Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About The 1/48 B-17 And Then Some
Images and text Copyright © 2006/2012 by Matt Swan
In 1928 the seeds of the idea that would ultimately become the B-17 Flying Fortress were planted during a visit from Boeing Vice President Clairmont Egtveldt to Rear Admiral Joseph Reed aboard the Navy aircraft carrier Langley. The idea was proposed to develop an aerial battleship capable of effectively taking the battle to an enemy. As a result of this conversation Boeing developed the model 200 then model 221 but without the development of a controllable pitch propeller they were only stepping stones. As a result of an engineering study performed in 1933 another stepping stone was achieved in the XB-15. This was a large wing, four engine aircraft that bore a striking resemblance to the future bomber but still lacked the controllable pitch propeller which greatly reduced its range and increased its fuel consumption. Project 299 which was the developmental designation of the future heavy bomber actually began in 1935 and borrowed heavily from the XB-15 program (which didn't actually fly until 1937) which was referred to as "Old Grandpappy" by project engineers.
In July 1935 the prototype model 299 took to the air for the first time and a Seattle newspaper man who saw the aircraft exclaimed "Why it's a flying fortress!" The 299 ended its life prematurely in a fiery crash at Wright Field when the tail surface locks had not been released prior to take-off. Even with this unhappy accident the General Staff authorized a limited production of thirteen of the aircraft now designated YB-17 but all was not smooth sailing. Conflicts with mission profile and area of operations between the Army and the Navy threatened the programs future at every turn. Several times the program teetered on the edge of extinction. Boeing and military procurement officials clashed repeatedly over construction costs and many features were trimmed off the aircraft in an attempt to bring the costs closer to that demanded by hostile bureaucrats. These first YB-17s flew more than 9000 hours performing good will missions to Argentina and Brazil. One young navigation officer who flew in these aircraft was none other than Curtis Emerson LeMay.
By 1939 the Y prefix had been dropped and these aircraft were now operating as B-17B. Next 38 B-17Cs were under production and still there were cost conflicts that required the intervention of the then new Chief of the Air Corps, Henry H. (Hap) Arnold. The trimmings that were done to the aircraft at this point resulted in a new designation - the B-17D. The first B-17Cs were intended only for training and most were shipped to England as the Fortress I. Things did not go well for these aircraft as they were used for combat operations with crews barely trained in their use. Surviving examples were regulated to coastal command duties. Things really took a step forward with the E model which was the first offensive version of the aircraft. In 1942 a single E model, the ninth production unit, was pulled from the line and modified to carry four Allison V-1710-89 liquid cooled V-12 engines to test the feasibility of changing over to this more powerful engine. The prototype flew in 1943 and was undergoing operational tests for two months when an engine caught fire and the aircraft was destroyed. Due to high demand for Allison engines with P-38s and P-40s and only minimal performance increase for the bomber the program was terminated. The F was the first real mass production of the Flying Fortress. The F still had problems especially around the nose with weak defensive armament. In an effort to protect bomber formations a gunship version was developed as the YB-40. Thirteen of these were built but were unable to keep up with the bomber formations once they dropped their cargo and ran for home. One thing that did come from this program was the chin turret which was incorporated into the design with the G. Later G models incorporated staggered waist gun positions and a Cheyenne tail turret.
512 Es were produced followed by 3400 Fs then 8680 G type. As a result of the massive amount of press that the aircraft received it was often referred to as "The Glory Wagon" by crews. Many crews named their aircraft and applied various nose art. The most common name for a B-17 was "Big Assed Bird" in reference to the large tail surfaces. The end of the war did not mean the end of the story for the B-17. The navy got involved with the B-17 program when they acquired the last twenty B-17Gs manufactured and converted them for use as Airborne Warning And Command Systems (AWACS). These units had the bomb bays welded shut after ferry tanks were permanently installed then had large surface radar units attached to the belly.
They carried the designation PB-1W or Patrol Bomber 1 Warning, the AWACS designation came later on. The Coast Guard also operated the B-17 as B-17Hs or SB-17s. These aircraft had the nose turret replaced with a radar unit and cables run through the bomb bay doors attached to a boat manufactured by Higgins (yeah, the same guys that made the Higgins Landing Craft) designed to conform to the curvature of the aircraft. This boat could be air dropped to downed aircraft crews at sea or to survivors of sunken ships. During the testing of the nuclear bomb several aircraft were used as test aircraft and others were modified as drone ships. A few were even loaded with explosives and tested as huge flying bombs. As the type moved out of military service many were converted to long range mapping aircraft, corporate craft or fire bombers. Recently one of those used as a test subject for nuclear bombs has cooled down and been restored for museum display.
