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1:32 PBY-5A Catalina 'Limited Edition'

James H

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1:32 PBY-5A Catalina 'Limited Edition'

Catalogue # 320012L
Available from HPH for 600 Euros





When this dropped onto the doormat this morning, the first thing I thought was 'yes'! After opening the lid, and spending some time looking through what has to be the single most complex and detailed kit, the second thought I had was 'where do I even begin with this review?' To say it was a daunting task would be a serious misuse of that that statement. 'Just look at all of those parts' and then, 'I need to photograph all of this!'. There's certainly no doubt that whether you're reviewing this, building it, or both, you have a long term project here that needs to be treat with a certain degree of respect.




Hauling that lid off the box (again), and delving inwards, let us take a look at what has been a serious labour of love for HPH, and possibly one of the most complicated articles I've ever had to write.


HPH's not-insubstantial box is separated internally into compartments, with the top section containing the full length fuselage halves. Below this, another compartment holds the three main wing panels and a couple of bags of resin components, whilst another compartment below this one contains two boxes of carefully prepared and wrapped clear resin parts, and strangely enough, a Belgian 'flight chocolate', in a period wrapper! To the left of these lower compartments is yet another sectioned area, stuffed full of more resin parts, and a ziplock back containing some decals, masks, seatbelts, masks, and a CD which is where you'll find your instruction manual in PDF format, plus a folder with the instructions in JPG format. I'll include a few images from this manual in this review. They certainly will get your mouth watering. All resin components are also supplied in ziplock bags, and the various compartments are stuffed with protective bubble-wrap plastic, and the major components are generously wrapped too.




As well as all of the above, it goes without saying that there is a smattering of photo etch in this kit too. Three photo etch frets, produced by Eduard, are included. All are nickel plated, and one is also colour printed. Despite how well HPH have packaged this amazing kit, the PE frets are placed inside the rear of the HGW-produced seatbelt pack, and this package lacks any real stiffeners to protect the parts. Until this is built, I'll add these before carefully packing away.




Now, onto that impressive fuselage. This is impressive in both size and how HPH have executed its construction. Externally, the whole fuselage is highly detailed, exhibiting a superb overall finish, supplemented by fine panel lines, an amount of raised panelling, some very subtle riveting and neatly scribed access ports. All glazing apertures are already removed, and no real need for any major clean-up can be seen. Internally, all the former and stringer positions are pre-scribed. If the interior looks a little bare, it's because YOU will need to add the stringer detail yourself, which is supplied on the various resin sheets that are supplied. That in itself will be an undertaking that you shouldn't take lightly, but when complete, will look simply amazing.








Some internal stringer work is completed for you, and this resides in the tail area. The only real reason for this being here is just in case you happen to glimpse it through the lower gunner position, or perhaps through the lightening holed in the tail post. That's pretty indicative of the level of detail that is very normal with this kit. Get used to that, and the whole project comes into view a little more clearly. The fuselage is actually of fibreglass construction, and overall it has a very light grey appearance, which is almost white in hue. This sort of acts as a primer, allowing you to check the surface for defects, due to the shiny finish. Being fibreglass too, the parts should be very strong. There are a few feint surface scratched in this coating, but these should be easy to micromesh away.






The tailplane joint indicated that this is a butt-joint connection, and you will be advised to perhaps aid this joint by pinning the tailplane to the fuse with thick wire, or metal pins. In fact, looking at the instructions at this moment, this is what they do suggest. The rudder is also provided as a separate part too.






When you take a look at the wing sections, you'll seen get a real sense of the size of this beast. I hope you have a large house in which to display this one, or you're contemplating an extension. HPH have broken the wing down into three sections; the centre section incorporating the two rear engine nacelles, and the two outboard wing panels, starting from where the trailing edge tapers to the wingtip. The wings are also of fibreglass construction, and for such a large surface area, they are relatively light in weight. The wing panels also come pre-built, as in the upper and lower wings are already joined, complete with the aileron inserts already cut out (with the gap protected with rigid foam slips), and the outboard wing float retraction points also provided as box inserts which sit behind a resin wing tip rib.




How to join these sections though? Luckily, HPH realise that these connections need to be strong, and have created a rigid steel pin location point in each mating face. The pins are supplied in a separate bag, and as you'll see from my mock up image with a wooden rule, this model is no shrinking violet. Even though the wing connection points are very good, these will be covered by a metal strip to the rear, and plastic strip along the remaining joint, rendering the seam totally invisible. Some leading edge seams will need to be eradicated, and any detail lost will need to be replaced, but this doesn't look an onerous job.










