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In-Box Review
148
Northrop P-61A Black Widow
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]


Originally published on:
AeroScale

Judging by the excitement generated in the Forum following Great Wall Hobby's announcement of their new quarterscale P-61, other manufacturers must be kicking themselves that they've let the opportunity to produce a state of the art Black Widow slip by.

After months of intense speculation, an early example of the kit arrived direct from Shanghai this afternoon, so I've wasted no time in shamelessly jumping the kit to the front of my review queue!

GWH's P-61 arrives well presented in a very solid top opening box with all the sprues bagged separately, and the clear parts receiving additional protection – the main clear sprue is sealed in bubble-wrap, while the radar nose-cone is packed in its own clear plastic case to avoid damage to the pitot tube which is moulded in situ.

The kit comprises:
163 x grey styrene parts
11 x clear styrene parts
33 x etched brass parts
A length of styrene rod
Decals for 2 x colour schemes

The moulding is generally very good indeed, as you'd expect with a brand new kit. There's no flash evident on the sample, but there are a fair number of light ejector-pin marks - some of which may be visible unless cleaned up. The only sink marks I could find are on the cuffs of the propeller blades (more of which later).

Despite the fact that the sprues are all bagged neatly, I was disappointed to find a number of parts had taken a knock at some point. Some of this could be due to overstressing on the sprues, and some may have happened in transit, but the 20mm cannons had been similarly damaged on two separate sprues (one barrel is actually bent in two places to point at a right angle to the body of the gun itself - the weirdest damage I've ever seen!), so I think this must have occurred at the production stage. It'll be interesting to see if other examples are similarly damaged – if so, this something GWH will definitely need to watch out for.

The surface detail of the kit is very nicely handled, with beautifully light and subtle engraved panel lines. There are a few embossed fasteners, but the airframe is generally free of "rivets". I wasn't convinced by the fabric effect on the earlier Fw 189, so I'm pleased to see it's a bit more subtle this time, although still too heavy in my opinion for a well maintained aircraft.

Test Fit
The sprue attachments are on the mating surfaces of the main parts to avoid any marks on the exterior, and once these are cleaned off, dry fitting the main components indicates the Black Widow is going to be a breeze to build! The fuselage halves clip together very positively (so much so in fact, I recommend shortening the locating pins a tad if you want to dry-fit the parts, or else you risk breaking them when you take the halves apart.

The wings are moulded with internal ribs/stiffeners which ensure there's no warping, and also provide extra surfaces on which to apply cement. There are no spars provided to support the wings, and only quite shallow locators at the roots, but this isn't a problem because the fit is basically perfect on the sample, and the joint should be really solid if you're careful.

Twin-boomers can be a bit of a nightmare if you get the alignment wrong, so the engineers at GWH are to be congratulated for the precise fit of the booms to the wings – on the basis of the dry-fit, keeping everything square and true should be a doddle.

A few details
The cockpit isn't overly complicated, but is still very nicely detailed with multi-part seats that are each fitted with etched harnesses. The main instrument panel is supplied with individual decals for each dial, and a really nice touch is that data placard decals are provided for the cockpit sidewalls. Brass rudder pedals are included as an alternative to the moulded ones, and the control wheel is a 3-part assembly. One obvious omission is the pilot's gunsight.

The radar operator's station has a well moulded equipment panel and, just as they did in the Fw 189, GWH have provided inserts to avoid unrealistic hollows inside the wing roots. Inside the nose-cone is a 7-part sub-assembly of the radar dish and its associated equipment.

The gun-bay is simple but effective and the guns are nicely detailed (although I'm sure the originals couldn't shoot round corners like one of the ones in the sample...)

The boarding ladders can be assembled extended, with the forward hatch opening through a well detailed nosewheel bay. The rear ladder is made up from etched brass sides with plastic rungs to be cut from the styrene rod provided.

The undercarriage is nicely handled, with separate oleo scissors, along with brake cables for the main gear. The mainwheels are "weighted", so it's a little odd that the nose wheel isn't at all – reference shots certainly show a bit of a flat, so I'll add one.