1975 was a good year. Casper Weinberger had left the Nixon Administration and returned to private practice with the Bechtel Group, Honda began research and development operations in California, Steve Jobs co-founded Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak and Jack Nicholson was the latest new star in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was just laying the foundation for a movie cult, a retired actor named Ronald Regan was making his first bid for presidency of The United States and two major manufactures of plastic models released competing versions of the venerable B-17 Flying Fortress in 1/48 scale. Yes, 1975 was a very good year.
The Revell Company in Venice California and Monogram Models in Morton Grove Illinois had both been working towards production molds for the B-17 in 1/48, Revell working on the F model kit #4701 with markings for "Memphis Belle" and Monogram working on the G model kit #5600 with markings for "Chow Hound" and "El Lobo II". Coincidentally the two kits hit the market at virtually the same time (Monogram slightly before Revell) and a surprising similarity in some interior parts was seen. Officials at Monogram cast a suspicious eye on Revell and the comment "Don't let it happen again" was heard. Any competitive animosity was soon laid to rest when Monogram purchased all of Revell's tooling and shipped it to the Illinois plant. Over the next three or four years they continued to be marketed as separate companies then the catalogs were merged creating the now familiar Revell-Monogram logo.
The B-17G featured a large amount of interior detail and in an effort to display it Monogram introduced the "Visible B-17" in 1979 that included a spare left side fuselage done in clear polystyrene. Rumors abound that this single short production run was never repeated due to various problems with the clear plastic like internal bubbles and shipping damages. The truth is slightly more mundane; the "Visible B-17" just never sold well. Today, nearly thirty years later, we see these kits selling on E-Bay for prices well in excess of $100.00. Unfortunately for the serious modeler/collector this has not phased Monogram's feelings that there still is not enough market demand to reissue this version. They feel this collector's price is a result of a very small segment of the market willing to pay elevated prices for the kit.
The B-17F kit, while doing a very good job of representing the exterior profile of the bomber was seriously lacking for interior detail. Even the G had some weak points such as a lack of bomb bay detailing. In 1979 when the "Visible B-17" project was conceived the tooling was modified slightly to include these details. This established the quintessential G kit. At some point between 1979 and 1996 Monogram leased the molds to Bandai to be released as kit #8951 but it seems this project never made it to market. In 1996 the G molds were set up for modification to represent late model G aircraft with the Cheyenne tail turret which was released in 1997 under the Pro Modeler logo with a photo etched fret from Eduard as kit #5928. This kit included markings for "Bit O' Lace" and "Milk Wagon".
In 1999 Monogram did a single kit modification with a cut-away fuselage for a product show to help display the interior details. Also in 1999 the B17G molds were leased to Hasegawa in Japan where it was released as kit #HSGHM170 which hit the market in September of 2000 with a new decal sheet. Hasegawa did a second release of the G kit in June of 2004 with the original Pro Modeler decal sheet but not the photo etched fret as kit #HSGHM195. The molds were returned to Monogram in 2001 for a very short production run of the G with a new decal sheet that featured "Scorchy" and "Man O' War II" as kit #04569. The basic G with bomb bay details and original decal sheet was issued once again in 2005 carrying the classic kit designation #5600.
While the G has seen a couple modifications, lease options in the orient along with a few OEM decal options the red haired step child, the F, has soldered on as originally released in 1975. Every couple of years the molds for each of these kits have been dusted off and put back into production by either Monogram in Illinois or their sister operation, Revell of Germany. In 2005 the F was scheduled for reissue but was pulled from the rotation spawning rumors of severe mold damage. Recent conversations with Revell-Monogram representatives indicates that the molds are indeed very usable and will appear in rotation again at some future date. In the mean time we continue to see increasing secondary sale prices of this kit that could approach that of the much desired visible B-17.
This kit includes 108 pieces molded in olive drab plastic and in clear plastic. The level of flash is very low and the detail level, while raised and over 30 years old, is very good. The kit lacks interior detail and would benefit from some interior accessory kits or scratch building. Considering the size of the model when complete, length 19.25 inches and wingspan 25.75 inches, it is very likely that the finished product will end up hanging from a ceiling so serious interior work would be wasted in these cases. The exterior dimensions of this kit are fairly accurate. The kit includes exterior bomb racks and a pair of thousand pounders to hang there. The clear parts all show good clarity. The kit includes thirteen machine guns to allow for the Memphis Belle field modifications.
