Nostalgic Kit Review: Koster Aero Enterprises 1/48 PB4Y-2 Privateer Vacu-formed Conversion Kit

For a long time, if you wanted to build a 1/48 Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, Bill Koster’s vacu-formed conversion kit for the Monogram B-24 kit was the only game in town.

Bill passed away on September 13, 2020, after a battle with cancer at the age of 91. Bill worked for several decades as a kit designer for Revell-Monogram. After his retirement, he founded Koster Aero Enterprises through which he produced and sold vacu-formed kits and conversion sets for aircraft that the mainline model manufacturers ignored. Bill was a great ambassador for our hobby and was liked by all who met him.

I have purchased a couple of Bill’s B-24 turret sets over the years, and I was fortunate to purchase the PB4Y-2 Privateer conversion kit at an estate sale recently.

Koster Aero Enterprise

As you can see from the instructions below, the conversion kit uses the fuselage center section (bomb bay area), wings, landing gear, propellers, and cockpit pieces from the Revell-Monogram kit. Either the B-24D or the B-24J version of the Revell-Monogram kit will work for this conversion.

Koster Aero Enterprises
Koster Aero Enterprises

It appears that the main conversion pieces were formed using .050 to .060 mm thick plastic sheets. An inspection of these parts reveals a very good uniform thickness was maintained during the vacu-forming process.

Koster Aero Enterprises

These parts will be fairly sturdy during the process of removing them from their respective sheets, and during the construction process.

Koster Aero Enterprises

While you cannot see them from the photos, Bill also incorporated some very nice recessed panel lines on the fuselage pieces.

Koster Aero Enterprises

While the photo below does not do the vacu-formed clear parts justice, the parts are without distortion; pretty much crystal clear. For the most part, they are thick enough, and therefore sturdy, to withstand the process of removing them from the sheet. The exception is the two main parts for the A-6 gun turrets. Because of their height, the plastic on top gets fairly thin and are prone to being damaged easily. Care is needed when removing them.

Koster Aero Enterprises

The front of the cowls, engines, and gun turret parts are cast in resin. They are beautifully cast with a minimal amount of clean-up. Because the interiors of the gun turrets will visible due to the quality of the vacu-formed clear parts, the resin parts provide a base for super detailed turrets.

Koster Aero Enterprises

The conversion kit also comes with white metal parts as shown below. As you can tell, the 50 caliber machine gun barrels are very malleable and hard to get perfectly straight. The solution to this problem is to replace the barrels with the really nice brass barrels from Master Models, or to replace the entire machine guns with Eduard’s resin Browning M-2 machine guns.

Koster Aero Enterprises

Last, but not least, Bill included decals for four aircraft. They are very nice, in register, and provide three nose art options. The PB4Y-2 provided a large canvas for great nose art. National insignia are not included, so you will have to get them from other sheets or use masks.

Koster Aero Enterprises

Since this conversion kit is no longer in production, they are hard to come by. They do show up on eBay periodically, but not very often. I was fortunate to pick this one up at an estate sale. I have never attempted a vacu-formed conversion kit, so this should be an interesting project.

Stayed tuned as I will be reviewing a full resin 1/48 PB4Y-2 kit from Wilde Sau Resin, and 1/48 PB4Y-2 decal sheets from Cutting Edge/Pyn-Up Decals (now the Fine Art of Decals).

Kit Review: Arma Hobby 1/72 Grumman/General Motors FM-2 Wildcat (70033)

On March 1, 1945, just 11 days after the United States Marines stormed Iwo Jima’s black sand beaches, Lt (jg). Noah P. Butt, Jr. of VC-76 landed his General Motors FM-2 Wildcat (White 4) on South Field after experiencing difficulties with a drop tank. White 4 was the first U.S. Navy plane to land on Iwo Jima.

USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Wanting to build an FM-2 Wildcat involved in the Battle for Iwo Jima, I was pleased to see Arma Hobby release a FM-2 Wildcat in 1/72 scale. I researched on-line build reviews for both the 1/48 Hobby Boss FM-2 and the 1/72 Arma Hobby FM-2, and decided to go with the Arma Hobby kit.

Founded in 2013, Arma Hobby is a Polish model manufacturer that has been releasing 1/72 airplane kits, and they are set to release their first 1/48 kit shortly. I have been following them for the last few years waiting for them to release a kit I wanted to build.

Arma Hobby

As is customary for Arma Hobby, they have released several boxings of this kit; an Expert Set (with photo-etch parts and masks), and two basic kits. There are three sprues included in the basic kit; one with fuselage, wings, and engine; one with cockpit, undercarriage, and horizontal surfaces; and one with the clear parts.

The casting is very well done with a minimal amount of flash, and the level of detail is very impressive for a 1/72 kit. The recessed panel lines and other surface detail are very nice and not overstated.

