H-K Models 1/32 B-17G Flying Fortress

A test shot review by Tom Cleaver

MSRP will be $278.00


          Modelers have long complained that the Monogram B-17G first released in the late 1970s is in need of a “modern” replacement for its perceived sins, most of which revolve around the raised panel detail; in fact, that detail is not so wrong, since when completed it gives a good approximation of the look of lapped panels, of which the real B-17 has many.  Such a complaint when voiced at a discussion board is usually followed by a post to the effect that a 1/48 Tamiya B-17 would cost over $100, followed by a joking comment that what is really needed is a 1/32 B-17.

          Last year, Neil Yan at H-K Models decided to take the “1/32 B-17 joke” seriously, and announced an injection-molded 1/32 B-17G.  Over the time since that announcement, modelers have seen some of the CAD drawings released for publicity, and there have been more than a few negative comments about shape accuracy and other details as revealed in the drawings and snide comments about “another Trumpeter project.”

          Allow me to reassure you.  Having created a working relationship last year with Neil over the controversy that attached to the release of the 1/32 B-25J, I suggested to him that a kit like this, which would be gone over by the Very Serious Modelers Indeed Brigade with a fine-tooth comb, would benefit from the assistance of Subject Matter Experts among the modeling community during the design phase, who could review the design while it was still in the computer and easy to revise before cutting any metal.  Neil quickly agreed with this idea and asked me to put together such a group, which I did.  (No, Wumm, I’m not getting a percentage of the profits for doing this; I’m getting an accurate B-17 model, just like you.)  The team of SMEs included Jennings Heilig; the detail-obsessive ChukW; Lynn Ritger; Modeling Madness’ own Steve Towle; Ray Ferriss and Mike Kellner, who are involved in the restoration of an actual B-17; Geoffrey Hays, who has been involved with “Shoo Shoo Baby” at the Air Force Museum; Matt Swann; Chris Bucholtz; and Terry Dean.  Additional assistance was provided by Guillermo Rojas Bazan, whose incredible all-metal 1/15 scale B-17G has amazed everyone who has ever seen it.  We were able to provide detail photos from several existing B-17s, as well as accurate drawings.

          Perhaps the most important thing the group accomplished was to discover that H-K had used the Aero Detail drawings for their initial design.  These drawings may look wonderful, but they are far from accurate; the only set of drawings that show the wildly-inaccurate Hasegawa 1/48 Spitfire IX to be “correct” are those found in the Aero Detail book on the Spitfire.  With accurate drawings, the CAD design was rescued without further problem.

          So, what do we have as a result?  What is in the box is essentially a Boeing-built B-17G-50-BO or later series aircraft, with the staggered one-piece waist windows and “Cheyenne” tail turret.  Outside of the Vega-built B-17s which had a more pointed nose cone, one can get away wit making a model of the Boeing and Douglas-Long Beach B-17G sub-series aircraft that constituted the majority of the B-17Gs built.  Given the parts breakdown of the fuselage, different versions can be expected in later releases.  Changing the waist window in the right fuselage half to one that is unstaggered will allow any earlier-production B-17 to be done, while the separate Cheyenne tail turret will allow its replacement by the earlier style of tail “stinger.”  The separate forward fuselage ahead of the cockpit means that a B-17F could also be done in the future.  With the amount of very petite surface detail, it is not advisable for an impatient modeler to go hacking up the right fuselage half to change the position of the waist window, since replacing all that detail would be extremely difficult.

           For those not into technical details, what all of the above means is that the kit will not include decals for “A Bit ‘O Lace,” since that airplane has the unstaggered three-part waist windows.  It also means any models done will have a choice of either a natural metal exterior finish or a silver finish overall.

           Jennings Heilig is doing the decals.  They will be for 43‑37756, "Milk Wagon," a B‑17G‑70‑BO, assigned to the 708th Bomb Squadron, 447th Bomb Group. Over the course of its tour of duty, “Milk Wagon” set a record in the 3rd Division for 129 missions without aborting for mechanical failure.