Surface detail is again excellent, with the same standard of riveting, raised panelling, access port scribing, and all highlighted by the soft white/grey finish imparted by the fibreglass process. Engine rear nacelles look absolutely terrific, with superb panel detail. This is actually supplemented with a little photo etch panelling too.



Anyone for resin? - Kilograms of the stuff!


HPH state on their website, that this kit contains 'thousands resin parts'. You can probably see from that statement that I can in no way photograph all of this resin. That would be seriously frightening, but I will photograph the various bags and contents, and of course, we'll take a look at some of that key detail and describe the various constructional areas as well as look at those all-important clear parts. That sound ok? Phew, I'm pleased about that!


The manual starts by taking you through the seat assemblies, and those which contain the HGW-made seatbelt set. You will notice from the manual that this section also contains drawings for some crew assemblies that you will have to complete later in the construction. That's ok, just keep referring back, and don't forget to add that detail later.




After these initial drawings within the manual, the actual construction begins with all stages being supplied in photographic form. For such a detailed model, this is a very welcome bonus, and goes a long way to rid those various stages of any ambiguity that can arise from CAD or line drawings. After all, if it fits in the photo, then it must fit, right? That's a main assumption here.





Before we can rip into detail, you need to insert the various transparent windows into the hull. The instructions say you need to perhaps make a few small adjustments before fitting. Once these are in situ, you should mask them off with the vinyl masks supplied with the kit. Then just as you're settling into a sedate pace, you then enter the second stage of construction:


Interior Assembly – ribs, bulkheads and longitudinal strips






You have your work cut out here. Looking inside the hull halves, you'll see many scribed lines. These are the location points into which you'll affix the many bulkheads, frames, stringers and longerons that go to produce that characteristic Catalina hull. The stringers themselves are cast onto a series of sheets, complete with their angles shape and riveting. You'll need to measure, cut, trim and carefully apply these so that you don't waste too much. I'm not sure how much spare that HPH have supplied, so err on the side of caution.




Where frames exist, these are again cast on sheets, and you can check the part/profile out against the parts list to ensure you get the part you need.








Onto those amazing looking bulkheads. HPH have cast the main bulkheads in that same sheet casting pattern, and the forward and rear of these are separate parts, so you much carefully align these, preferably with slow setting CA gel, so that you make no mistake. This is actually a clever way to do the casting, as there are no blocks to remove, and the multi-part assembly will give some rigidity. The bulkheads are simply amazing to look at, as you'll see from the photos in this review. All doorways, plumbing, junction boxes etc are superbly mastered and cast crisply. Certainly no issues over quality in the slightest.




You will also need to construct the large wheel bays at this stage too at this stage. Again, dripping with detail.

There are some colour call-outs for this kits interior, but the instructions do recommend a few books at the very end of the publication, and you would be well-advised to take note and purchase at least one of them, and preferably the Squadron 'Walkaround' book, which should provide you with all the information you need to get a very accurate portrayal of how to work that interior (and exterior) to its max. After forking out 600 Euros on a kit, surely another 30 Euros for a book won't be a problem.

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Navigator's Desk, Radio Operator's Desk/Tools, Equipment




There are a few sections here which relate to the navigator and radio operators station, and if you are a detail freak, I think even you will be amazed at what you actually need to fit these areas out with. As well as the usual avionics, there are cabinets, some excellent looking chairs, tables with full navigational hand-tools, drawer units, morse code tappers, head-phones etc. It simply is amazing. I make no apologies for inserting the various instruction images within these sequence stage for you, just so you get an idea of what I'm saying. A picture is worth a thousand words.

You will need to incorporate some of that lovely colour Eduard photo etch in here.








About time you say? If the detail from the other crew positions wasn't enough for you, then this should just about nail it. Starting with chair and support frame assembly, then progressing to the dual steering wheel and rudder pedal assemblies, you'll notice that the parts breakdown is designed to be both intelligent, but also to maximise constructional fun. After all, that's what this hobby is about, allegedly.




The cockpit is a kit all in itself, and it built externally to the hull, then inserted within.


Front Gunner & Bombardier/Operator stations






The detail levels drip neatly into the forward crew position with another masterpiece of detailing that will make you go all gooey. You will see a little of this though the crystal clear turret, so do your worst! The 'operator' station is what I think is the 'engineer' station, and sits in the area adjacent to the main wheel wells. We do have seating in this quarter, plus numerous avionics units, and some rather nifty beds, although mattresses aren't supplied, so it will be a rough sleep.


Side and Rear Gunner positions








The Catalina would have been fairly vulnerable, so of course it was imperative that she could adequately defend herself. The front turret is a start, but one thing this aircraft is famous for are the rear hull glazed bulges, accommodating a gunner in each. These areas are framed of course by some superbly clear resin castings which come in multi-part form. They are also 'open', meaning you will see all that detail within, so your work in here will really pay off.