The decals for this kit allow for marking one aircraft, the Memphis Belle. The markings are given for the nose art with a red dress on the right and a blue dress on the left and give the modeler lots of stencils. It has been postulated that the original Memphis Belle blue figure had sported a two tone blue dress but this is not replicated in the decals. The instructions are done in the old manner of a large fold out and include painting color codes for the Memphis Belle as well as decal placement instructions. This kit will provide for a beautiful representation of an "F" model B-17 as an Out-Of-Box build and will also suffice as an excellent starting place for a super-detail project or an "E" type conversion.
You may click on the small images above to view larger pictures
There are two very similar Monogram B-17G kits and you need to be able to tell the difference when looking at them. First is the original 1975 issue that ran through 1979. This version is shown at the beginning of this article and can be distinguished from the second issue by the lack of a large blue border around the box art image. This original issue DID NOT include any bomb bay details but did include a great diorama sheet from Shep Paine. This sheet was dropped from all post 1979 kits. The bomb bay details were added in 1979 when the "Visible B-17" project was conceived. The two kits can also be identified by the instructions with the earlier set bearing the part number 5600-0201 and the later set bearing the part number 5600-0206. Looking at the parts images below the first image to the left shows these new pieces outlined in red.
As with the B-17F kit these two variations display raised panel lines as was the industry standard of the day. We see some light flash on the sprues and parts and occasionally we will find crew figures with some severe sink marks. The aircraft parts are all of good quality cast in a hard silver gray polystyrene which is common for the Monogram kits. The major difference between this kit and the Revell kit, other than one being an F and the other a G is that the Monogram kit includes lots of interior details in all the forward crew areas from the Bombardier's station through the radio room. Only minimal detail exists in the waist gunner's section. Exterior detail, engine detail and landing gear/bay detail is similar for both kits. The Monogram kit includes fifty one pieces in this silver/gray plastic along with another fifty one detail pieces in black plastic and twenty five clear pieces for a total of one 145 pieces, 143 for the early version. Overall the parts fit is generally good with the only exception being right around the engine nacelles on both wings. The wings themselves have large lock tabs that mate securely with the fuselage. It is possible to not glue the wings in place so that the model could be broken down for transport.
Instructions come as a large booklet similar in layout to what we now see from the Pro Modeler line of kits. Instructions are very clear and include plenty of color call-outs and construction tips. Decals are provided for two aircraft; "El Lobo II" in a natural metal finish and "Chow Hound" in olive drab over neutral gray. The decal sheet includes lots of service stencils and markings. Color density is good but the print registry is not completely on the mark.
You may click on the small images above to view larger pictures
Pro Modeler B-17G
When the Monogram G molds were set up for modification in 1996 most details stayed the same with a few exceptions. First the tail end of the fuselage was replaced with a Cheyenne tail turret and the clear parts were updated to include the correct glazings. This clear piece was added through an addition to the clear sprue where all the original G parts were retained including the original tail gun clear part. In addition to the Cheyenne clear part two new waist gun window panels were added to allow for the removable type of panel verses the earlier G that had gun mounting pins and of course the original pieces are still there. Now these were the only changes made to the existing molds but a new small sprue was added to the box, this sprue included five crew members in high altitude gear, the pilot, copilot, two waist gunners and the bombardier. On this sprue are also the detail pieces for the Cheyenne tail gun station and a few interior detail pieces for the waist guns. Lastly, Monogram included a small photo etched fret from Eduard that had wiring harnesses for the engines, a nice dash, belt buckles and a few other small detail pieces.
A new sheet of Scale Master decals went into the box, this sheet gave the modeler options to build either "Bit O' Lace" or "Milk Wagon". The sheet gives a good representation of the damaged wing star but the nose art for "Bit O' Lace" is not correct on the colors - the dress is shown as orange and should be more to the red. Also this sheet does not include the wide range of service stencils and warning markings that we find in either the standard G or the F kits. Instructions were adjusted to reflect the new parts and still appear in a booklet form. The images below show only those sprues that were changed or added with this kit and as with all the other thumbnails in this feature; you can click on them to view larger images.
This brings us to the 1979 issue of the "Visible B-17". This kit is what prompted the first modification of the G molds. It was determined that some interior bomb bay details would be needed to manufacture an adequate model with a clear fuselage. These few extra parts were stuffed into the tooling and the modified G was then produced with the inclusion of an extra left side fuselage that was done in clear plastic.
