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Trumpeter's 1/32 scale
Operation Torch SBD-3

by Jeffrey Oliveira




Operation Torch Trumpeter 1/32 SBD-3 kit # 02242

The career of the SBD is very well known so I won't bore you with it here except to note that the decal sheet by Yellow Wing Decals is of SBD-3 Bureau number 06624 that fought in the Invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) in November 1942 hence the yellow recognition markings around the national insignia.

I like this scheme since the dramatic contrast of Insignia Yellow with the very dark Insignia Blue of the national insignia really complements the Non Specular Sea Blue upper surfaces and Non Specular Light Grey lower surfaces making for a very attractive SBD.

The Kit

Operation Torch Trumpeter 1/32 SBD-3 kit # 02242

This is Trumpeter’s superb 1/32 SBD-3/4/A-24A which went together wonderfully. The kit is great and looks very accurate and the detail is very impressive, especially in the cockpit. That even includes a very tiny, separately molded signal flare gun!



Yes the rivets should be protruding, not sub flush but after painting the effect looks really good so I am not going to join the riot over that.

I am not going to review the kit in detail, that has been done before but I did like how well it fit together with little putty needed. Trumpeter did a fine job and hopefully future kits will be up to this standard.

The purpose of this article is twofold. One part is to display the new Yellow Wings decal sheet
32-027 on a 1/32 Trumpeter SBD-3 and the other is to talk about some weathering techniques modelers may find interesting.

I picked out this kit since I am a 1/32 kind of guy and also since I worked for 10 years in the very building in El Segundo, CA where this plane was built. The metal channels in the floor that guided the dollies that the SBDs were moved on are still there! Today, the aft fuselage of the F/A-18E/F is built on the same floor space. It is remarkable that over 60 years later, U.S. Navy attack aircraft are still rolling out of the same factory a few hundred feet south of the LAX airport.

Painting and Markings

The model was finished exclusively with Testor’s Model Master Enamels which I have used for decades with great success.

I sprayed it all with a Badger 150 medium tip airbrush powered by an air compressor. I thinned the paints with Model Master thinners and used Model Master Dull coat airbrushed on.

Many modelers paint their models, brush on Future, decal it, brush on more Future, and then apply a flat coat. I did it a little differently to get a better effect.

After painting the lower areas FS 36440 grey and the upper FS 36176 intermediate blue grey which is a good match for the non specular blue grey, I didn't Future immediately.


The rudder, elevators, and ailerons were painted a much lighter shade of FS 36176 blue by over
spraying with neutral grey FS 36270 heavily thinned to simulate the considerable fabric area paint fading as shown in photos in the book SBD in Detail and Scale by Bert Kinsey.

I then used a mix of Raw Umber and ordinary paint thinner for enamels from Walmart which is much less “hot” than airbrush thinner and less likely to lift the paint. This was used before the Future to subtly trace panel and rivet lines on the underside without the preshading effect which makes some models look like grandma’s quilt but doesn't look like real aircraft. If you are a heavy preshading fan, go for it. It’s your model and enjoy it as you will.

Raw umber was only used on the lower surfaces and was also used to make convincing oil seepage stains in a number of places. I think of a model as a 3D painting and like to use colors that give the overall effect of color and scale accuracy as well as “depth” to the model by slightly emphasizing panels, access hatches, and surface features. If this is not done, the model has a “flat and blank” kind of effect since it looks too clean and doesn't have the “depth” that a real used, dirty aircraft has.

It is important to note that I did this BEFORE Future to get a nice bit of diffusion of the color around panel lines and hatches and to simulate seeping oil stains from the radial engine. You can apply washes after Future (which I also did) but I like the subtle effect of the “staining” action of washes applied to particular features instead of just overall coating which comes later.

For the upper surfaces, I used a thin mix of the same thinner but with Flat Black to pick out panel lines, access hatches, hinges, etc.

I didn't use umber on the top since black would work much better with the darker blue while umber complimented the light grey particularly well and really looked like oil stains.

After all this was done, I wasn't done with the washes. I then applied Future over the entire model EXCEPT the fabric control surfaces. I left those uncoated since when Future is applied then dull coated it leaves a very, very slight sheen which looks just like flat paint on metal should look. I left the control surfaces with flat paint only so they would look very flat when the model was complete, just like fabric.


After the Future was dry, I applied the Yellow Wings decals for the Operation Torch SBD-3 #13 from VS-41 which was recovered from Lake Michigan and restored. It is now in the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Museum. I downloaded photos from the internet of it to help with references for painting. Yellow Wings includes a three page fascinating and very detailed history of 06624 in the decal package which also includes photo copies of the USN history card and the accident report for its Sept 19, 1943 swim in the Great Lakes.

The decals went down very well with a bit of Microsol. The fuselage national insignia even worked without “going nuclear” (using Solvaset).

