Reviewed by Les Dorr, Jr.
|Back in the 1950s, Revell broke new ground in plastic ship modeling with
kits of three aircraft carriers: Forrestal, the first "supercarrier," Franklin
D. Roosevelt, a large "battle" carrier, or "CVB," and a modernized
Essex-class ship. The kits are in what's now considered "odd" scales,
plus-or-minus 1:540. While state-of-the-art then, the kits have many features that
were simplified or molded incorrectly. Still, they've held up well; Revell has
periodically reissued the Essex-class kit as various ships. The FDR appeared in their SSP
program a couple years back. And they updated the Forrestal in 1989 to represent the
upgrades done to the ship in the1980s.
Enter Gold Medal Models (GMM). Loren Perry, GMM's owner, has been making some of the best photoetched detail sets around since 1987. But not until 1997 did he issue a fret for the three "classic" Revell carrier kits.
The set comes in two attached PE frets. One has most of the detail parts, including radars. The other has a wealth of railings, including those that pop up when an elevator is lowered, and a combination of 3- and 4-bladed props. The set also features parts for both old and new versions of the Forrestal kit. GMM says there are only enough parts for one model, but if you make ships that have little equipment in common -- e.g., FDR and Forrestal -- you might be able to squeeze out two, perhaps adding some 1:500 railing. The set also provides numerous generic parts such as flight deck stairs, ladders and watertight doors.
I used the FDR parts for this review. Both the cargo and aircraft cranes are easy to fold, even though the former are quite small. I like the way GMM engraves tiny folding seams into the brass -- makes a tedious task more bearable. Compared to photos, they sure look like the real thing after painting. The LSO safety net and windscreen went on with no problems, as did the safety nets at the bow and on the flight deck near the elevator.
Be very patient in assembling the spidery supporting structure for the portside elevator. The GMM instructions suggest removing the molded plastic detail beneath the elevator, but I found it easier just to scratchbuild a new platform. The pieces line up well if you attach the rear frame to the bottom, then glue the vertical braces to their respective beams on the bottom structure (NOTE: Parts for the Essex-class ships have a similar frames-bottom-back configuration). I had some difficulty folding the elevator safety nets to shape, but they went on OK with white glue (to allow mobility) and some prodding.
The delicate search radars are exquisitely detailed. From what I can determine, the parts for Essex and Forrestal look right, but I'd quibble over the radars supplied for FDR. Out of the box, the kit itself best represents FDR in the 1951-1954 time frame, but the radars are more appropriate for the ship's late 1940s configuration, before the quad 40mm AA mounts were switched with twin 3-in. AA guns. The SG-6 for the tripod mainmast is OK, but I had to square off the radars for the forward and aft masts and install them upside down to get them to look something like the radars shown in a 1951-era photo. The same is true for the two gun director radars; they replace solid kit parts -- but those were switched for later models with round dishes in 1951.
The brass set has numerous single 20mm PE mounts, but I didn't use them. I felt it would be more trouble than it was worth to grind off the molded-in versions. I did use the nice PE shields in the GMM set, though.. (NOTE: The 1951-54 FDR had only 10 twin 20mm.)
GMM includes three-bar main deck rails and two-bar rails for the island, as well as the aforementioned elevator railing. They are delicate, but surprisingly easy to work with. I affixed them to FDR's long sponsons without problems using white glue.
Be advised: Removing the molded plastic rails on any of these ships is the toughest thing in building them. The GMM instructions include tips on how to accomplish this. The problem with the FDR is compounded because the rails are molded in front of all fourteen 5-in gun mounts. It's a real pain to cut them off and sand down the mount to accept the PE rails, which come in from either side but do not meet in the middle of each mount.
The only aircraft parts included are props for the F4Us, ADs on the FDR, T-28s on the Lexington (the training carrier version of the Essex) and E-2Cs (Forrestal), plus refueling probes for the supercarrier's A-6s. I used the 4-bladed version for the FDRs attach aircraft. If you want details like wheels and gear doors, you'll have to make them from sheet plastic. The sheet does include PE parts for the "Tilly" mobile aircraft crane supplied in the Forrestal and Essex kits.
GMMs photoetchings helped my FDR look like a real museum model. I can't wait to finish it and move on to the Forrestal. I highly recommend the GMM set to any modeler with a little experience in working with PE parts.
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