The level of detail in the cockpit parts is extremely nice and both types of wheels are included. Some of the undercarriage parts are quite delicate, but that is what you would expect for a 1/72 scale Wildcat.

The canopy comes in two parts so you can you can show off all that nice cockpit detail with an open canopy. The canopy parts are clear and thin.

The instructions are very well done with good illustrations. Decals are provided for White 29, flown by Lt (jg). Heatherly Foster, III, (VC-93/USS Petrof Bay); and White 35, flown by Lt. Ralph E. Elliot, Jr. (VC-27/USS Savo).

Arma Hobby
Arma Hobby

The decals, printed by Techmod, are in register and come with a lot of stencil details which will show up nicely on overall glossy Dark Sea Blue planes.

Arma Hobby

This looks like a really nice kit for 1/72 scale. I have red a few on-line builds, and it appears that it is well engineered without a lot of fit issues. Looking forward to building this kit.

Kit Review: Eduard’s 1/48 P-51D Mustang “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwo Jima” Limited Edition Boxing


I received my Eduard “Very Long Range: Tales of Iwo Jima” Limited Edition boxing yesterday from Sprue Brothers. As previously disclosed by Eduard, this boxing includes twelve different decal options that cover all nine squadrons of the three Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups. For the profiles of the aircraft included in this boxing, see my previous post “Eduard’s Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Boxing – Very Long Range: Tales of Iwojima” under Kit/Product News. Below are the decals included in the kit, which are extremely well researched and are in register. Again, kudos to Eduard for covering all nine squadrons of the three Iwo Jima VLR Mustang groups.


As has been Eduard’s practice when issuing limited edition or dual combo kits, they normally include some resin parts as an extra bonus. Eduard does not disappoint with this boxing. Included in the kit are beautifully cast resin wheels, including a tail wheel, and rocket stubs in case you want to step-up the detail in building a rocket carrying VLR Mustang.


The photo-etch parts include the customary interior parts to spruce up the cockpit, and an additional fret that includes the exterior stiffening plates that were added to the underside of the wings when VLR Mustangs were modified on Iwo Jima to carry HVAR rockets. A really nice touch on Eduard’s part.


Finally, Eduard has included a lapel pin with the 78th FS Bushmaster emblem. Again, nice touch. While I doubt too many people will actually use it as a lapel pin, you may see some at airshows and model contests.


A few comments about some of the aircraft included in this boxing. The 47th FS plane is 176 “Moonbeam McSwine” flown by Captain Eurich L. Bright. In the notes, Eduard comments that the dark parts of the unit markings (fuselage and wing bands, and tail wedge) were most probably very dark blue, and not black. This is news to me so I am curious as to where Eduard came across this information. If you are going to paint the unit markings with a dark blue instead of black, I would recommend using Dark Sea Blue (ANA 623/FS15042); the same color used on late war Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats.


The kit also includes decals for Lt. Col. John W. Mitchell’s 11 “Annie Lee”, a P-51D-25NA Mustang (Serial No. 44-73382). Lt. Col. Mitchell was the Commander of the 15th FG from July 19, 1945 to the end of the war. Eduard’s notes indicate that this was a 78th FS plane, but that does not appear to be consistent with the standardized late war markings of a yellow spinner, unbordered yellow wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, and a yellow fin/rudder top. So my assumption is that this aircraft was a 47th FS aircraft. I looked back through my reference materials and photographs, and I only have one photo of 11 “Annie Lee” which just shows the cockpit area and not any of the squadron markings. Nor could I find a picture of a 47th FS Mustang with a black spinner, black wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, and a black fin/rudder top. Time to do a little more research on squadron markings.


If you are interested in building an Iwo Jima VLR Mustang, this kit is highly recommended. Not only are all of the necessary parts to build a VLR Mustang present, but you also get twelve decal options that cover all nine squadrons of the three VLR Mustang groups. In my mind, the decals alone justify the cost of the kit. I am not sure how many kits Eduard produced as part of this Limited Edition offering, but Sprue Brothers sold out of the kit in just four days.

For those of you that are interested in the history of the Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Groups, check out the article/interview of 1st Lt. William G. “Bill” Ebersole in the August 2020 edition Eduard’s on-line magazine INFO Eduard. The article/interview is entitled “The Tales of Very Long Range Bill”. The interview was conducted by 506th Fighter Group Historian Brian Walter. To read the article, just go to Eduard’s website ( and download the August 2020 edition. 1st Lt. Ebersole’s Mustang, 619 “Hon. Mistake”, which he was assigned to with 1st Lt. James R. Bercaw, is one of the decal options in the kit.


