Boeing YB-40 Escort Fighter 1/48 conversion project

Images and text Copyright © 2009/2010 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
       The Boeing B-17 was developed to be a self supporting deep penetration bomber, supposedly able to fly high enough and fast enough to avoid most interceptors and to be armed heavily enough to adequately defend itself against any Interceptor that did catch it. It sure sounded good on paper but when reality collides with theory things don’t work out so well. In 1942 B-17Fs were taking unsustainable losses during daylight bombing raids over the European continent and in November 1942 the XB-40 prototype was proposed. The XB-40 was a Vega built B-17F converted to a gunship. A chin turret was added with two fifty caliber machine guns, both waist gun positions were beefed up with secondary Browning machine guns and a second top turret was added just aft of the radio room. The bomb bay was replaced with ammunition storage and additional armor was installed for added crew protection. In addition the waist stations were staggered to provide for better gunner mobility.
       At this point 24 Vega B-17Fs were shipped to the Douglas plant for modification to YB-40 (Y signifies service test aircraft) and many different configurations of armament were fitted to different aircraft including four gun chin turrets and tail gun position, 40mm nose and tail cannons and as many as 30 hand held gun positions. In May of 1943 the first of nine operational sorties took place against Saint Nazaire. July 4 1943 was the last of these sorties with the YB-40 tallying five confirmed kills, two probable and one YB-40 lost. The net result of the program was not promising as the additional weight from armor and increased drag from additional guns slowed the ship down making it nearly impossible to stay with the primary formation during the return flight. This basically ended the YB-40 Escort Fighter program however one very useful feature did result from the program and that was the twin gun chin turret which was installed on all G production aircraft.
       I went to Joe Baugher's aircraft serial number site and was able to find this list of YB-40 numbers and block numbers. Joe has a great site and if you need an American aircraft serial number he probably has it.

Lockheed/Vega B-17F-10-VE
       42-5732 Assigned to 92nd BG, 327th BS, got lost on delivery flight from Iceland to UK May 1943, force landed in peat bog on an offshore Scottish island after running out of fuel. Removed to Stornoway and repaired. The aircraft was returned to USA Mar 28, 1944 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5733 *Peoria Prowler* assigned to 91st BG Jul 1943. Returned to USA Nov 2, 1943 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5734 *Seymour Angel* to 91st BG Jul 1943. Returned to USA Jan 25, 1944 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5735 assigned to 92nd BG, shot down by flak Jun 2, 1943.
       42-5736 *Tampa Tornado* assigned to 303rd BG Jul 1943 then transferred to 379th BG Sep 1943. Had been retired from use at Kimbolton by Oct 2, 1943 when it was shown to attendees at a party for local children. Returned to USA Mar 28, 1944 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5737 *Dakota Demon* assigned to 303rd BG Jul 1943 as "Dakota Demon". Returned to USA Nov 2, 1943 then condemned as salvage Jan 6, 1946.
       42-5738 *Boston Tea Party* returned to USA Nov 2, 1943 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5739 *Lufkin Ruffian* assigned to 303rd BG Jul 1943 then transferred to 384th BG Sep 1943. Returned to USA Nov 2, 1943 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5740 *Monticello* returned to USA Nov 2, 1943 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5741 *Chicago* assigned to 91st BG Jul 1943. Returned to USA Nov 2, 1943 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5742 *Plain Dealing Express* returned to USA Mar 28, 1944 then transferred to RFC Ontario, CA May 18, 1945.
       42-5743 *Woolaroc* returned to USA Nov 2, 1943. Reclamation completed Yuma AAF Jan 18, 1944. This is probably the best documented YB-40.
       42-5744 *Dollie Madison* returned to USA Nov 2, 1943. Condemned Nov 2, 1943

Lockheed/Vega B-17F-25-VE
       42-5833 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Ontario CA May 24, 1945.
       42-5834 converted to YB-40, later converted to TB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.
       42-5871 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Ontario AAF May 18, 1945.
       42-5872 converted to TB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.

