The first 1/32 scale P-61 Black Widow in injection-molded plastic comes to us from HobbyBoss — and it is a massive undertaking! Nearly 19" long, with a wingspan of 25", it is huge.
More than 700 parts are crammed into the big box. Two frets of photoetched metal spice up the detail; a vinyl fret is included, as are nose weights to keep the tricycle landing gear grounded. White-metal landing gear is a good idea for this hefty replica.
Detail is clean and free of flash throughout, and the clear parts are pristine. The photoetched metal is a little thick, making some smaller parts difficult to bend.
The 24-page instruction booklet is busy but easy to follow. It includes a parts map and a separate decal and paint guide. Forty steps complete the Black Widow, but a couple of steps can be skipped (more on that shortly).
The first 12 steps cover the cockpit and radio operator’s station. Detail here is terrific. I chose not to use the decals for the instrument details; they looked pretty poor. Instead, I dry-brushed the molded detail. Forming the photoetched metal in Step 8 is difficult; annealing the metal helps.
Though plastic is an option, I highly recommend the white-metal landing gear; most of the model’s weight will be right over the nose wheel. The detail on the guns is very nice; you can show them off or hide them by closing the gun-bay doors.
Step 18 (radar assembly) can be skipped if you are keeping the nose on the model.
Speaking of the nose, you can leave it off if you want to display the full radar assembly provided in the kit. But if you attach it, you’ll see that it’s a bit short — more like the A variant than the B. I added a little extra weight to the nose just to make sure the plane wasn’t a tail-sitter. In Step 20, I saved Part X12 (the glass around the radar operator at the end of the gondola) to avoid getting paint on it.
Most of Step 21 can be skipped; none of the detail will be seen. I ran the gun barrels through Part U2, glued that assembly to Part WE, then glued that to the fuselage. I’m not sure why the rest of this assembly was included.
Pre-cut masking would be nice for all that glass and canopy framing, but none is provided. Fortunately, just after I received the kit I was able to purchase a masking set from Eduard — what a relief! Clear parts on either side of the radar operator (Y1 and X3) did not fit well.
On the wings, HobbyBoss got the spoilerons completely wrong — and I am not sure how to fix them. They should move up or down with the ailerons, but you have to have both of them in the up position (which would not happen on the real aircraft). Correcting this would mean reworking the wing.
The wing-to-tail fit was spectacular, and the wing-to-fuselage fit was nice as well. That said, the stub that goes into the fuselage is short, and, with the weight of the wing, I can see one easily breaking off the fuselage. I recommend reinforcing this joint.
I found the photoetched-metal intake slats impossible to assemble; much easier to use styrene strips instead.
The engine detail looks good, but the exhausts are not routed correctly. Also, there are no ignition wires. Motor mounts are included, though. All this detail can be shown if you leave the cowls off.
I painted my P-61 with Floquil weathered black, then clear-coated it for decals. They went on with no problem. But if you choose to build Lady in the Dark, the tail number should be 39408. An aftermarket set may come along to correct this. Additionally, the black of the plane bleeds through the white on the stars and bars; painting white underneath or doubling up with an extra set of decals would help.
My model took 85 hours to complete, about what I expected when I opened the box. With the parts count so high and the build so challenging, I would not recommend this kit for beginners. But, even with its errors, this Black Widow still has plenty of bite!
Note: A version of this review appeared in the October 2013 FineScale Modeler.