Accurate Miniatures SB2U Vindicator


Part 2 - Aircraft of Text Hill Series

The Vindicator was the US Navy’s first mono-wing Dive Bomber. It was outmoded when the US entered WWII, but it still saw service until the battle of Midway. Much has been said about Accurate Miniatures Vindicator kit, but at the end of the day, it is the only 1/48 scale kit of this plane. The kit comes in the familiar sturdy white and yellow Accurate Miniature box. Clear parts and decals are boxed separately underneath a cardboard drawing of the plane. Included in the kit are canopy masks and PE frets for the seatbelts. You have a choice of an open canopy or a one piece closed canopy. Accurate Miniature always provided their instruction sheets in booklet format that had much more written instructions as other manufacturers. This text is crucial to read to not make the build go smoothly. This is especially true for this kit as the diagram have mislabeled or simply missing labeled parts.

The build as usual starts with the cockpit and Accurate Miniature has crammed more details into this kit than their other two (SBD-1 and the F3F) that I have built. However, since I have the Eduard colour PE fret also, it was really just gilding the lily. The Eduard PE does have very nice throttle quadrants, extra switches, and its usual replacement instrument panels. There were other small details that elected not to use as it would have been lost once everything was closed up. The life raft tie-down straps were nice though.
The cockpit has some issues with sink marks, these were especially large at the footrest and oxygen bottles. Some filler however easily remedy them. All the major components were painted Tamiya Aluminum, and with hindsight I should have used a different paint was quite grainy. The life raft was painted German Gelb and the oxygen bottles a bright green. The rest of the details were picked out in flat black and white. The only extra detail I added were some wiring beneath the radio between the rear gunner and pilot. The final piece I added here was the RDF antenna loop, which was painted half black, half white based on my references. This I proceeded to break of twice during the build and was eventually lost. I later replaced it with small gauge solder after the build was almost complete. This was one piece better left off until the end.

The problem with the cockpit is that the tolerances are very tight and I couldn’t close up the fuselage. The main culprit seems to be the upper and lower instrument panel supporting side structs. I finally resorted to cutting off these structs as they can’t be seen when the fuselage was closed and using a hidden metal struct in the middle to hold the two panels together.

As I received a kit with a later mold where the infamous fuselage sink marks were corrected, I saved myself some work there. The Eduard PE set I have also included dropped flaps, which looked like a great deal of work including cutting out the kits molded in flaps. I was going to skip this part as I was a bit intimidated at first. However, after realizing the difficulty fit with the original the wings and flaps I talk razor saw in hand and proceeded to cut out the flaps. Folding the PE flaps required some patience, my PE folding tool came in real handy here.

The rest of the kit came together without further difficulty except for the canopy. First, the supplied canopy masks were ill fitting in certain areas. I used Eduard’s masks instead. Then despite the separate pieces provided to pose it open, the pieces are simply to think to fit together in an open position. I finally resorted to sanding down the bottom of the two rear canopy pieces to make everything fit.

The painting started with some Tamiya gray primer as I was going to use Alclad Aluminum as my silver coat. Note that these planes were both metal and silver paint over fabric, so becareful how ‘metalic’ you make the different parts. I planned to use Yellow Wing’s sheet which included markings for the Yorktown commander. I masked off the tails for the Yorktown commander’s insignia red. The decals provides the red stripes but I realized that my paint wouldn’t have matched the tail paint properly so I decided to mask and paint the stripes also. The wings were then sprayed with Insignia yellow with a few drops of orange to simulate the proper yellow color. Instead of using the decals for the wing walkways, I decided to paint those also. After a coat of Johnson’s Future, all the decals were applied. These decals were very thin and responded well to a coat of Microsol. I applied a wash of black oil along the ailerons and wing folds areas. As these planes were well maintained during peace time, I used a very diluted amount of brown oil wash to bring out the panel lines a bit but otherwise kept the plane very clean. A slight spray of thinned Tamiya smoke was applied as exhaust stains and the whole plane was toned down a bit to a semigloss with a mixture of Future and Tamiya flat base. At this point, adding the antenna and pitot completed another yellow wing to my collection.

Tex Hill's Vindicator - (Bureau Number 1383)

Serving with the USS Ranger Scouting Squadron 4 (VB-4), my sources indicate that his plane was BuNo #1383. This would indicate that this was the last -2 model delivered to the Navy in 1939. After participating in Neutrality patrols, it was reassigned for training on the auxiliary carrier Charger (ACV 30). Eventually the aircraft was assigned to Naval Carrier Qualification Training in Illinois in 1943. It was there in June of 1943 while being piloted by Marine 2nd Lieutenant Lemmons that the plane missed the arresting wires while attempting a landing on the training carrier Wolverine. The plane skipped over the crash barrier net, crashed onto the deck, went overboard and promptly sank, luckily Lt. Lemmons was rescued. This plane was recovered in 1990 from Lake Michigan and has been fully restored by the US Navy and is currently on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola, Florida. I have not seen this information verified elsewhere, but if I'm correct in my research, Tex's SB2U-2 is now the only surviving Vindicator left in the world and is available for everyone to see.
(click thumbnails to see larger picture)

The USS Ranger’s aircraft all carried a Green tail. As per the 1937 US naval scheme, the plane had yellow-orange wings and silvered color dope fuselage. The front cowling's color red on the top half only and his fuselage was marked 4-B-2 for 4th Bombing squadron, plane #2. “SB2U-2” was painted on the green rudder along with 2 diagonal black stripes. Since his squadron was known as the “Top Hats”, his plane carried a Top hat in the fuselage between the front and rear cockpit. Neutrality stars – smaller US insignias – were painted on the cowling during their Atlantic patrols.