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1/48 Revell Lockheed PV1 Ventura

Gallery Article by Phil Mead on Nov 15 2012

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In September 1972, aged 18, I undertook my first commercial flight as an unpaid “autopilot” in a Piaggio P166. We departed Sydney’s Mascot Airport staging through Charleville and Mount Isa to Nhulunbuy on the Northern Territory’s Gove Peninsula carrying urgent Freight for the Nabalco bauxite mining company. That flight was a story in itself but this story begins at the destination. Just outside of the airport was a high chain wire fence guarding the fuselages of a DAP Beaufort and a Lockheed Ventura. The Ventura looked so sleek and it was obvious that this was a hot machine, it would get along! Nine months later I was based at Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria 126 nautical miles south of Gove and flew in to this oasis on the edge of Arnhem Land so I often revisited this historic shrine. 

The History
13 Squadron RAAF was the only Australian squadron to use the Ventura in the South West Pacific Area (464 RAAF squadron used them in Britain) and began the War using Lockheed Hudsons. It was a unit caught up in the frantic and impossible attempt to stop the Japanese invasion of The Netherlands East Indies, today’s Indonesia. The unit was based in the Islands around Ambon and was frequently attacked and eventually retreated to Darwin NT. In 1944 the unit was moved south to Canberra to be rearmed with both Beauforts and Venturas. After endorsements the Squadron carried out anti submarine patrols from Camden near Sydney and Coffs Harbour further to the north. In May 1944 the squadron moved north equipped only with its Venturas to Cooktown, Queensland for similar duties and then in August on to Gove. 

By the time the squadron reached Gove US General Douglas MacArthur had done his best to side line the Australian forces. No one was to share in his personal glory so the RAAF were tasked to perform strikes against enemy forces that had long been cut off from Japan and were no real threat unless attacked in situ. Anti Submarine patrols were carried out by 13sqn along with strikes against enemy forces, particularly inshore shipping, in the Netherlands East Indies and Portuguese Timor. This was more dangerous than it appeared and on one occasion A59-70 had a cylinder shot out near Ambon and the crew needed to throw everything possible overboard in order to limp back to Gove. The navigator on this flight, Gough Whitlam, became the Prime Minister of Australia in the early 1970s.

When the squadron moved forward to Morotai in August 1945 the war was over and offensive equipment was removed to allow prisoner of war repatriation.

 

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The Kit
I was impressed with this kit from the start. Dry fitting showed that it was going to be an easy build. In the cockpit I added Eduard seat belts to the seats and a few extra levers and trim wheels to the engine control console beneath the instrument panel (part 10). Another console between the seats (part 134) had four instruments depicted. Fortunately I had a Monogram decal sheet for US Bombers lying around and used part of the B29 Engineer’s instruments here and it fit perfectly as did the kit’s instrument panel decal.

I’m not sure if the tail wheel was meant to go in before the fuselage is joined or after but I chose to do it after so that painting would be easier. In hindsight I would do it before and I would have put the retracting tail wheel doors (parts 57 & 58) on as well. These were a challenge later but I got them on with some added tabs inside them. Photos of the main wheels show a hub cap which covers the spokes but not the entire rim. I used Milliput to fill these, smoothing it out with water and a small disk of plastic card. The bomb bay fits well as do the bombs. The doors proved a challenge as they hang articulated on thin rods. Be patient. 

After joining the fuselage halves I noticed the little flanges on the bottom of the Astrodome. Clearly this was meant to go on before hand! I had to file them off and polish it up. Two small tabs were added inside the appropriate hole and it fit into place without any trouble. 

The top turret works a treat and the insert fit perfectly. The gun in the lower ventral position wasn’t so easy with the clamp which holds it in place (part136) continually coming off. It now floats and rattles but I managed to glue the guns in place before they followed suit. Two beautiful full machine guns are supplied for the nose and all you will see of them is 3 millimetres of barrel. I chose to keep them for some other project and added two Quickboost barrels instead anchoring them with Crystal Clear to the holes I had drilled in Milliput.

In the wings I added some shiny aluminium foil under the landing light lenses before closing the halves. The engine nacelles fit perfectly as does the tail empennage. I dropped the elevators but in hindsight I don’t recommend it because they are quite hollow and had to be filled. Half the photos I’ve seen have dropped elevators while the other half don’t. It’s not worth it.

The engines are the usual Monogram/Revell effort which only look good from the front and don’t lend themselves to detailing. Still I managed to put some ignition harnesses on them which improved their appearance. The exhaust stacks are a bit basic but can be carved out for improvement. 

I used EZ Line for the HF aerial and even though it is very elastic I had to be careful not to bend the aerial mast over because it is very flimsy.

Colours and Markings
I would like to draw your attention to www.adf-gallery.com.au/gallery/Ventura-A59-85 . Here are four photographs of the aircraft I have replicated (thanks to Mike Mirkovic) but unfortunately they are all from the left side. Any detail on the right side is speculation and so I went with Xtradecal’s best guess.

The decals went on so well that I wasn’t game to touch it for a week after for fear of something going wrong. Both the kit decals used (not many) and the Xtradecal sheet X48097 went on beautifully. I first airbrushed Testors Clear gloss over all but it was absorbed like drought breaking rain. I decided to use Microscale clear gloss thinned with Y6B and this went on like a charm. If you live in Australia I recommend Simply Glues Y6B to thin any acrylic paint. The aircraft I modeled was A59-85 “Reluctant Dragon” which was painted in the usual US Navy three colour scheme. Beware of the serials because Xtradecal have included serials for A59-75 on the main sheet and hidden A59-85 serials on the auxiliary sheet (yes I did). I had some pre-shaded Sea Blue left over from the Corsair which I lightened further then added darker areas. The Intermediate Blue and Light grey went on as they were and then “bleached” a little. 

This aircraft had some markings painted over on the fuselage sides, probably US Markings. Xtradecal suggests mixing 20% Canadian Voodoo Grey with 80% white to replicate this very light colour. Now Gove is remote! In 1944 it was very remote and supplies of paint would be limited so I started to think about what would logically available to the ground crews and Canadian Voodoo Grey didn’t come readily to mind. 83 squadron Boomerangs were based at Gove at this time and were painted RAAF Sky Blue underneath, a very light blue. This is the only colour that is light enough and that I consider would be available in Gove, or Australia generally, at that time, so I used it instead. I have included a black and white image of the kit for you to judge for yourself. Note that the tail flashes have the Blue first which is most unusual.

I weathered this plane with my usual mixture of light grey and radome tan added to flat clear and added exhaust stains to the nacelles. If you search for “Gove Airport East Arnhem, Northern Territory” on Google maps you will notice that the soil is Martian pink and after rain becomes reddish brown. It sits in the middle of 165 square kilometres of Bauxite. Not only is it red but very abrasive and slippery to walk on. I dirtied up the wheels with some Red/Brown.

I really enjoyed making this plane, not only because it is a great kit of a beautiful and useful aircraft but because it took me back to my time in Gove. In the time it took me to build this kit Mr David Rapasi has built three excellent Venturas and I recommend that you take a look at them on this website. Now I’ve got to get started on that Lancaster I bought in 1986. It will take a while.

References

  • The 13 Squadron Story (Banner Books) ISBN 0 646 026321

  • www.adfserials.com.au

  • Squadron Signal Aircraft Number 48 - PV1 in Action

  • Naval Fighters Number 86, PV1 Ventura and PV2 Harpoon

Happy Modelling, 

Phil

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Photos and text © by Phil Mead

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