Night Veil: 1/48th Monogram P-61 Black Widow
Updated: Feb 9
Here is another Monogram kit that reigned as pretty much the only available P-61 Black Widow kit in its scale for decades. Released in the mid-70s it is a product of its age, with raised panel lines and some flaws to make it a bit of a challenging build. On the plus side it is still relatively inexpensive, has some nice features and looks the part.
The work of model maker Shepard Paine was featured in this P-61 kit as well, with another inspiring colour brochure. Its jungle maintenance scene provided an example of pushing your creative model making skills a bit further. It certainly showed what could be done with a diorama setting to enhance your model aircraft.
Notable Kit Features:
Builds into a P-61A (with no turret) or P-61B (with dorsal turret installed)
Decently detailed interior (although not overly accurate)
Steerable nose gear strut
Radome can be removed to reveal radar
Positionable landing flaps
External tanks for the B-model
Ventral cannon access panel
Aft entrance hatch & forward cockpit access ladder
Pilot, gunner, and radar operator hatches can be open
Port engine access panel
I built this kit very early on in my model making days (back in 1985) without any specific aircraft markings. Then in 2003 I decided to get specific and apply the balance of the kit markings to refresh the kit a bit. The Monogram kit featured a 418th NFS Black Widow "Time's a Waistin' which was piloted by Maj.Carroll Smith who achieved 7 victories in this type.
Cockpit is reportedly a mix of A/B/C types
Ejector pin marks show up on gear doors and other areas
Glass fit leaves a lot to be desired
Not sure why Monogram decided to depict left side cowl flaps closed and right side cowl flaps open
Main wheel wells are a bit hollow and could use some work
The kit tires are incorrect and should be diamond tread tires.
Raised panel lines
Nose weight required (which if you want an open Radar as well, could get interesting finding spots for weight)
So-so (at best) decals (which have reported inaccuracies in the tail markings colours and Serial No. - Best go with after-market)
Kit Additions / Modifications:
Separated the tailplane horizontal control surface and then reattach it at a slight angle
Weighted the tires by sanding the bottoms flat
In order to correct the poor fit of the canopy, I used thin strips of styrene to build up the sills the canopies mount on where required
The paint scheme on this aircraft is an off black colour. Very little weathering was done, aside from some light exhaust staining using dry Tempera paint. Come to think of it, most of the paint job time went into masking off the various canopies. A lacquer clear coat was used over the oil-based paints I used back then. (I was never happy with the lacquer clear coats as I found they yellowed over time and eventually found that a Future floor coat did the job much better and with much less toxic fumes.)
The After-Build Report:
Aside from the old 1960 Aurora model, this kit was pretty much "the only game in town" if you wanted a P-61 in 1/48th scale. The Monogram / Revel kit versions were regularly released from 1974 - 2015. Great Wall Hobby delivered their new tool rendition of the Black Widow in 2011 and then curiously Hobby Boss jumped into the fray a few years later in 2014. So, we model makers had essentially one choice for 37 years and then saw two new releases of the type inside of 4 years. Sometimes the model releases of companies do seem mysterious.
It should be noted that both the new kits have some reported quirks, with some easy to fix/replace and others more difficult to overcome. I haven't built either kit, so I won't get into the weeds here.
Obviously, the new kits bring substantial improvements over the old Monogram kit, however it remains the only inexpensive P-61 in 1/48th scale, so it still does hold a place if you want a budget kit. If you want an easy solution to the canopy fit issues you could try fashioning some tarps to be placed over the glass panels to keep the heat out as was sometimes done in the Pacific theater. (Sometimes you have to get creative.)
Completed build #15 - June 2003 using the 1/48th scale Maker #7546 kit.
Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building, gain experience, challenge yourself if you like, but try not to stress yourself out over the build - it is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby after all - Cheers