by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
When Accurate Miniatures got into financial difficulties some years ago, the rumour mill went into overdrive with speculation that some of their kits - in particular, the Avenger and Stormovik - would resurface under the Italeri banner. Thankfully, Accurate Miniatures began trading again, and any thoughts of re-boxing were forgotten, almost...
The rumours never quite went away but, as the years went by, it seemed increasingly unlikely that Italeri would release the kits - particularly when Accurate Miniatures re-released both kits themselves. So it was with some surprise that I spotted Italeri's new Avenger on the shelves at Hannants and opened the box to find Accurate Miniatures' masterpiece inside. But it was an even greater shock when I asked the price... an astonishing £13.99.
Brief subject historyThe Grumman TBF Avenger could hardly have made a more disastrous operational debut; at the Battle of Midway, only one of the six brand-new aircraft survived. Despite this, the Avenger went on to be come one of the most potent weapons in the US Navy arsenal and remained in service for some 15 years.
The Avenger was designed in 1940 as a torpedo bomber to replace the Douglas TBD Devastator. Grumman had never designed a torpedo-bomber before but successfully beat off the challenge from the rival Vought XTBU Sea Wolf. The first prototype flew in August 1941, with the second following in December, just a week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour; in response to which, the aircraft was christened "Avenger".
Although it was designed as a torpedo-bomber, Avengers actually saw greater use carrying conventional bombs and depth charges, while later versions could be equipped with a fearsome array of 5" rockets carried under the wings. During its first year of production, the aircraft was fitted with Air to Surface radar, which became standard on all later models.
9,839 Avengers were built, serving with America and her allies. New Zealand received 63 aircraft which she operated in the South Pacific, while the UK took delivery of 958 - originally under the name Tarpon which was changed to Avenger in 1944 to avoid confusion.
The KitAlthough the Avenger isn't a new kit, it's slipped through the Armorama net until now - largely because its original release pre-dates the site. Experienced modellers Will need no introduction to the model, but there's a generation of newcomers who may never have seen the Accurate Miniatures kit. For those of you who know the original, skip ahead to "So what's new?" - for the rest, read on...
Still with me? Right, so what do you get in a kit which has assumed almost legendary status? The parts list consists of:
109 x parts moulded in pale greenish-grey plastic
25 x clear parts
The parts include the Jagi radar aerials, which Italeri state should not be used, however I think they are appropriate for most Avengers, so check your references.
The moulding is still perfect - the moulds might be 10 years old, but there isn't a hint of flash anywhere. This was the kit that established Accurate Miniature's reputation for excellence, and the detailing throughout is second to none. On the outside there are finely engraved panel lines, plus a mixture of petite raised and embossed rivets and the detail inside is quite exceptional. I did spot a few faint sink marks where there's internal detail moulded, but these are very shallow and could easily be sanded away. Alternatively, some would argue that they give an accurate, slightly "stressed" look to the exterior. Despite the complexity of the interior parts, there are remarkably few ejector-pin marks - a real tribute to Accurate Miniatures' designers all those years ago...
The engine features neatly moulded cylinders and a crankcase with full wiring harness, while the undercarriage has moulded-on brake lines and deep wheel-wells, along with a choice of treaded or smooth tyres.
The bomb-bay is fully detailed with a choice of stores - a MK.13 torpedo, 4 x 500 lb bombs and 2 x depth charges.
The clear parts are beautifully produced - crystal clear and separately bagged.
So What's new?Apart from the colour of the parts (pale green-ish grey as opposed to Accurate Miniatures' mid-grey), the most obvious difference is in the packaging; Italeri have abandoned Accurate Miniatures' tradition of a false-bottom box to protect the clear parts and decals and have packed everything together in a standard box. No matter - this is sturdy enough and the clear parts are separately bagged and arrived in perfect condition. So I've no complaints on that count.
The instructions are re-worked. The original drawing have been kept, but the detailed assembly notes are all gone. However, Italeri have added a useful diagram of the bomb-bay showing stencil placement on the bombs and depth charges.
The weapons set is reduced from my latest Accurate Miniatures version, which also includes 2000 lb and 1600 lb bombs, along with a set of 5" rockets.
The clear parts are identical, but Accurate Miniatures also include a set of canopy masks.
DecalsThe other big change is the decals; Italeri have included an enormous sheet with no less than 6 options:
TBF-1C, USS Natoma Bay, February 1944
TBM-1, USS Mission Bay, December 1943
TBM-1C, USS Block Island, January 1944
TBM-1, RNZAF, Whenvapai, 1944
Tarpon Mk. 1, No 846 Sqn., FAA, 1944 (Tarpons were actually re-christened as Avengers in Jan 1944).
TBM-1D, USS San Jacinto, July 1944
The FAA option includes a mixture of Dull- and Insignia-Red markings... something to check in your references. (Note: The kit doesn't include bulged waist windows as fitted to Royal Navy machines).
The decals are matt finished and well printed in good register, although the yellow of some numerals overlaps its white backgound slightly, so there may be a dark outline when they are applied.
The sheet includes a comprehensive set of stencils - all clearly legible, along with a rather crude seat harness. One change from the original is that Italeri don't supply a decal for the instrument panel (still moulded in clear).
Modelmaster paint matches are quoted throughout (Italeri distribute these in Europe) along with FS and ANA numbers. Four of the schemes call for the classic US Navy three-tone scheme, but something got confused along the way with Italeri suggesting "Blue Angels Blue - F.S.15050" and "RAF Azure Blue - ANA 609" for the topsides.
ConclusionThis is a truly exceptional model - be it Accurate Miniatures' original or Italeri's re-boxed version. The new European release doesn't have quite the sophistication or all the options of Accurate Miniatures' original, but no-one can argue with its price - not surprisingly Hannants were selling them almost as fast as they could unpack them when I was there...
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