It's a tough job following a legend. But that's what faced HobbyBoss when they planned their 1/48 scale Grumman Avenger, because it would inevitably be compared with Accurate Miniatures kit - often rated among the best kits ever, and which redefined the market for detail and accuracy when it was released. So, not a lot to live up to then! Of course, HobbyBoss have one or two cards of their own up their sleeve - firstly, their kit can take advantage of Trumpeter's enormous 1/32 scale version, and secondly is produced using 21st century CAD technology. Still, it was clear they'd have to come up with something pretty special to tempt anyone away from their well-established rival.
The first thing that strikes you is the absolutely enormous box - easily twice the size of Accurate Miniatures'. It's not wasted space though, because it's well-filled with sprues and the transparent parts are partitioned off for extra protection. Another nice touch is that the delicate exhausts are wrapped in protective padding on their sprue to avoid mishaps in transit. The kit comprises:
185 x grey styrene parts
24 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The moulding throughout is nice and crisp, with no sign of flash or sink marks to fill. The main surface finish comprises engraved panel lines and embossed rivets. These are a little heavy for some tastes, but can always be knocked back a bit easily enough with some paint. Something HobbyBoss have missed is that the full-sized Avenger was partly constructed with raised-headed rivets (Accurate Miniatures depicted this correctly). The fabric surfaces are rather inconsistent - the rudder and ailerons are quite subtly handled, but the elevators are much heavier, as though a different designer was responsible, and really need refining a bit for a more scale appearance.
The big difference between this kit and the Accurate Miniatures one is that HobbyBoss give the option for folded wings and separate flaps. This could have been a mixed blessing if they'd fitted badly, but the designers have done a fine job, with a nice tight fit, coupled with reasonably detailed inner surfaces that will really come to life with some additional "plumbing". The rest of the kit promises to assemble well too, with the fuselage halves lining up perfectly, and substantial spars supporting the wings that butt-join at the roots.
A few details
If Accurate Miniatures set new standards with their detailed interior, HobbyBoss certainly don't do a bad job themselves, with the inner walls of the fuselage showing crisp ribs and stringers, and an 18-part cockpit accompanied by another dozen parts for the turret.
The engine comprises 9 parts and attaches to a neatly detailed firewall and engine-mount, so it could look very impressive if you want to leave the cowling off and add an electrical harness, fuel lines etc.
The bomb bay includes a wing spar and attaches to the cockpit, along with the firewall, to complete a very substantial interior unit. The bay is well detailed and the bay doors can be split and folded to reveal the selection of stores that includes an auxiliary fuel tank, torpedo and two sizes of bombs.
Underwing stores are provided in the form of drop tanks and rockets. The outer wings include stengthening plates for the rockets and HobbyBoss have moulded the mounting holes for all the underwing stores already opened-up, so you'll have some filling to do if you don't want to fit them.
The undercarriage is sturdy, but well moulded. The mainwheels have separate inner hubs and are nicely detailed. The tyres have diamond treads and are un-weighted. The wells are nice and deep with good rib detail.
The transparencies are very clear and distortion-free. The canopies and turret have well defined framing, and there are alternative sections to allow the pilot's canopy to be posed open. A neat design touch is that the fuselage windows fit from the outside, making painting easier. Navigation and landing lamp covers are all separate parts. The one anomaly is the gunsight, which seems to have a colossal reflector glass compared with any photos I've found.
Instructions & decals
The instructions are printed across two large fold-out sheets, with the 12-stage sequence running back and forth across them in a slight cock-eyed manner, but the diagrams themselves are very well drawn and construction looks quite straightforward. Colour matches for Gunze Sangyo paints are keyed to most details.
A separate full-colour guide is provided for the 3 decal options and this also includes a handy cross reference for Gunze Sangyo, Vallejo, ModelMaster, Tamiya and Humbrol paints. The painting schemes are:
1. TBM-3, "White 314", VT-83, USS Essex (CV-9), April 1945.
2. TBM-3, "Black 66", VT(N)-90, USS Enterprise (CV-6), March 1945.
3. TBM-3, "White 110", VT-82, USS Bennington (CV-20), February 1945.
The decals look to be very good quality, printed in perfect register with a glossy finish. The sheet includes a good selection of stencils.
HobbyBoss's Avenger looks to be a very good kit, and would probably blow people away with its finely detailed interior if it weren't for the existing Accurate Miniatures model. I have to say that the earlier kit is slightly more refined in some of its details, but HobbyBoss score by offering a neatly handled folding wing and separate flaps. If you already have a stash of Accurate Miniatures Avengers, then the new kit may not be particularly exciting, particularly as it's slightly more expensive in the UK, but the price difference is more than offset if you take into account the cost of an aftermarket wing-fold set. Of course, the real wild card is Italeri's superb value cut-priced re-boxing of the Accurate Miniatures kit. For Creative Models, who kindly supplied the review sample, it's a win-win situation whichever kit you choose, because they market them all - you might say they have the Grumman Avenger pretty well covered! Recommended.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE
Check out Frederick M. Boucher's detailed look at the War Eagles Air Museum exhibit HERE