HK Model’s 1:48 scale B-17G kit contains 205 parts distributed across eight gray injection molded polystyrene sprues while the nose section, left and right fuselage halves, tail gunner’s position and wings are molded as independent left/right and upper/lower halves, respectively. Thirty-six clear parts come on four clear sprues and 13 photoetched metal parts are included on one fret. The large format 14”x10” black-and-white instruction booklet organizes the build over 43 steps. Markings for two airplanes are included:
- B-17G-15-BO 42-31353, “Queenie,” LG-Q, 332nd BS/91st BG, Bassingbourn, U.K., early Spring 1944
- B-17G-40-VE 42-98008, “American Beauty,” 2S-G, 834th BS/486th BG, Sudbury, U.K., late summer 1944
Strengths: First things first: while the classic 1:48 scale Monogram B-17G will always have a place in our hearts, the HK Models B-17G kit is indeed a better B-17G in multiple respects. HK Models also appears have drawn significantly on their earlier design work with their the 1:32 scale B-17F/G kits, and they have applied here an analogous approach to design, parts breakdown, and detailing.
Overall shape and size look spot on. Surface detailing is complex and rich (though technically it features one major inaccuracy; see below) with beautifully executed recessed panel lines and rivet/fastener detail. These exterior details will make many builders’ hearts go “pitter-patter” as they recall all the times they had wished the old Monogram kit had better and more accurate surface features. Another very nice feature is the slide-and-lock mechanism for attaching the wings. I test fit the wing-fuselage fit, which surely has a tight fit and produces the proper wing angle and alignment. Also, I initially thought that the entire left and right wing were each some kind of whiz-bang slide molded single-piece part. When I opened the parts bag to inspect the wings, they were indeed upper and lower halves, but fitted together in a nearly airtight fashion.
The interior of the HK Models B-17G is rather excellent. It offers a fidelity of detail and accuracy absent in the old Monogram kit. This spans a complete and highly detailed interior from the Norden bombsight and bombardier and navigator’s stations to the flight deck, cockpit, a very well-detailed top turret, a full bomb bay, and the radio operator’s compartment. Photoetched metal seatbelts add to the detail. In the rear fuselage, you have a full Sperry ball-turret assembly and rig, nice waist gunners positions including the floor planking, the tail wheel well, and the tail gunners position that features ammo boxes, guns, and the gunsight. The forward crew access hatch and tail entry door can also be positioned opened or closed.
The four Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone engines look good, from the shape of the props to the cylinder details, superchargers, and cowl flaps which are molded here in the open position (closed cowl flaps are not an option in this kit). Both main gear wheel wells are provided as complete assemblies – which is a major improvement over the old Monogram kit. While the detail in the main gear wells are simplified in terms of plumbing, all the basics are there, including the big engine oil tank. Alternate main landing gear parts are provided for either a wheels-up or wheels-down configuration. Landing flaps can also be positioned up or down.
The clear parts are optically flawless and just perfectly manufactured. The nose glass is actually on its own sprue and has a clear, protective self-adhesive covering on its surface to make sure it doesn’t get damaged in the box. The marking schemes and decals look great, with one olive drab-over-gray and one natural metal B-17G to choose from. Cartograf printed the decals. Decal quality is fantastic, and the nose art especially is printed to their high standards. Of course, if you don’t like Queenie or American Dream, there’s a seemingly endless set of alternative markings that can be found on the aftermarket decal scene.
Weaknesses: This is a really good kit with a multitude of advantages that supersede the old Monogram kit. Still, it’s not perfect. It’s not cheap, and with an MSRP of $140, that can be off-putting. Still, I have seen this kit go for around $110 with some retailers. Shop around…
Watch out for unsightly ejection pin markings on several parts, most visibly on the undersides of the bomb bay doors and on the upper and lower surfaces of the landing flaps. In these cases, the ejection pin marks are deep inside and between raised structural elements which makes eliminating them pretty time consuming and a pain in the backside. Also – because the fuselage halves were not molded on a sprue but as single injection-molded parts, there are a lot of physical plastic injection points still attached the to the upper fuselage halves. These extend over to the inside surfaces of the seams between halves and need to be cleaned up and sanded smooth to achieve anything even nearing a proper fit. Take your time here.
The Browning .50-caliber machine guns are pretty good, but the perforated cooling jackets around the barrels are a little simplified and, in some cases, they are quite shallow. There is also a total lack of ammo feed belts to the guns. They could have been good to include as photoetched metal parts. The shell collection bags fitted to the top turret appear to be missing. Photoetched details are provided for two oil cooler intake screens per wing, but if memory serves, the other air intakes on the leading edge of the wing also featured screens. Here, those other intakes simply open to the hollow wing interior (pardon me while I cringe).
The instrument panel provides nothing for the detail painter to work with, as you only get raised instrument bezels with a featureless sunken instrument dial face. I think they are trying to steer most builders to either use the instrument panel decal in the kit or to purchase an aftermarket photoetched metal set. Also, the throttles are visibly absent. It’s nice to see details such as the large bottles of compressed breathing oxygen included here on the cockpit sidewalls, but they appear to be a bit undersized and inaccurately molded onto the sidewalls as a half-bottle. I also think that the latrine (basically, a small, floor-mounted bucket between the tail gunner and waist gunners) was omitted here.
Of course – the one big thing, at least to me. As someone who has worked a little on B-17s (about 12 years ago volunteering on the restoration of Champaign Lady, which is still ongoing in Ohio), I can say with first-hand experience that the surface of the B-17’s skin is covered in many thousands of raiseddome-headed rivets. While recessed rivets look great on the kit and are a de rigueur of modern kits, recessed rivets here are 100% inaccurate. The same problem can be seen in HK’s 1:32 scale B-17s, various Trumpeter offerings such as their Dauntless kits, the Kitty Hawk T-28 Trojans, and more…
While the assembly instructions are very well printed and easy to read in grayscale, I am not a fan of the markings guide printed in grayscale. Sure, these are not complex multi-color schemes, but still, color would make the painting and decaling process a lot more user-friendly.