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5602, Elco 80-ft. Torpedo Boat PT-596. 1/35th-scale styrene/multimedia kit. Contains: 373 styrene parts, 87 photo-etched brass parts, 28 die cut clear parts, two turned aluminum parts, seven metal screws, various pieces of string and wire, one reference booklet, adhesive-backed name plates, water-slide decals and painting guide for one vessel; 36 pages of instructions in 29 steps. Price: $150.00 USD.
As a young lad back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I loved watching the old war films. John Ford’s outstanding classic, “They Were Expendable” was high on my list of favorites; later came “PT-109”, which related the story of Lt.(jg) Jack Kennedy. There was the “McHale’s Navy” TV show and the awful film spin-offs, as well as a DC Comic (the peg-legged “Captain Storm”, if I recall correctly). In my time on Spaceship Earth I also worked for ten years at a major Naval/Aerospace museum; I have read a few books about “Peter Tares” and “Mosquito Boats”. So you could say that I am interested in the subject; I also bet some of you Treadheads are as well.
Certainly, over the years, model manufacturers have noticed that these examples of “Sea Cavalry” (as well as other small surface combatants) are popular subjects among modelers; therefore they have catered to these needs. In styrene, Revell issued (and re-issued) its classic 1/72nd-scale 80-ft. Elco PT-109 kit several times, while Lindberg also did likewise in 1/32nd-scale. Both were nice base kits as given (especially for their time), but loads needed to be done to really bring them up to snuff. Some after-market companies made various items to upgrade these kits, while modelers dreamed of an up-to-date kit.
Then, in 2006, Italeri announced the advent of this brand-new 1/35th-scale rendering, and quite a stir was heard amongst modelers, not least of all, those that built equipment and figures in that scale. So, I believe that the potential for “crossover” in this case is quite high, all other things being equal. And, apparently, so did Italeri.
This consists of three separate shafts and their mounts, three screws (propellers) and three rudders. The rudders can be positioned at various angles.
The hull is a single large (actually, HUGE) molding to which a number of details are attached. These include separate “chines” (the ridge around the lower sides) and a bow-mounted styrene tow hook with etched brass mounting plate. Various small styrene and etched brass items are located on the port and starboard sides of the hull; these represent drains and water intakes. Very nicely-done mufflers are given for the transom, which include separate butterfly valves and their associated linkages.
A stand is provided on which to mount the finished model. It is complimented by peel-and-stick, full-color name plates for each side.
The main deck is one part, which is attached to the hull using seven metal self-tapping screws; these are of two different lengths, so be sure to heed the instructions. Various separate fittings such as bitts, cleats, stanchions (with thread for safety lines), cowl vents, bow fairlead, Danforth anchor (with thread) and toe rails are provided. The throttle linkage cover (the item seen on the starboard side of the day cabin), small mushroom vents and hatch coamings are all molded in place. For the latter, separate hatch lids are given; they are detailed on both faces and are also (blessedly) devoid of ejector pin marks. Naturally, if these are depicted in an open position, some details might need to be added inside the cavernous hull.
The various weapons mounts, and various stowage lockers for equipment and ammunition, as well as the Elco smoke generator cylinder are also attached to the deck. Note that in the first step, the instructions tell the modeler to open up various holes from beneath the deck for these items, so make sure to pay attention to them. The final items to be added to the deck are the small windows, called “dead-lights”. These consist of die-cut acetate with etched brass frames. I strongly suggest that the modeler save these until last, until after painting, or there will be an awful lot of extra (and completely unnecessary) work involved in masking them.
This is a later type of Elco 80-footer, and therefore the charthouse, day cabin and the engine access area are all very different from the earlier boats. I simple weapons change will NOT suffice to make a model of PT109! A 9-foot wherry (row boat) is stored on the roof of the day cabin and a life raft is stowed on the charthouse roof; the two-piece raft has oars and other items molded in place, while the wherry has mounting straps molded in place. The charthouse has various vents and running lights attached to its sides and light traps on the forward-most windows. The side windows are from the acetate sheet and they should not be put in place until after painting and weathering. They are inserted from the inside, so add them last before final assembly. Other items added to this area include the side panels for the cockpit, the various antennae (IFF and whip aerial), search light (with clear acetate lens) and life rings. A number of etched brass parts also help detail this area.
