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Trumpeter's 1/32 scale Avenger as a
Grumman Tarpon

by Jamie "Haggis" Haggo


Grumamn Tarpon


Trumpeter's 1/32 TBF Avenger is available online from Squadron.com



The Trumpeter Avenger was awaited by most modellers with guarded anticipation.

I had read with interest all the criticism of Trumpeter following the release of their previous offerings and was expecting the same with this kit. However, after the model hit the shelves there was a strange silence. Could it be that the Avenger was accurate, even according to the critics?

When I got my kit I decided to just launch into building it and took the fact that because all the internet forums were quiet that the model must be accurate. The first thing I did was to decide on which particular aircraft I was going to model, the first part was obvious. Being a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm it was no strange thing that I decided on a British Tarpon, but which one? I looked at building a BPF aircraft, possibly one that took part in the raids on the Sumatran oil fields; however I discounted this due to the fact that almost every Tarpon model I had seen was in these markings.

Next I considered a D-Day aircraft but most had some form of badge or personal markings for which there were no decals for. I went to the Hannants web site in a light bulb moment and searched for decals in all scales for some inspiration. There I came across an unusual white over temperate scheme with some nice big black areas, the aircraft in question being from 711 Sqn based at RNAS Crail in 1945.



Right, letís get started then.


The biggest omission in the instructions is the lack of paint chart. The instructions tell you what Gunze paint number to use but this is pretty useless without a decode so unless you can get hold of a decode chart off the web you will have to dig out all those Hasegawa instructions, what a nausea! The moral of the story is get some references.

For such a big, complicated model it is important to take time out and have a quick look at the construction sequence. Basically the engine fits to the pilotí cockpit, which fits to the avionics bay, which fits to the gunner and radio operatorís stations, all this lot then fitís on top of the bomb bay. This is then trapped within the fuselage halves with the rest of the construction being conventional. Looking at the instructions there seemed to be some odd elements in that certain sub assemblies are completed and then left to sit in the pending pile for an age until added to the main construction.





Guess where I started? You got it, the engine. This is a very complicated sub assembly but highly detailed, all thatís missing is the ignition harness, which I couldnít be bothered to do! This was then attached to the engine bearers which were in turn attached to the firewall. A word of warning, the engine bearers are flimsy, make sure that the bearers are fitted in accordance with the instructions. This sounds obvious but I still managed to mix them up and when I came remove them to do it right I snapped the mounts (the dangers of super glue). This assembly is put to one side, due to the fragile nature of the assembly I would suggest you leave this to the end of the fuselage sub assemblies.

With the engine completed it was on to the cockpit. Here you have to be careful with the cockpit colour, some Tarpons were painted with the complete interior painted in USA interior green whereas some had the pilotís office painted in bronze green, this was applicable to the aircraft I was building therefore it was painted with Tamiya XF-5. I think at this point it is worthwhile explaining how I paint the cockpits of my models. If the plastic is fairly dark then I will prime with Halfordís grey primer as this technique relies upon a good contrast between the flat areas and the detail which is pre-shaded with thinned black paint. I concentrate the pre-shading in the nooks and crannies as well as in the natural shadow areas. Next I will apply a thin coat of the base colour sparingly enough to allow the pre-shading to show through. Following that the base colour is thinned and lightened with white (or yellow if using green) and sprayed onto flat areas and areas of natural highlights. Next a very thin (90% thinner) mix of Tamiya black/brown is sprayed in the shadow areas. Finally the components are given a dry brush of light base colour using enamel which is far better than trying to dry brush acrylic. The final final thing is to give a very light and restrained dry brush of dull silver to areas to simulate wear.


Trumpeter has a novel way of doing the instrument panel. They cast the panel in clear plastic with the holes for the instruments drilled out, this is painted black. Then you attach the acetate printed instruments to the back if the panel and paint the back white thus the dials show up, to the holes clear varnish is added to simulate the glass. My question is whatís the point of having the panel moulded in clear plastic if youíre going to paint it black and have the holes drilled out? Either mould it in grey styrene or have the holes filled in!

The final point to note reference the front cockpit are the etched seat belts that are included on the etched set. This is a fabulous idea and I wish every kit came with a set of seat belts in this medium but only if they are long enough, in this kit they are not!

Being a Tarpon the rear cockpit layout is considerably different to that of the American Avenger. The Fleet Air Arm aircraft had an extra seat for an Observer forward of the turret in place of the avionic rack. I could not find any pictures of this area and despite living 5 minutes from the FAA museum at Yeovilton had no material to work from therefore I made it up. My mate Phil from IPMS Avon cast a couple of seats for me (good job as I trashed the first one) as well as moulding some of the bubble windows at the same time. Anyway, I made up a mounting for a seat out of tubing and an adjustment lever from sprue. I added a set of temporary seat belts from masking tape but as I have had a set of British seat belts from MDC arrive they will now be replaced. I also made a chart table from sheet styrene which was painted in a wood effect using brown and tan enamel paint. For a bit of interest I made a map from paper and a pencil and Dalton Computer from sprue and scrap. The avionics boxes were relocated in spurious location which I made up in a logical fashion as the place I put them was the only available place. To sum up I donít know whether itís accurate and frankly Iím not that bothered because one; inaccuracies donít phase me if they are minor and two; itís too late to do anything about it anyway. Iím sure there are some commentators on the various web forums that would have me burned at the stake for being a witch but talk to the hand cos the face aint listening. So there!


