ACADEMY 1:72 BOEING B-29 "BOCKS CAR"
Reviewer: Myself/Paul Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The B-29 Superfortress given the aircraft name "Bocks Car" has a place in history because it dropped the second Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki, August 9, 1945 that ultimately helped force Japan to the negotiation table about unconditional surrender. Just 6 days later the war was over and VP Day (Victory in the Pacific) was declared on August 15. The primary target on August 9 was actually Kokura. This was covered by dense cloud so "Bocks Car" diverted to Nagasaki after three abortive bombing runs. Interestingly and often an unknown fact of history, another bombing raid by some 804 B-29's occurred on August 14 which lead the Japanese to surrender. There's some debate to this bombing raid in whether the Bocks Car was one of the 804 that participated as evidence has turned up to support both sides of the arguement. One thing is for sure, the name Bocks Car is named after it's Commander, Captain Fredrick C Bock, who incidentally did not command the bombing of Nagasaki, this flight was commanded by Major Sweeney
Opening the box reveals crisp injected plastic molding with recessed panel lines. There's plenty of detail in the cockpit, bomb bays and wheel wells and you can already notice that this kit is going to be something pretty good. There's more than 200 plastic and 20 clear parts in this kit so it's also going to keep you busy. But there's a bit of excess parts with a second set of propellers, refuelling boom and a set of gun turrets not for use in this construction. Academy have released other 1/72 B-29 kits (including B-29A, B-29 "Enola Gay", Kb-29 Tanker, and I think even a B-50) that obviously absorb some of this excess plastic but it also means that there is nothing stopping you from building another B-29 as a different model - especially if the kit itself is one of the better ones on the market, which in our opinion it is.
The instructions are presented in almost a book-like fashion, essentially worked using A4 sized pages as your guide. It also contains a paragraph about the historical Nagasaki raid and colour name call outs with FS numbers. Steps are set out in a logical and easy to follow format with individual items also denoted with the colour call out.
The interior of the huge fuselage is where you start construction and I decided to work with one of the fuselage halves to basically build and attach everything within. The whole interior was given an Internal Green coating including bomb bays, cockpit, rear gunner and other internal areas. The cockpit is quite well detailed with seats, instrument panels (and decals to attach them to) and sticks and so forth for the pilot, co-pilot and navigator. There are no figures provided in the kit and a couple of control panels have been left out, such as the throttles. I found it relatively easy to build it inside the fuselage half rather than assembling it separately then glueing into place. Being a modified B-29 you need to cut out some gun turrets according to the instructions - I am not positive that some of these are correct but will rely on Academy's call. It's probably best to this before you fit in all the internal detail and glue the fuselage halves together, otherwise things will get a bit messy. Plugs are provided to fill in the gaps but further filling is required and sanding to smooth them out.
The rest of the internal detail for rear compartment, tailgunner and bomb bay were fitted in and most of it slipped into place quite well. This whole process took a lot of time but is worth the effort, it does look like a "cutout" of the B-29 on show! The only disappointment is that most of this will be invisible once the fuselage has sealed up, but it's still nice doing it all the same. The instructions say to place some weight in the nose to prevent tail sitting, but there is little room to do this once all the cockpit is in place. I used some small ball bearings, blu tak then a small fishing sinker under the navigator section all crammed underneath the floorboards - so to speak. This proved to be sufficient but only just, a little pressure on the back half later on was enough to send the nose skyward. It might pay to spread this weight around the front of the aircraft where possible and perhaps even in the engine nazelles if all else fails. Perhaps even white metal crew will also do the trick, but a bit of planning is needed. Once I slapped the fuselage halves together I sat back - all that work had all but disappeared! That was a shame, the cockpit and bomb bay were still very visible but the rest had just about been covered completely. But on the plus side, it did get rid of nearly half the parts in the box!!
Naturally the model is going to be a big one and this makes for interesting handling and further assembling. I basically subassembled the engines and wings separately before placing on the aircraft. I also fixed up the bomb bay before anything else with the doors open and "Fat Boy" (the name given to the A-bomb dropped on Nagasaki) there for the world to see. It looks quite accurate in its miniturised form compared to the reference photos I have on hand. All the parts remaining on the aircraft fitted with relative ease including the undercarriage and wing sub-assembly. The only bit of concern I had was mating the wings to the fuselage where it left a bit of a gap and didn't quite join properly but nothing that was going to cause any real hassle. I used only a minor amount of putty for some various small gaps evident at the completion of assembly. Some of the larger aerial like structures were put on but anything a bit small and easy to break was left off until the plane was coated.
The kit provides for only one aircraft option, which is pretty obvious - that is decals for "Bocks Car" that dropped the second atomic bomb. Now the real problem here is that one decal says "Salt Lake City to Nagasaki", which is fine because I believe that this was enscribed as artwork on the plane after the successful Nagasaki bombing, but if you have built the B-29 with the Fat Boy atomic bomb in the bomb-bay then you are obviously replicating the aircraft before it dropped the bomb. By virture of the fact as I mentioned above in the brief history paragraph that Kokura was the primary target, the boys wouldn't have been thinking of bombing Nagasaki until they actually did it. So in my opinion, this decal is wrong, it should only appear after the raid. But of course if there is some weird twist to this historic artwork that throws it all back in my face that I should know about then please let me know. :)
There's only a few decals to attach, only about a dozen in all, so there's really no stencilling to speak of. But that said, the decals are quite good quality and affix easily to the polished aluminium surface I painted the B-29 in. The larger tail decals need to be handled carefully because of their size but otherwise they are easy to work with. Just one comment though, the instructions colour call out and decal placement differs slightly to the box artwork so I am not sure which to believe. My photo references of the Bocks Car are black and white and don't really provide any assistance.
Overall this is a lovely kit and is highly recommended to all skill levels. The only traps for novices are really to do with the internal detail and perhaps wing assembly and join - everything else is otherwise quite straightforward. Accuracy measures up very well against reference shots other than the decal I mentioned above. Dimensions appear as accurate as you can get them with less than a centimetre difference in my book. The kit could also be used to make another B-29 version of choice, with the gun turrets remaining in position and the extra unused parts being called upon. Be wary of its size, it's a big aircraft and the only downside is finding a place to display it. But all in all a very very nice kit.
Related Reviews: Monogram 1/48 B-29 "Lucky Leven"
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Image of a completed Academy Bocks Car model