The cockpit features a switch panel made from etched brass with decals for data placards, and an instrument panel with decal dial faces, covered with an etched brass frame and acetate glass face. The wheel and throttle guardant is also added to this area as are bench seats and a deck panel. The starboard side also gets the gun tub for the Mk 17 twin .50 cal. mount.
The main mast contains the SO3 radar antenna (in etched brass) with its motor housing, as well as a second IFF antenna, and is mounted forward on the roof of the day cabin. Be careful here, as what looks like support struts on the sides of the assembly are actually the halyards for the various flags. Cut these off and replace with thread; check photos for the proper configuration and your kit will have a fine point of interest. If using the battle flag decal, it will need to be applied to some sort of backing, such as sheet lead. Additional details can be added, notably proper electric power conduits; again, check references.
The day cabin itself is a multi-part affair with acetate windows that get inserted from the inside. See comments on charthouse, above, for assembly hints. There is a separate hatch lid for the aft end of the cabin and separate rails for the sides. A power conduit is molded on the roof, which the modeler might wish to replace with thin solder for a better appearance. The second Mk 17 twin fifty’s tub is mounted here as well, on the port side, aft. The final main structure for the deck is the plate with vents and access hatch for the engine room. This area also includes the depression rail and ammunition locker for the 40mm gun, as well as some other details.
The kit provides for four Mk 13 Mod 1 Torpedoes and the later Mk 1 roll-off racks. The main mounting plates each have a bunch of ejector pin marks, which should be covered by the actual frames, so they should be nothing to worry about. Metal wire is provided to hold the “fish” onto the frames, but the frame extension is missing. References also show that a small pulley should be present at the bottom of the “V” shape these cables form, instead of the eye-bolt given. The torpedoes themselves feature two part propeller blade assemblies and etched brass fins; they look fine except that they mount practice warheads as denoted by the lift rings at the nose of each one. These need to be removed and replaced with a detonator/fuse.
Later boats carried 5-inch Rocket Launchers on the Mk 50 Mount, as depicted in this kit. Each is made up of styrene and etched brass parts, which together provide for a fine level of detail. Only the elevation handle is given for each mount; the training handle lock is missing as is the power cable that ran from the mount into the deck. The cable provided electricity to fire the rockets from the cockpit using one Mk 1 illuminated sight for each launcher. Some bolt details are also missing from the elevation gear housing, as is an electric junction box that they hold in place; it also features a prominently-placed ejector pin mark that will need attention. No rockets are provided for the tubes, so for complete accuracy, the modeler will need to plug the tubes with an appropriately configured part. There are two large lockers provided for re-loads. Each can be depicted closed or opened. If shown in the latter configuration, there are rockets molded in place.
Each of the twin .50 cal. Browning heavy machine guns in their Mk 17 mounts, consist of multi-part assemblies. These include the weapons, their trunnions, recoil-dampening cradle, grips, ammunition guide for the provided belted ammunition and a further set of guides that mount over the ammunition trays. Each is mounted in an open “turret”, which are both multi-part assemblies as well. Both include the contoured framework (depression rails) that acted as a means of preventing the guns from hitting parts of the ship in the heat of action; the rear turret is also surrounded by canvas covering. Other details within the turrets are the ammunition trays (but there’s nothing to fill them with) as well as floor-boards. Note that the provided belted ammunition needs to be threaded from the guns’ receiver, through the guide that is attached to the guns (parts 71E). It must also run through the guides (parts 56E and 57E) mounted over the ammo trays, and then to the ammo tray itself. This is not shown in the instructions, while the belts are probably not long enough to reach as far as they should, anyway.
