The Lockheed Ventura grew out of a British requirement for a larger, more powerful, replacement for same company's Hudson then in use with RAF Coastal Command. Based on the Model 18 Lodestar (the Hudson being converted from the smaller Model 14), the resulting aircraft shared a very similar layout, but was considerably more potent.
Sadly, the RAF debut of the newly-named Ventura (meaning "Lucky Star", taken from the Spanish for good fortune), could hardly have been more ill-starred. Through a combination of bad judgement and sheer bad luck, the new aircraft suffered a severe mauling in a series of daylight raids by Bomber Command against heavily defended German targets, and the RAF rapidly grew disenchanted with the Ventura.
With British interest dwindling, the USAAF was quick to requisition remaining aircraft as an interim medium bomber, but it was with the US Navy that the Ventura really shone. Whereas the British had found the aircraft slow and clumsy, it was now fitted with a streamlined Martin turret armed with a pair of .50 calibre machine guns in place of the clumsy British Boulton Paul turret carrying only a pair of .303s, and excelled as a high speed, heavily armed, maritime patrol aircraft - precisely the role for which the British had originally sought it, and then not used it...
Serving throughout the Pacific theatre of operations with both US and Commonwealth forces, and battling German U-Boats in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the Ventura now proved as popular with its crews as it had been initially loathed by many in the RAF, and acquired a reputation as a hard-hitting, tough machine that could operate successfully in the most hostile combat environments. Its top speed of around 320 mph and good maneuverability allowed it to tackle Japanese fighters, and some Ventura's were fitted with radar and served as nightfighters with the USMC - ironically, it's chief problem in the role being its inability to slow down
quickly enough once a target had been acquired.
2,493 Venturas were built, hundreds being surplus after WW2. Some were re-fitted for civil roles, while others continued to serve with various air forces - South Africa using its PV-1s until the late 1950s.
Appearing late last year in the US, Revell's quarterscale Ventura has somewhat belatedly been released in Europe too by Revell-Germany. Arriving in a massive box - and thankfully it's a top-opener, which is something of a rarity for Revell these days - containing three grey sprues and one clear, the kit comprises:
117 x grey styrene parts (with 6 unused)
15 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The moulding is excellent, as you'd hope with a new tool mainstream kit. Produced in Korea (as proudly proclaimed in raised lettering on the kit's exterior(!) - sorry Revell, that's one "blast from the past" I could happily do without...), there's no sign of flash and just a couple of faint sink marks in my kit. Ejector pins have been well positioned to be as unobtrusive as possible.
The surface finish comprises engraved panel lines, which some critics have deemed too heavy. Perhaps they are a tad so, but but we're hardly talking "Matchbox trenches" here, and what Revell have done will look just fine when painted and weathered. Overall, the impression is that everything is really crisp and not too complicated - in other words, it's a kit crying out to be built!
The fit of all the main components in my kit can really be summed up in just one word - superb! The fuselage is designed with a separate nose and top section for the turret, a clear sign (along with an unused bomb-aimer's couch) that further versions are planned for the future. Multiple sections like this can be a recipe for trouble, but Revell's follow existing panel lines and fit very snuggly. The wings are supported by a short spar running through the fuselage and they are a perfect fit at the roots, while the full-span tail clips snuggly into a recess and clamps the rear fuselage together, with the vertical fins having the outer tips of the stabilizers moulded in place to make line-up simple. As an idea of just how easily the basic airframe clips together, I was able to dry-assemble it without even needing any tape. All in all, it looks set to be one of the easiest quarterscale "twins" to build that I've yet come across.
a few details
The cockpit is simple but adequate, with 13 parts that include a neatly moulded instrument panel with decals provided to sit in the embossed bezels, plus a separate centre console complete with throttle levers. The pilot and co-pilot's seats are different styles (the former appearing to be armoured) and have moulded-on seat harnesses. The sidewalls are pretty spartan, but that appears true in the shots I have of the interior where they are lined with insulation that covers any structural details. (Note: While Revell's cockpit will probably suffice for many, True Details have just released a resin cockpit upgrade that looks very good for anyone wishing to upgrade the "office".)
The rest of the fuselage interior is basically bare except for some ribs and stringers that will be visible through the ventral gun position. This is a little disappointing, because the rear bulkhead in the cockpit has an open doorway, and you can see straight through to... nothing. The fact that the area is totally empty is emphasised by the crystal clear side windows and astrodome, so I imagine it won't be long before an aftermarket set is produced to fill the void. Similarly, the top turret is a bit basic, and superdetailers may wish to spruce it up a bit.
