by: Matthew Robeson [ ]
The Douglas Devastator arose from a US Navy proposal in 1934 to replace their fleet of large and aging Martin T4M bombers. The TBD was the only logical prototype submitted, so was accepted for production. At the time, it was very advanced, although it was highly outclassed by the time the war rolled around.
In 1939, the Dutch government approached the Douglas Company to produce a floatplane version of the Devastator for them. The Dutch wanted a coastal defence plane that could drop torpedoes if needed, since they saw the threat of another war coming. Douglas removed the landing gear from the first Devastator produced, and attached a large pair of Edo floats to it. They also re-designed the bottom the wing, making it flat. Ground clearance was no longer a problem for the torpedo mounts, so there was no need for a recessed mount. The rest of the plane went unchanged.
The German invasion in 1940 spelled the end for the Devastator floatplane, although it was retained for torpedo testing through the war. It was used to test the early Mark 13 torpedoes, and it was joked that this plane dropped more torpedoes through the war then the rest of the Devastator fleet in combat.
The Great Wall Hobby kit is well known as a big jump forward from the old Monogram kit of the 70s. Not to say that the Monogram kit is bad, but this was is really much better. The box-art of top is beautiful, showing the TBD-1A taking off on a torpedo test with a brightly painted Mark 13 slung underneath.
Opening the sturdy box, you're presented with a stuffed box of mid-grey, clear, and PE parts. The recessed detail on the parts is beautiful, complimented by rivet detail that can only be seen in certain lighting angles. This stuff is Tamiya Corsair fine, to make a quick comparison. The recessed detailing will make life much easier during construction that trying to preserve raised lines.
Next sprue down is the one that has plagued every Devastator kit, and that is the wings with those big corrugations on it. The sprue attachments are placed on the mating faces of these parts in order to preserve the corrugations. The wings are supplied as inner and outer sections to allow for the wings to be folded up to save space. That's a nice help, since the TBD is a large plane, closer to the size of an Avenger than a Dauntless. The challenge is always removing the seam on the front of the wing without destroying the ribs, but I'm thinking it can be done by using a sharp blade and scraping away the seam.
The cockpit is very nicely appointed in this kit, and uses a mix of plastic and PE parts for the scale touch. The instrument panel decals are provided individually so will make lining them up and getting them to settle much easier. Nice touch here. The cockpit discussion does open up the color argument, and the point here is to paint it however you want to. There is equal evidence for both aluminium and interior green cockpits, so it's really the model builder's call on this one. The published photos of the -1A show darker wing folds, so would lend evidence to an interior green plane, but no cockpit photos seem to exist of the -1A.
The big Edo floats are a very distinctive part of this plane, and the float assembly looks like it will be very strong and stable. The struts are all handed, so there is no real way to screw them up. Also looks like they will be able to support the weight of the plane. And although it isn't mentioned in the instructions, you will want to add some weight to the front of these floats, or else the plane will be a tail-sitter. Or you can scratch-build a beaching trolley if you so desire. That would have been a nice thing for Great Wall Hobby to include, but I'm not going to hold it against them for not including one, probably would have raised the price even more. On the subject of price, this is not a cheap model by any stretch. It can be found for cheaper than retail on most online shops, and the kit is very high quality to make up for the high price.
Towards the bottom of the box is the clear sprue, PE fret, decals, and paint masks. The canopy is beautifully clear, and there is both a single-piece option and a multi-piece canopy to show off the interior. This does allow for the option of using the single-piece canopy as a mask while painting, and then mount the multi-piece canopy at the end of the build. The PE fret contains parts for both the interior and exterior of the plane, including fins for the torpedoes. One strange thing is that the ring sight is not included, even though it is clearly shown in the instructions. I'm guessing it will have to be sourced from an aftermarket source or another kit to complete the gun-sight.
There is a full set of decals included, and they look to be of very high quality. Since only one of these were produced, all your given is the single prototype scheme. One omission is the black pinstripe that runs down the starboard side of the fuselage, so that will need to be painted on. There is a full set of insignia included, but also a set of paint masks for the insignia. Great Wall Hobby realized that getting decals to fit over the corrugations is going to be a challenge, so painting them on might be the best option. There is also a full set of vinyl canopy masks included, but reports from early builds of these kits are that the masks are best left to the spares box, and the canopy masked with normal tape or Eduard masks.
The paint only includes the paint scheme on the single prototype, and this is the pleasingly bright Yellow Wings scheme of the timeframe. To brighten things up even more, the Mark 13 torpedo comes from the front end striped in red and white, should be a very bright color scheme for your model.
Overall, this is a really nice kit of an important, if neglected aircraft. I Would have liked to see better paint masks added, and the ring sight included, but those are some small issues.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.