The 20mm Oerlikon cannon is depicted on one of many possible pedestal mounts, in this case the later Mk 14. It is a well-rendered item that includes very nicely-detailed ammunition cans (in fact there’s four of them). It does not have any type of sighting device and there are no handles to grip the piece during firing. When configured for this type of mounting, photos show the common twin shoulder rests were not fitted. Some photos show two long curved handles used to grip the piece by the gunner; these are not provided but will be extremely easy to add using brass or styrene rod. As far as I can determine from references the gun was aimed by tracer and there was very little use of it in a high-angle role, such as against enemy aircraft, on these later boats.
The 37mm cannon M9 on Mk 1 Mount, is a derivative of the weapon fitted to the Army Air Corps’ P-39 Aircobra fighter. It was also apparently fired by tracer as there appears to be no sighting device fitted either to the kit parts or in photos and drawings. It has grips for the gunner, but the charging handle seen under the breech end is not provided. The magazine is assembled from styrene and etched brass parts, as well as some mesh. There is an optional turned aluminum gun tube provided, which really dresses up the assembly.
Later boats carried the Army’s 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft cannon M1, called the Mk 3 by the Navy, fitted at the stern. The entire item seems to match references very well. Modelers should note that some guns had opened slots on the side of the recuperator cover, where the rear end of the gun tube sat; some did not. The gun in the kit represents the latter type without the slots. The gun is assembled from styrene parts with etched brass ring-and-bead sights. An optional turned aluminum gun tube can be used, should the modeler desire to do so.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
While for the most part quite crisp, the molding of some parts leaves a bit to be desired. There are lots of ejector pin marks in visible places, many on relatively small parts. On the other hand, some of the hatch covers have none on either side, which will allow the modeler to leave them opened without any extra work; of course, you’ll be able to see into the large, empty interior. Some of the smaller parts have mold seams that are a bit more prominent than we have become used to in the new millennium. The main deck is properly devoid of any planking detail, but there are many, many tooling marks scattered about the place. These will need attention since dry-brushing will make them quite visible. And NO, there should not be any planking visible!
Fit and engineering was, overall, very good. I dry-fitted some of the main sub-assemblies and saw no major problems. Since this kit is being turned over to Braille-Scaler and boat modeler extraordinaire Mike Salzano (have you seen his 77-foot Elco boat in Military Modelling magazine back in 2006?) for a full build, I did not go too far in that respect. I have no wish to cramp his style!
Accuracy and Details.
Overall, according to plans by Al Ross, I noted no major accuracy issues. It is in some of the details where the kit falls just a tiny bit short of expectations. This is not meant to discourage, as these are usually omissions; most modelers will be able, with decent references, to get this kit properly dressed up. And, I imagine some resourceful after-market companies will help “rock” this boat!
The instructions are clearly-drawn and broken down into enough separate segments within each step to make construction rather straightforward and logical. However, the sequence provided would only be of use if you did not wish to paint your boat!
To ease painting and handling I would strongly suggest that all major modules such as the superstructure and deck items (weapons and other large objects) be painted separately prior to mounting on the already-painted deck. Some of these modules have acetate windows that fit only from the inside, so assemble them, paint and weather them, then install the windows. When all is ready, attach to the deck. Likewise, I think it is insane to install the etched brass and acetate deadlights in the second step and then have to mask them for painting some time later on. Put these on last of all, after painting the etched brass frames while they are still on the fret.
I would suggest that the deck be fastened to the hull after opening the appropriate holes from below, immediately after step one. The instructions also show that the battle ensign is to be simply stuck to itself, wrapped around the appropriate part. I think modelers would be better off applying this item to properly-prepared, extremely thin lead foil.
The lesson here is to PLAN ahead, especially as this “type” of model may be unfamiliar to some.
Decals and Markings Information.