Completing the interior are a boxed-in tailwheel well and a simple, but effective, bomb-bay housing racks for 2 x 500lb and 4 x 250lb bombs.
The wings feature built-in wheel wells that are rather nicely detailed. The hydraulic reservoirs have a convincing textured finish, and the wells themselves should offer a very sound foundation for the main gear legs. The latter have moulded-on brakes lines, while the wheels feature open hubs - although many photos show hub caps fitted. The tyres are moulded with a sort of raised overlapping "fish-scale" tread. This may be accurate, but in the photos I have where the tread is visible it seems to either be a standard diamond pattern or plain grooves. Personally I wish Revell had provided "weighted" tyres to help capture the sheer bulk of the Ventura - this is a heavy machine and the flats are very noticeable in photos. (Note: Thanks to Sergey Kosachev for informing me that Ultracast have released weighted diamond-tread wheels with both detailed open hubs and covers.)
The engines are moulded as one piece, which makes it sound as though they will be really crude, but in fact they are quite impressively detailed. Of course, aftermarket replacements will look better - Vector already produce a superb set of resin engine fronts and cowlings - but if they're painted carefully and have some wiring added, Revell's engines should more than satisfy most modellers.
The propellers are also nicely moulded, but sadly not appropriate for wartime machines. To be honest, Revell have slightly shot themselves in the foot here, because the historical description in the instructions specifically mentions the paddle-bladed props used on the Ventura, and even the painting guide shows the correct type - but the kits parts seem to be based on the slim blades fitted to some restored machines. Happily, aftermarket replacements are already available from both True Details and Vector, and I think this is one upgrade really worth investing in as they are so prominent.
The transparencies are excellent quality, being crystal clear with crisply defined frame lines.
Instructions and decals
Revell provide a 12-page A-4 pamphlet with the construction broken down into no less than 51 stages. That does seem rather overkill for what is essentially quite a simple kit, and results in the drawings being rather densely packed and cluttered on the page. However, all the info you need is there, and assembly looks very straightforward. Colour matches for Revell's own paints are keyed to most details, and many involve mixing several paints to obtain the required colour, so many modellers will probably opt for their own preferred brand of model paints.
Decals are provided for two paint schemes:
1. PV-1 Ventura "895" of VPB-150, Tinian, Mariana Islands, October 1944.
2. PV-1 Ventura "936" of VPB-135, Attu Island, the Aleutians, December 1944.
The decals are very nicely printed with a silk finish and pin sharp registration on my sheet. Scheme #1 features the unit's distinctive octopus marking encircling the upper turret and a correction sheet is included with the items re-printed in a different green and a slightly different shape.
Revell's Ventura is a great kit, being simple to assemble, and well-enough detailed to satisfy the majority of modellers - and, above all else, it's astonishing value for money. Just over £26 in the UK for a quarterscale kit of this size and quality is almost unheard of these days. If it had been released by one of the other "majors", the cost could easily have been three times Revell's asking price. Yes, some areas of the kit have clearly been designed to a tight budget, but I don't think that will worry most modellers and, of course, the beauty of the low price for the basic kit is that you can afford to splash out on a few luxury extras without fear of breaking the bank.
2012 is still young and who knows what might yet appear, but while Revell's Ventura might struggle to win the overall Kit Of The Year title, it could easily run away with the award for Best Value
Kit Of The Year! Highly recommended.
PV-1 Ventura In Action - Charles L. Scrivner & Capt. W. E. Scarborough, USN (Ret.), Squadron Signal Publications, 1981
Vega Ventura - The Operational History of Lockheed's Lucky Star - John C. Stanaway, Schiffer Military/Aviation History, 1996
PV Ventura / Harpoon Units of World War 2 - Alan C. Carey, Osprey Publishing, 2002
Aftermarket UpgradesTrue Details Cockpit
True Details Propellers
Vector Engine Fronts, Cowls and Propellers
Ultracast Covered Wheels
Lonestar Props, Wheels, Open crew door, Turret plug, Closed bomb bay, Replacement exhausts, Open cowl flaps and Night fighter conversion
at Lone Star Models.com
DMold lower nose and closed bomb bay correction sets
at DMold Modelworks.com
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