This area is heavily adorned in high levels of the very best detail you'll see a this level. Seating, safety equipment, ammunition boxes and feeds, plus the MG mounts themselves. I need to say at this point that the barrels themselves for this kit are actually MASTER MODEL parts! Only the very best has been supplied for this kit.

Elements of photo etch are incorporated into those glazed bulges. I would perhaps fit them at a later stage, once test fitted, and I would also use Gator Glue, or a similar, non-solvent based adhesive.




The Catalina sure did have a rear gunner, situated in the last compartment to the rear of the waist gunners. His position commanded a gun pointed downwards, from below. The position was opened up by the retraction of a panel in the hull floor, and an MG being swung into position, and the gunner lying prone on a padded 'bed'. Detail? Just look at the photos and see for yourself.






It's hard to believe that this aircraft had just two engines. You'll find it hard to believe just how much detail there is in this region too, with both 7-cylinder banks having separate cylinders and cylinder heads. The cooling fin representation is excellent, and the central crankcase highly detailed. Again, colour call-outs are given.






Wings and Tail Surfaces










I already mentioned the wing construction earlier in this article, and it's here that these wings are finally fitted out. That gaping aileron hole in the rear outboard panels is filled with a superbly made inlay, and those outboard underwing holes are furnished with those float retraction units get their inserts as previously mentioned. Engine cowl fit-out, engine fitting and wing assembly are the key areas of this step. Superbly vac formed leading edge light covers are supplied, and photo etch framing to neaten things up. Wing lights are supplied as coloured resin.









LARGE ailerons!



Rear wing aileron inserts


The stabilisers are cast as single parts, as are the elevators. Minimal clean-up is required, and pinning shouldn't be necessary. Surface detail is again excellent, and assembly looks easy. As previously mentioned, you would need to pin these assemblies to the hull for strength.





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Completing the model








Please don't let the brevity through which I've described the general construction above, make you think this is a model which won't suck up your time, because it will. As I have said, this is the single most detailed, comprehensive and staggering model kit I've ever had the fortune to see. It will also be quite some weight when complete. The good news here is that key resin parts, such as wing struts and undercarriage legs are cast with steel rods within them. I think the only change I would have made to overall construction would be to make the upper wing so that it could be removed for transportation. That should be a simple task though, and one to look at before you start work on the model proper.








Wheels are supplied (strangely) in halves, when to me, they could have been cast in one piece. That's only a small niggle as the hefty tread will make them pretty easy to clean up.


The propellers are cast as individual blades and separate hub. No guide is given for blade pitch, so ensure you get them all equal. I've included a few extra images from the manual here so you can get an idea of the model itself and some of that extra smaller detail.






Most resin parts in this set are cast on a 'sheet' instead of a casting block. This means their clean-up is both easy and quick. Larger, thicker parts, such as the ailerons etc are cast onto traditional blocks which you will need to remove. All casting is superb, with no visible flaws I can see. Many parts do inhabit the same bag, and I would perhaps have liked to see more bags used, and the parts count per bag, reduced.


The clear resin parts are crystal clear, and without a doubt, the very best I have come across. The transparency is superb, and a dip in Klear will enhance these even further. Again, casting is flawless.










What else is in the box?

A large ziplock wallet holds a number of items to help you complete this beast. HGW have partnered again with HPH and created a set of crew seatbelts, straps and harnesses. These come in the form of 2 sheets of laser-cut micro-fibre textile parts, and a fret of many photo etch parts. The latter is produced by Eduard, and as you can imagine, the etching detail and quality is second to none. To use these belts, you snip the textile parts from their sheet, screw them up, and then straighten them out before assembling, varnishing, washing and weathering. Screwing them up and laying them out means that they easily conform to what we see as a more natural drape.










Eduard have produced two frets for the Catalina. Both are nickel plated, and one, containing the instrument panels and other avionics, is colour printed, with the usual two-layer instrument panel we see in their other releases.










In this release, we also see Browning barrel sets, produced by top manufacturer MASTER MODEL, as well as a number of vinyl masking sheets for the Catalina's colour schemes and also for the glazing etc. A small decal sheet is also included for stencils and other data which may not be suitable for the masking system.




The instruction manual for the Catalina is on an enclosed CD. It is given in both full colour PDF format, and also in JPG images.