Water-slide decals are provided for PT-596 of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 40, as seen after May 1945 in the Philippines; one source states that this particular vessel did not see any action. The markings consist of the usual white/black “shadowed” numerals (in six places), depth markings for the transom, data plates for the various control panels, instrument panel dial faces and door “open” sign for the cockpit. The final item is a proper 48-star battle ensign for the main mast. All of the designs are crisply printed with sharp edges and well-defined colors; the flag is especially nice. Carrier film is thin, matte and is relatively closely-cropped to the designs’ edges.
The painting instructions depict a color scheme of Measure 31, Design 20L, which was designed for concealment of boats that operated “in shore” (close to the coasts); this was ideal for the Solomon Islands and the Philippines, with variations also appearing on Destroyers. According to reference 3 the scheme should consist of four colors to include Green 2 (G-2), Green 3 (G-3) Deck Green (20-G) and Dull Black (BK). Reference 2 shows charts that also give FS numbers, which are (respectively) 34277, 34158 and 34092; a number for Black is not given. It should be noted that the Federal Standards numbering system was not in effect at the time these boats were built and that listing them is only an attempt by the author of the cited reference at providing the modeler with a basic starting point. The kit instructions list completely different FS numbers, so beware if using that as your only guide. The paint guide itself only shows two “greens” instead of three of them as designated in both the previously-cited references. On photos it is difficult to say what the colors are and how many are used, but the pattern itself is a close match to that actually seen on the “596 boat”.
The hull below the waterline is coated with an anti-fouling concoction that was called “Copperoyd”; this is commonly known as “Hull Red” by most modelers. For details on torpedo colors (among many other bits), step over to Hyperscale and check out the recent postings on the subject. It is thought that the torpedo body was natural metal, over-coated with a lubricant that left a brownish sheen. The warheads’ colors are not certain, but could be a shade of Zinc Chromate. As the torpedoes were the same type as carried by the Grumman/General Motors TBF/TBM Avenger Torpedo Bomber, perhaps the aircraft guys may have a definitive answer as regards the warhead color.
This is a wonderful kit and will be stunning when completed; it’ll make your Dragon Wagon with LCM 3 look small! The many odd little things I have pointed out are not meant to nit-pick, or to discourage. I mention them only to show how really fantastic this kit will look with a bit of research and extra effort on the part of the modeler.
And, if the modeler is pleased with what a given manufacturer provides “out of the box” (I sincerely DO envy those folks!!), this kit will certainly satisfy!
Frank V. De Sisto
References consulted for this review included:
1. “PT Boats in Action”, Squadron Ship No.7, by T.G. Connelly, D. Greer, T. Tullis & J. Sewell.
2. “American PT Boats in World War II”, Schiffer, by V. Chun.
3. “United States Navy Camouflage of the WW2 Era”, The Floating Drydock, by L. Sowinski & T. Walkowiak.
4. “The Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet, Two Ocean Fleet Edition”, Naval Institute Press re-print, J. Fahey.
5. “The Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet, War Edition”, Naval Institute Press re-print, J. Fahey.
6. “The Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet, Victory Edition”, Naval Institute Press re-print, J. Fahey.
7. “Devil Boats, The PT War Against Japan”, Jove, by W. Breuer.
8. “Allied Coastal Forces of World War II, Vol.2, Vosper MTBs & US Elcos”, Naval Institute Press, by J. Lambert & A. Ross.
9. “US Small Combatants”, Naval Institute Press, by N. Friedman, A.D. Baker III, A. Raven & A. Ross.
10. “PT Boats at War, World War II to Vietnam”, MBI Publishing Company, by N. Polmar & S. Morison.
11. “The 40mm Bofors Gun”, Patrick Stevens Ltd., by T. Gander.
12. “80’ Elco PT Boat”, photographic reference manual included in kit.
13. Discussions with Mike Salzano and perusal of various posts on Hyperscale.
Model Rectifier Corp. is the North American distributor of Italeri kits. Available from retail and mail order shops.
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