I did have to do a few Microsol applications and prodding for those however. The decals are beautiful and the colors are spot on. The only problem was a very tiny bit of off register on the national insignia on top of the wings. It look like a tiny bit of silvering but isn't. No major problem. You must look very closely to see it. I did have to use a sharp X-Acto knife to slice the wing decals to conform to the wing slots for low speed control. No decal made could conform to those holes but it looked very nice when done.

I added the bureau number and aircraft type decals to the rudder without Future and there was no silvering.

The decal sheet is interesting in that it provides markings for the entire career of the airplane and has many super stencil markings as well. I would have liked more placement info on the instructions for those since I was using three reference books and didn't find where all of them went. I really liked the decals overall and I highly recommend them. I am glad Yellow Wings is doing so many 1/32 subjects that have been neglected in the past by manufacturers. We modelers appreciate it.

After the decals were all in place, I brushed on another coat of Future except on the control surfaces.

I then continued with more black/thinner washes on the upper surfaces to bring up panel line depth a bit more, add scuff marks on the wing from ground crews and also to dull down the insignia so the plane isn't weathered with the markings miraculously pristine! Note that all upper blue parts need the wash including the canopy frames, mast and anything you add later to keep everything the same shade of color. You don't want any parts looking too “light” compared to the others which would spoil the effect.

I the sprayed the SBD with Testors Dullcoat with my Badger 150 airbrush with a medium tip. I also dullcoated the control surfaces since I learned years ago; if you don't, the decals will fall off like autumn leaves after several years.

I didn't do any chipping on the model since these aircraft were pretty new in Nov 1942 so they would be “in service dirty” but not flogged to a very worn appearance. The Navy also had to keep after exposed aluminum which would quickly corrode in the salt air on a carrier.

The bombs were painted Olive Drab with the fuses aluminum. Note that the bomb racks are only partly painted grey like the rest of the lower surfaces. The mechanism is actually painted steel and washed with flat black and thinner.


It helps to spend time with the reference information to see the way the airplane is really painted and featured. Small details add up to a much more realistic model representation of the actual airplane. I only used period photos when possible as well as shots of the Kalamazoo SBD restoration. I assumed that since they went to such great lengths to make the restoration correct that they had documented all the features and colors as found. Beware of current flyable restorations; they are not always per original specs.

The reference I used were Bert Kinsey’s God send, The SBD in Detail and Scale. Also Squadron’s The Dauntless in Action and The Dauntless Walkaround.

I also surfed the internet for more info including how to build and paint the twin 30 cal. Gun mount accurately.

The Engine

Is the very nice kit engine with scratchbuilt sparkplugs and wires. The plugs are Evergreen plastic rod and the harness is copper wire. The engine cylinders come with the holes already drilled out for the plugs. Just make them and glue them in!

I painted the engines case Neutral Grey FS 36270 with a bit of PRU Blue to give it the correct color and weathered it with a bit of umber/thinner mix oil seepage. Bolts heads are Aluminum paint, and a decal was added from the spares box for the data plate. The cylinders were painted Aluminum with the cylinder head area having a black/thinner wash to bring out the cooling vane detail and the cylinder shank having an Umber/thinner wash for heat discoloration. I did a bit of Umber wash to simulate oil seepage form the engine. It is a Radial after all.


The Detail and Scale book along with the Walkaround book helped a lot on engine detailing and painting. It was important to do the different colors of washes carefully on the engine to really make it look great. The engine was very well done by Trumpeter and not just “kind of like” an R-1820.

The exhaust tubing is painted Steel with rust paint drybrushed on. The fire wall is Steel with black/thinner wash to give the grooves depth and make it look nice and dirty. I did not flat coat the firewall or exhaust stacks to give them a “metallic: look.

The Canopy

Of course, it was dipped in Future along with all clear lenses before proceeding. This was masked with Bare Metal Bright Chrome Foil and which works superbly. I did have a tiny bit of foil glue residue which cleaned up nicely with a Q-Tip moistened with WD-40. Don't get that on the paint!

The Cockpit

I painted this with a mixture of Green Drab FS 34086 and Medium Field Green FS 34095 to keep the color “dulled down”. I didn't want the interior to be too bright green which would ruin the scale effect.

The instrument panel is flat black with the instruments on kit provided film which I backed with a piece of white typing paper so they would show better. The ends of the telescope were drilled out and lenses painted. The standby compass on the forward canopy has the markings written in with an artist’s grey pencil then the lens gloss coated. That was a ridiculous bit of detailing but I love that kind of thing.

The ADF loop was kit supplied and is half aluminum and half flat black. The radios were painted flat black with grey artist pencil detailing to pick out their features.


I had a great time building this kit since it was free of the usual fit frustrations. It looks very accurate according to my reference materials and I have to applaud Trumpeter for doing the detail work to get this kit right.



The Yellow Wings Decals are highly recommended and have an expanding line of much need subjects in the pipeline.

I started this project intending to do an Operation Torch SBD-3 but dreaded having
to mask the yellow surround markings. Yellow Wings came through right on time when I was ready to apply them. I can't ask for more than that!


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Photographs and Text Copyright © 2007 by Jeffrey Oliveira