Monogram 1/48 Vought OS2U Kingfisher
Kit #5488 Collector’s Market Value $23.74
Images and text Copyright © 2009 by Matt Swan
The OS2U Kingfisher came about as a result of a 1937 US Navy specification for a new ‘Observer-Scout’ aircraft for use on battleships. Three companies offered up designs for the specification, The Navy Aircraft Factory, Stearman and Vought. Obviously the Vought airframe was selected and began a long service history in the position. The Kingfisher used a small 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-4 engine in order to keep the weight within specification and carried two .30 caliber guns, one in the radio operator’s position and one fixed in the cowling. It could also carry two small 116 pound bombs and could quickly be converted to land operations from float operations.
The OS2U first flew in 1938 and went into service shortly after that. The type served not only in the US Navy but for many other air forces as well. Kingfishers operated as spotters until radar systems reached a point that superseded this role but also as air-sea rescue units, general utility aircraft and anti-submarine patrol aircraft. The last Kingfishers to be retired from active service were those in use by Cuba in 1959. Overall there were 1,519 airframes constructed and during the manufacture run many improvements were implemented such as self sealing fuel tanks, improved weapons load, more powerful engines and increased defensive armament. Today at least nine examples survive in museums or are waiting for restoration, none are flying.
While the Monogram Kingfisher kit is certainly dated with raised panel lines and surface detail it is still a viable kit that makes an excellent base for construction. We actually have five different Monogram kingfisher kits in a sense, while all from the same molds each reissue suffers from a slight variation in fuselage warpage which for the most part is of little concern to the modeler. This only becomes of concern should the modeler be adding an aftermarket main float. By the way, this is one of the most glaring inaccuracies of the Monogram Kingfisher line. The kit can be built with either floats or land gear. Monogram did the original release of the kit way back in 1967 then sometime around the 1993 reissue they upgraded the kit with a small photo etched fret that added refined float support wires, a very nice instrument panel, an ignition harness for the engine and a variety of other detail pieces.
So let’s take a look at these forty plus year old parts and see how they stack up. First this kit has all raised panel lines as was the industry standard at the time of mastering. The are fine and crisp, probably were the best raised lines found in the industry at the time and even by today’s standards are good. The kit parts do not have any obvious warpage issues, no sink marks and no flash. The interior of the model lacks serious detail which is really sad because this aircraft has an impressive greenhouse and the interior is readily visible. The kit includes two basic seated crew figures with the radio operator only being cast from the waist up. The wing is a three part arrangement that the fuselage halve slide over, this ensures proper alignment and dihedral. The clear parts are well done with well defined raised frame lines with good clarity and can be modeled in the open or closed position. Overall the kit consists of six clear parts, fifty five navy blue injection molded pieces, forty one photo etched detail pieces and two acetate instrument faces for a total of one hundred four pieces in the current release boxing.
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Decals and Instructions
Kit instructions definitely look like something from the old days, we get a single large fold-out printed on both sides. This opens with a very brief history of the aircraft along with a map of the PE parts. We get thirty exploded view assembly steps (keeping in mind we are looking at the 1993 release) that include color call-outs and the occasional construction tip. We also get two sets of three-view layouts for two different painting schemes and decal placements.
The decals are basic and thick. We get markings for one pre-war US Navy aircraft and one Royal Navy aircraft. Basic insignia are provided along with wing walks and chevron bands. While the colors look quite vibrant and the printing is sharp with good registry the decals are thick, they look thick and they feel thick so beware. I would suggest picking up aftermarket decals ASAP.
It’s pretty inconceivable that a kit mastered in 1967 would still be desirable in today’s market but the true is yes, this kit is still in demand. So let’s talk about the good and the bad associated with this venerable kit. Good: Basic fuselage shape, wings and tail planes are correct. General fit is good and part quality is good. While it is a raised panel line kit those are fine and crisp. Bad: Engine cowl is a little skinny, main float is totally wrong, not even close to what the Kingfisher carried, outrigger floats are level with flight-line when they should be nose high, the propeller is too long and needs to be cut off at the first paint line marking. The interior is not very accurate and lacks serious detail. Wow, that sounds like a lot of bad but all of it can be rectified if you care to put the effort and the dollars into the kit.
