Updated - November 2012


There is a very fine line between a Hobby and a Mental Illness

The construction of scale-model plastic aircraft is a simple, enjoyable past-time for many. For others, it is a psychopathic compunction to achieve a level of scale-perfection that would make a vascular-neuro-surgeon wince. Not sure where I stand along this continuum, but I have my own fears. Certainly, my hobby keeps me out of the bars...usually. It also keeps my neighbors at bay, wondering why on earth I spend so much time in my basement. My own projects are not "museum-quality", not by a long shot, but if you have questions about my various conversion projects, I am happy to provide what observations I have.
But there's more... Several colleagues have shared their own aircraft modeling projects with me over the years and I would like to share them with you - Some of these projects are spectacular.
Ian M. Shaw's AEW Aircraft page Tom Conte
Winkel Gunther  



Boeing PB-1W Flying Fortress

MODEL DETAILS—This PB-1W conversion is Monogram's 1:48th scale B-17-G Flying Fortress with repositioned hatches, control surfaces, detailed interior, engines, and wheel-wells. The markings on this aircraft indicate that it equipped VP-1 (VW-1) out of Hawaii. This is one of my favorite models, not only because of the ease of conversion (large belly radome stolen from the Monogram AD-6W Skyraider 1:48 scale Kit), but it is also a unique looking aircraft with some very interesting history attached to it. It also has garnered a fair bit of attention from the judges:

1996: 1st Place (NW Scale Modelers, Seattle, WA);
2001:1st Place and Best of Class (Hobbytown, Sioux Falls SD);
2002: 2nd Place, (Locon, IPMS Fort Crook/Omaha, NE).

Towards the end of World War Two, the Navy modified thirty-one surplus B-17-G-95-DL's (Project Cadillac II) to carry the AN/APS-20 Search Radar in a large (down-looking) radome slung from the bomb bay. Sky-scanning versions sported a similar dome above the fuselage. All armament was removed and the turrets/turret bezels were sealed simply. As the world's first airborne warning and command system (AWACS), PB-1W's were designed to detect Kamikaze aircraft for the U. S. Navy Fleet. World War II ended before their deployment, but PB-1W's saw service as "picket aircraft" in the DEW line until they were replaced in 1953 by Navy WV-2 Lockheed Constellation/Warning Stars (EC-121’s).

Be sure to stop by and see Ian M. Shaw's AEW Aircraft page


Boeing P2B-2S Superfortress

MODEL DETAILS—Bet you've never seen this! This is Mongrams' 1/48th scale B-29 Superfortress. The radome (you guessed it - stolen from the Mongram AD-6W Skyraider 1:48 scale Kit) needed very little modification. Doors and access hatches were opened and flight surfaces were repositioned. Landing gear, interior, engines and nacelles have also been detailed. I am not entirely sure what the judges thought of it (the sheer size of a 1/48th scale B-29 scared the hell out of several small children) but it must have made an impression:

2002: 1st Place and Best of Show (Hobbytown, Sioux Falls SD);
2002: 1st Place, (Locon, IPMS Fort Crook/Omaha, NE)

Towards the end of WWII, the US Navy modified several B-17-G-95-DL's (Project Cadillac II) to carry the AN/APS-20 Search Radar in a large down-looking radome slung from the bomb bay (see above) - Sky-scanning versions sported a similar dome above the fuselage as well - serving as the Worlds' first airborne warning and command systems (AWACS). In 1951, the upper fuselage of three USAF B-29's were modified to house the AN/APS-20 Search Radar. Aircraft interiors were also extensively modified to house the radar and ECM equipment. The success of the program triggered SAC to begin picket aircraft operations in 1954, albeit using the more advanced EC-121 Constellation (Navy WV-2). Had the Navy used the Boeing P2B Superfortress aircraft to replace it's aging PB-1W Flying Fortress aircraft serving with VP-1 (VW-1) out of Hawaii, it would have looked very much like this aircraft depicted by this very odd model.


Consolidated PB4Y-1/P4Y-1 Liberator

MODEL DETAILS— This Monogram 1:48th scale B-24J Liberator was modified to PB4Y-1 (redesignated P4Y-1in 1953) standard with a Koster KAE vacu-form conversion. This simple "nose-job" conversion from Koster was a very nice, simple piece of work.

During World War II, the United States Navy modified several Consolidated B-24 Liberator airframes to serve as long-range patrol aircraft. Early PB4Y-1's differed little from their Air Force kin, but later versions sported a more obvious upgrade in the form of the bulbous ERCO bow turret (Engineering and Research Corp.). After the war, many Navy P4Y-1 were refurbished and used for training, transport, and support duties. The markings of this P4Y-1 indicate that it operated out of the Naval Aviation Ordnance Test Station at Chincoteague (NAOTS).


