Friday, September 28, 2012

Building the Revell 1/48 PV-1 Ventura Part 1

By:  Brad Perry
Model photos:  Milton Bell

I've wanted a good 1/48 scale model kit of the Lockheed PV-1 Ventura for several decades so when Revell released its new kit back in January of this year I was very happy.  I've finally reduced my backlog on the workbench enough to start building this great kit and I'm having lots of fun.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the buzz the kit precipitated on the usual suspect modeling forums, and grateful as well.  there were of course some of the typical nit-picks and off-the-cuff misstatements, but there were also numerous valuable posts in which enthusiasts shared details from PV-1 technical manuals so that modelers (like me) could add or improve detail to this already great kit.

I believe Revell's 1/48 PV-1 Ventura is the best value in scale for 2012 at $36.98.  The PV-1 is a relatively large twin engined subject.  Most other new multi engined kits in this scale cost much more.  The Revell kit has abbreviated interior detail, but it has few windows, other than the cockpit, which allow the viewer to see inside anyway.  Revell was probably able to cut development cost by omitting most interior detail.  There are some parts in the box not used which indicate that a future release will feature the earlier conventional bomber nose.  Even with the lack of interior detail, I stand by my earlier "best value" statement as even some single engine models cost twice as much (see Great Wall Hobby TBD Devastator).

The kit can be built relatively quickly and reasonably accurately straight out of the box.   Like all kits,  this one is not perfect.  The lack of interior detail mentioned earlier is not an issue for me because what is visible inside (the cockpit) is nicely done.  The rear cockpit bulkhead is, however, inaccurate.  The kit crew entry is located conventionally on the kit bulkhead's center line.  The actual aircraft only has a crew bulkhead for approximately the first 1/3 of the width of the fuselage on the port (left) side behind the pilot's seat.  The kit seats, engine control pedestal, and instrument panel are nicely done.  These items are about all you can easily see, so if painted well, you will have a nice cockpit.  Another weak area of this kit are the props.  They are nicely cast, but have incorrect blades with profiles that are too thin.  All PV-1 Venturas had fat paddle blade props.  Several aftermarket companies have come out with correct replacements.  I decided to correct mine with the True Details offering.  These props are nice and easy for me to obtain at the shop.
True Details 1/48 PV-1 prop with correct fat prob blades (Photo:

 I have chosen to do some additional modifications to my kit.  I'll be using kit decals and chose the second option on the sheet which is the aircraft commanded by Lt. Butch Mason of VB-135.  This squadron operated from Casco Field on Attu Island in the Aleutians chain (Check it out on Google Maps.  Hasn't changed much since WW2).  I discovered that VB-135 had modified its aircraft in order to perform night photo reconnaissance and attack over the Japanese Kurile Islands.  I decided to perform these same modifications to my model to make it more accurate.  I have focused my efforts on the nose, cockpit, and bomb bay, plus some small external changes.  I found a description of these modifications in the long out of print book Empire Express which discusses the history of USN PV-1 squadrons in the Aleutians during World War 2.

Scratch built K-19 camera, photo flash trigger unit, and camera mount seen through bombardier's window. 
I'll start the build discussion with the nose section of the model.  VB-135 field installed K-19 night recon cameras in their Venturas.  They mounted them to shoot through the bomb sight window.  I started my nose upgrade by adding aircraft internal structural detail.  I used my trusty dividers to measure the corresponding external panel lines, cut evergreen strips to those lengths,  and glued them inside the nose using my micrometer eyeball for the proper positions.  I then found a picture of  the K19 camera on the internet.  I knew that the K19 had a 13" focal length so I used that dimension for the lens barrel, then used my micrometer eyeball again to proportion the camera body.  I used Evergreen tube, sanded and tapered, for the lens barrel.  Various scrap Evergreen was used to construct the camera body and photo flash activation unit.  A silver MV lens coated with Tamiya clear black was used for the camera lens.  After making the camera, I painted it dark gray, applied black oil wash, and dry brushed light gray.  I added decal info placards from a Microscale N scale diesel data sheet and Detail Master power cables.  I then scratch built a camera rack and mounted the assembly above the bomb sight window.

Back view of K-19 and photo flash trigger which also shows nose interior structure.

Stock kit bomb bay painted and weathered.
Bomb bay with scratch built fuel tank dry fit.

I next turned my attention to the bomb bay.  VB-135 installed an extra fuel tank in the rear section of the bomb bay.  I found diagrams of the installation on line ( and scratch built the tank.  To replicate the tank, I laminated .080" Evergreen sheet to approximately the correct depth.  I made a sanding template to reflect the correct profile of the tank and sanded the laminated slab to shape.  I glued on plastic strip to represent stiffeners, and then primed and painted.  If you make a tank be sure that it doesn't fit too tightly against  the bulkheads.  You have to leave room for the bomb bay door actuators which share the space.  I've also made a new bomb rack for the forward bomb bay to reconfigure it to accommodate three 500 lb. bombs.

