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Grumman tbf avenger. Avenger mk III

19 Apr

Grumman tbf avenger. Avenger mk III,plastic model airplane

The Avenger Mk Ill’s US Navy-standard overall Glossy Sea Blue colour scheme extended to cover the wheel wells, undercarriage and wing folds, but the few pictures that I have seen of Royal Navy Mk Ills show them to look quite dull and lustreless. Many US Navy TBM-3/3Es seem to match this finish, which I can only assume was caused by prolonged exposure to strong sunlight and sea air. I scoured a number of colour photographs of US Navy aircraft during World War II to try and determine what the paintwork of the Avengers would have looked like and came up with the theory that the blue pigment in the paint tended to fade, leaving a drab colour that resembled a very dark blue-black. With this in mind I intended to undercoat the model in Halfords Black and experiment with various shades of blue over the top of this. A major problem occurred when the black undercoat ended up looking more like pebbledash than paint and the surfaces of my model began to resemble very coarse sandpaper! The model was scrubbed with soapy water, followed by a vigorous bout of sanding, and this removed most of the lumpy paint and made the surface of the Avenger smooth again. Having taken a dislike to spray cans, I returned to my trusty brushes and after a search through my paints came up with my last bottle of Aeromaster 1045 US Sea Blue ANA623. Three to four coats were applied using a large, flat, sable-haired paintbrush, resulting in a colour and finish that were just what I wanted. To give the model a finish that would help the decals adhere it was next given an overall coat of gloss varnish. Because I have been rather disappointed with the quality and finish of recent Humbrol enamel varnish, which seems to soak into the underlying paint, I used a very old tin of British-produced Humbrol varnish that I found in a dusty corner of a hardware shop, and this did the job.


The best photograph that I had for a British Avenger Mk III came from the spring 2003 issue of Jabberwock, the journal of the friends of the FAA Museum. This contains an inflight photograph of Avenger JZ681, wearing British Pacific Fleet roundels but no unit codes. A search through Ray Sturtivant and Mick Burrow’s excellent Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939-1945 revealed that JZ681 went on to serve with No. 854 NAS at Nowra for up to four months from July 1945, but did not provide any codes. A further search through the book revealed JZ678 with the code ‘377-V of No. 849 NAS. This was only two aircraft away from JZ681, and as it was more than likely that they would have looked almost the same, I chose to represent this aircraft. JZ678 crashed into the island of HMS Victorious in May 1945 and was repaired at Bankstown in Australia before being issued to No. 854 NAS at Nowra in July 1945. After a further spell at Bankstown it went on to serve with No. 828 NAS and was still recorded as being on their books in February 1946. The US BuAer number of this aircraft was 69492, which was definitely a TBM-3E. Although some books state that all TBM-3s had external arrester hooks, the photograph of JZ681 shows that it definitely had an internal hook. One theory is that the external hooks were fitted after BuAer No. 86175, which means that all JZ-serialled Avengers had internal hooks, while from KE onwards they had external hooks. Now that I had my subject aircraft, the serial number and Royal Navy titles were cobbled together using white 8-in letters and numbers from Modeldecal sheet No. 48A. The side number ‘377’ and carrier code ‘P’ came from leftover white letters and numbers from Techmod 32009 Corsair sheets, and the BPF roundels came from Aeromaster set 32072 for British Avengers. I was a bit wary of using the Aeromaster decals as a previous set of roundels from the same sheet had broken up on removal from the backing paper and then failed to stick down. Extra care was taken this time and although their sticking powers were again less than brilliant and they silvered extensively, they were tacked into place using wet varnish and left for a week. So far they seem to have decided to stay where they are. The other decals were less troublesome and a picture of an overall blue Mk III coded ‘377/N’ in the August 2005 issue of Model Aircraft Monthly was used as the main reference for placing the codes, while various white stencils came from the spares box.