Kit Preview: Eduard 1/48 North American P-51D Mustang Addendum

As advertised, Eduard recently released its Royal Class P-51D Mustang Dual Combo boxing. With this release, Eduard provides the 110 and 165 gallon drop tanks and two decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. Consistent with Eduard’s practice of including extra “goodies” in with their Royal Class boxings, Eduard does not disappoint with this release. In addition to the two complete kits, Eduard has thrown in an unpainted PSP (Marsden mats) display base for those who enjoy dioramas, and some nice Brassin products: shrouded and unshrouded exhaust stacks, and two pairs of wheels randomly chosen between diamond, cross, block and oval treads.


110 & 165 Gallon Drop Tanks: Eduard did an excellent job on reproducing in 1/48 scale the 110 and 165 gallon drop tanks used on VLR missions, and they included the sway braces. Finally, a model manufacturer gets it completely right!


Not wanting to wait until I started a new build with Eduard’s kit, I removed the drop tank pieces from the sprue, cleaned them up, and put them together just to see how they look. Below is a photo of the Eduard 110 gallon tank, and a photo of the actual tank. Judge for yourself on how well Eduard did.

Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Eduard appears to have captured the contours, shape and size of the 110 gallon tanks really well. The flat portion on the top of the tank is represented well, as is the other adjacent detail. Please note the raised lines just below the flat portion of the tank. It appears that Eduard has incorporated them on both sides of the tanks to aid the modeler in positioning the sway braces on the tanks. This should make it much easier to install the sway braces when positioning between the tanks and the wings, and since the raised lines are fairly light, you should not notice them on the completed model. Extremely nice and well thought out with the modeler in mind. So do not sand off these raised lines!

The 165 gallon drop tanks look equally nice. However, instead of the raised lines as an alignment aid for the sway braces, Eduard has instead built in slots for the sway braces on each side of the tank. I test fit one of the sway braces, and they appear to fill the slots completely without the need of any putty to fill any gaps. We will see how well they work when we get into the build. Again, kudos to Eduard and their design team in having the modeler in mind when engineering the installation of the sway braces.

Iwo Jima VLR Mustang Decals: Eduard has included two decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs, both of the 506th Fighter Group. The first is 555 “The Ole Lady/Little Anne/My Darlin Betty Ann” (P-51D-25-NA, 44-72628), a 458th FS Mustang flown by 2nd Lts. James E. Coleman and Ralph R. Coltman, Jr.


The second is 528 “The Enchantress” (P-51D-25-NA, 44-72671), a 457th FS Mustang flown by 2nd Lt. William E. Saks. 2nd Lt. Saks was one of the pilots lost on the June 1, 1945 “Black Friday” mission, but was not flying 528 on that day. “The Enchantress” is popular amongst modelers because the nose art and pin-up girl that adorns the fuselage.


Along with the release of the Royal Class Dual Combo boxing, Eduard also released a separate Overtrees boxing with just the P-51D VLR Drop Tanks (Cat. No 82109X) should you want to build multiple Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs, or convert another manufacturer’s 1/48 P-51D Mustang to a VLR Mustang. In addition, Eduard announced the January 2020 release of both the 110 and 165 gallon VLR drop tanks as resin upgrades as part of their Brassin line. Lastly, Eduard announced the release of a Pacific Theater VLR Profipack boxing for August 2020. Sometimes I have to pinch myself just to make sure that I am not dreaming. Life is good!

Kit Preview: Eduard’s 1/48 North American P-51D Mustang

This was the first release of Eduard’s much anticipated 1/48 P-51D Mustang. Its official release date was August 7th at the 2019 IPMS Nationals in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Not wanting to wait until Eduard released the rumored separate Pacific Theater VLR boxing, I ordered mine as soon as preorders were being accepted at Sprue Brothers. That proved to be a good move as this limited edition kit sold out completely in less than a month.

As indicated in an earlier post, all of the necessary parts to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang are in this kit except for the drop tanks and sway braces. And, as was announced by Eduard recently in their September edition of their INFO Eduard on-line magazine, the additional sprues with the drop tanks will be in be their Royal Class boxing that will be released prior to Christmas. I am being told that at least two, and maybe three, decal options for Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs will be in the Royal Class boxing. That is great news!

Kit Preview; Sprue D (Fuselage Parts) – Eduard certainly did its homework, and the level of detail for a 1/48 scale model is amazing. So let’s take a look at the various sprues. First up is the fuselage sprue (Sprue D).

What caught my eye initially is the intricate rivet detail over the entire fuselage and the druz fasteners on the engine cowling panels. Very nice and not overdone. Best not to be too heavy handed with primer and color coats to avoid losing all of that rivet detail. Included in the detail is the small air scoop that was added to the left side of the cowling when the battery was moved to the engine compartment. The other thing I pay pretty close attention to is the contours of the nose, especially at the front of the engine cowling. There are some very subtle contour changes that most model manufacturers have failed to capture correctly. I believe that Tamiya did a very nice job in this area with their 1/32 scale Mustang kit, and it appears that Eduard has done a very nice job as well.