Cockpit module with modified crew bulkhead.
Kit seats with Eduard color seat belts.
After doing doing the above modifications, I shifted my attention to my favorite part of any project, the cockpit.  I purchased and installed an Eduard zoom set for the PV-1 cockpit.  I added .005" clear plastic sheet into the Eduard color etch instrument panel sandwich.  The clear plastic gives the instruments uniform "glass" faces.  The Eduard throttle, prop, mixture, cowl flap control console upgrade is a nice improvement over the kit part.  The Eduard control levers are more delicate and provide more definition than the kit equivalents.  I also used the color etch seat belts and  shoulder harnesses.  These always look great unless I flake off the color while bending them to fit the seat contour.  I managed to not flake color in this case! I added cloth tape wrapping to the control yokes using thin white glue and buff paint.  I scratch built a clock for the top of the instrument panel combing and detailed the back of the panel as it is somewhat visible through a v shaped forward opening.  I next decided to fix the inaccurate rear cockpit bulkhead.  I cut off the errant right 2/3 of the bulkhead and added correct detail from photos using Evergreen strip stock.
Detail added to rear instrument panel and cabin bulkhead.

Scratch built radio operator station behind crew bulkhead.
Starboard and rear bulkhead detail of R/O station.
As noted earlier,  Revell didn't provide much detail to the rear of the cockpit.  After correcting the cockpit bulkhead, I realized that I now had a huge empty hole in my model where there should have been a scale radio operator's compartment.  I broke out my Ginter Publications book on the PV-1 and started plotting to scratch build said R/O compartment.  Everything in the compartment was made with Evergreen plastic except the R/O seat.  I stole the seat out of my yet-to-be-built Great Wall Hobby P-61A Black Widow.  My P-61 won't have an upper turret and won't need the gunner's seat.  The squadron of the aircraft I will build removed all the gunner's equipment, including the seat, to lighten the unit's aircraft.  The Great Wall seat looks good in the Revell PV-1 also.  It comes with rollers on its base which I mounted on a scratch built tube track.  Lockheed built PV-1s with interior paneling to the forward crew compartment walls which hid internal aircraft structure.   I added paneling to the fuselage walls.  This was easy except for precisely fitting it around the cabin windows.  I also made the R/O compartment rear bulkhead and floor.  I then built the R/O desk which includes lower left hand drawer, and built in clipboard to the right rear corner.  I populated the fuselage walls and bulkhead with various radio equipment seen in photos from the Ginter book on the PV-1.  As a final touch I made a fire extinguisher which I attached to the right wall above and behind the cabin window.  I'm happy with the way it looks and realize that it won't be very visible when the model is finished, but I had fun doing it.  You will, however, be able to see that something is going on back there besides a dark void.
Port R/O station.

 Now that I had everything in the fuselage, it was time to assemble the the major model components.  Fit of the parts is very good.  Wings and tail surfaces almost snap in place, and alignment is easy.  Minimal self-inflicted seem filling and finish sanding will be required.  I've dry mounted the engine nacelles to the wing and their fit is almost perfect with virtually no gaps or steps.  I'll glue them in place after installing the main landing gear struts.  I'm very impressed as this area has often been problematic on other kits.  Now my Ventura is taking shape.

Great fit of nacelle to wing (Dry fit).
I have a few more things to do before I start painting.  I've already added spark plug wires and rocker drain suction tubes to the kit R2800 engines.  I plan on adding some detail to the inside of the windscreen and canopy including backup compass and ring gun sight as seen in photos.  I probably won't add much to the main landing gear bays as the kit detail is reasonably complete for what will be seen.  I'm also looking at the shape of the barbette fairing for the Martin turret on the rear upper fuselage.  It appears to be correctly flush with the top of the fuselage at the forward and rear ends.  Photos, however, indicate that the sides curve downward from the top of the fuselage.  As molded, the lack of downward curve makes the fairing appear tall.  I've corrected the shape by sanding the sides down in order to improve the kit's shape.  I haven't, however, seen any photos of finished Venturas that have corrected this, and the finished models look good. In addition, I'm adding details to the turret interior to improve the accuracy of the visible areas.   The only other modifications I'll make concern antennas. I'll add an additional D/F loop antenna to the lower forward nose of the model.  I'll also replace the upper fuselage kit D/F with a smaller diameter antenna to match the one seen in photos of the aircraft I am building.  Both D/F loops will come from Tamiya 1/48 P-47 Thunderbolts.
Kit engines with added detail in progress. 

This wraps up part one.  Stay tuned for part two where I'll paint and finish this project.

Special thanks to Milton Bell for taking the great photos for this blog.            



1 comment:

  1. Great job so far. First one I have seen with the correct pilot bulkhead. Kudos!

    The Navy never painted the bomb bay or wheel wells in zinc chromate like the Army does. These areas should be white for the three tone scheme. I've yet to see a PV-1 model painted correctly. See:

    I have studied this aircraft for 25 years. If you need further documentation or clarification please feel free to contact me. 2nd generation VB-144 of decease pilot. Len