Lockheed/Vega B-17F-35-VE
       42-5920 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.
       42-5921 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.
       42-5922 converted to YB-40, then to TB-40. Transferred to RFC Altus Oct 8, 1945.
       42-5923 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.
       42-5924 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.
       42-5925 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.
       42-5926 converted to YB-40 then to TB-40. Reclamation completed at Hendricks AAF, FL. Feb 13, 1946.
       42-5927 converted to YB-40. Transferred to RFC Walnut Ridge Dec 19, 1945.

The Conversion
       My initial attempt at this kit was using the B-17G kit but after a very short time I realized this simply would not work for several reasons; the fuselage of the G is slightly wider than the F (which the conversions was made for) resulting in having to narrow the fuselage to make the new extended nose glazing fit. The waist windows are too tall and need to be shortened to match the YB-40 profile. The cheek windows are totally wrong – they are wrong on the F model also but somewhat easier to fix. So with all this said I will use an old B-17F kit as my donor kit. Now I have reviewed the B-17 kit previously and you can click here for a look at the plastic and history of that kit. Now by ‘Old’ I mean OLD. This is a kit I picked up from Evil-Bay a few years ago for a ten spot. The previous owner had started the build working on the fuselage only. He used vast quantities of Testors Orange tube glue and brush painted the fuselage with gobs of silver and lime green paint.
       To salvage my donor kit I first froze the fuselage then snapped all the glue joints. Next the models pieces were stripped of paint in Chameleon Paint Stripper – good stuff. During construction you may see some spots of green here and there; those are the few remnants of the original paint job. For the base conversion I am utilizing a very nice package from Paragon Productions, set #4849, intended to convert a Revell B-17F to an YB-40. I want to really detail the interior so here is a list of aftermarket sets I’ll be including in this build:
       Eduard set # 48528 B-17 Flying Fortress Landing Flaps
       Eduard set # 49360 B-17 colored nose PE detail.
       Eduard set # 49361 colored mid-section (radio room)
       Master set #48001 Browning M2 .50 caliber aircraft barrels
       Paragon set # 4814 Prop governors and wing intakes.
       Paragon set #48052 crew access doors.
       Squadron set # 9551 B-17 canopy set #1.
       Squadron set #9552 B-17 canopy set #2.
       True Details set # 48010 B-17 E-G wheels.
       True Details set # 48509 Cockpit detail set.
       True Details set # 48510 Waist Gunner detail set.
       You can click on any of the links above to see what each of those aftermarket sets look like.
       Decals will come from several sources, some from the original Monogram kit sheet and some will be custom made by yours truly.
       Documentation of the YB-40s was not very good and surprisingly few pictures of aircraft survive. I was only able to find about half a dozen pictures of different aircraft. Even operationally information is scarce. We do know that fourteen of these aircraft were placed with the 327th Bomb Squadron, 92nd bombardment group and 91st BG. Where the other ten YB-40s were assigned is a mystery although four of them were converted to TB-40s. Of those documented in the 91st and 92nd bombardment group we have serial numbers and names for some of the aircraft. We know that the basic paint scheme was the same two tone olive drab over light gray as commonly found with the B-17F which makes sense since they were intended to blend into the formation. With this known information I now need to select an aircraft to model, I like the name Seymour Angel, serial number 42-5734 and there is no photographic evidence on this aircraft so I can speculate on some nose art and armament configuration. I think I want to do something along the ‘Avenging Angel’ thing with artwork and want to place some 40mm cannons in the tail and put some kind of meat grinder in the nose. I still need to do a little more research into Angel artwork but I believe the basics for my conversion are now in place – it’s time to start cutting some plastic.




       All of the basic cut work on the fuselage is done now with the top fuselage sections removed along with all the crew doors. I have built three 1/48 B-17s in my modeling career, the G the F and the E but all before the release of the True Details resin sets. I went ahead and purchased these sets when they first came out in anticipation of future builds. This will be my first experience working with them and I shall begin with the waist section. Because I staggered the waist windows the interior view has changed and I will need to add addition rib detail on both sides and opposite the aft crew door. One thing I saw right away was that the True Details floor section is totally inaccurate for the B-17. It should not be a totally flat floor but a narrow flat walkway down the center of the fuselage with step like constructions along both sides. I don’t think this will be highly visible in this build so I will not worry about it but on any future Visible B-17 build this will be a major issue.