           I know of at least two aftermarket decal makers who are considering releasing sheets for the model.

           As to the kit itself, in terms of overall detail it is highly reminiscent of the earlier B-25J series.  It does not have raised-rivet detail or lapped panels.  This is primarily due to the fact that creating raised rivet detail petite enough to be really accurate, as well as accurate raised-panel detail, would increase the price of an already-expensive kit.  That said, I visited Chino this past weekend, and took a good look at their B-17G, “Picadilly Lily II.”  The truth is, from a distance further than six feet (a bit more than 2 inches in 1/32 scale), it’s actually pretty hard to see the raised rivet detail in daylight unless the sun is at the right angle.  Viewing the airplane from 36 feet away (what would be approximately a foot in 1/32 scale), it’s impossible to see the raised rivets.  As someone who is in the midst of building a third H-K B-25J, I can tell you that the very petite rivet detail H-K Models has provided here will satisfy 99.99999% of modelers, and those who won’t be are the ones who have never found a model that isn’t “wanting” in some way.

           The fabric detail on the control surfaces is perfect.  Other than a petite raised line to represent an underlying rib and rib tape, there is no detail, which is what a real fabric-covered surface looks like.  No “hills and valleys” or any other over-done effect.

           The clear parts are so thin they are fragile, and so clear you’ll likely misplace them once you cut them off their sprue if you are not very careful where you put them.  You’ll be really unhappy if you find that gorgeous nose cone by the “Crrruunnch!” method.

           Internal fuselage detail from nose to tail is at least as good as that of the B-25 series - I think it’s actually better.  With proper painting, a modeler will get a “museum quality model” from this kit out of the box.  Those who put any amount of additional detail into the interior will be well-rewarded for their effort (though outside of the nose it will be hard to see any of it once the fuselage is assembled).  The bomb bay can be displayed open, and the flaps can be displayed lowered.  The four R-1820s are models in themselves, as were the R-2600s in the B-25 kits.  The turbochargers are nicely detailed.

           Fit of the large airframe parts is excellent, and if a modeler takes their time in fitting things together, there will be little if any need for seam filling.  H-K made a brilliant decision to make the cabin roof a separate part, so there is no centerline seam through this area to deal with at all. Test fitting of the left nose to the fuselage shows that you must be careful to fit this precisely; the parts are large and just slapping them together will guarantee gaps and seams that have to be filled with loss of detail.  Take your time there, and you will need none of that.

           The kit is amazingly light for its size, and the plastic landing gear will have no trouble supporting the model once assembled.  

           There have already been screams, wailing and gnashing of teeth over the announced price of US$278.99. One commenter at a site wondered what the “price point” would have been if it had been released by Revell.  Having built the Revell Ju-88 and being in the process of finishing the Revell He-111P and He-219, I can say that those kits are examples of “you get what you pay for.”  They are good and make into nice basic models with acceptable detail, and can be turned into show-stoppers, but the basic detail level provided in those kits is in no way comparable with that provided in this kit, which is why they are as low-priced as they are. $278 really is as low as H-K can go for what is here, and those who think all models should be priced as they were in 1968 are living in Fantasy Land.  Given the complexity of this kit and the time it is going to take anyone to create a model, just assembling what is there without additional detail, the price of this model should be considered in terms of time rather than just in money.  According to a study done a few years back, the average reader of Modeling Madness and the other scale modeling websites spends an average of $50 per month on the hobby.  If you take five months to build this (which will be easy to do) and amortize its cost over that period, your average spending on the hobby has paid for the kit.

           Just remember: it’s biiiiiiiig.  The wingspan is 39.5 inches, the overall length is a bit over 30 inches.  Thank goodness I will be displaying this one out at Planes of Fame, where they can build a new hangar for it.

 Review kit courtesy of H-K Models.

For a more complete look at the CAD drawings of this kit, visit www.hk-models.de, Ed