KIT REVIEW: LINDBERG'S
1/72 MITSUBISHI G4M2 "BETTY"
by Michael Hays
Mitsubishi's famous G4M "Betty" horizontal and torpedo bomber is perhaps the most famous of Japan's "heavy" haulers of World War II. These "Type 1 Lighters," as the Japanese themselves often called them, were in combat from day one of the war, and served to the very day of the surrender in September, 1945. Fortunately, modelers interested in this aircraft have been able to get Hasegawa's kit of the G4M1 variant that was used throughout the first half of the war. However, getting the later G4M2 was a different story. Until the recent releases of Hasegawa's new line of 1/72 "Bettys," the modeler had no option for a G4M2 variant in this scale except the old Lindberg kits numbered 576-200 and 5306. The latter are difficult to find and quite crude by modern standards in almost all respects. About the only advantage they have over the new kits on the market is a much smaller price tag. But for the modeler who has the Lindberg kit--or wants one--and is up to the challenge, a relatively decent G4M2 can still be constructed--but it's going to take some extra effort.
In essence, this is an injection-molded kit begging for the scratch-builder's touch. Unfortunately, I don't have the kit instructions before me or the box top as I write this, but I do have a completed model from which to gauge this review. I'm fairly certain the kit I built was Lindberg's code 5306, but I believe both kit numbers are of identical kits with the same decals. (Readers please offer corrections where needed.) As I recall, the instructions were of the exploded-view type and rather skimpy on the details. What you get inside is about four or five clear parts and around 54 other pieces molded in a pea green color. The clear parts represent the nose and bombardier's station (one large part, I believe), the canopy, a dorsal turret, and a tail turret (configured for the G4M2, not a G4M3). All such parts contain raised frames. My nose cap had a small defective hole that needed to be filled with Krystal Kleer. Surface detail on the rest of the pieces sports raised panel lines and jillions of raised rivets. The best that can be said about the kit is that, when all the parts are put together, it scales out to accurate measurements and produces the general look of a G4M2--except in the bomb bay area. Here you'll have to laminate or scratch build the bulged belly doors or else cut out this portion of the fuselage and make your own bomb bay. No bombs or torpedoes come with the kit.
As previously noted, virtually everything about this kit is
crude. You get a plain cockpit floor with three seats, two flight
columns and an instrument panel piece, all begging for detail or
reshaping for accuracy. I believe a single decal with white dots
representing instrument faces comes for the instrument panel. I
don't recall anything being provided for the bombardier's station
in the nose, except one of the three guns that come with the kit.
But these weapons are the generic Lindberg shapes of something
representing an American 50 caliber machine gun, none of which
can be used for Japanese weapons. You should provide or scratch
Type 92 7.7 mm machine guns for the nose and two to four Type 99 20 mm canons for defensive armament.
Most unfortunately, none of the numerous window ports or two
gunners' stations has been cut out of the fuselage or provided as
clear parts. Apart from building the bomb bay doors, the
construction of these windows is perhaps the most challenging
task for making the kit accurate. Those intimidated by this
challenge get some relief in decals provided as black patches
which represent some of the window panels and gunners' cut
outs;but these simply won't do for a kit this large. I recommend
you grind down the fuselage in the areas behind these ports,
apply the decals to serve as masters for the windows, then cut
them out. Clear acetate can then be placed in the cut outs for
the windows. Another option is to grind out larger areas and
insert clear plastic that conforms with the fuselage surface,
smooth and feather in the edges, then mask off the window ports
and paint around them. Opening the gunners' stations, however,
will call for some internal details and flooring to be put in the
rear fuselage half. Add such to suit your tastes. Since I'm
speaking of clear parts, I found the nose and canopy provided did
not mate well with the fuselage. The dorsal turret is designed to
turn on its base. I think its gun elevates, too; but since the
gun was not accurate, I scratch built a 20 mm canon and glued the
whole unit into a permanent pose. If you wish to build a kit that
will look something like the real McCoy when you're done, and you
have the skills to do it, I suggest you gather some good
references of the G4M2 before you start construction. (Or, get a
new Hasegawa kit to use as a guide!) Then sand off all the raised
detail and rivets on the kit parts and re-scribe panel lines
according to your references. None of the flying surfaces has
moving parts, so if you want
flaps, elevators, ailerons, or rudders posed, these will need to be cut out and repositioned as desired. The two horizontal tail pieces mate together and then slip through a slot in the rear fuselage, so plan your work here accordingly. The large tail and rudder comes in two halves to be glued to a post. Wing, tail, and rudder tips are all a bit too round and even; they should have a slight point to them (but not the triangular shapes of the G4M1). Check your references--or compare with Hasegawa's G4M2s--for the accurate shapes. The lower wings will need new flap guide rails: three per side. In the same area, there is no representation of the three thick panels added for bullet proofing the fuel cells. (I didn't know about these until I got the Hasegawa kits.) Rectangles cut to shape from 0.1000" thick plastic can be attached here for more realism. The engines provided feature a fair representation of cylinders and detail. Since these are recessed deep in the nacelles, not too much more is needed here, since it's hardly visible. Again, suit your own interests. The exhaust ports and cowl flaps are not done well, however, and these will need to be spruced up for accuracy. I also believe the propeller blades were too thick; if I'm not mistaken, I scrounged up spares of props and spinners and used them instead. If you want your Betty with her wheels down, you may wish to add details in the wheel wells. Nothing is provided here but single piece gear struts into which snap the single piece wheels. The main wheels turn, but the tail wheel is molded to its strut and does not turn. The main gear doors show raised ribs and rivets inside them, but the details and the doors themselves are on the thick side. Lots of work is begging to be done here.
I believe the kit comes with four crude pieces representing the "T"-shaped radar antenna on the rear fuselage, plus another piece for the nose antenna. If so, all these parts are thick and crude and should be replaced with scratch built pieces made from stretched sprue and/or wire. I don't recall what decal markings came with this kit, but I think they included tail numbers and fin flash for an aircraft from the 721st Naval Group. The hinomarus (national "meat ball" insignias) were bright red for 6 positions, and bright yellow panels were provided for the wing markings. All the decals were flat, and the yellow panels were not cut to the right shape. I discarded all the decals and used aftermarket decals or painted on my own markings--fairly easy to do for the hinomarus and yellow ID panels. Of course, now that Hasegawa has released a line of 1/72 G4M2s and G4M3s, you have the option of bypassing all the extra hard work you need to put into Lindberg's kit and get the Hasegawa kit(s) instead--if you can afford them. The latter are truly beautiful kits of Mitsubishi's famous "Type 1 Lighter," to which the older Lindberg can hardly compare. But at least we modelers who wanted a G4M2 can be grateful to Lindberg for having provided a solution to that desire for the past several years. And if you have the Lindberg kit in your closet, give it a try. At the very least, you can turn it into a kamikaze of your own--or give that youngster just starting out a big twin-engine bird to practice on. For resources, I suggest Rene Francillon's classic Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. If you can find one, the Maru Mechanic No. 22, Issue 5 of 1980, provides just about all the detail photos and drawings you'll need for Japan's most famous naval bomber of World War II, the ubiquitous G4M. "Betty." These and other good sources on the Betty are virtually mandatory if you want to turn Lindberg's kit into something respectable when it's done.
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