Weathering tbf avenger

After leaving the model for over a week to allow the gloss varnish to fully dry, a couple of coats of Polyscale acrylic vamish were brushed on to tone down the paintwork. The panel lines then received a watercolour wash using a mix of Payne’s Grey, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber, which was left to settle into the recessed detail before the excess was wiped away with a piece of damp kitchen paper, leaving enough behind to highlight the panel lines as well as helping to make the paintwork look a bit grubby in areas such as the rear of the engine cowlings and the fuselage underside. Paint chips were replicated using Humbrol Metalcote Polished Aluminium around frequently opened panels and on surfaces that were commonly walked upon, such as the wing roots and cockpit sills. The exhaust stains and oil stains that had been started off using the watercolour wash were given further substance by dry brushing with black and dark grey enamels. Mig Pigment Powders Soot Black was applied to further accentuate the exhaust stain along the fuselage and European Dust was sparingly applied around the wing roots. The latter powder was also applied into the treads of the tyres. A coat of Citadel spray varnish was used to seal all the weathering in. Further coats of Polyscale Flat Vamish were then brushed on to get the paintwork back to its matt finish.

Grumman tbf avenger. Avenger mk III,war airplanes

Finishing touches

Now that all of the various parts of the kit had been painted it was time to bring them together, first of all by attaching the right-hand wing to the wing fold that was attached to the stub. This simply clicked into position and was cemented into place, with tape holding it in the folded position until the glue had set. The model was then turned over and the large Interior Green overload fuel tank was mounted in the bomb bay. The bomb bay doors with their etched-brass interiors were attached in the opened position. A home-made AN/APS-4 pod had been made earlier by using the front end of the torpedo from the kit along with the rear end of one of the wing-mounted drop tanks. These were joined to make the main body, with some plastic strip wrapped around it, and this was mounted onto one of the underwing bomb racks before being located into position under the right wing, just outboard of the rocket stubs. While scratch building parts for the model, the problem of finding a set of bulged blisters for the British-style side windows was solved by using a bubble window from the 1:48 scale Monogram B-29 kit as a master. This was then plunged through a hot sheet of dear plastic, and my first attempt at vacuum forming my own transparencies resulted in a lot of errors before finally arriving at a few sets of useable bubbles. The best of these were attached to the model using Clearfix and a few strategically applied drops of super-glue. The rest of the transparencies had been progressively added during the painting and weathering stages. By the time the blisters had gone on the transparencies were all on the model, with the observer’s hatch in the opened position and the gun turret fitted.

Although the interior detail in the forward part of the wing folds is excellent, the hydraulic actuator arms that are provided are not very representative of the real thing. The kit parts have only two arms instead of the four that are found on the real aircraft, and I decided to build up a new set using the kit’s actuator part and metal tubing left over from a Revell Contacta glue gun.

Grumman tbf avenger. Avenger mk III,building a scale model

Grumman tbf avenger. Avenger mk III,corgi model aircraft

To start off with, the plastic actuator arms were removed from the central joint piece and then holes were drilled into it to accept the four cut-down lengths of metal tubing. This assembly was then simply fitted into place and it looks much better, with its polished metal actuators looking just like those found on the full-sized aircraft. Final finishing touches were the addition of the rear compartment access door, the opening of the right-hand gun bay door, and a radio antenna. The latter was made from elastic monofilament that was fixed to the radio mast using superglue and then stretched out to join the projection at the top of the rudder, with a shorter section added half way along that came down to join the fuselage, thereby completing the dipole. This was painted using Humbrol Gun Metal with attachment points picked out in black. With this last job complete my British Pacific Fleet Avenger Mk III was finally finished.


This must rank as one of my longest ever modelling projects, although not as long as the earlier Avenger Mk II. At times I thought that the kit was jinxed as I lost quite a few of the kit’s smaller pieces to the ‘carpet monster’, including the very large tailhook which had to be replaced by an item from the spares box as it was never found again. I do hope that the problem with the cowling flaps does not detract too much from the look of the finished model, and apart from these problems I really enjoyed building this Avenger. Indeed, I think I must be getting hooked on 1:32 scale, which may be a problem bearing in mind the limited display space I have at my disposal.

For anybody who can afford one of the ‘big’ Trumpeter Avengers I can highly recommend them. The finished model looks every inch an Avenger, and for those willing to go the extra mile a British aircraft will stand out as something different from the crowd of US Navy ‘Turkeys’, and will certainly provide a talking point. I have already had a couple of so-called ‘experts’ tell me that the British did not use blue Avengers during the war!

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