation (PB4Y-1) for all models until the single-tail PB4Y-2. This means that the glaze-nosed B-24D and the turret-nosed B-24J were both called PB4Y-1 in Navy parlance. The kit reviewed here is the PB4Y-1 version of the B-24D.
Minicraft’s kit comes in a small, sturdy, top-opening box. The cover illustration is of a US Navy PB4Y-1 from VB-103, England, 1943. Inside are four sprues, two in light gray, and two in clear. There are thirty-eight light gray parts and thirteen in clear. The fuselage is for a B-24J, but a replacement nose, molded in clear, is included to convert to a D model. Instructions are simple and clear, with assembly broken into six simple steps. Two large diagrams cover the paint and decal schemes. Model Master Paints are called out.
The plastic itself was cleanly molded with very little flash to be found on the gray sprues. More flash was found on the clear sprues. Most of the plastic is a re-issue from a mid-70s Crown kit, so panel lines are raised. I suspect the replacement nose, with engraved panel lines, is newer.
Construction begins with major surgery. Since basic kit is of a B-24J, the nose on both halves of the fuselage needs to be removed, just forward of the cockpit. I used a razor saw, and the clear replacement nose fits surprisingly well. I was concerned that grafting a clear section onto the softer gray plastic would be an issue. Sanding and filling was required, but as much as expected. I do find it odd that the basic fuselage has raised panel lines, whereas the replacement nose has engraved lines.
Cockpit detail entails a simple platform with two seats molded into it. There are no instrument panel or seat belt decals, which are included in some other Minicraft 1/144 B-24s. Instructions also suggest adding weight, but not how much, to the nose to keep the model from sitting on its tail. Once the two fuselage halves were glued together, some work was needed on the seams. There is a flattened section on the upper fuselage, where the top turret sits. Care must be taken not to damage this area when eliminating the upper seam.
The wings come in two halves each, which went together with no problem. Just a touch of filler was needed on the leading edges, but the undersides, near the tips, required quite a bit. Each engine is represented, with its nacelle, as a single piece. There is no engine detail, and the cowl flaps are really thick. There is also no wheel well detail. Two types of propellers are included: 1) normal three bladed versions, and 2) hub-only versions to represent the props in motion. I painted the wings separate from the fuselage so I could have an easier time masking off the de-icer boots.
Once the fuselage and stabilizers were assembled and painted (I used Gunze Mr. Color Flat White and Dark Gray) I added the wings, which fit nicely into a deep pocket in the fuselage. I shot the whole thing in Future, followed by the application of the excellent Cartagraf decals. Once dried, everything was sealed in a matte coat.
The nose glazing has very fine framing. After trying unsuccessfully to mask these lines, I hit on the idea of using decal paper. Since the nose is white, I cut thin strips from some white Testors decal paper and applied them to the nose. A couple sessions were required, but the results were better than I could have gotten if I had painted using masking tape. Before fitting the nose, I added the three machine guns. They are a tight fit, so I had to touch up some paint that was scraped off getting them through the holes in the fuselage and nose glazing. The turrets are also molded in clear, and the guns for these look significantly over-sized. There is no framing on the turrets, and the rear turret does not fill the space very well where it is supposed to fit. The upper cockpit glass is not a great fit; it is a bit undersized.
The last part of the build was the landing gear. The nose wheel fits well, and there are no nose gear doors to deal with, per the instructions. The main gear was a different story. There is a spot on the wings for them to go, and there is a shaft on the gear that is supposed to go in said slot. But the strut does not fit, and even when “wedged” into place, the gear is at a strange angle. I ended up applying some medium viscosity CA in the area, holding the gear in what I thought was the proper position and “locking” it in place with some accelerant. Even then the lower struts had to be bent to avoid a distinct camber to the wheels.
In the end, it looks like a B-24D (PB4Y-1). The shape looks good, the markings look good, and the conversion from a J to a D was not too challenging. The kit is showing its age and the main gear are an issue. Some thin brass rod for the gun barrels would be a simple scratch upgrade that would improve the look.
- US Navy PB4Y-1, VB-103, England, 1943
- US Navy PB4Y-1, Naval Modification Unit, Pennsylvania, 1948
Lack of cockpit, engine and wheel-well detail, main landing gear fit, cockpit glazing fit, turret detail, over-sized guns, mix of raised and engraved panel lines.
This is a nice kit, which despite some issues due to age, goes together easily and looks good when complete.
Thanks to Minicraft and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this neat little kit.