Best Bang for your Buck? – 1:48 P-61 Update Sets

I’ve recently stumbled across yet another P-61 ‘Black Widow’ resin update set other than the True Details set I purchased a couple of months ago.  Obtaining copies of Mark Buchler’s Model Shack (now Flightline Engineering as of June 2016) set seemed like a good idea given its features, plus I also wanted his F11C Goshawk update for the old Lindberg kit (see his website HERE.)   Now I have an opportunity to review both the TD & Mark’s resin side-by-side.

Model Shack parts packaging

True Details parts packaging

Resin update sets for the Monogram 1:48 Black Widow are actually nothing new as Verlinden,  Aires, and Lone Star have all produced resin updates for this kit, as well as various others.  To save time, I defer to Swanny’s Models website for an excellent overview of the aftermarket for the Monogram P-61.  I will focus specifically on these two newest updates.

The new Great Wall Hobbies‘ P-61 kit seems to have renewed interest amongst the AMG (aftermarket ‘guys’.)  Most reviews of this latest kit are favorable, praising the  easy assembly and high level (and extent) of detail but the obviously undersized cowling openings and slightly incorrect profile has presented an opportunity to feed the AMS (advanced modeler’s syndrome) sufferers with some ‘easy’ fixes.  Here is an overview of the TD and Model Shack updates:

True Details parts

    • General TD: The True Details set is designed as a straight replacement for the GWH parts.  It consists of two of everything: cowling (sans cooling ‘gills’), prop blades, spinner and ‘spinner fairing’ (which depicts the small ‘cowling’ over the front of the engine casing that matches the diameter of the spinner), two magneto covers and a casing mounted ‘gizmo’, probably related to the prop controls on the real thing.  There are no instructions with the package. Cost: $13.49 plus s&h.
    • General MB-MS:Mark’s set, designed for both the Monogram and GWH kits, has two of everything also: engine cowling w/cooling ‘gills’, prop blades (with mounting jig & extra blade) and spinner, replacement multi-part engine (separate front row cylinders, engine casing and back-plate) and ‘spinner fairing with (you guessed it) two magneto covers.

      Model Shack P-61 parts

      Includes an ‘adapter’ to mount on the GWH kit and complete instructions.  Cost: $19 plus s&h.

Model Shack props with kit prop

    • Propeller & Spinner: Both provide replacement prop and spinners which would work for either kit, though the TD parts would require modifying the Monogram engine’s gearbox to fit. The TD ‘spinner fairing’ has the additional ‘gizmo’ detail but otherwise essentially the same.

      True Details props with kit prop

      True Details gearbox parts

      Model Shack gearbox parts

      The TD spinner is slightly more blunt in shape when compared to the MS spinner, which matches the profile of the Monogram kit almost exactly.  Looking at images of the P-61 spinner, both sets could do with having a bit more ‘point’ & taper to the tip, though the MS option is closer to the real thing.

  • Cowling: In the Monogram kit, one engine cowling is designed with open panels to display the full engine provided.  The other cowling is one piece but with attached open cooling gills such the two sides don’t match.  Mark’s cowlings appear to be copies of the ‘one piece’ cowling & gills part from the kit, modified to accommodate his new resin engines.  This requires removal of the closed cooling gills from the one nacelle in the Monogram kit – a simple sanding task not needed if used on the GWH kit.

    Model Shack cowling compared to kit

    True Details cowling shape compared to kit

    The TD cowlings (apparently based on the GWH parts) do not include the cooling gills (which are separate parts in the GWH kit), so to use them with the Monogram kit would take some additional effort either by scratch-building or swapping matching parts between kits – essentially making the TD cowlings redundant.  This is probably why TD offers just the replacement props and spinner parts as a separate set.  Perhaps TD should offer a modified set with gills to work specifically with the Monogram kit!

  • Closeup of Model Shark engine parts

    Engines: Only the Model Shack set includes engines to correct the asymmetric engine detail in the Mono kit.   This is logical as the GWH kit has some excellent engines included (in fact, better looking than Mark’s engines with two full cylinder rows and exhaust & intake pipe detail.)  One point however is the fact that the P-61 had deeply cowled, twin row engines so the Monogram designers must have reasoned, since you can’t really see much detail in that tight cowling, a simple ‘base-relief’, one part ‘engine’ would do just fine.  Problem is, having a full engine included on the other side really highlights the lack of detail, plus the Mono engines lack the

    Assembled Monogram engine

    proper ‘spinner fairing’, relying on a too long (deep?) spinner to represent the actual fairing.  Mark’s parts provide good detail with a correct engine casing & fairing, separate magneto parts and a full front row of cylinders matched to a ‘half-relief’ back-plate.  No push rods are provided but the instructions show how to use styrene rod (or stretched sprue) to add that detail.  One missed opportunity was to include intake & exhaust pipes for the front row onto the back-plate, a detail that would have further camouflaged the lack of full cylinders (something I suspect only visible using the ‘contest flashlight’ in any case.)  Although slightly undersized overall, the Mono kit engine does have the piping included for both rows, making it a nice little replica of the PW 2800 engine.   To use these engines in place of the little GWH gems seems a shame yet the provided adapters makes it easy to mount the assemblies to the front of the GWH nacelles with no modification.  Whether the GWH engines might be used in lieu of the resin parts, I cannot say as I don’t have that kit – yet(!?)

Model Shack instructions

In my opinion, both sets are pretty good value and nicely meet the goal of correcting whichever P-61 kit you might have.   Model Shack’s set does work with either kit by design while the True Details cowling set really is only geared to the Great Wall Hobbies kit.  So, for those like me that have a Monogram Black Widow kit (or two, or three!), Mark’s set really spruces things up with a minimum of effort.  I plan on using the two I have on two models then using the spare engines and cowlings from those two on a third model with open engines.  Fun, fun!

Further web resources can be currently found through:

Addendum: Here are four images from the Web that give a better idea of how the actual spinner was shaped (clicking the images will link you to the original sites.)  The first is almost directly from the side but a bit small – still, it gives a pretty good view of the shape.  Last one is from an angle but also shows the relationship of the cowling opening and spinner diameters (also, it too is a P-61C with a different engine than the P-61A/B, so be aware!)  The two right side images are views of the P-61A/B spinner which was essentially identical to the “C” version. From these, it appears that neither set is ‘spot-on’ but the Model Shack version is best of the two; both, being solid resin, can of course be sanded to an exactly correct profile, if desired.

P-61C cowling from side

P-61C cowling from side (courtesy of Flickr)

41-18882 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

YP-61 41-18882 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

P-61A on Iwo Jima (courtesy of

P-61A on Iwo Jima (courtesy of

(courtesy of Mark Allen on Photobucket)

P-61C (courtesy of Mark Allen on Photobucket)

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2 Responses to Best Bang for your Buck? – 1:48 P-61 Update Sets

  1. Steven Krick says:

    I am going to build a 1/72 F-15A, from the Airfix kit and the Airmodel vacform set. I am looking for any Operation Thunderstorm decals, either 1/48 or 1/72. Have you ever come across these decals for the P-61, maybe as a specific sheet?
    Thnaks very much.
    Steve Krick

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