       I used a variety of Evergreen plastic strips to make my additional rib detail. Often during the detailing process I would test fit the fuselage halves and look through the windows to see exactly what would be visible and what would not to save myself some work. I had to extend the floor pan on both ends as a result of the staggered windows also. After two evening sessions of detail work the waist section is as done as it can be prior to paint. While I did not have any serious issues with this TD set I probably could have made cleaner and more accurate detail work from scratch in about the same amount of time as it took to use this set and add the additional work.

       Next on the agenda is to fix those nose windows. Using a piece of leftover vacuform kit plastic that was the same thickness as the kit fuselage I cut blanks for the windows. These were rolled on a razor knife blade handle to impart a small curvature to them then glued in place. The seam was filled with Mr. Surfacer 500 and sanded smooth when dry. The inside was also filled and sanded. After this is all set up I will mark out new windows and cut them out.

       While I’m waiting for putty and glue to dry in the nose I’ll work on the cockpit. All original kit alignment studs were sanded off then the TD cockpit was test fit. Overall this is not a very good fit and is just plain difficult. I hear that many of the TD cockpit sets were shipped short one control column and one seat but mine appears to be complete. I almost ditched this set in favor of an Eduard set but figured since I own the thing I will do everything in my power to make it work. Next B-17 build will get an Eduard set and we’ll see for certain which is better then.



4/17/2009
        Before launching into a major build session with the cockpit area I went ahead and finished the nose windows. Basically I measured the existing windows, laid a flexible stainless steel ruler down the fuselage and drew some straight lines that where aligned with the other openings. Once they were marked out I used a burr bit in a Dremel to open them up and finished things off with a diamond needle file.


        Any raised panel lines that were destroyed during sanding were simply scribed with the back side of an Xacto blade tip. When all is said and done it will be very difficult to notice any difference with the panel lines. I plan on using the Squadron replacement vac canopies but these are configured for the Monogram G kit which means some work need to be done to the F cabin roof. I cut it back to the top turret mounting ring and also removed the alignment pins from the interior so they would not conflict with the TD resin walls. I think I am ready to start work on the cockpit area. I shall begin with a base of drab green here, I know it is common practice to use interior green or a zinc chromate green inside a B-17 but they were not all painted that way, some were indeed drab green and there is evidence of at least one leaving the factory with an all black front office.
        When working with the TD pieces each individual piece needs to be test fit and adjusted about five times before any glue is applied. Some of the parts like the seat back supports are insanely delicate and require some very careful sanding and cleaning-up. I also had some micro-bubbles here so repair work was needed as well. Piece by slow piece it does start coming together.



        Having the nose hatch open means you can see inside and I don’t want simply a blank interior. First thing I noticed from walk-around images is that the underside of the cockpit floor is natural wood. This is replicated with oil paints using Mark Therrell’s oil technique. Details to the bottom of the floor pan are made from various things found around my workbench such as old mouse wire, thin solder and scrap plastic pieces. Cables are made from invisible thread painted silver. There is a lot of stuff going on under the main cabin floor on one of these aircraft and I have no intention of duplicating all of it, I just was to give an impression of this stuff when someone looks in here and let’s be honest, unless the viewer is handling the model and using a pen light the chances of seeing 100% of the internal detail here is very small.



        While this all may look easy from the rapid progression of pictures it takes some serious time. I have 2 and a half hours tied up in each seat in the cockpit. There is over eight hours of time involved in detailing the cabin floor and countless adjustments and test fits. The large yellow Oxygen tanks do not fit either, I had to shave almost a third off the back side of the bottom tanks to get everything to fit but some of this may be a result of using the F kit whereas the details et is intended for the G kit which does have a slightly wider fuselage. Ultimately I have reached a point where I am fairly happy with the front office. There is a little more plumbing to be done but it must wait until the moment that things get closed up. Now it is time to take a look at the Gunner/Navigator station.
        Unlike the Monogram G kit the F does not have any detail aft of the Bombardier’s seat, not even a navigator station floor or table – this must all be scratch built. In addition I am not building a bomber; this is a pure fighter so there is no bombardier station and no Norton Bomb Site. I found a fuzzy picture in Detail and Scale of the nose of a YB-40 along with a simple line drawing that, between the two, gave me a fair idea of how the gunner’s station was configured. First we have a seat that is closer in appearance to the pilot seat than the standard office chair type of seat we usually associate with this area. Second, there is a substantial piece of armor plate in front of the gunner. With this information in hand I am ready to start cutting plastic.