Consolidated PB4Y-2/P4Y-2 Privateer

MODEL DETAILS—This PB4Y-2 model is a Koster Aero Enterprises vacu-form modification of Monogram's 1:48th scale B-24J Liberator. All that remain of the original kit are the cockpit decking, bulk-heads, bomb bay, and wing planform. Cockpit and engines have been detailed. Bomb bay doors, engine electrical harness, engine nacelle vents, and de-icer boots are scrap-built. This particular Koster conversion was well received (see also the RY-3 below) and I think It turned out quite well. The only issue that I had with this particular conversion concerned the precise blending of the engine nacelles into the stock Monogram wing planform. This model has also received a bit of recognition from the judges:

1995: Honorable Mention (Museum of Flight/NW Scale Modelers, Seattle, WA);
2002: 3rd Place
(Locon, IPMS Fort Crook/Omaha, NE);
2003: 3rd Place (Hobby Town, Sioux Falls, SD).

The PB4Y-2 patrol bomber was the second modification of the basic B-24 (PB4Y-1) Liberator airframe ordered by the Navy. The markings on this Privateer indicate that it operated with VP-9 ("Golden Eagles") in Korea, circa 1951. During the conflict, P4Y-2 Privateers (Fireflies) dropped parachute flares to illuminate targets which would then be attacked by orbiting nightfighters.

Privateers first flew in 1943 and were retired from naval inventory in 1954. Many remained flying in Coast Guard livery (P4Y-2G) until the early 1960's, while a few modified "Super-Privateers" fly as slurry-bombers in the US and Canada each summer fighting forest fires.



Consolidated-Vultee RY-3 Liberator Express


MODEL DETAILS—Bet you have never seen this A/C modeled! This was my third Koster KAE vacu-form modification of Monogram's 1:48th scale B-24J Liberator (following the PB4Y-1 & PB4Y-2 - and believe it or not, I'm starting another PB4Y-1). All that remains of the original kit are the cockpit decking, bulk-heads, and wing planform. The side of the fuselage was replaced by clear styrene sheet in order to get the windows in where I needed them. Cargo section, floors and doors were scrap-built; the passenger door (right-side) and the Cargo door (left-side) were fun touches for this model. The judges even liked it, but only after I repainted it in 2002 from a less than effective bare-metal/silver to this rather bright Hi-Vis Yellow.

2003: 1st Place (Hobby Town, Sioux Falls, SD).

The RY-3 was the somewhat rare transport version of the Navy's Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer patrol bomber and was designated RY-3 Liberator Express. These aircraft were equipped with a passenger door on the right side of the fuselage just aft of the crew compartment and a large cargo door on the left side of the aft fuselage. The RY-3 differed from the PB4Y-2 in having no armament and in having a series of windows along the fuselage. Fairings were installed where the nose and tail turrets had been. A crew of four and 28 passengers, or 8 tons of cargo could be carried. Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94 14-cylinder (not turbocharged) air cooled radial engines rated at 1350 hp could push the aircraft along at 250 mph (12,000 feet), but cruising speed was a turtle-like 158 mph. Only 34 RY-3s were actually built and very few actually ended up serving with the Navy.


Martin JM-1 Marauder

MODEL DETAILS—The basic kit is Monogram's 1:48th scale B-26B Marauder modified to a Navy JM-1. The Navy and Marine Corps utilized approximately 250 B-26 Marauders as gunnery target tugs, designating them JM-1 (AT-23B) or JM-2 (TB-26G) Marauder. Aircraft were devoid of armor & armament but were outfitted with two 1850 hp P&W R-2800-43 Double-Wasp engines. In this stripped-down configuration, they were the cleanest & fastest Marauders in production. Each aircraft was provided with a C-5 windlass in the bomb bay which was used to deploy a wide range of gunnery targets. Many tugs were unpainted but several were painted in this garish, high-visibility, chrome-yellow. I always thought that the Marauder was an elegant, clean design, and a JM would have been an excellent project to exhibit these lines...but instead of leaving it buttoned-up, I repositioned all flight surfaces; opened both fore and aft bomb bays and detailed the interior with the winch and cable-guides; detailed the cockpit, engine bay; and added a resin engine. The gunnery target is scratch built, and the tractor has been heavily modified.



