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"FLAK BAIT" - ProModeler re-releases the Marauder

By Michael A. Wolf

History

The Martin B-26B Marauder "Flak Bait" has the distinction of having flown more missions - 202 - than any other Allied aircraft of World War Two. The aircraft was so-named because of the more than 2,000 flak hits received during its mission lifetime. The nose section of this historically significant aircraft is in the WW II gallery of the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The B-26B had the longer wings, a modification made after many "Baltimore Whores" were lost during landing accidents. "One a day in Tampa Bay" was not a suitable moniker for an aircraft that would go on to have the lowest per sortie loss rate of all American aircraft types.

The Kit

The ProModeler re-release of the Marauder includes resin update parts for the upper turret, cockpit floor and side walls, nose wheel well bay and main gear wheel well bay bulkheads. After examination of the kit, I thought that there was more that could be done to do this model justice. The R-2800s supplied in the kit were, at best, lame. "Engines and Things" to the rescue. Their replacement R-2800s are works of art.

Modifying the Kit

With these in hand, I decided that I was going to do some serious modifications to this kit. I removed all of the control surfaces (ailerons, elevators, rudder and flaps) and cowl flaps. New cowl flaps were fashioned from card stock. I cut the nose wheel strut for placement later so that it would match the rudder. I also decided to replace the bombardier's and main canopies with a "Crystal Clear Canopy" for this kit and the nose gun ammo belt with a Reheat set.

Re-scribing Panel Lines

I could have built the model with the raised panel lines, but I wanted this model to look as good as I could make it, so they had to go. I'd never scribed panel lines before, but after e-mailing Gene Karotny, whom I knew had scribed a Panther, I figured it was something I could do. Gene's suggestion of using embossed label-making tape was especially helpful. The process of scribing all of the panel lines was time-consuming, to say the least. The results, while not perfect, are acceptable.

Construction

Construction began with the cockpit. The resin parts were carefully cut away from the molding blocks. Test fitting showed that there would have to be much thinning of the cockpit floor and the top of the wheel well in order for everything to fit properly. Careful sanding and fitting cycles resulted in everything fitting nicely. I decided at this stage to open the access door between the cockpit and the nose wheel well.

Interior Detailing

The interior was painted zinc chromate. Boxes were picked out with black and dark grays, wiring with silver and black. A wash of thinned "grimy black" picked out the details and added depth. Dry-brushing neutral gray and silver brought out the raised details. Instrument dials were covered with Krystal Kleer. Wiring was added to the rear of the instruments using individual strands of speaker wire, the smallest diameter wire I could find. I also added extra "widgets" to the cockpit Ö throttle and prop handles to the central console and wiring bundles along the cockpit sides.

The floor of the bombardier's compartment was cut away from the kit part, per instructions, and added to the resin cockpit floor. Different shades of olive drab and interior green were used for contrast. The Norden bombsight was detailed by dry-brushing silver over a black base coat. A drop of Krystal Kleer was added to the sighting glass. The fixed .50 caliber Browning was drilled out, painted gunmetal with a silver dry-brushing and installed.

The rear turret construction was rather nebulous because the instructions were not clear on part placement, nor were there any locating pins or marks. Some over-zealous sanding on one of the guns forced a little rebuilding. Once the turret parts were base-coated zinc chromate, detailed, washed and assembled, the parts were set aside. The bomb bay and bulkheads had all framing and ribbing picked out in interior green to provide contrast. A "grimy black" wash was used to provide depth and the pieces were dry-brushed with gray and silver to give the look of age and heavy use. The structure seen through the waist hatches was picked out in the same manner.

Exterior Detail and Fit

The horizontal stabilizer was a fit problem. The location of the seams proved most troublesome for filling and sanding. After reading about the use of micro-balloons with Zap-a-Gap, I found this method most acceptable - as long as I didn't wait to get the sanding done. After several applications of the mix and sanding, the seams were finally gone.

Adding the bulkheads to the main gear wells proved problematic. I had trouble getting everything to line up just right. It took me several attempts before everything looked OK. But after picking out the details with interior green over zinc chromate and adding the washes, both wheel wells were looking pretty good. I drilled out the exhaust stacks and added a ring structure that the engine cowling would hang off of on the real aircraft. This detail would be seen through the opened cowl flaps, so adding something to the area was required.

I traced the outline for the cowl flap opening on card stock and freehanded the cuts. Drilling five small-diameter holes in each piece added a bit of interest. I found that while the replacement R-2800s were probably to scale, the interior of the engine cowlings were not. I ground away as much of the inside of the cowlings as I dared. I ended up filing off the rocker covers on the engines.

The junction between the engine nacelles and the lower wing showed four rather large gaps. I masked off the gaps with tape, added just enough "Green Stuff" to fill in the gaps and carefully sanded it down until the seam disappeared. I did not want to lose any more detail than was necessary. Adding the wings to the fuselage was aided by the kit's use of spars. A nice touch. The nominal gaps were filled with Zap-a-Gap and the micro-balloons.

