Mark’s Model Plane Miscellany
Academy 1/72 Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver
by Mark Davies
The SB2C is generally viewed as a rather lacklustre replacement for the US Navy’s SBD dive bomber. Protracted development and appalling quality control and reliability issues (until the SB2C-5 at least) did much to damage the aircraft’s reputation early on, and some poor flight characteristics attributable to its proportionally short length (36’8”). It was said the Helldiver needed to be at least 38” long to avoid its handling problems.
A US Navy-imposed requirement that two aircraft be able to fit on a 40’ x 48’ carrier elevator with 1’ to spare all around is commonly cited as the reason for this fuselage shortness. This view excuses poor design by Curtis, as they chose to fit the plane’s length to the 40’ dimension rather than the 48’ one – and even so still had over 1’ of fuselage length available to them. In contrast the TBF/TBM Avenger also had the same two planes per elevator requirement impose on its design, yet was almost 41’ in length.
Nonetheless, the SB2C was an important type late in the Pacific war, and had some good points such as a high cruising speed only about 3 knots below the F6F Hellcat’s, and a heavy and quite varied armament. Whilst there were later dive-bomber designs for the US Navy, the SB2C was essentially its last purpose-built dive bomber. The SB2C served with several other nations into the post-war years, so a selection non-US markings options is available to the modeller.
Academy’s SB2C is the fourth 1:72 kit I am aware of, with earlier offerings by Airfix, Matchbox and Sword. In many ways the kit is gem, with high levels of interior detail or the scale, good surface detail and generally superb fit. A real plus is the slightly more expensive boxing that comes with Eduard photo-etch (PE) flaps & dive-brakes and a canopy paint mask. This is well worth buying if you are prepared to tackle the PE.
Building the kit
Suffice to say that the build was very straightforward, although the bomb-bay has some challenges. The bomb doors are moulded integrally with some internal structure, and the fit is a bit tricky to sit in place properly. Once fixed the structure does not allow room for the twin bomb-crutch and bombs to fit properly. The solution is to remove the doors and fit these and the interior structure separately. In doing so there is just room for the bombs. As it happens I decided to close my bomb doors anyway.
When fitting the PE you need to cut away the original plastic flaps and dive-brakes. What is not indicated is that you also need to trim away some additional plastic near the fuselage for the flaps to sit in place. I was going to have my flaps lowered, but after squashing them with my elbow on my modelling bench I had to model them closed!
I refined a few items on my model and these are listed below:
- Added a grill into the top front of the cowling
- Scratch-built pitot, exhaust pipes, cannons (because I lost one), undercarriage down indicators in top wing and gun-sight.
- I also added some detail to the rear guns using Tom’s Model Works PE, plus seat belts for the pilot. The PE ignition harness I added to engine is not really visible.
This is a really good kit that is a pleasure to build and good value for money. I highly recommend it.