As for the chocolate:




Colour Schemes
Two schemes are supplied for this kit, in mask form. These are:

  • PBY-5A Catalina, U.S. Navy, VP-61, Atlantic area, 1944
  • PBY-5A/CANSO Mk.IIA, 5th (BR) Squadron RCAF, AFB Torbay, Newfoundland, 1944










Vinyl Masks



Decal sheet



As I've already stated numerous times, this is definitely the most comprehensive kit I've ever had the pleasure to handle. Every internal area is simple dripping in authentic looking constructional detail, to the point where you realise that the development of this kit must've taken an age. A masterpiece would not be a fitting enough description. This is a project for the serious modeller. You need to be comfortable with resin in order to even think of tackling this, and if you finally succumb, you will find a 4 to 6 month wait until your kit is ready to ship to you. There will be a 200 Euro non-returnable deposit too, to help cover costs while you save the remainder!








Someone posted on the SP&R/LSM Facebook page yesterday, saying how he pretty much hated anything European/Chinese (even food in our supermarkets), and that 'we Americans won't be raped by these companies and their ridiculous prices'. Well, he probably thinks that this model is cheap to produce. This is no mass-produced Tamiya kit. The costs represents the amount of work that has gone into the development of this kit, and the collaborations that go with it, as well as root material costs and time. Some things though aren't in shades of grey for some, but just black and white. For those modellers lucky enough to try this model, you will be in for a treat, and I mean an entire feast of modelling. For those who can only look in on the side-lines, enjoy the online build logs which will inevitably spring up.


Very highly recommended


James H


Our thanks to HPH for shipping this out to us in such a speedy manner. To purchase this directly, click THIS link.



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nice to see more of this kit


nice to see resin so sharp on such a large scale


with perhaps the one exception of the butt-joint tail plane, i would say that this is Tamiya 1/32 quality, both in detail and method of construction


very expensive, but I think worth it all in all

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Great review Jim - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am completely blown away with this model.  I can see where the price comes from ... can you imagine how labour intensive this kit is to manufacture? amazing, and superb collaboration between Eduard, HpH, HGW and Master Model.


Dave!  See you in about 10 months after you get yours  :D  I reckon it'll take that long even with intensive full time modelling but ... I can't wait.

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Guest Kagemusha

You're evil Jim, EvIl!!! I'm tying my best to resist this kit, love seaplanes. I really didn't want to know you pay the deposit first and the remainder nearer posting...  :help:


On a more serious note, I would edit out the Facebook mention, takes away from the review and you're just giving more credence to the cretin.


Catalina, B-17, Lanc - such heady days, gonna have to do a few more bank jobs to not only pay for them, but the mansion to house them in!  :ph34r:

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Well its not that a lot of money when you think about it, over the amount that everyone spends on kits and AM etc....


The Catalina is actually cheaper that the HK Models B-17 with all the Eduard Sets, Decals and Barrels thrown together. I do know a few people that are doing this, and going full hog on the Fort...


Going off Sprue Brothers webstore... I get a total of US$883.76 for all the items for the B-17 including the kit without shipping.... The Catalina from HPH cost me 600 Euro including shipping, and going off today's conversion rate... 600 Euro is only US$800.28...


It took me over 6 weeks to deicide on getting this kit myself... I must admit that the price was a factor at first, but after seeing Jim's review I am glad that I did get it! There is going to many hours of modelling in this kit!


HPH Models does make it easier to purchase it, with the deposit first and the remaining balance at the end. I did sell off some unwanted kit to help fund it.

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i think for some, they have either a hard cap in budget terms, which can't be changed

others, have a 'psychological' cap they spend on the kit itself eg buy a cheap-ish Revell or Hasegawa and then spend loads of aftermarket...

as Dave mentions, albeit with an expensive HK kit, once you do the sums, these projects are very often more pricey in total than seemingly expensive kits which require / have less scope for aftermarket

a good example would be the Tamiya Zero, Spitfire and P-51 (and probably the Corsair): yes there is aftermarket for it, and for some it is desirable, but straight out of the box you probably getting the equivalent of a Hasegawa with the kitchen sink thrown at it


whilst both the Cat and the Me410 look stunning, I am waiting for something that "grabs me" if you know what i mean? 

if they produced a German seaplane or flying boat from WWII i think i would find the urge to purchase uncontrollable! 






PS Dave, do you have a WIP for the Cat all planned out yet in terms of time frame and subject?

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Yes, it is a brilliant kit. I have it too. The Dutch flew quite a few of them and I am contemplating a Dutch (East Indies) or US one.


The detail and energy, service and completeness of the kit is amazing. I do not think Tamiya could achieve such a level...just think of it if they would do this one in injection moulded styrene!!




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I have plans for mine already... I will be backdating it to a PBY-5 that flew with the RNZAF...


I really like the Intermediate Blue over Grey schemes -




But the Dark Sea Blue over white is growing on me too!




Can we delete this thread and review before I break down and buy this monster?


Hahahaha! You will power isn't strong enough!

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