There are a couple things on the aftermarket that are worth taking a look at for this kit. Cutting Edge did a magnificent set of correction packages for this kit but unfortunately Cutting Edge closed up shop due to a nasty divorce and you should count yourself extremely lucky should you get your hands on any of those sets. They include a corrected cowling, corrected floats and full interior. Lone Star Models has done their own version of these correction sets that are okay, not up to the old CE standards but this year (2009) Mike West pulled those sets for retooling so we may be getting lucky there. Yellow Hammer did a set of decals for the aircraft but Yellow Hammer was a subsidiary company of Cutting Edge so ….. good luck there. Yellow Wings, a totally different company has a great set of decals available for the kingfisher but they are broken down into three sets and you need to get all three sets to do a complete aircraft. Of course should you do this then you will be able to model about eight or ten (I may exaggerate a bit here) Kingfisher kits.
I don’t list all this information to scare you away from this kit but to ensure that you are prepared for what is necessary to make a great build from this wonderful old kit. Even with all the negative aspects I would still give this kit a good recommendation.
This is what the construction package looks like for this build sans decals. What you see here is over a hundred dollars worth of modeling goodness and that does include the cost of the base kit.
Construction begins with a little destruction. First I’ll remove the kit float with a razor saw and the nose cowling at the firewall line. All the internal mounting pins had to be removed and shaved smooth with the interior of the fuselage. The cut lines are cleaned up and I’m ready to begin building up. One thing I have to consider before moving any further is what to do with the panel lines. The replacement cowling and floats all have engraved lines but the kit is all raised lines. I could scribe this kit and have done that kind of thing before however as fine as the existing raised lines are I have a feeling that I could build this as is and make it look pretty good. That would also save me all the scribe work which is not one of my favorite modeling tasks.
For my engine I selected a kit from Vector, I’ve always liked the level of detail and quality of casting in their engines. I decided to not use the back side of this beautifully cast engine as you will not be able to see it and I'll now have a nice flat surface to mount the thing. Only problem with the Vector engine is they are too accurate and have to be mutilated a bit to fit inside a cowling. I built up the engine then began to grind off the outer surfaces of the heads until the assembled unit would fit into the new resin cowling. I also thinned the cowling a little with a drum sander on my Dremel. The new cowling has wide open flaps so you can see just a little bit into the back side of the engine compartment. I added some additional detail there with some old Mandolin strings before attaching the piece to the fuselage.
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Now that I have satisfied my engine building desires for the moment I shall turn my attention back to the main fuselage. The Cutting Edge interior sets build up in layers of detail beginning with the basic tub. I’m using yellow zinc chromate as my base interior color chosen because the one example of this aircraft I have seen in a museum had this interior color. Other than a few decal instrument faces taken from a sheet of Mike Grant decals this is all right from the conversion package. I was burning the midnight oil on this session and finished the interior to the sounds of owls hunting outside my window.
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After a good night sleep I took another look at the interior and realized the ring and bead sight were reversed on the aft gun. Once that was fixed I was ready to start working on the front office. I elected to not use the Cutting Edge instrument panel in favor of the original kit photo etched panel with acetate instruments – I thought it looked as accurate for instrument placement and offered better overall detail. Each instrument face was treated with a drop of Future to give it a glass-like lens.
Once the front details were complete the two interior assemblies could be attached to the fuselage wall. Prior to this I had taped the wings together, inserted them into the fuselage and scribed a cut line. The center section of the wings has to be removed in order for the interior pieces to fit correctly. The interior assemblies were treated with a sludge wash made from dark gray pastel chalks and some water soluble ink. I had to test fit these pieces to the fuselage several times and carefully thin areas of the inner wall with my Dremel until a good fit was achieved. Patience is key when doing this stuff, a bottle of rum tends to help also.
The fuselage seam was treated with Mr. Surfacer 500 then wet sanded once it had cured. The new firewall was superglued in place however I did find a small step on both sides where it joined to the fuselage. This area was filled with Bondo auto body glazing putty, sanded then treated again with Mr. Surfacer 500 to fill any small bubbles. Once this was done I was ready to test fit the engine cowling to the engine mounts. There is a large central stud on the firewall that butts up to the back side of the engine and needs to be trimmed to get the proper cowling flap clearance. I did this with the flat side of my cut-off wheel attached to the Dremel.
Now I’ve already separated the wings and can glue the upper and lowers together – pretty standard stuff. What is not standard is the big, heavy resin central spar that holds the wing dihedral. This was secured in one wing half with superglue then slotted through the fuselage and secured to the second wing half. Basically I just followed the directions included with the Cutting Edge interior set and everything worked just fine. The wing to fuselage seam was treated with Tenax 7-R to help hold everything in place and I was ready to look at the floats. The main float was cleaned up and the three support columns were glued in place. Next it was test fit to the fuselage and the supports were sanded to fit the curve of the body. This is where the five different fuselage warps come into play that I mentioned very early in this article. There is no telling which you have before beginning so you just have to modify the float to fit a little bit at a time. The support struts on the wingtip floats were adjusted to give the floats a slight toe-up attitude rather than the in-line-of-flight positioning the kit has molded in. Now the engine assembly is slid in place (no glue yet) and I can appreciate my work for a few moments.