The decals remained the same, the instructions remained the same (with the inclusion of the bomb bay step) and the other clear parts remained the same. The clear side panel was slightly different from the stock gray piece in that the side windows in the nose were molded in place as was the waist gun window. This side panel was wrapped in tissue paper and included in the box so you could build either the standard B-17G or go slightly nuts and build it visible. You may click on the same image to the right to view a larger picture of this kit part.
In 2007 Great Planes acquired Revell- Monogram and dropped Monogram from the label. The next thing they did was schedule the Visible B-17 for re-issue. In January 2008 the 'new' Visible B-17G with new box art began shipping from Tower Hobbies, the division of Great Planes that handles plastic models. I call it the 'new' kit because it is slightly different from the original in that it includes the crew figures from the Pro-Modeler version as well as the Cheyenne tail turret glass. The instructions have been retooled to conform to a more book-like format and the bomb site part has finally been corrected (the original kit had this as two pieces but later editions had the pieces combined. What threw many modelers was that the instructions were never updated to reflect this change.) This release of the kit includes decals for "Man-O-War II" and "Scorchy II". Sadly the decal sheet is not comprehensive and does not include any service stencils or warning markings. Packaging has been updated with each individual sprue getting its own poly bag, including the clear fuselage. The kit is packed pretty securely within the box that is of the same size and design as most of the previous B-17 releases.
Well, that pretty much covers the basic kits and their permutations, now let's talk about all the wonderful accessory items that have been churned out by the aftermarket folk over the last 30 odd years and we'll take these in alphabetical order.
Aires Hobby Models located in the Czech Republic has become quite well known for their fine resin and photo etched modeling accessories. They have two detail sets that are very useful for the B-17 kits. First is a great Wright R-1820 engine (kit #4166) that includes two piece individual cylinders, a well detailed gear reduction box, finely molded push rods and a small fret of photo etched details. These are the most expensive replacement engines for the B-17 but when you look into the cowling you'll just have to say "Wow!"
The second accessory package from Aires that I feel is simply a must have for any B-17 build is the Browning M2 Waist Gun package (kit #4056). This kit includes parts to build four guns with options for three different barrels. The level of detail here is simply exceptional - there is no other way to put it. You can build the guns with the breaches open or closed and the package includes ammo feed belts for each unit. Having four guns is important because you will want to put two of these in the waist and use the other two to replace the nose guns. Each gun is comprised of thirteen resin and photo etched details and the use of a magnifying set of eyeglasses is almost mandatory but the end result is well worth the effort.
AeroMaster is also well known to modelers as a producer of fine decals. They have done four sets of decals over the years aimed at the B-17 and two of these are still in production. The sets still in production are the "Flying Fortress Over Europe" series 1 and 2; one set covers a pair of G model aircraft while the other covers a pair of F model aircraft. The two sets that are no longer in production are "Fortresses In The Sky" parts 1 and 2 and these were both aimed at G model aircraft. In addition to these here are four out-of-production sheets from AeroMaster:
48-415 B-17Gs "Little Patches" and "Man O' War"
48-416 B-17Gs "Just Plain Lonesome" and "Pistol Packin' Mama"
48-671 B-17Gs "The Fox" and "Super Rabbit"
48-672 B-17Fs "My Devotion" and "Fort Alamo"
Cutting Edge makes a wide variety of masking sets for model aircraft, decal packages and resin conversion sets. They have four mask sets for the B-17; two wheel only mask sets suitable for the two variations of True Details resin wheels, a wheel and canopy set for the G and a wheel and canopy set for the F. In the decal department they offer four standard national insignia sets covering different time periods and two decal sets, one for "Mary Alice", "Stingy" and "Carolina Boomerang" and the other covering "Tiger Girl" and "Duke of Paducah". In the resin conversion department Cutting Edge is approaching release of eight different F nose sets suitable for use on the readily available Monogram G kit along with a Cheyenne tail turret conversion and replacement side panels to model the staggered waist gun stations. At the time of this writing the F conversion pieces, the Cheyenne tail and the side panel replacements are not ready for market but are expected by late spring or early summer 2007.
Decals Carpena J. L.
Decals Carpena J. L. is a small French manufacture of aircraft decals. Quite some time ago they produced a single sheet of B-17 decals that covered "Birmingham Blitz" and "Bir-Hackeim". If you can find a set of these decals somewhere, consider yourself lucky just for the collectability factor.
Eagle Strike Decals
Another well known manufacture of decals, Eagle Strike has three sets of 1/48 scale B-17 decal packages that are: Attention Bombers #1 covering "Pistol Packin' MaMa" and "Little Patches", Attention Bombers #2 covering "Man O' War II" and "Just Plain Lonesome". The third set, Achtung Vermots Attention Bombers!!! Part III covers B-17G "Milk Wagon" and B-17G "Good Deal".
