The Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber was the mainstay scout/dive bomber of the US Navy through most of WWII. They were primarily operated in the Pacific theater off of aircraft carriers, but saw limited use in other theaters during the war, and could operate effectively as land based strike aircraft as well. Considered obsolete at the start of the war because of it's slow speed (255mph max) and climb rate (1,700 feet/min), the aircraft continued in service well into 1944 as the main dive bomber of the US Navy because of it's reliability, sturdy construction, and the lack of a suitable replacement. The SBD was well liked by it's crews as well because of it's maneuverability and good armament and many pilots scored victories against attacking Japanese aircraft. There were several modifications made through the war, with the e SBD-5 being the most produced. It featured a 1200 hp engine and increased ammunition capacity, and could carry radar. Over 2,400 of the roughly 6,000 Dauntless bombers were SBD-5s. They would equip not only the US Navy, but also squadrons in the Royal Navy, Royal New Zeland Navy, and also the US Navy and Free French forces under the Army designation of A-24 Banshee.
Accurate Miniatures "Speedy Dee"
Accurate Miniatures came out with the series of SBD dive bombers in plastic in the 1990s and they were heralded as the ultimate plastic kits, setting a standard in accuracy for the model kit. To this day, you can visit almost any modeling forum in the world, and ask which 1/48 scale version of the SBD is best. The answer will be "Accurate Miniatures". The only problem is, Accurate Miniatures is out of business. However, fortune smiles on modelers. The molds were purchased, I believe, by Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC), and the Accurate Miniatures molds are being used again. Italeri has re-released the SBD-5 under their banner and the others will probably follow before too long.
I have wanted to build a Dauntless for years. I passed on the chance to get the original Accurate minatures boxing and spent a lot of time waiting for the right opportunity and price. I found an online sale at Luckymodel.com and jumped at the chance to get my own kit. When the box arrived I opened it and compared the contents with sprue shots I found online of the original kit. Everything is the same. So what do you get?
Opening the Box
Inside the top opening box there are 6 sprues in gray styrene and one in clear styrene. Detailing is quite good, with recessed panel lines, perforated dive flaps separate ignition harness for the engine, weighted and unweighted tires, and options of closed one piece or open multiple piece canopies.
The "B" sprue holds the two fuselage halves, which line up quite well. Also the engine cowling, forward fuselage and cockpit details.
The "C" sprue has the lower wings as a single piece adn the upper wings as separate parts.
The "D" sprue has the cockpit floor, engine cylinders, wheels, cockpit parts, and two .50 cal guns that mount in the forward fuselage.
The "E" sprue has the dive flaps, details for the cockpit adn landing gear.
The "F" sprue has the bombs, more fuselage details and horizontal stabilizers in top and bottom sections.
The "G" sprue has the propeller, ignition housing, radar antenna and detail bits.
The "L" sprue has the clear canopy parts and clear instrument panel sections.
Decals, Painting Guide, Instructions
Decals are printed very finely, and appear to be clear and in register.
The instructions are large foldout type, with a sprue map and painting guide, showing Italeri Model Master enamel and acrylic paint numbers, on the first page. The assembly instructions are provided as line drawings and present the assembly in 11 steps.
A painting and decal guide for 5 aircraft is included at the end of the instructions. The five marking options are as follows.
SBD-5, 25th RNZAF, F/O L.A. MacLellan-Symonds, F/S R. F. Bailey, Piva, April 1944, in Sea blue over Intermediate blue with white underside. This aircraft includes Donald Duck noseart.
SBD-5, VMSB-231, Major Elmer Gliden and M/Sgt James Boile, Marshall Island, 1944, sea blue over intermediate blue, white underside. This aircraft includes extensive mission markings on the side.
A-24B-1-DT, 407th BG, Aleutian Islands, 1943, Olive Drab upper surface , gray underside. This aircraft includes "Bar Fly" noseart.
SBD-5, Flottille F4 Aeronavale Carrier "Arromanches", Indochine, 1947. Sea blue over intermediate blue, white underside.
A-24B, Broupe de Combatr 1/18, "Vendee", France, 1944, olive drab upper, gray underside. This aircraft features the Free French cross behind the national insignia.
The variety of markings should appeal to a wide audience of modelers.
As for the quality of the contents, overall detail is, as mentioned, very good. However, the moldings are showing their age. There was quite a bit of flash on many smaller parts and in particular, the holes in the dive flaps will require some clean up. Also many of the details on the kit, such as the brake lines on the landing gear, cockpit wall sections and the ignition harness had a lot of flash. Mold seams were prominent on some parts, such as the cylinders on the radial engine. There are large ejector pin marks on the inner fuselage halves, some of which will require cleanup as they are visible when the cockpit is assembled. The two .50 cal guns are best covered completely as they have no detail. The dive flaps are attached directly to the sprue and will require significant cleanup to get free.
In the instructions, some of the cockpit assembly is also confusing. Parts are numbered L and R for left and right, and the parts numbering sequence doesn't run like most conventional kits. The rudder controls, parts 18 and 78, aren't depicted clearly and it takes some figuring out to see how they go together. Parts 34F sit opposite each other and don't show any clear placement-do they connect or touch the floor? The decals for the instrument panel don't quite line up with the dial faces and will need to be cut in smaller sections, or individually placed. The included seat belt decals look like decals, but every other kit I have built is the same way, and anyone taking the time to put them in will replace them with something else. There is no clear indication as to when the fuselage halves are joined. If you do it before you position the rear gunner's seat, it can still be set in place, starting sideways. It also appears that the kit includes a sold and a pneumatic rear tire, but the instructions never show any rear tire installation.
Fit of the major components of the kit is, in general, good. The cockpit and fuselage halves go together with minimal fuss. I worked my way around the fuselage, starting at the lower front end and keeping the two halves lined up. I found that the wings don't (or won't) fit at the rear joint with the fuselage, something that I have read about this kit repeatedly. There will also be a small gap to fill along the top of the wing joint, but fit there is much better than on other aircraft I have built. My assembly is still ongoing but these major areas are what I wanted to verify. I did note that the holes in the dive flaps should line up, and I haven't fitted these yet, so I don't know if they will.
Overall, my impression of the kit is that it is very nice, but showing it's age. Parts fit appears to be good, at least of the major components. The variety of marking and painting schemes is excellent. There are plenty of aftermarket details available for the kit for the superdetailers. I think it is time for a new tooling of this aircraft, taking advantage of improved technology, but until that time, this kit is again available and ready to be built.