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Northrop P-61A

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Apart from the Tamiya P-51, I believe no other kit has been discussed as much as the new Great Wall Hobby 1:48 scale P-61 Black Widow by the aviation modeling community since its release in 2011. It seems to be always the case when an iconic American WWII aircraft is involved, especially when precise data and literature is available about the subject. Great Wall Hobby (a company based in Shangai) has received a lot of flak for its effort to replace the old Monogram kit of the 1970s, and though some of the critics are justified, nevertheless a nice model can be built with what is provided in the box. Purists may not be happy with the result, but for many it will constitute a decent representation of the real aircraft.
Great Wall Hobby Vs Monogram
Before starting with the construction of the model, please allow me to write a brief comparison between the Great Wall Hobby and the Monogram kits. After having examined the parts present in both boxes, I do think that the new P-61 is a copy of the older one. Of course the subject being the same, one could argue that the parts will be inevitably similar. But I do have kits in my stash of the same plane made by two or three different manufacturers and there are always differences. In this case the shape of the main parts but even more the interior detail and the panel lines seems to be an exact match. Of course the latter differ in that they are in relief on the Monogram kit and engraved on the Great Wall Hobby one, but their location is exactly the same, access panels and smaller details included. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially since the Monogram P-61 isn't a bad kit, but unfortunately the Chinese manufacturer has also forgot to correct some errors, leaving the inevitable modification work to be done by the modeler or the aftermarket industry. Here is a list of the (visually) more important ones:

  • The opening of the engine cowlings are too small and must be widened.
  • The clear parts have some shape problems, especially over the pilot and rear gunner/radar operator area.
  • The photo etched wing spoilerons as provided are wrong and MUST be glued in the closed position in the kit.
  • The area on the bottom of each boom, just behind the engines, is not right and must be modified.

There are other imperfections in the Great Wall Hobby kit but these have not a huge impact on the look of the finished model, at least to my eyes. These will be discussed later in the build report. Having said that, the new kit has also some very positive points to offer:

  • First, of course, are the aforementioned engraved panel lines. They are very nice and will, for many, remove the psychological barrier of scribing the entire Monogram kit anew. How many of these are collecting dust waiting to be built one day just because one hasn't the time or the skill to do such a tedious task?
  • The clear parts are well moulded and crystal clear. I do think that the transparency of the glazings is an important aspect for the finish of the model, especially when there are many windows like on the P-61. So, even if they are not quite right shape wise, they do represent an improvement over the Monogram ones.
  • The parts are more precisely designed and injection moulded. This is especially the case for the interior parts (cockpit and wheel wells) which look great once painted, dry brushed and finished using a wash.
  • The presence of a photo etched fret is a plus, providing seat belts for the cockpit, ignition wires for the engines and other detail parts.
  • The Pratt & Whitney engines are very nice and the cowling flaps come in two configurations (open or closed).
  • And last but not least, the overall fit of the parts is excellent making the build of such a complex aircraft not an insurmountable task, even for a beginner.

About the Author

About Jean-Luc Formery (TedMamere)

I'm mainly interested in WW2 aircraft and I build them in 1/48 scale.


Beautiful build J-L, very nicely done indeed, and a great review. Cheers, D
JAN 14, 2012 - 10:42 AM
Beautiful build as always JL and nice review most excellent
JAN 14, 2012 - 12:00 PM
Jean-Luc, Wow, you bring back some memories! This looks like a fine revision of the old classic. Great build.
JAN 14, 2012 - 01:53 PM
Well who would've thought that you would defend the "rivet counters". These are the people who lurk in hobby stores and at shows denigrating people's work without actually displaying any built work. Gaston, well done on highjacking Jean Luc's review. Why don't you post your own review instead on taking over this thread. As Jessie said it doesn't look fatally flawed to me, in fact it looks like a P-61.
JAN 15, 2012 - 10:15 AM
JAN 15, 2012 - 02:38 PM
Thanks for the great build-up review and ˇutlining the shortcomings of the kit so clearly. While the maker, I certainly hope they will heed you advices to improve on future releases. I am glad to hear that the general fit makes lining up the airframe and booms so easy. I remember blood, sweat and tears when building my Monogram widow a decade ago. I hope I'll find some time to build the GWH kit sometime soon. Your works keeps inspiring me greatly! Keep it up, mate! Cheers, Guido
JAN 16, 2012 - 04:05 AM
Hi all, Thank you for your kind words about the model and the article. Gaston, this looks like a fine work on the clear parts. If I tackle the P-61 in it's B variant, could you send me one of your vacu replacement part? Guido, I'm looking forward to the Devastator. It looks very promising from what I have seen so far. Torsten, I think we will find an occasion to compare our P-61. It will be interesting to have the Monogram and GWH models side by side. Matt, no worries. I don't feel as if Gaston has highjacked my review. To the contrary. His input is always very interesting. All the best, Jean-Luc
JAN 16, 2012 - 08:14 AM
Jean Luc, an absolutely magnificant build! I think you did a great job on this kit even with it's flaws. So good in fact Gaston Maty hasn't even bombaded us with his typical rant. Great work and thanks so much for sharing. Take care :-) Jim
JAN 16, 2012 - 12:06 PM
Thanks Jean-Luc, I will see what I can do with the spare clear plastic pieces I have: The master often has a lot of primer on it to smooth flaws out, and this makes it susceptible to surface damage from the heat of the softened plastic after a few copies: It is very little damage however, so I should be able find, or complete, one more useable copy... Gaston
JAN 17, 2012 - 06:38 AM
Beautiful work! Respect!
JAN 20, 2012 - 09:57 PM