This is another model detail company operating out of the Czech Republic and not only are known for their fine photo etched work but also have consorted with various model manufactures to include some of their detail sets right with the model kit as can be seen with the Pro Modeler version of the B-17G. Now you cannot buy the PM fret directly from Eduard but you can buy any of five photo etched packages and two masking sets. The PE sets cover exterior details, interior details, landing flaps, seat belts and armament. Below are the interior and exterior detail packages.
In August of 2006 Eduard released two new photo etched detail sets for the B-17 models. The first set #49337 is a colored cockpit set consisting of three frets with layered instrument panel and boatloads of little detail pieces. The second set #49360 focuses on the nose section with bombardier's instruments, ammo belts and new framing for the nose glazing among other things. You can click on the images at right to view larger scans of these sets.
Engines and Things
Engines and Things makes three different series of R-1820 radial engines in resin that are suitable for a B-17 aircraft and once upon a time these were the only options a modeler had should they want to change the original kit faces for something a little better detailed. The industry has left Engines and Things in the dust; these resin castings are, unfortunately, crude and inaccurate. There are many better choices on the market for replacement engines. I only mention the Engines and Things detail sets in the interest of being thorough.
I think their name says it all, these guys specialize in paint masking sets for canopies and have a single set for the 1/48 scale B-17 kit.
Flight Path offers a fairly expensive yet thorough photo etched set (#48013) for the B-17. This set includes wiring harnesses, seat belts, window framing, and replacement gun barrels and assorted other interior details. It's a nice set but somewhat difficult to find in the US. You can click on the image to the right for a larger image of the parts.
FMC specializes in decals for aircraft operating under other flags. They have a single set of decals in 1/48, #48011, aimed at Brazilian aircraft, one of which is an SB17-G search and rescue aircraft with the Higgins boat.
Griffon is a small English manufacture of detail pieces and have just recently issued a set of replacement resin main and tail wheels.
Karaya come to us from Poland. This little package (#B002) includes replacement barrels for the Browning M2. These are all metal pieces and each barrel is a two piece assembly with an interior core and a perforated exterior tube. Each package contains enough material to replace four gun barrels. Earlier I had suggested having the Aires Waist Guns for the waist position and the cheek guns in the nose. The Karaya barrels are great for the lower ball turret, top turret, chin turret and tail guns. This basically means you'll need two complete packages to outfit one B-17 with new gun barrels. This is not an overly expensive addition and well worth the investment, especially if you have already gone so far as to replace the waist and cheek guns. If you are doing a YB-40 conversion you'll want to add at least one more pack of these barrels to cover the secondary top turret and maybe even boost the chin turret to a four or six gun station (can you picture that).
Koster Aero Enterprises
Bill Koster is known within the model industry as a master mold maker and is the man behind several of the Monogram kits like the 1/48 Do-217 model. While Bill had nothing to do with the making of either the F or the G kit he has taken care of some conversion material for the modeling public. The B-17 conversion set he made, kit #KAE04 is significant in that it will allow the modeler to convert the basic G kit into either a C, D or E kit or even a G with the staggered waist gun positions and at this time is the only conversion kit for these early examples of the aircraft. This is a vacuform conversion set with a replacement aft fuselage and new clear parts - all vacuformed. The package is complete under the KAE04 number or just the clear parts can be purchased under kit #KAEC04. Also from Koster are some white metal replacement Brownings, ammo belts and resin replacement engine faces for the R-1820s. All these sets are still available from Great Models as special order items. Once Bill retires, and that day is rapidly approaching, they will become very hard to find.
Mike Grant Designs
Mike Grant is an exceptional graphic artist operating in Canada. He offers some limited run issues of very high quality decals sheets for specific aircraft. He has two different sheets intended for the 1/48 B-17G and one for the B-17F. These are;
"Hikin' for Home" B-17G
Seattle Warbirds B-17F "Panama Hattie", "Lulu Belle" and "Blooming Grove"
Quite some time ago MicroScale (who later became Super Scale) produced a sheet of decals, #48-21, for the B-17 kit in 1/48. This sheet included markings for three aircraft; "Bit O' Lace", "Wabash Cannonball" and "Lucille". If you will recall, when I was talking about the Pro Modeler kit I had mentioned how they got the colors wrong on the nose art for "Bite O' Lace" with the dress being to orange. Well, MicroScale did not do much better, the dress is the correct shade of red but includes a black speckled pattern that is incorrect and the figure's skin tone is way to tan. I can see where they got the speckled pattern from, the original artwork did have some heavy shadows in some areas and someone must have interpreted this as large speckles, where that skin tone came from I'll never guess. This set has been out of production for many years and it's just not looking like we can have a completely accurate piece of nose art for this aircraft. Both this set and a later set, 48-320 are out of production but can still be had from collectors.