        As stated earlier I am using the Eduard colored nose detail set here which needs some modification for the YB-40 configuration but still offers lots of good detail. The basic floor pan is painted with drab green then hit with some random olive drab. The seat is manufactured from one of the original kit cockpit seats. If you’ll remember at the beginning of this feature I stated that this is a recovered B-17 kit, in the image below you can see what the original kit seat looked like including gobs of glue and what it ended up looking like. I’ll be working over the second seat for the radio operator’s station later on. As a last detail to the floor pan I spotted it with some interior green to add some color contrast to the nose of the aircraft. I need to fashion a table for the navigator and got into a little plastic surgery – things were going so well at this point that I went ahead and prepared the basic floor and bulkheads for the radio operator’s station as well.




4/29/09
       Once the basic floor pan was attached to the forward cockpit bulkhead I was able to hold the assembly in place and mark the fuselage wall for detailing. After the ribbing that would be visible was installed the area was painted with drab green then hit with some interior green. Once the base colors were on I started to apply the Eduard details to the walls. While doing this the navigator and nose gunner stations were finished off as well.

       Once all the PE details were completed and the navigator seat installed I sealed the nose areas with Future then applied a sludge wash. Once the sludge wash had dried I cleaned up the center areas of each panel with a damp cotton swab. Here are some left and right side views showing the detail level. I still need to pick up some E string from the music store to make my oxygen lines but basically the nose is now 99% complete.


These two images you can click to view larger pictures

       Remember those bulkheads and floor pieces I made for the radio room? It’s time to start detailing them. Beginning with the floor I used the oil technique to create the wood grain effect. The forward bulkhead gets the basic shelving installed from the Eduard set then is airbrushed drab green flowed by some interior green before the balance of the PE detail is added. The fire can and Oxygen tank are made from salvaged parts tree sprues. After attaching the forward bulkhead to the floor I started to test fit this to the fuselage and was very unhappy with the general fit. To rectify the issue I went to my local hardware store and picked up a contour gauge for seven bucks and used that to make a new aft bulkhead and some better bracing for the forward bulkhead. Contour gauges make all the difference in the world when scratch building.

5/19/09
       I had already done some scratch work on the forward bulkhead and did not want to repeat that so I simply made a second bulkhead using the contour gauge and glued that onto the back of the first bulkhead. The aft bulkhead was made from scratch using various pieces of fine Evergreen plastic strips with the base piece being salvaged vacuform sheet stock. I needed to blank off some areas along the lower sidewalls at the wing root. Ultimately I plan on having the aft top turret removable so you can see some of the internal detail and from test fits I determined that not much of anything would be visible along the sides. With this in mind I just cut pieces of stock sheet and placed them along the bottom sidewalls. I had to take into account the wing lock tabs and cut some small slots into the sidewall pieces so everything would fit in final assembly.

       All the instrument details came straight from the Eduard detail set. The second seat for the ammunition loader (a peculiarity of the YB-40) is a left over from the True Details cockpit and nose set. If you get both sets you end up with a few extra pieces that are duplicated within the sets. The second walk-around air tank is scratch built from plastic sprue and the magazine is from a Skunk Lab-Works decal set. When I test fit this assembly to the fuselage it dropped right in – a perfect fit on the first try. Next I test fit the resin top piece and found some interference with the top of the forward bulkhead and the top of the radio operator’s chair. After some artful sanding of the resin I had a good fit and was ready to move forward.The image at the right gives you an idea of what happens to the kit seat as it is transformed into a good looking radio operator's seat.
       And I do mean ‘forward’. I had made a run to my local musicians’ supply store and got my hands on some old guitar strings (for free). Now you may (or may not) wonder why I did that and what relevance it has to this build. I have a variety of O2 tanks throughout this aircraft but nothing for air lines. I’m using short piece of small guitar string to make my air lines which allows me to finish detailing the forward area of the model. I'll also use some of this string in the radio room and the waist section.
       I guess it’s time to move into the waist section and do something with those twin .50s. The ammo boxes are done with a wood finish per Mark Therrell's feature on How to get Wood found in the "Tools and Tips" section. The ammo feed belts provided by Paragon are done with Model Master Steel as are the gun bodies. The gun bodies are also dry brushed with silver then washed with a sludge wash to provide some depth. As these subassemblies get ready to be installed I’ll be making hydraulic lines from fine solder. The waist guns on the YB-40 were hydraulically assisted to reduce fatigue on the gunner from pulling these heavy pieces around.

