Saturday was the official start of the North Africa Groupbuild on Reddit! I like to do at least one groupbuild a year as it provides some interesting community involvement and often pushes me to do subjects that I would not normally do.
This groupbuild in particular had me thinking of all sorts of options. I have been itching to do the Hasegawa 1/72 Marauder and Eduard just released the kit with some of their own goodies in a limited edition “Wine Women & Song” boxing. I had to buy one. But, the implicit theme of the groupebuild is to build something in a livery that is unusual. Yeah, there were a few Royal Marauders in desert camo, but they were earlier models that can’t be built with the Hasegawa kit. In any event, I really wanted to do something American that I had not done -and- something that wasn’t just olive drab over neutral gray.
I ultimately decided on the A-20 Havoc as plenty were used in the Operation Torch time frame, and some of them had marvelous schemes of sand applied haphazard over OD over Neutral Gray. The odd schemes coupled with the many weathering options for the desert sand and heat make an interesting and challenging build.
I bought the 1/72 MPM A-20 Havoc “MTO” kit as well as the oldish 1/48 AMT/ERTL Havoc. After looking at both kits, and considering that I am behind on several very ambitious commission builds with due dates from October 3 to Christmas, I opted on the smaller of the two. As the AMT kit is the only Havoc currently available in 1/48, and as many of those kits exist (also reboxed by Italeri and Revell) I think I relegated the larger kit to an “unvarnished“review.
Even though Saturday was the official start, I have to admit that I jumped the gun and began building a few days earlier. Did I mention I am behind on some commission builds and time is of the essence?
Here are my notes:
4 – 12 August, 2020
- As I am still waiting on Eduard’s Zoom cockpit PE set, I decided to start on step 7 which is the wings. Immediately the kit felt like an older Eduard or Special Hobby offering. That is, it’s very ambitious but the fit of the parts and the molding quality is all over the place. I had to scratch-build the bulkheads in the engine nacelles as the kit parts were not usable. I augmented some detail here with some PE I had left over from some previous builds.
- Wings went together okay after some clean up and the oil cooler insets on top of the wing needed some attention to fit correctly and then sit as flush as possible. Some test fitting with the fuselage revealed that the wing root needed to be spread slightly to gain thickness to match the fuselage halves. I did this with some plasticard wedges that were pushed into place until the wings were roughly the correct shape to meet the fuselage appropriately. Further test fitting revealed that the mounting finger that goes from the wing into the fuselage is probably better if it is removed to allow the wing to float a bit during the gluing process.
- The Havoc has navigation lights on the top and bottom of each wing, and a light rear facing on the wing tip. These are molded in detail. I cut out the rear facing light carefully with a Dremel and placed colored resin plugs into the holes with gap filling super glue. I then sanded and polished those back until I had colored wingtip lights.
- Began the cockpit as the parts need a lot of clean up to get the proper alignment and to receive the incoming Eduard PE. The cockpit in the Havoc is one pilot with a step up and turtle deck behind him where a life raft is usually stowed. MPM had this as a one piece floor. I cut the floor at the step due to significant fit and alignment issues. There is still a major gap left that would be the rear cockpit bulkhead but I will address that later. The sidewalls were attached to the fuselage halves after clean up, with much test fitting before and after each part was added to incrementally address fit issues.
- As the cockpit PE still had not arrived, I returned to the wings and decided to deviate from everything I know about model building and attach the wings to the fuselage halves to begin to address the significant steps still left at this joint. I taped the halves together as firmly as possible and went to work. Checking alignment frequently I super glued the wings to the fuselage, shimmed, and added layers of gap filling super glue and sanded down the joints. About 2 hours worth of sanding, with about 5 coats of superglue and accelerator and the wing to fuselage has what appears to my eye to be a perfect joint.
- Once PE arrived, I spent about an hour bending the beautiful PE seat. It is significantly bigger than the kit seat and required moving the yoke forward to accept it. Luckily the sidewall detail did not interfere. A new technique I’ve begun using is for small PE that is not an attachment point or load bearing (like the angled back plate at the seat bottom), I use Future floor polish as an adhesive and gap filler. It works. Eduard supplied nice rudder pedals that were installed as well and look much better than the blobs of plastic in the kit.
- I had to remove the perforated bulk head detail along the sides of the turtle deck compartment to receive Eduard’s very nice replacements. After several test fit iterations, those were installed with a glue looper and super thin CA.
- The most frustrating part of the build to date has been the detail in the gunners compartment. All joints are essentially intended to be butt joined, so there is not an easy way to test fit the parts together without committing them to glue to one of the fuselage halves. This required some sanding and shaping the exposed edge of the parts to allow the fuselage to fit together. The instructions want some bulkhead and radio detail in the compartment to be fitted to the floor. I found alignment here easier to attach them to the fuselage sides with the fuselage taped together . To me this assured the best fit and was able to hide some alignment and fit issues that live beneath.
- Continuing with the gunner’s compartment, I decided to up the difficulty level and to show the canopy in the open position. This required some surgery with a Dremel. Once I had the parts separated I realized that the cut removes enough plastic that a canopy frame was now missing. I added that back with card stock and careful sanding. I noticed the moving part of the canopy was too wide to slide back under the greenhouse and partially into the fuselage, so I used the Dremel to cut it in half removing some material along the center line, and glued it back together. The fit was perfect. The fit of the glazings to the fuselage will need some clean up after gluing, but things are going in the right direction.
It’s about time to put down some color and detail/weather the cockpit. This time next week I hope to have the fuselage closed up and all of the seams/panel lines taken care of and the thing ready for primer.