48-17 "Nine-0-Nine", "Out House Mouse", "Little Miss Mischief" and "Joker"
48-21 "Bit O' Lace" "Wabash Cannonball" and "Lucille"
"Hells Angels" and "Little Patches" (This "Little Patches" sheet had bad aircraft #)
"My Devotion", "Miami Clipper" and "Ole Puss"
Paragon once was and was once again and then is gone once more.
Paragon is another small English manufacture of resin detail pieces operated by Neil Burkill that had closed shop back in the 1990s but has recently reopened and began to reissue their wonderful B-17 detail and conversion packages. One area on a B-17 kit that sorely needed help was the open wing vents found on all version of the models. Paragon kit #48014 is a small package but fills all these holes in the leading edge of the wing, a small detail but a necessary one. This set was also issued under the Xtra Parts logo at one time as kit #4814. A few small details can be handled with kit #48022 which is a set of four fixed mount resin Browning M2s and kit # 48023 which is a set of four resin flexible mount Brownings. Next on the list is kit #48052 which is a nice little package of crew doors and access hatches. Here we have the nose door, the side fuselage door, the tail gunner's access door and the ball turret hatch. Not a large package but certainly a nice one to have if you want to open up the model. Next from this manufacture is kit #48048 which is a conversion for the B-17G to the PB-1W Naval surface radar aircraft.
Remember those thirteen B-17s that were converted to YB-40 Gunships? Well Paragon detail set #48049 will allow you to model that conversion. The next detail set offered is #48051 that includes replacement engine cowlings, propeller blades, lower gun turret and nose glazings allowing for the modeling of an early E aircraft. Next is #48093, this conversion set allows you to model any B-17G from RAF group 100 as well as any B-24J/M. We are not done yet, two more detail packages can be had from Paragon with kit #48103 which allows for the flaps to be dropped with very good interior flap detail and #48104 which gives the modeler a complete open bomb bay with replacement resin doors that include interior rib detail.
You may click on these small images to view larger pictures
Currently under progress for release in the very near future are three more sets from Paragon; #48050 for BTO "Mickey" with Radome, #48105 B-17G Cheyenne Tail Turret and #48106 B-17H/SB-17G S.A.R. Conversion with the Higgins life boat. Just talking about these sets makes me want to open a B-17 kit and start building.
After only a few years back in operation Paragon closed their doors again around 2010 and within a couple years the market value of all these pieces began to sky-rocket. Will Paragon come back again or not? Hard to say but last I heard Neil Burkill was still hanging on to all the masters.
In 2000 a small company in California began manufacturing photo etched pieces intended to simulate the blurred propeller of a running engine in 3 scales. The pieces are very interesting and as shown on Kelly Quirk's B-17 "War Cry" can look pretty convincing. David Barnes, the man behind this cool little detail, sells direct to customers on the web and may soon have a customer turned distributor in the UK to help modelers in that area save on postage. They also offer a new PropBlur concept called OnHub PropBlurs. PropBlurs' stated main goal is to provide an affordable and fun option for folks who like to have a model look like it is in motion. Profits are used to develop new products and donated to help wounded warrior projects.
For more on this great modeling accessory check this link ... PropBlur or contact David directly here or here.
Pyn-Up Decals is a line of limited run silk screen decals with high quality nose art. Each set of decals done in this line is usually run for 300 copies then discontinued. They have done nose art for many aircraft over the last two years and the B-17 has not been ignored. Following is a list of the Pyn-Up 1/48 scale B-17 decal sets and the aircraft each covers. When Meteor Productions closed as the result of a nasty divorce this subsidiary closed as well.
48009 "Cincinnati Queen" and "Mount N Ride"
48010 "Ruby's Raiders"
48011 "Double Trouble" and "Our Gal Sal"
Quick Boost is a relatively new player in the game of aftermarket accessories and are quickly making a name for themselves with quality resin pieces that require little assembly yet still capture plenty of detail. Not only that but they have kept cost well under control and have rolled these savings over to the modeler with some very nice pricing. While not available at the time of this writing they do have an R-1820 engine under development and from the looks of previous pieces should be worth consideration. Also coming soon from Quick Boost is a set of replacement resin gun barrels for use with the B-17. With all these people making replacement gun barrels aimed at the B-17 you kind of have to wonder how bad the original pieces really are.