Sprue B (Wings & Horizontal Stabilizers) – The wings and horizontal stabilizers are nicely done with separate control surfaces (flaps, ailerons, and elevators).

I am impressed by the fact that the rivet detail on the wings is accurate. The Mustang has a laminar flow wing which increases the efficiency of air flowing over the wing. To further increase the laminar flow effect over the wing, North American puttied over panel joints and rivet depressions, sanded everything smooth, and then painted the majority of the wings with a silver lacquer paint. The general consensus is that only the gun bays, landing gear access panels, and other access panels were not puttied. Below is a diagram of the wings by Jennings Heilig of fundekals 🙂 that shows which panel lines were puttied.

The faint lines on the above diagram show the panel joints that were puttied. Like all kit manufacturers who have produced 1/48 Mustangs (Airfix, Hasegawa, Meng, and Tamiya), Eduard has represented the panel joints on the wings by recessed panel lines. But some kit manufacturers (Dragon 1/32, Tamiya 1/32, Meng 1/48, and Airfix 1/48) filled their wings with rivet detail, so if you are building these kits and want to portray an accurate puttied wing, you not only have to fill and sand the correct panel lines, but also all of the rivet detail. While this is not overly difficult, eliminating the rivet detail is a tedious and very time consuming task. With the Eduard kit, all you have to do is fill and sand the the correct panel lines. Kudos to Eduard.

Sprue H (Interior Parts) – This sprue has all of the cockpit parts plus two different spinners and the three different propellers (Hamilton Standard cuffed, Hamilton Standard uncuffed, and Aeroproducts).

It appears to have all the cockpit parts for a D-5 through a D-25 (early and late instrument panels, the two different styles of instrument panel comings, Warren MacArthur and Schick Johnson seats, the different control panels for the right side of the cockpit, etc . . .). However, what I am most interested in is the parts to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang. SCR-695 IFF transmitter is part H22, and the level of detail is fantastic for 1/48 scale.

Also included are the SA-3/A Inertia Switch (IFF Detonator Switch) and the BC-727 Indicator Lights (part H50).

So there you have it, all of the necessary cockpit parts are present in this kit to make an accurate Iwo Jima VLR Mustang; first time in a 1/48 kit.

Sprue G (Exterior Parts, Wheel Wells & Landing Gear) – One of the main complaints with early Mustang models is inaccurate wheel wells. Tamiya solved that problem with their 1/32 P-51D Mustang kit, and the other kit manufacturers (Revell 1/32, Zoukei-Mura 1/32, Airfix 1/48, and Meng 1/48) including Eduard, have now followed suit and for the most part imitated the Tamiya design for the wheel wells.

Again, the level of detail is amazing. Below is a picture of the main landing gear wheel well doors in this kit, and a picture of one of Sierra Sue II’s landing gear wheel well doors that was taken shortly after its complete restoration. As you can see, the Eduard parts accurately depict the rivet detail.

The twin Uncle Dog antennae are located on Sprue G as parts G1 and G2. Their attachment pins are set at an angle and there are no locating holes on the inside of the fuselage parts to indicate their position on the fuselage spine. Because this limited edition kit does not use those parts, the kit instructions do not provide any guidance. So we will have to wait on the instructions in the Royal Class boxing as far as the exact location.

Sprue F (Drop Tanks & Underwing Ordinance) – This sprue contains the drop tanks used in the European Theater of operations, and the various underwing ordinance (bombs, HVAR rockets, and rocket launching tubes).

Eduard designed the HVAR rockets and their wing attachment points as one piece. While this will add an extra step in painting the rockets, it will make rocket alignment a non-issue. Locating holes are on the bottom half the wings.

The sprue consisting of the clear parts have all three canopy types and are crystal clear.

Initial Impressions – This is an extremely nice looking kit with a lot of intricate detail and some delicate parts. The fuselage contours look really good. Kudos to Eduard for spending the necessary time to get things right. When I have the Royal Class boxing in my possession, I will review the sprue with the 110 and 165 gallon drops tanks, and the decals for the Iwo Jima VLR Mustangs. Hopefully, Eduard will include the sway braces for the drop tanks. I am really looking forward to building Major James B. Tapp’s 101 “Margaret IV” (78th FS, 15th FG) with 165 gallon drop tanks and HVAR rockets using this kit.

Major James B. Tapp (USAAF/National Archives via Fold3)

Eduard just released the D-5 ProfiPACK edition, and I am being told that they are still planning to release a limited edition Pacific Theater VLR Mustang ProfiPACK edition in 2020. Again, this is great news!