Trumpeter | 02241: 1/32 Douglas SBD-1/-2

Reviewed by Chris Sherland

A Brief History of the Douglas SBD

The SBD is undoubtedly the most famous Allied dive bomber of WWII, and over 5,900 SBDs were produced between 1940 and 1944. Arising as a semi derivative design from a 1938 Northrop dive bomber called the BT-1, the SBD went into production in 1940 after Northrop was bought out by Douglas Aircraft.

While the similarities to the BT-1 were many, the most profound was the dive flap system design. Often referred to as "clamshell" and "Swiss cheese" flaps, the SBDs dive flaps opened both above and below the wings to offer equal drag forces thereby allowing the pilot complete control during steep diving attacks. The large flaps had multiple rows of 3-inch holes punched into them to allow for limited airflow through the surfaces and increase the stability of the turbulent airflow generated behind them when opened.

The Dauntless' combat career was long and prestigious as the US Navy's primary dive bomber. But that career was highlighted best with the pivotal performance of SBDs at the battle of Midway. It was at the height of that battle on 4 June 1942 when 3 squadrons of SBDs made an almost miraculously timed appearance over the Japanese carrier task force, and within minutes knocked out 3 of the 4 heavy carries. In this single action the SBD proved itself as not only a devastating weapon platform, but nothing less than a tide-turner.

First Glance

227 pieces on 14 sprues with a single PE fret and instrument film make up the Trumpeter SBD.

If Trumpeter's release of the Me 262 and TBD Avenger were a harbinger of things to come for that company, then this kit of the Dauntless is the ringing of the dinner bell. When you open the box you can hear the phrase "come and get it" booming out from the bags of sprue. The kit is quite stunningly detailed and suggests (at least to me) no need for aftermarket help of any kind save for the decals. Finally gone is the pesky pin hinge flight control system that Trumpeter's production team seemed hell-bent on clinging to. Trumpeter's most delicate surface detail yet graces this kit's parts and great care has been taken to engineer the sprues for minimal marring by pour stubs and sink marking.

...just imagine the joy that might be found in weathering this belly!

The interior detail is literally among the best this reviewer has seen in an off the shelf kit in this scale. With well over 90 parts, including PE and film, the cockpit as it builds out of the box looks to be a near masterpiece.

A complete view of the Dauntless spues and box contents can be seen at Trumpeter's web site.

The engine is also very nicely appointed and includes a wiring harness (no wires are included), push rods, engine mounts, and a very nicely reproduced exhaust ring.

A Deeper Look

Once the bags are opened it actually gets even better. With a clever combination of raised and recessed detail the classic look of the SBD's "late thirties" construction is well replicated here. Interior ribbing is molded into the fuselage sides further enhancing the level of detail of the cockpit. Main components were freed from the sprues and fitted. While some internal structure is certainly required to build the kit up with correct stability, general fit and engineering is excellent. Here is a shot of the wing leading edge join focusing on the sprue marks with no clean up performed on the pieces whatsoever.

The Photo etched fret focuses on some nice details including ring sights and some cockpit details. Not an enormous offering here, but certainly welcomed detail.

The clear parts are excellent. and Trumpeter has always done this well to my tastes. Railings have subtle surfacing that allows for better paint grab and makes masking tasks much easier. An instrument film is provided for the now famous "Trumpeter Sandwich" process for the main panel. Some thinning of that kit part may be required to avoid the "hiding dials" syndrome that the thicker parts tend to portray. No rocket science to be sure.

Fabric detail is Trumpeter's most subtle yet here, and suggests that a lesson was learned in the earlier Corsair kits. Note also below the fine detail of the trim tab actuators, a nice touch excecuted with scale in mind. The gear legs come with molded on brake lines with fasteners that have no flash present at all and are done quite well.


Somewhere in everyone's life there is a moment that they wished had never happened, a total regret and embarrassment. For the Trumpeter Dauntless it is the decals. While their quality is very nice including register and carrier film, the content is quite literally trash. They should have shipped the things with no decals at all in my opinion.

A single sheet of marking decals is joined by a single smaller sheet of stencils. One might be able to salvage a few items off of the latter sheet, and perhaps there are a couple of items on the main sheet that pass, but someone doing the art for the main sheet was sitting too close to the halogen bulbs.

The general color of the sheet is off historically speaking (especially the shade of red on the national insignias), and one would have a tough time correcting the national insignias horrid geometric errors. This reviewer highly recommends seeking aftermarket replacements.

Don't make me explain all this...just look at it for a few moments. The pink lines represent the correct dimensions of the pre-war national insignia as created to spec, and they are superimposed over what I believe to be some colors and shapes that someone had some fun making. The pentagram is not even based within a circle (note the top tip). And for all of you who failed geometry (like the folks that did this dastardly deed); a circle can be the only origin of a correctly dimensional pentagram.

Seek out Yellow wings newest sheet...

Midway Madness

More here...

Shape and Accuracy

Here is where everyone holds their breath, hoping for either the best, or worst depending on how you fared the "Wildcat" incident. Most either left there with a profound hatred for Trumpeter, or an optimistic hope that they would get their shoes on straight and do it better next time.

When compared to plans (and yes, we all know how accurate they can be) the "Trumpy" SBD fares well. Perhaps a slight "tallness" to the rudder is seen below, and a overly slender rear fuselage. Not enough to disturb the lines for this reviewer. Below the fuselage image is the wing compared to the same plans. This one comes even closer in my eye. Is the tip of the aileron misshapen? Perhaps there is too much butter on my toast as well?

Final Comments

With a price tag of $139.00 USD one could easily buy a few of the old matchbox kits and some aftermarket stuff for a long-winded kit bash, or a Rutman Dauntless and a couple of beers. But to have all this detail and quality in a single box is definitely a value that cannot be pushed aside. While not a huge plane, the Dauntless has a complex and busy interior that is impossible to hide, and to their credit this aspect has been highlighted by the Trumpeter crew instead of shied away from. While there will no doubt be aftermarket items produced for this kit I cannot help but see the Trumpeter Dauntless as an example of what a "complete" kit could be. We've all gotten used to buying a kit and having to replace some percentage of it before we even start, doubling or sometimes even tripling the cost of the kit itself. Could Trumpeter be starting a new trend here? If I had to count the dollars that went into that old Revell (insert favorite 1/32 kit here) on aftermarket and enhancements, I wonder if I'd be relieved to buy and build this beauty out of the box? Hmmmm.

While many will refute my analysis of this kit's quality as compared to the current quality of aftermarket accessories, the bigger point here is that this may be the start of something new. Aftermarket masters and resin casting are clearly much higher in quality and detail, but are we replacing inadequacies or chasing perfection? If it is the former then this kit can stand on its own. If it is the later…well…

Either way, just as it sits, or under the blade and microscope of the truly gifted scratch builder, this kit is a sound and excellent piece.

Thanks to Stevens International for the review sample.

© Chris Sherland 2006

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This review was published on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Wednesday, May 18 2016