Rebellion Creations is a small shop operating out of Las Vegas Nevada that produce some rather esoteric resin pieces from propeller driven aircraft conversions to space craft and oddball figures and even the original Bat Mobile in 1/12 scale. These guys come into play with the B-17 in that they offer a little conversion package that allows for the modeler to build an XB-38 Flying Fortress. This is a single example aircraft that was outfitted with Allison engines instead of the R-1820. It gave the craft a very different look. If you are going to go this route be prepared for some major surgery and have an extra can of elbow grease ready for application.
Squadron Models produces a few model detail items of their own, most notably are the many vacuform replacement canopies in all scales. They have two sets of replacement canopies available for the B-17 kit. These are both actually aimed at the Monogram G kit but can be converted for use with the F with a little patience. Canopy set #1 covers the primary cockpit clear parts and the lower ball turret. Canopy set #2 covers the upper panel for the radio operator's room, the astrodome, the nose cone, the upper turret and tail gun clear parts. Both these sets display excellent clarity and well defined frame lines. While slightly more difficult to work with than injection molded clear parts they do lend a more realistic thickness to the parts and make it much easier to open side windows or the access hatch in the ball turret not to mention you have a reasonable chance of seeing more interior details.
Here is another well known manufacture of aftermarket decals. Over the years they have produced many different sheets of decals covering a wide variety of aircraft. Here is a list of those I am familiar with and the aircraft included on each sheet;
48023 "£ 5 with Breakfast" and "American Beauty"
48059 "Memphis Belle", "Little Patches", "Eight Ball" "Witches Tit"
48481 "Miss Treated", "Good Deal"
48524 "Marnita2/Thunderbird", "Thumper" and "Yardbird-II"
48525 "Shady Lady" and "False Courage" - "False Courage" was a radar equipped unit
48582 "£ 5 With Breakfast", "?"
48583 "Carolina Moon", "Shilayee"
48585 "Bobby Sox", "American Beauty"
48672 "My Devotion" and "Witches Tit"
"Hikin for Home"
"Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" and "Looky Looky"
48941 "Carolina Moon" and "Wabash Cannonball"
48942 "Bobby Sox" and "Witches Tit"
"Chow Hound" and "Mount N Ride"
481057 "Sleepy Time Gal" and 353rd BS/ 301st BG
"The Hunting Club" and "Red Ass"
Teknics offers a few detail packages that are usable with the B-17 kits. They have an R-1820 resin replacement engine that could be used and offer two sets of B-17 crew figures. Set #48001 is a package of four ground crew figures for the Flying Fortress. It includes not only the figures which come with separate arms, heads, feet and split torsos but also includes a photo etch fret with various tools, a resin bomb cart and tool box. Set #48002 is a package of ten flight crew figures but all are in positions suitable for on the ground, not in the aircraft. Set #48040 is a battle damaged replacement resin tail section for the B-17 and set #48043 is the R-1820 engine with separate cylinders and photo etched details. The figures are nice to have for a diorama and the battle damaged tail section would save the modeler a lot of work if this is the kind of subject you want to build. Teknics in general offers good quality resin pieces with minimal flash or micro bubbles.
True Details is a subsidiary of Squadron Models which is actually Military Model Distributors, did you follow that? True Details has specialized largely in replacement resin wheels for aircraft models in general for many years along with various resin seats for both WW2 and contemporary aircraft and complete resin cockpit sets. Not long ago they stepped into something a little different like interior detail sets for the venerable 1/48 B-17G as well as two sets of replacement main wheels. They offer five detail packages that are;
48010 - Bulged and flattened main gear wheels with a diamond tread pattern for all versions E thru G.
48098 - Bulged and flattened main gear wheels with a compound tread for all versions E thru G.
48508 - B-17G Bombardier Section. This set includes a new floor pan, side walls with insulation detail and ribbing, bulkheads, seats, Norton bomb sight, replacement Brownings (there it is again, more replacement Brownings) and several other detail items.
48509 - B-17G Cockpit Set. This set includes a dashboard that is highly detailed on both front and back, new floor pan, side walls, bulkheads, oxygen tanks and lots of other little goodies.
48510 - B-17G Waist Gun Set. Here we have new sidewall detail panels, floor boards, ammo boxes and, you guessed it, more replacement guns.
All these sets display an excellent level of detail but on the interior packages there is a good level of flash that must be removed along with a few micro bubbles that have to be dealt with. As with most replacement sets some minor surgery may be needed to fit things in properly.