       I kind of lost my motivation on the waist guns so decided to put them aside for a little while and turn to the ball turret. While the Squadron replacement vac set does include a new ball turret I elected to use the kit parts as they have better frame definition and I wanted some beefier plastic to work with when cutting out the hatch. I was not sure how much detail I was going to put inside this thing, I have some very good pictures of the ball turret interior but would you really be able to see it? Even with an open hatch? I decided to add some padding for the gunner on the base of the ball and on the inside of the door. This was made from folded paper towel soaked with clear parts cement and painted khaki. As a bit of trivia did you know that the ball turret was equipped with a parachute and could be jettisoned in the event of a jammed turret to give the gunner a better chance of survival? Moving right along I used some Eduard masks on the ball then primed it with interior green followed by some neutral gray.

4/18/2010
        I’m back! Man does time get away from you when you’re having fun. I can’t believe it has been almost a year since I’ve updated this build. Well, actually I can because I have not done anything on this build in almost a year. I had become discouraged while installing the twin 50s in the waist so shifted over to the Paragon flaps to distract myself. The flaps started giving me all sorts of shit so in total disgust I put the whole thing back in the box and built something different. This week I dug it back out and tackled the gun issue. After soaking the resin feed belts in boiling water and bending them to finally fit I was able to continue with the fuselage. Several days were spent cutting and shaping windows for the fuselage, each one carefully cut from clear plastic card, masked and secured with clear parts cement. After the cement dried the interior of each pane was coated with Future to improve general clarity. I know that there is some crazy-ass detail work that could be done inside the tail wheel well but since I do not expect this model to be turned over for inspection when completed I will not bother doing stuff that won’t be seen. I did add an extension to the ball turret support along with an oxygen tank and airline because you will be able to catch a glimpse of this area from the waist window and from the radio room when the upper turret is removed. I think I am ready to close up the fuselage now so here is a full body shot for you. From this point on all viewing of the interior will be through windows and open hatches.

4/27/09
       The fuselage is all closed up now, seams have putty drying down and I am moving on to the wings. I just can’t continue with these Paragon flaps, I don’t know if it is just me or what but I cannot get a good fit of the parts into the wing. From looking at them you would think this should be a simple drop-in conversion but no, not happening. Instead I am shifting over to the Eduard photo etched flaps which look like a bunch of work at first glance. I have used Eduard flaps on other projects and never had any trouble so am hoping for similar results here. I had already cut the kit flap out of one wing earlier for the Paragon piece so just a little trimming and I have a good opening for the Eduard part. The wing needs to be closed up in order to insert the interior flap part but first the landing gear needs to be completed and the Paragon inlet blanks need to be installed. I’m using the kit part enhanced with a few pieces of fine magnet wire and all painted with Alclad polished aluminum. I based this on a reference picture that showed all items on the strut the same color.

       The wings are glued together and clamped. While that sets up I turn my attention to the engines. In a perfect modeling world I would be able to put some really nice Vector resin engines in here but, alas – it is not to be. While Vector makes, in my opinion, some of the best scale model engines you could hope to find their fatal flaw is that they are perfectly in scale. This means there is really no way you could hope to fit one inside a plastic injection molded cowling without removing a major amount of head detail from the engine and grinding the cowling until it was nearly paper thin. I will place a Vector engine off to one side as a show piece. Another option would be Quick Boost replacement faces, certainly an improvement over the kit pieces but with additional cost and work. Who am I kidding? At this point a few extra bucks in this build would unnoticeable. Third option; take the kit engine faces and see if they can be made presentable. I already have the Paragon carburetors left over from the wing inlet kit so let’s see what can be done.
       After cleaning up the plastic as best I could the engine faces were airbrushed with Alclad pale burnt metal. The lifter rods were painted black and the crank case medium gray. From here I started cutting and bending short pieces of fine magnet wire for my ignition harness. After all nine cylinders were completed the Paragon carburetor was installed and painted black. Some silver highlights were applied and the whole thing got a wash in black sludge wash. Lastly I had some placard decals from a Mike Grant instrument decal set and some of these were applied to the crank and oil pump. The first engine took a little better than an hour to do but by time I got to engine number four I was getting it complete in about half an hour. Once installed in the cowling they look pretty cool – a successful afternoon of modeling.

