Aurora 1/32 B-25J
By Luca Pennacchietti
This model reproduces a B-25J based at Falconara, near Ancona, in Italy, just at the V.E. (May 1945). It belongs to the 12th AirForce, 321st BG, 447th BS, as indicated by the individual number 50. Squadrons of this Group previously had white Roman numerals on the tail.
My late father, who was 14 in 1945, used to tell me about the military aircraft that he saw flying off Falconara's airfield. He has always had a special feeling for the B-25 and only in recent years I was able to discover which Groups they belonged to. I was lucky enough to find this beautiful pic over the Internet,
and I soon understood that this pic and most of the other ones available in the site were all taken at Falconara, my hometown, most likely at the end of the war by an unknown airman who wanted a souvenir of Group's aircraft. Fortunately, Mr. Donique Taddei, author of the book "USS CORSICA" (which I highly recommend), kindly provided these 2 other pics of the same aircraft, which helped much into building and finishing the model.
This additional pic shows "Ave Maria", of the same BG, and the overall weathering of the dark drab finish is evident.
It took me about 250 hour spread over a 6 months period to build this model, but I really think this is a 'must do', a belated tribute to the man who taught me the art of modelling and made me love military aviation. At least after 60 years this B-25 is back to Falconara! To read about the model's building, please look at the 2 articles already hosted on LSP:
The hard stand of PSP (Perforated Steel Plates) is simply drawn on PaintShop and printed on heavy card stock by a color laser printer. It's flat but effective, still better then a plain table!
All markings were drawn by me by MS Paint and MS Word. No sophisticated software! Then they were printed on both clear and white decal paper by a color laser printer.
Undersides of the aircraft were left bare aluminium while uppersurfaces were painted olive drab at the depot before the aircraft being assigned to the Squadron. There was a thin unpainted line all around national insignias since Stars were covered before applying the camouflage green at depot level.
After the model was painted gray to scribe the panel lines and rivets, I painted the whole undersides glossy black. This was a base for Alclad's Polished Aluminium which was airbrushed in a light layer. Some Alclad's Aluminium was then airbrushed to give a different shine to some areas. Most of the undersurface were then polished with a polishing paste, others with SNJ's powder.
Egines stains were made by airbrushing light gray, black, light gray again and by using some white chalk powder. I also used some Gunze's acrylic 'Oil' to underline some panels around the cowling and to simulate some leaking. Uppersurfaces were first painted Humbrol's Polished Aluminium, then airbrushed with Molak's (an Italian firm) LG-81 green (a Luftwaffe shade!). I think it the best brown-green around to paint this model according to the pic of "Ave Maria" you can see above. I've read that the Olive Drab used late in the war was different from the shade of the early years, and more durable. Scratching the uppersurfaces with a wooden tool made the underneath metal to show.
Two pilots have been placed into the cockpit. I liked to add some life to the model this way. Both have been modified. One was the pilot of Revell's Bell 47 helo, the other was the commander of an Airfix Crusader III tank!
The black ADF antenna was provided by the Aurora kit... what a luxury!
Though early in its life this aircraft had a visible hub in the front wheel, there's a pic later on showing a cover with a white star. The blue background is a guessing from the black and white pic.
Engine, propeller, cowling and main landing gear are shown here.
Propeller comes straight from a Revell Corsair F4U, the exhaust shrouds are plastic copies of the shroud you find around the first exhaust in a Bf 109.
Panel lines were not underlined with a wash. The dark color they show in these pics is a mix of the shadow and of the dark green kit's plastic scribed.
Aurora provided its B-25H with the flat turret dome of earlier B-25s. I couldn't use it. I've made a resin master out of ID Model B-17's upper turret and vacuformed mine with Mattel's vac machine. The clear reinforcements on the side are thin stripes of clear decal.
I made all the inner structure for a total of about 40 single pieces.
Inside the nose compartment I put the fire extinguisher, some ammo boxes, the ammo belt to the machine gun. Not visible in this shot, I've also used Revell P-38 Drop Snoot's Norden bombsight.
It is to be noted that there were myriads of different arrangements for the interior of the nose compartment with thousands little variations.
Color pic of the real aircraft shows that the fuselage in front of the cockpit was of a different color, perhaps the original anti-glare green, with lot of fading. In the end, I used 3 kits to make this model, they are (were) made by Aurora, Combat Models and Guillows. I couldn't do without any of the 3, since one or two aren't enough to do a good job. Aurora provides general parts, Combat the tailplanes, Guillows' many vac parts all over the airframe. I also used Engine & Things' R-2600 resin engines.
Given the high cost of the Aurora kit (I bought mine on eBay), this model ended up costing about 500USD. Sure I can't effort another such expensive model!!
However I think that the about 250 hours spent building this model were of high satisfaction, mostly because of the link with this aircraft my father and my hometown had.
The sources I used include:
- Squadron Signal - In Action Series No. 1034: The B-25 Mitchell in Action.
- Squadron Signal - Walkaround Series No.12: the B-25.
- Kalmbach: Detail & Scale No.60: the B-25 in detail and scale.
- Osprey - Combat Aircraft No.32: B-25 Units of the MTO.
- Trafford - Mediterranean Mitchells.
- Lots of pics, articles and data from various books and magazines, too many to account for.
- Monogram 1/48th scale model of the B-25J.
- Maybe the best source of all: Internet! A repeated search for pics let me find most of the info I needed.
In general, beware of restored aircraft since they often show detail that weren't on the wartime aircraft. NONE of the above sources has correct representations of the panel lines!! I said NONE! You MUST check pics of actual aircraft to understand where they are. Especially about the whole fuselage (because of the overlapping metal sheets on the real aircraft). I found big mistakes! I spent about 50 hours researching, drawing and scribing panel lines and rivets (and still have doubts)! I can say that the Monogram 1/48th scale model is a much better source for correct panel lines planning then books.
Moreover in Detail & Scale book, at page 77, it is written that "each of the elevators had movable trim tabs that were controlled by actuators on both the upper and lower surfaces", and there are 2 pics one from above and one from below proving this...Hummmm, two actuators each tab simply cannot work! The view from above is of a wartime machine, the view from below is an airplane in a museum...Checking wartime pics, there are no actuators on the underside of elevators! They reversed the elevators on the museum machine and thus you think they are on the underside as well! They are only on the upper surface. I can't understand how these mistakes may happen about a known airplane of which so many survive all around the world. And again the Osprey book is full of mistakes…
The enamel paints I used are:
- Humbrol 75 for all fuselage interiors. Though not a perfect match for NAA Green, it's close enough.
- Humbrol Polished Aluminium for aluminium uppersides under the camo green (to save on Alclads!)
- Molak LG-81 for the camo olive drab, unfortunately OOP, weathered with shades of brown and green chalk powders.
- Alclad Aluminium and Polished Aluminium for all undersurfaces. Touches of SNJ powder.
- Humbrol 33 Flat Black for tires, weathered with brown and white chalk powders.
Decals were placed into position with the aid of white glue. They have been carefully trimmed. No clear cote paints were used on the model, no Future, no setting solutions... I'm quite sure they would have ruined the good effect of Alclad paints and of the chalks I used to weather the model.
Special thanks to Michele Magi, owner of the digital camera I used to take most of the pics, to Dominique Taddei for the info he provided, to David Reinecke and Sam Uberman who provided the two propellers and to my wallet for the more or less $500 spent for this model!! Thanks a lot for your interest into this model. If you like to reach me for any comment or question, please email me.
© Luca Pennacchietti 2006
This article created on Wednesday, July 20 2011; Last modified on Thursday, May 16 2013