Vector is a Russian manufacture handled by Neomega Resins in the U.K and Buffies Best in the U.S.A.. The Vector 1/48 R-1820 engine comes in a nice hard plastic container allowing good visibility of all the parts. The resin pieces are very well done with no flash or micro-bubbles, truly some of the best quality resin I have seen in quite some time.
The directions are not that great being a poor quality photocopy and reduced in size to make things even more difficult. This is really a very nice kit, made even better by its relatively inexpensive price tag compared to other engine kits of similar quality. It works well with any aircraft that used the R-1820 engine including the Wildcat and, of course, the B-17. It could be installed in the aircraft or placed on a cart next to the aircraft to allow the viewer a better idea of what the engine looked like. The parts are extremely well done and fit together with no adjustment needed. On the down side there are no photo etched details and it is up to the modeler to find material to manufacture the push rods and ignition harness. In the picture of the completed engine I used varying sizes of magnet wire for the push rods and the ignition harness.
This is another well known name in the aftermarket business. Verlinden specializes in resin and photo etched detail packages for models of all genres. The single B-17 update package they offer is very complete for updating the front office area that is the bombardier's section, main cockpit, replacing all the guns, replacing the super chargers and replacing all the clear parts. It includes not only a large selection of resin pieces but a good sized fret of photo etched brass. The set includes detailed bomb bay doors and a well done forward crew hatch. It does not cover any aspect of the dash board.
Don Fenton did something a little different with White Dog Decals, he was making aftermarket sets designed to be used with aftermarket sets, you heard me right, for use with other aftermarket sets. Don saw where improvement could be made to existing Super Scale decal sets and created upgraded nose art for three sets in 1/48. These were printed by Woody VonDracek of Archer Fine Transfers using his proprietary PhotoFlex system. These were the first of the photorealistic nose art decals. Pre-dating the Cutting Edge Pyn-Up and other such decals by years. Unfortunately these have been out of production for years but occasionally you can find them on E-Bay but be prepared to pay dearly for them. The sets are:
B-17G "Bobby Sox". Use with Super Scale sheet #48-585.
NAU48009 B-17G "£ 5 With Breakfast". Use with Super Scale sheet #48-582.
NAU48014 B-17G "Carolina Moon". Use with Super Scale sheet #48-583.
Eli Raphael operates Albatros Decals and Zotz Decals down South of the boarder in Mexico. His work is right there with the best of the graphic artists and when he produced his decal set for the B-17 "Heavenly Bodies" he really put the hurt on quite a few modelers' pockets.
The :Heavenly Bodies:package includes markings and nose art for fourteen B-17Fs. Included in the package are complete, full color sheets for each aircraft showing correct decal placement and painting schemes. This package covers;
"Honi Kuu Okole"
"The Red Gremlin"
"Black Jack/The Joker's Wild"
"War Bird/Old Faithful"
"The Shamrock Special"
"Fort Alamo II"
The only problem with this set is that it makes you want to buy fourteen B-17 kits so you can build them all.
Conclusion and some oddities
That pretty much covers the various permutations of the 1/48 scale B-17 molds and the various aftermarket items you could add to the kit to make it truly yours. Here are a few more fine examples of 1/48 B-17s build by other modelers.
I've presented these various images of completed 1/48 scale B-17s throughout this feature to demonstrate just what can be done with these thirty plus year old model kits. But what happens when the modeler begins to push the envelop? There has been a photo-shopped image circulating around the internet for a few years now of a B-17 with the wings moved to the aft section and the elevator moved to the nose like canards. It is often referred to as the Rutan B-17. This is because many feel this is what the B-17 would have looked like if Burt Rutan had designed it. It is an interesting concept and on more than one occasion I have heard modelers say how neat it would be to kit bash that aircraft. Well Frank White did just that in 2005 and here are the results, the RB-17.
Now you don't see that every day but it doesn't end there. Seems there was another modeler watching Frank's progress on the RB-17 and his mind began to wander. This modeler was Eddie Miller and he conceived of a next generation swept wing B-17 serving with SAC during the cold war era. With parts contributed from an old 1/48 B-17F, a derelict 1/48 B-24 and a 1/72 KC-135 Eddie applied liberal amounts of body filler and elbow grease to build this unusual aircraft.
And there you have it, the complete history of the 1/48 B-17 molds and their variations along with just about every piece of aftermarket material you could hope to find. I would like to thank all the modelers who contributed pictures of their work for this feature. Several suppliers of modeling materials have contributed to this article in materials and information. Links to these fine shops are listed below.