5/8/2010
        So I'm working on assembling the flaps last night and am trying to wick some thin superglue into the PE connection which seems to be working well but for some reason it just will not bond. I do it again and still no bond then I add some accelerator and STILL NO BOND! It's at this point that I realize the bottle says de-bonder. DOH! After a trip to the local hobby shop and the acquisition of some fresh thin superglue we now have a flap. I want to take just a moment and remind everyone that this model is a 'recovered' kit. I bought the original donor kit off eBay for $10. Someone had started building it using that nasty tube glue, had brush painted the interior with several thick coats of green and brush painted the exterior with three or four thick layers of Testors silver. Before construction for me cold even begin this thing made several trips to the freezer to make glue joints brittle for snapping and had spent a couple days soaking in paint stripper. Just goes to show one modeler's junk is another modeler’s show-piece.
        Moving right along I now turn my attentions to the upper gun turrets. The original forward gun turret piece is simply a ring that locks into the fuselage with no lower detail whatsoever. Borrowing somewhat from the Monogram B-17G kit I create a master piece for the lower stand and make an RTV mold, now I can cast these in resin. I have to replace both long support rods with plastic rod inside the mold before pouring the resin but end up with some nice base pieces. I formed shell bags from aluminum foil then filled them with resin. Once mostly set they were then sculpted to the desired shape. The gunner stand is my own resin cast piece, the central ammo box is from sheet plastic, the O2 bottle is another of my resin castings and the O2 hose is guitar wire. The top turret is closer now. I replaced the short cast ammo feeds with new PE feeds that run all the way to the ammo box. Just need some glazing and some new barrels now.
        The wife has been out doing garage sales all day and my film guy is in Chicago doing a wedding (we are filming Swanny’s Video #4 right now and about half way through the shoot) so I have the day to tinker with the YB-40. Both upper turrets are completely detailed inside and out now with the exception of the gun barrels which should be arriving Tuesday. Both those turrets easily slide out to provide a better view into both compartments. Note that the aft turret does not have any framing? That piece was a single blown Plexiglas piece much like the nose glazing was. Do you know how much it costs to totally outfit a YB-40 with Master gun barrels? A lot! I’ve got more tied up in gun barrels than the cost of a brand new 1/48 B-17F. Come to think of it I really don’t want to know how much is tied up in this build overall – most likely a staggering amount. Anyway, not only are the top turrets done but the conversion to the nose turret conversion (How about that? A conversion to the conversion!) is complete and the set points for each of the six Brownings are in place. Note the red rectangle on the fuselage - that is the original Port Pitot tube which will be relocated up the fuselage wall. Also note the repositioned Direction Finding Antenna housing under the fuselage. The main canopy has been trimmed to fit and treated with Future - just waiting for that to fully harden before I start masking and doing the final attachment. Also the tail gunner's canopy has been masked and installed. It's been a good day at the workbench.


Remember, you can click on any of the small images in this article to view larger pictures

        I should make a couple comments about historical accuracy here, Seymour Angel never sported a six pack of Brownings in the nose. This modification was tested on a single airframe B17G 42-31435 of the 384th BG after suffering damage to its nose. It was fitted with a fixed battery of six .50 caliber guns to be fired by the pilot in the event of a head on attack. It was never put into production but I saw a single picture of the test turret and liked the look of it so much that I just had to add it to the build. To tell the truth this single conversion piece was a driving motivational piece for me in doing this build. Ain’t that a kick in the pants?