The rear cockpit and the Bomb bay were built straight from the box and weathered in my usual way. I added an asymmetric bomb load to add a bit of interest. The front cockpit was tacked into the starboard half and the floor and bulkhead positions marked out, this enabled me to paint the fuselage interiors the correct shade of green. With the Accurate Miniatures Avenger the dorsal turret can be added after the fuselage halves have been joined which makes painting a lot easier, however this is not the case with this kit so the turret was assembled, masked and added, it is free to rotate however which does simplify the painting later on. When done the sub assemblies were glued into the right hand fuselage and the halves glued together. The fit was very good indeed with no filler required and minimal rubbing down, this was good to see as the surface finish has fine engraved panel lines and recessed rivets.

The tail planes came next. Many commentators have stated that the Trumpeter method of attaching control surfaces using etched metal hinges is fiddly and results in a weak joint, well I totally agree! I still added the hinges but glued the elevators in position. This leads me nicely onto the wings. Here the modeller has the age old decision to make when building a Navy aeroplane, to fold or not to fold. Iíd wager that for this kit this decision will be influenced by the sheer size of the model. I wanted the wings spread on my kit as I think folded wings spoil the lines of an aircraft, however the wing fold has good detail and the wingtip tie downs are exquisite in their finesse; there is even some fine thread to simulate the tie down ropes for the wing tips, all in all very impressive.

I painted the inside of the wheel well and weathered it before building the wings. The order in which I constructed the wings in hindsight was probably not the easiest therefore I will explain what I think an easier method is. I would first glue the inner and outer top halves of the wing together and then add the etched strengthening strips over the join, and then repeat for the lower halves, a bit of jiggery pokery will be required for the wing fold bulkheads. Then attach the upper and lower halves in the conventional fashion. Once the wings were completed they were attached to the fuselage, here there was a strange snag in that the port wing did not fit as well as the starboard wing, how odd. I filled the gap with white glue and wiped it with a moist finger (ooh er) and then sealed it with paint. The undercarriage legs were pre painted white and added, a departure for me as I usually leave the legs until last but as they were painted the underside colour I added them now.


The canopy was masked off inside and out and sprayed with the relevant green, the inside masking was removed and the canopy attached to the model, the cowling glued on and a coat of Halfords grey applied. The fit of the model was very good indeed and so no corrective action was required.



Painting and Markings


The model was pre-shaded with black which was very tedious due to its size and the number of panel lines/rivets. I intended to paint most of the markings so Tamiya white was sprayed on the relevant roundel positions. I used a mixture of Eduard Hinomaru masks and masking tape to mask off the white portion of the roundel. The inner red portion of the markings were sprayed and then masked followed by the blue/yellow. A bit of touching up was required especially as some of the roundels were hard not to get out of register. The fin flash was painted after the camouflage. The unit codes were done by first spraying the area yellow, then the letters were masked using the Eduard IFOR set designed for AFVs. The blue was then sprayed on and then masked however in hindsight I think this should be Extra dark sea grey. With all the fiddly bits taken care of it was time to spray the camouflage, I started with the white which was a pain, first off I used Tamya flat white as it has good coverage, when I had run out this was buffed with a soft cloth before being finished off with Xtracrylic white which was misted on. I left the room to ventilate as I was sitting in a cloudy room with white nostril hair (an advert for a face mask if ever there was one)! When I came back the white had dried to a hard satin finish, ideal as I still havenít cracked gloss varnishes. The relevant white was masked off and Xtracrylic Extra dark sea grey and Dark slate grey were sprayed on. I added a bit of RLM 76 light blue a bit at a time to the pot to fade the paintwork, this gave a pleasing effect. When this was all done the masking tape made another appearance and the black area was masked and the black sprayed, again being faded this time with light grey. I had undercoated the cowling with Humbrol silver and before the black was fully cured I used sellotape to pull up areas of black to simulate paint chipping.


With all the making tape removed I shot the model with Xtracrylic matt varnish. With this all done it was time for more weathering, a mix of 10% Tamiya black/brown and 90% alcohol thinner was sprayed along panel lines and in the rivet detail as well as being streaked along the flying surfaces.

With the model almost there it was time to add all the fiddly bits. The undercarriage was completed and added along with the wheels and the annoying rubber tyres, as soon as I can get some resin replacements I will. The prop was added as was the bomb bay doors, these are a clever design in that the inside faces are etched brass with good detail, the fit is very good indeed. With the nav lights added along with the bubble windows from Phil all that remained was the aerial wire. This was stretched sprue with a tensioner made from coiled wire.





In conclusion the Avenger from Trumpeter is on of the best 1:32 scale kits on the market. The rivet counting anti Trumpeter lobby on the web forums have been conspicuous in their absence, the fit is very good indeed and the interior is finely detailed however I am sure there will be resin enhancements to come. The only niggly things are ones that come with most large scale Trumpeter kits namely the fiddly flying control hinges and rubber tyres. As for the price, well it is expensive but donít forget the discount from Andy in Antics.

In summary then, a great kit and highly recommended.



Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2005 by Jamie Haggo
Page Created 06 October, 2005
Last Updated 06 October, 2005

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