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Trumpeter's 1/350 scale
USS Lexington CV-2

by Rick Cotton


USS Lexington

Trumpeter's 1/350 USS Lexington is available online from Squadron




Ah, the prewar Navy of the 1930’s. Clean, light gray ships, yellow-wing biplanes, palm trees and exotic ports-of-call. Showing the flag at picturesque harbors. What a beautiful era.

With visions of Fred MacMurray and Errol Flynn pushing a brightly painted Vindicator over into a Hollywood nose dive, I opened Trumpeter’s 1/350th scale Lexington kit and…… Ye Gods!!! Horror! No Vindicators! No 8” guns! No streamlined, tapered flight deck! Aaaauugghhh! Oh, the humanity!



Construction / Conversion


Okay, maybe I overreacted a bit. The task was really quite simple: to get the prewar Gray Lady I love, the flight deck had to be cut down, the openings for all those extra post-1936 guns had to be filled, the scalloped openings at the aft end of the flight deck had to be filled, the extra bridge layer whacked off, aft fire-control platforms scratchbuilt, minor changes to the funnel and it’s platforms, the boat deck, and …oh, yes…the air group. Now, let’s see, just who (as of this writing) makes 1930’s Navy biplanes in 1/350th?

Hmmm,….almost….NOBODY! I considered begging a set of bipes from the Blue Water Navy USS Langley kit, but decided against it, as these were earlier aircraft than I wanted. I finally ended up scratchbuilding 14 Martin T4M torpedo planes (easier than it sounds to build these slab-sided torpedo trucks), and converting Trumpeter F4F’s to F3F’s (fairly simple) and SB2C’s to SBC’s (not simple). More on the historical accuracy (?) of the air group later.


The flight deck was placed upside-down on a flat surface,and the hull was placed against it for tracing. The deck was cut to match the hull, and the offending post-1936 gun platforms were sheeted over, filled and sanded away,as were the scalloped openings at the aft end of the flight deck. This area was filled and re-scribed to match the deck planking.

Assembly of the hull proceeded in a mostly straightforward fashion. Fit was pretty good, with only minor problems,such as the warped tops of the boat wells on the sides of the hull. This was fixed by careful gluing and clamping during assembly. Tenax 7R served me well, as it always does. I cannot recommend it too strongly as a liquid cement.

On to Lady Lex’s most distinctive feature…the massive funnel and island. The after fire control platforms were scratchbuilt…at the time this was my only option. I razor-sawed off the extra bridge layer, and glassed-in all the square windows on the assembly. There is also another small level above the forward FCP that isn’t supplied in the kit. I carved one from a chunk of spare resin. The rangefinder was pirated from an Arizona kit,and the masts were reinforced with thin piano wire. The bridge deck and associated platforms were re-worked with thin sheet styrene. Nearly all molded splinter shields came off, to be replaced with Tom’s Modelworks brass photoetch railing. The gallery at the top of the funnel was deleted, and minor changes were made to most platforms. Gold Medal Models figures populated the island.


Just as I was starting to sweat over the thought of scratchbuilding four 8” turrets, along comes Yankee Modelworks to the rescue with a 1938 backdate set, including the necessary 8” artillery. The parts are nicely cast, requiring only minor cleanup. Much of what was included in the set had already been done the hard way by impatient me, but, no big deal, I’ll use the rest of the parts someday. Suffice it to say that the set is excellent and comprehensive.



Painting and Markings


All vertical surfaces were sprayed with a custom mixed version of prewar Standard Navy Gray (mixed from Pollyscale Acrylics). The decks, other than the flight deck, were sprayed with a slightly lightened Pollyscale Acrylic Scale Black (really a very dark gray). I shot the flight deck with Pollyscale Acrylic Leather, and the stripes are Testors’ gloss Yellow. The “LEX” decals came from the spares box.

A note on the air group….this is a model in transition. As I get more info on what was actually aboard Lex in 1935-36, I will probably change the aircraft. SBC’s didn’t show up until AT LEAST 1936, and the T4M’s had probably disappeared by that time. Of course, should some wonderful manufacturer start cranking out Berliner-Joyce’s and Boeing F4B’s…I’ll gladly plunk down the cash…maybe I can scratchbuild some….maybe I’m nuts. Anyway, at that time, the SBC’s can migrate to a 1940 Yorktown.


Lex was launched into a “sea” of clear acrylic caulk, over a deep-blue-painted base. One can just imagine a line of cage-masted battlewagons slowly filing by in review. Those BB’s would be officered by young ensigns, lieutenants and captains, with names like Mitscher, Spruance, and Halsey. Lexington may be long gone to her deep sleep in the Pacific,but her memory lives on in my display case,a reminder of a glorious time, aboard a beautiful ship.



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2005 by Rick Cotton
Page Created 28 September, 2005
Last Updated 27 September, 2005

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