North American PBJ Mitchell

MODEL DETAILS—Nothing fancy here, just another tribute to a "Bomber in Blue". This is a simple conversion of
Monograms' 1:48 Scale B-25. The only real modification is the radome on the starboard wingtip.
This model has received a bit of recognition:

1998: 2nd Place (Northwest Scale Modelers, Seattle, WA)
2002: 3rd Place (Hobby Town, Sioux Falls, SD)



Grumman TBM-3W "Guppy"

MODEL DETAILS—This model of a TBM-3W is a rather extensive conversion of an old Monogram 1:48th scale TBM-3 Avenger (German mold). The kit molding was actually that of a TBM-1, which necessitated the scratch-building of new cowl-flaps, oil-cooler intakes, cockpit, aft-canopy, and aft-fuselage (a VERY nice resin conversion is "NOW" available from MDC - just my luck!). Tail-code designates this TBM-3 as belonging to VS-32.

AN/APS-20 Search Radar - The bulbous radome of the AN/APS-20 search radar was carried aloft by numerous United States Navy aircraft: Grumman TBM-3W Avengers, Boeing PB-1W Flying Fortresses, Grumman AF-2W Guardians, Lockheed P2V-3 through P2V-7 Neptunes, Douglas AD-2W through AD-6W Skyraiders, and early Lockheed WV-1 Constellations.

Be sure to stop by and see Ian M. Shaw's AEW Aircraft page



Northrop F2T-2 Reporter
MODEL DETAILS—This kit-bashed conversion of Monogram's 1:48th scale P-61A Black Widow represents what a Navy F2T-2 Reporter would have looked like in the guise of VW-4's "Hurricane Chasers."

After World War Two, the Air Force needed a new long-range, high-speed recon aircraft. The XF-15 was a late production P-61B (XP-61E) that had its guns, radar, and air-brakes removed, a bubble canopy was fitted, and the nose was filled with a battery of cameras. Production F-15A's (RF-61C) utilized P-61C airframes, engines, and a re-worked camera bay. Even with the "Jet Age" on the horizon, 175 Reporters were ordered, but only 36 were built, and after only 22 months of active service (8th PRS) most were scrapped in 1949. The Navy had experience operating F2T-1's (P-61C Black Widows) in 1946 and 1947 as transition aircraft to train Marine Crops nightfighter crews in intercept tactics before they moved on to the Grumman F7F Tigercat. The F-15A/F2T-2 would have made a kick-ass stable-mate to Navy PB1-W and PB4Y-2 reconnaissance aircraft. The appearance of Lockheed's P2V Neptune in 1947 doomed any further development of a Navy F2T-2 Reporter concept.

Regardless, you have to love the looks of the Reporter, even if it was only used by the USAF- it was a VERY aggressive-looking yet attractive aircraft!


Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina

MODEL DETAILS—Nothing fancy here. Just a standard Monogram PBY-5A, albeit, I bashed the tail into the correct thinness and profile BEFORE the damn resin kit came out which would have made my job a helluva-lot easier!!!! No matter, I orange-peeled some of the paint and quickly put this on a back-shelf where it is still gathering dust.

Nevertheless, it received recognition: 2002: 3rd Place (Hobby Town, Sioux Falls, SD).


Martin PBM-5A Mariner
MODEL DETAILS—This monster 1:48th Combat Models vacu-form kit was my first attempt at a 100% vacuform kit. Bad-idea. I had a VERY difficult time keeping the wings from sagging badly (I failed - they needed a very stiff internal spar - I'd suggest aluminum stock) and the plastic along the hull was very thin in places and after two years it was showing significant puckers that I do not remember noting during the original build. The kit has great promise, but it needs a real vacu-form expert and a tremendous amount of internal support, in fact, I'd suggest blowing the entire frame full of foam. Too, the profile of the bow-section does not look quite right, and does not match the photographic material I have....I did NOT attempt to remedy this issue as I was having too many other problems wrestling this beast into shape. I built this one as the amphibian-version PBM-5A, though the original kit is for the sea-version only. There was little or no surface detail provided with this kit, but with the huge expanses of plastic, this model screams for some surface relief. Certainly, for Vacu-form ghouls, the size of this huge model avails it to some SERIOUS detailing! I found that the aftermarket resin material now available for Monogram's 1/48th PBY were quite close to what I needed for the PBM interior. This model has received recognition, though I have no doubt that the ribbons were "in sympathy" for the effort involved rather than for the results:

1997: 3rd Place (American Eagles Hobby, Seattle WA).
1997: 3rd Place (Northwest Scale Modelers, Seattle WA).

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Be sure to stop by and see Ian M. Shaw's AEW Aircraft page



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