My first impression of the cowls is that the openings look rather small - (shades of a certain B-25 there...) - and the taper may be overdone compared with photos. However, the engines should look excellent when built up, as each is made up of 8 styrene parts, plus an etched ignition harness, and there's a choice of open or closed cooling gills. One odd point, though, is that the magneto covers are missing; the attachment points are there, as though they were intended to be included, but there's no sign of them in the kit or instructions. Still, it won't be hard to fashion suitable items from sprue. Apart from that omission, with the engines looking so nicely detailed, it's disappointing that the propellers are very basic. While the shape of the blades looks fine, they are moulded solid with the spinners, which results in a rather nasty mould line to clean up.

Clear parts
The transparencies are beautifully moulded – crystal clear, with neatly defined frame lines. Clear wingtip navigation lamps are included, but the designers have missed the landing lamps under the wings.

This time GWH haven't provided any painting masks – perhaps as a result of people moaning that those supplied with the Fw 189 didn't stay in place very well (I think it's a shame if that's the case, as you could always transfer the shapes to masking tape as a time-saver).

Which brings us inevitably to the canopy – the centre of so much debate in the run-up to the kit's release!

There was a lot of concern over whether the main canopy hatch tapered or not. Well, the simple answer is – yes it does. (Ironically, the hatch isn't shown tapered in the drawings in the original pilot's notes for the P-61, but it clearly is in reference photos.) Where things get more complicated is that GWH have moulded it with a "double taper" – a noticeable kink in the plan view – whereas the photos I've checked seem to show a straight edge. It's not something I'd want to make a definitive call on (after all, the designers presumably had access to the P-61 preserved in China?), but I can foresee more lively debate ahead. I still want to fit it before coming to any firm conclusions about the overall look, but Sergey Kosachev may well find a fresh market for his beautiful clear resin correction parts…

Instructions & Decals
The assembly guide is a well-produced 10-page booklet. Construction isn't broken down into numbered stages as such, but the layout is nevertheless very clear and straightforward to follow. Experienced modellers will probably want to alter the assembly sequence somewhat to complete the basic airframe before adding smaller details. There's no mention of whether nose-weight is required to avoid the kit being a tail-sitter (and it's so many years since I built the old Monogram classic kit as a teenager, I can't remember if any was needed - although I seem to recall a clear plastic prop?...). Gunze Sangyo and Vallejo paint matches are provided for most details.

Decals are included for two colour schemes:
1. P-61A "Lady GEN", Florennes, Belgium, December 1944, finished in Olive Drab and Neutral Gray with invasion stripes on the tail booms.
2. P-61A "Sweatin' Wally", Myitkyina, Burma, 1944 painted Black overall.

The decals are well printed with a matte finish. They are maybe a tad thick, but the registration is spot on, and the stencils are clearly legible. The Insignia Blue is extremely dark, looking almost black on the sheet, so you make want to seek aftermarket alternatives.

Conclusion
GWH's new Black Widow is a really exciting kit that looks a worthy follow up to the company's impressive debut with the Fw 189. It looks set to be quite a straightforward build, and the result will be an impressive and finely detailed model. Looking at the overall quality and design, it's hard to believe that this is still only GWH's second attempt at an aircraft subject! The instances of minor damage to the parts of the sample kit are a little worrying, although I hope I was just unlucky there, and even those will hardly detract from what should be a very enjoyable build. Highly recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.




SUMMARY
Highs: Beautifully moulded and finely detailed. Easy-looking construction.
Lows: The cowls may need a bit of correction, and a question remains over the canopy. The sample kit shows some minor damage that I hope is a one-off.
Verdict: Great Wall Hobby's P-61 is a very fine kit of a subject that's long overdue for a modern reworking. It's not perfect - but I'm really looking forward to building it, so watch out for a Blog in the near future.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: L4802
  Suggested Retail: TBC
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Aug 17, 2011
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.13%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.63%

Our Thanks to Great Wall Hobby!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)
FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2019 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. All rights reserved.