Last thing to do before I can consider paint is to mask the interior. Since I am going to be using a Squadron vac canopy I can use the original kit canopy as a mask. Not wanting to destroy it I cover the whole thing with masking tap then attach it with a few spots of clear parts cement. Just to get myself into the swing of things I’ll start with the engine cowling. The engine is masked with damp tissue then the whole ting gets a coat of Krylon gloss black. Next the Alclad aluminum goes on and finally the dark blue cowling band. I have already matched this blue against the Yellow Wings decals I’ll be using later on. I’m pretty happy with the looks of that so will continue with the paint. Oddly enough the aluminum will be the last color applied on the rest of the model. This time I am priming only the upper wings, upper elevators and rudder with some Model Master light gray. Now the upper elevators and rudder are painted dark flame red and the upper wings are painted insignia yellow. I wrap the yellow under the leading edge of the wings as well.
next is a pretty serious masking project. All these colors have to be masked off including the yellow wrap around on the wings. I spent about two hours doing this and just as I was finishing I noticed the landing light had not been masked yet. No big deal, I placed a piece of tape over it, burnished it with a toothpick and carefully trimmed it with a razor. Just as I was picking off the last little piece of excess tape with tweezers I dropped the model. @*#()*^#$ &*(#!!!!
The main float was busted off and all the float rigging wires were broke. I cleaned everything up, reattached stuff and was back in business after only a couple hours of repair time. Now I can apply my Krylon gloss black. Because there is some other paint overspray on the model I have to be careful to not apply heavy coats of the Krylon or I could get paint ruptures, fortunately everything works fine and it looks like the model gods got everything they wanted when I had dropped it earlier. Now the Alclad aluminum goes on and the masks are removed. I’m thinking it looks pretty sharp and will look even better once the wing chevrons, wing walks and fuselage band is in place. One thing is for certain, when they painted this thing there were no concerns about blending into the background.
From here the toughest thing to finish is the canopy. I elected to use the original injection molded front windscreen because it fit really well, all the rest are from the Squadron vac set. Once they were removed from the master sheet and cleaned up they were treated with Future, allowed to cure then masked. Sounds simply, huh? I think I spent around four hours just masking this stuff before I was able to lay down the interior color of yellow zinc chromate. A few minutes later the Aluminum was laid down in light coats and the masks were removed. The canopy was attached by first laying a bead of clear parts cement around the perimeter with a few small spots of super glue in the corners. While holding the pieces in place the corners were treated with accelerator to prevent fogging of the parts and the model was set aside to allow the clear cement to dry.
Once dry the decals started going in place. These Yellow Wings decals behaved admirably and reacted very nicely to Micro-Sol setting solution. Speaking of these decals if you want to do a complete aircraft you basically need to by three sets of decals. Set one contains unit badges, chevrons and fuselage bands for three aircraft with a couple alternate badges. Set two contains aircraft numbers and ship names for eighteen different aircraft and set three covers the National Markings. While I like the decals just fine and they all look great I have no plans to build an entire fleet of Kingfishers, okay, maybe one or two more but really – eighteen aircraft!
Okay, so the decals are done and dry. I mixed a thinned solution of Micro-flat and dusted only the wings and tail of the aircraft leaving the aluminum parts untouched. The areal is made from invisible thread drawn across a black magic marker and super glued in place. A little white paint for insulators and the model is ready. I had picked up this pilot figure at some point in the past that was posed with one foot resting on a fuel can. I really liked the figure so used it as a master to make an RTV mold then could crank one out whenever I wanted, don’t really know where the original acquisition came from. Here he comes back into play. Shown on the model is one of my resin recasts of that figure – fits quite nicely stepping on the cockpit sill.
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Just a couple of final comments on this build. I chose to not apply much of anything for weathering as this aircraft is representing a unit from the USS Pennsylvania from 1939 and 1940. This is immediately after the type entered service so would have been in near new condition and as a prewar aircraft, very well maintained. I did not use and panel differentiation with the aluminum as the aircraft was actually treated with an aluminum dope and have a surprisingly even tonal quality to it. Bottom line though is this has got to be the most striking aircraft on my display shelf now and I seriously want to do some more yellow wing aircraft.