Getting The Beast To Nose-Sit

At this point in the construction, I decided I'd better make sure that the completed model would actually sit on the nose wheel. I placed the model on its main gear legs and placed many of the parts that were to be added after painting in their respective locations (elevators, for instance). Murphy's Law was still in effect. That bugger sat firmly on her butt. By this time, I'd already added the engine cowls and the fuselage was assembled so there were few places to hide the mass. In fact, the only option I had was the radio room, between the cockpit and the bomb bay. The short moment arm between the radio room and the main gear (the fulcrum in this case) dictated that I'd have to use a substantial amount of weight.

The only way to add the weight to the radio room was to drill out the door between it and the bomb bay. I had to add split sinkers a couple at a time until the model would sit correctly. Some thinned white glue carefully added to the compartment fixed the weights in correct place in the compartment, as far forward as possible.

Final Exterior Assembly

Before I could paint, I had to add the rest of the external parts, including the four gun packs along the fuselage sides. There was only one very minor problem. I only had three of the four. This leads me to believe that there's a black hole right under my worktable with an event horizon about a meter in diameter. That remaining gun pack was not to be found. Well, OK, I've had to scratch build parts before. Gluing a couple of pieces of PlastiStrut together and carefully sanding, I ended up with a replacement that is undetectable as such. After carving the shell ejector chutes and adding a gun barrel confiscated from the tail guns that were not needed for this variant, the four gun barrels were drilled out and added. I was ready to paint.

Painting

"Light colors first" is an old mantra. Therefore, the Neutral Gray went on first. I'd read of Tom's thread trick and I decided to try it. I've found that electrical tape works very well for certain masking efforts. It stretches to follow compound curves and, like drafting tape, does not lift a finish or leave a residue. Placing an appropriately lengthy piece on my glass-topped working surface, I cut the wave pattern. When I laid the tape sticky side up, I quickly found out that it can be frustrating to place a piece of thread about 1/16th inch from the edge of a piece of tape. But I learned that by using the rounded end of a paint brush to push the thread down on to the tape while I fed the thread with the other hand, I could achieve acceptable results.

My first upper coat was straight olive drab. When that dried sufficiently, I mixed faded olive drab 50/50 with "non-faded" OD and painted all of the surfaces that would receive direct sunlight - the top of the fuselage and engine nacelles, the tops of the wings and elevators. Then I mixed a little bit of green drab with regular OD and shot areas that are usually excluded from sunlight - under the wings and elevators, for instance. I removed the masks before the paint set. After letting everything dry overnight, I misted Future over the entire aircraft in preparation for the decals.

Decals and Weathering

Decals went on painlessly. A coat of Dullcoat over the entire model sealed the decals. Since "Flak Bait" was a heavily weathered aircraft, I decided to be rather heavy handed with the weathering process. Exhaust stains were added by spraying a pattern of grimy black, with gunship gray just inside of the black, a misting of neutral gray over that, then grimy black again to add the depth. The stains were carried on to the undersides of the elevator. The leading edge of the gun packs were lightly touched with grimy black as well. Individual panels on the wings and across the top of the fuselage were painted "non-faded" OD to simulate panels that were recently replaced. The panel on the starboard wing covers the wing walk - for this very reason.

Observation of the real "Flak Bait" and the documentation that came with the decals showed that the panel lines easily showed. Therefore, most of the panel lines on the model received at least a little attention. The wing roots and the area surrounding the fuel filler caps received more attention. Even the props were heavily weathered. The tires are dark brown, dry-brushed neutral gray and washed with grimy black. The wheel hubs were painted steel with the details picked out with a drafting pen.

The remaining guns were done with gunmetal and a silver dry-brushing. At this point, I decided to place the hatches in the open position instead of discarding the parts as the instructions would have had me do. I added a small piece of angle along the hinge edge to provide both a gluing surface and the appearance of a hinge. The doors are barely visible to a casual observation, but with the model sitting on a mirror you can clearly see them.

Fitting and Opening the Canopies

By this time, I'd ordered the Crystal Clear Canopies for this kit. Although I'd already essentially completed the model, I noticed that these after-market parts allow for the opening of the canopy hatches. With all of the work and the extra goodies in the cockpit, I decided, albeit late in the game, to open these hatches. Careful scribing and cutting of the area behind the glass and even more careful cutting of the vac-u-formed canopy exposed the details. I shot a thin strip of chromate green on some clear decal sheet and when dry, covered that with the faded olive drab that I'd used on the upper surfaces. Cutting in to appropriately thin strips, I carefully applied the canopy bracing. With the hatches open, not only can a viewer see the cockpit details, but the chromate interior of the bracing as well.

Final Details

Some of the last details added were the 500 lb. GP bombs. These bombs had a yellow stripe on them, right behind the forward fuse. But what was the best method to do this? I did not trust my shaky hands to hand-paint them and I didn't have a circle template to use as a mask. The kit's decals had two wide yellow stripes, perfect for this application. By carefully cutting out arcs from these decals, I was able to closely approximate the stripes that I was looking for. Then for an added touch (one of those things that only the builder would be aware of) I decided to add the red "Remove Before Flight" tags to each of the bombs. I found some thin foil, painted it Insignia Red on both sides and cut in to thin strips. A spot of super glue and the bombs were added to the racks.

Conclusions

All in all, I spent a lot more time on this model than I had on any other. But I'd done a lot more on this model than any other as well. Were the results worth it? I think so. It definitely adds a nice touch to my ever-growing collection. And I'm pleased with it. An acceptable representation of a true World War Two workhorse.




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