Comments

Hi Gaston I've no doubt Sergey would disagree with you about the merits of the Vector canopy... Jessica - I'd love to be able to answer your question as to whether the Vector accessories will fit the new kit. While I can vouch for their superb quality, I'm afraid I sent our samples straight on to Australia for review - so, while I've got the GWH kit, Aeroscale's favourite Black Widow fan has been busy examining the Vector goodies 9-10,000 miles away! We'll have to wait for the kit's general release before he can check. All the best Rowan
AUG 22, 2011 - 08:32 AM
Well I can't see what the problem is with this kit. Apart from the cowlings and the props it looks like a Black Widow and when I see one at a show I will know within 10 seconds of seeing that it is a Black Widow. Modelling is all about compromises. If manufacturers could make every kit 100% accurate, would they be easy to assemble? I would say that they wouldn't. Gaston, your views of this kit border on obsessive. You might find plenty wrong with it and then attack with filler and plastic to correct the errors that you perceive to be there. Good on you for doing that, but to call it a nasty piece of work that has copied the Monogram kit is a little bit over the top. Has anyone actually laid one of the Monogram kits next to this kit? I guess not. I guess in the end it is each to their own. I must be one of those people who see a Black Widow when I see the images of the sprues and box art when I read about this kit.
AUG 22, 2011 - 02:55 PM
Hi Rowan! Not only magnetos. The crankcase (part 42) is useless, it should be covered with cylindrical cowl: And a spinner's diameter should be: Exhaust pipes were dual, not individual: Grilles behind the engines were cowered with protecting plates There were not any flaps behind this grilles, GWH just copied them from Monogram kit (as well as some other parts) There should not be gaps between flap sections in open position: Sorry for shameless self-promotion, but it should look like this: Can't say anything about canopies until I have the kit. And I have to agree with Gaston, GWP kit looks like a little bit refined copy of the old Monogram kit, not what I would expect from a 2011 year kit. Sergey.
AUG 22, 2011 - 07:20 PM
Hi Sergey Thanks for the reference shots of the fairing - I was wondering what was going on behind the spinner when I was looking for glimpses of the magneto covers inside the cowl. I test-assembled an engine last night and couldn't shake the suspicion that the cylinders are too shallow - a view reinforced by your reference shots here. All the best Rowan
AUG 23, 2011 - 02:52 AM
Wow! Thanks Serguey: That is very good to know, and I had no idea it was like that: That probably explains why GW gave up on the magnetos mid-way... The silly thing is, I have the Quickboost P-61 engines, and they are beautiful, and now I realize they are complete nonsense unless you use them in a fully disassembled engine maintenance scene (which you can't do really do anyway, because of they are moulded with one-piece pouring plugs, showing the plugs behind each cylinder).... I guess the Vector engine set is not an option then ... Gaston
AUG 23, 2011 - 04:02 AM
now all we need is a 1/48 blackbird
SEP 10, 2011 - 02:58 PM
Good evening Sergey, did you have the chance to find out if your engine set fits the GWH-Kit? Greetings Christian
NOV 29, 2011 - 05:55 AM
It should: The boom dimensions were copied from Monogram, as were almost all dimensions, except for GW's additional errors on both the rear and front clear parts, the fin base cross-section and the cowlings... I have obtained the real dimensions for the forward clear parts, and will share my findings with photos shortly: From the wing leading edges forward, the entire fuselage pod is too short, the clear parts far too shallow on both kits, and the entire front fuselage area needs to be completely rebuilt dimensionally almost from scratch... It is doeable with the kit parts for the fuselage, and a lot of work for completely new scratchbuilt clear parts... The model is very high quality materials with very good precision execution, but near zero research invested... Gaston
NOV 29, 2011 - 08:54 AM
Thank you for the information, Gaston. I will not be able to rebuild the fuselage , but I just ordered the engine and propeller sets from Vector. I think this will improve the overall look of the kit quite a lot. Greetings, Christian
DEC 02, 2011 - 12:02 AM
   

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