6/01/2010
       It’s looking like it’s time to start bringing these sub-assemblies together now. The aft wing tabs had to be trimmed to clear the new radio room bulkheads then things slipped right into place. I had to compress the wing a little with clamps while gluing to get a good fit then after the glue had set up a small run of putty to fix the wing seam made things look perfect. While the wings were setting up I turned my attention to the four props. These were cleaned up then airbrushed with Alclad polished aluminum for the hubs and Testors flat black for the blades. Once everything had hardened up the blades were brush painted with Future and Mike Grant Hamilton Standard Logos were applied.
       Back to the main fuselage; the flight deck canopy has been masked, attached and prepainted with interior green, the top turrets and waist windows have been stuffed with tissue. Each landing gear assembly has been covered with a boot made from tissue paper and the engine faces have been masked off. Once the nose glazing is in place and masked this is ready for some flat black pre-shading.

       Once all the pre-shading was done and this took a couple days mind you, I set this project aside for a week to allow everything already accomplished to harden up and to allow myself to play with some other projects for a couple days. During the Memorial Day holiday storm clouds moved in so I cleared the workbench, grabbed a gallon of Olive Drab paint and got busy. Okay, I didn’t really use a gallon of paint, more like a half an ounce thinned 50/50 but as many times as I stopped to fill my airbrush with either OD or neutral gray it certainly felt like a gallon of paint. Once the base colors were in place I started cutting masks for the dark green. I started with a dozen 2” X 2” squares of masking tape. Into the center of each I cut a random pattern. Now I could rotate and place these on the model and effectively have about two dozen different shapes to play with. I get the two dozen by working along the edges of the model, by rotating the mask and using different sides I can get several different looks from each mask. About eight hours later this is what I have on the desk.

6/14/2010
       Paint has cured and Future has been applied. Now it’s time for some decals. Decals are a mixture of the original kit decals which kind of suck, a couple of pin-up girls from a Pyn-Up decal sheet and some home made decals. The kit decals have a discolored adhesive and are a bit thick. When applying these I am careful to rub off the old adhesives while they are soaking in water then dipping them in Future which will act as a new adhesive. On the large stars I had a small amount of curl that occurred around the edges and was basically contained to the clear film boarder. After the Future cured I carefully shave off this curl and applied another coat of Future. The Pyn-up girls are silk screened with very light color density and require a white background. I could have used the white backing provided with the Pyn-Up sheet but as I was using the ‘spares’ on that sheet I did not want to prevent a future use of the sheet for its intended subject. To rectify this I scanned the girls then created a fine black line outline which was simply printed to white decal paper and cut out. The aircraft name ‘Seymour Angel’ presented another problem with color density. I did not want to spend forever cutting these cursive letters from white backing so instead printed three copies for each side on clear decal paper and simply overlaid them to get good density. The tail number was printed on both white and clear decal film. First a clear set was placed to act as a guide then the white backed set was cut out and placed. Next another copy of the clear set was overlaid to help everything flow together and there you have it – decals done.
       After a coat of Micro-Flat the masks were removed then various hatches were painted and super glued in place and the flaps were glued in place. Final details like ventral and dorsal antenna were added and some ground pastel chalk stains were added. Now here is a point of contention, many folks will tell you that the upper vents on the wings of a B-17 only pass clean warm air and it is incorrect to add staining here. Okay, this is true if everything is in perfect working order but when things start to go wrong like from battle damage you can get crap coming out of these vents. I have seen images of B-17s in flight with heavy staining coming from all these vents so I know it is possible. I’m not saying it happens all the time or even a majority of the time simply that it can and does happen so I elected to have some staining here as this is an aircraft that definitely experienced some heavy combat. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. All that is left now is to take some pictures.


You may click on these small images to view larger pictures

       Now for some closing thoughts. I put a lot of work into the interior and now you must be wondering if any of that can even be seen. I made certain during the construction process that any locking tabs on the upper turrets were removed so both these can be pulled to better view the interior. When I take this to a club meet I take a couple pen light flashlights with me. You can shine a light in a window and see quite a bit through another window. Looking through the top turret openings there is an amazing impression of detail; you can even read the cover of the Life magazine that rests on the radio operator’s table. The end result is that people tend to sit crouched down in front of this build for a long time peering into windows and telling me how I need medical attention. Mothers warn their children about me, they say “he’s crazy, he builds model airplanes.” Heh heh, be afraid, be very afraid.





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