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).

In Memory of Burton W. Jones; 457th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group; February 1, 1921 – October 24, 2021

On February 1st of this year, the 506th Fighter Group Association helped celebrate the 100th birthday of Staff Sergeant Burton W. Jones, who was a ground crew member (mechanic and armorer) with the 457th Fighter Squadron. Staff Sergeant Jones was assigned to 541 “Kwitcherbitchin”, flown by Captains William B. Lawrence and Alan J. Kinvig.

Private Burton W. Jones (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

My post on Burton’s 100th birthday celebration can be found here: https://iwojimamodels.com/2021/01/31/happy-100th-birthday-burton-w-jones/. The post covers Burton’s upbringing, induction into the United States Army Air Corps, training, assignments, and service with the 457th Fighter Squadron on Iwo Jima.

Burton’s family was hoping that he would receive at least 100 birthday cards from family, friends and well wishers. Burton actually received over 300 birthday cards!

Sergeant Burton W. Jones on Iwo Jima (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

On October 25, 2021, we were informed by Priscilla Hepburn-Jones that Burton had passed away. Like other members of his generation, Burton returned from the war and became active in his community serving in many civic organizations.

Burton W. Jones at World War II Memorial (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

On October 24, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Burton’s obituary can be found here: https://www.uticaod.com/obituaries/k0030474. Our prayers are with Burton’s family during this time of loss.

In Memory of Robert “Bob” Amburn Gourley, 462nd Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group; December 14, 1924 – September 4, 2021

Robert A. Gourley was born on December 14, 1924, in Greer, South Carolina. Bob graduated from Marion High School in 1940, and entered into Davidson College in 1941 as part of the ROTC program. Like many others of his generation, his post-secondary education was put on hold during the time he served his country in World War II.

2nd Lieutenant Robert A. Gourley

Not wanting to be placed into the infantry, Bob enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He earned wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona in 1944. In October of that year, 2nd Lieutenant Gourley was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group shortly after the group’s activation at Lakeland Army Air Field. At Lakeland, the 506th FG was trained specifically to fly very long range missions.

Front row, left to right: 1st Lt. Robert Gourley, 1st Lt. Frank Buzze; Back row, left to right: 1st Lt. Bernie Comfort, 1st Lt. Jack Rice, 1st Lt. Thomas McNall, and 1st Lt. Harold Stewart (via Dr. John Benbow)

When deployed to Iwo Jima, half of the squadron’s fighter pilots ferried their brand new P-51D Mustangs to San Francisco, where they were loaded on the escort carrier Kalinin Bay and set out for Tinian. The other half of the pilots, which included 2nd Lieutenant Gourley, took a troop train to Seattle, and then boarded the converted Swedish hospital ship, the Bloemfontein. They sailed from Seattle to Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and then finally to Iwo Jima.

1st Lts. Robert Gourley and Jack Rice on the nose of a P-51D Mustang (via Dr. John Benbow)

Lieutenant Gourley would fly a total of 11 VLR missions to Japan, and would be promoted to the rank of Capitan before being honorably discharged. Upon returning home, Bob re-enrolled in Davidson College and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music.

Bob was a recognized community member faithfully contributing to his community in many ways. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church and served as choir director for over three decades. He was also active in the local Kiwanis Club and the Masonic Lodge. Bob played in a community band well into into eighties, and enjoyed playing golf.

Robert A. Gourley

On September 4, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Bob was 96, and was the last living fighter pilot of the 462nd Fighter Squadron.

In 2014, Bob gave a video interview as part of the McDowell Legacy Program, “Reflections of the Past”. In his interview, Bob speaks of his entry into the United States Army Air Force, and missions flown from Iwo Jima to Japan. The YouTube video of Bob’s interview can be found here: https://youtu.be/P-HsME_vCKI.

Kit News: Eduard’s Next 1/48 North American P-51D Mustang Release; A P-51D-20 Weekend Edition Boxing

In this month’s edition of INFO Eduard, Eduard announced that their next release of their P-51D Mustang kit will be a Weekend Edition focusing on the Block 20 Mustang. The decal options include two European theater Mustangs and two Pacific theater Mustangs. The first Pacific theater Mustang is the widely recognizable The Flying Undertaker, flown by Major William A. Shomo of the 82nd TRS, 71st TRG. The other Pacific Mustang is the 458th FS, 506th FG Iwo Jima VLR Mustang, The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package, flown by 2nd Lt. Bennett C. Commer and 2nd Lt. Henry C. Seegers, Jr.

Eduard

All three VLR groups were initially equipped with Block 20 D models. As losses and attrition took its toll, Block 25 D models were used as replacement aircraft. The distinctive equipment used on VLR Mustangs, the SCR-695 IFF transmitter set, the AN/ARA-8 homing adapter and twin Uncle Dog antennae, were field modifications on Iwo Jima for both Block 20 and 25 models.

Eduard

Due to the fact that the 506th Fighter Group assigned two pilots to each plane, the markings on certain planes provide for interesting decal options. The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package is a nice example of this.

556 The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package (Bennett C. Commer via Dr. John Benbow)
556 The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package (Charles Barr via Dr. John Benbow)

Kudos to Eduard for providing a multitude of 1/48th scale P-51D Mustang kits which cover blocks 5 to 25 with so many decal options. Something for everyone.

Eduard’s 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat Weekend Edition

One of Eduard’s releases for October 2021 is a new Weekend Edition boxing of their popular 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat kit. Eduard’s 1/72 F6F-3 has been on the market since 2011, and this is the third Weekend Edition boxing that has been released by Eduard.

Eduard

This boxing includes decals for Lt. Cdr. David McCampbell‘s F6F-3 Hellcat The Minsi. Lt. Cdr. McCampbell was the CO of CAG-15 abroad the USS Essex, and flew this aircraft during the U.S Navy’s raids against Iwo Jima which began on June 14, 1944, and continued until August 5, 1944.

Eduard

Lt. Cdr McCampbell was the top U.S. Navy ace with 34 confirmed victories. While he did not score any confirmed victories in combat over Iwo Jima, Lt. Cdr. McCampbell would score 10.5 victories in The Minsi during combat over Saipan, the Philippine Sea and Guam. The Minsi was scrapped in September 1944 after suffering damage from anti-aircraft fire.

Kudos to Eduard for including decals for The Minsi in this boxing. While most modelers will prefer decals for Lt. Cdr. McCampbell’s F6F-5 Minsi III with its impressive scoreboard of kills, it is nice to have the option to build his first Hellcat.

The other decals included in this kit are: a VF-38 F6F-3, stationed on Munda Airfield, New Georgia, Solomon Islands; Lt. Alexander Vraciu’s F6F-3 “White 32”, VF-16, USS Lexington with 18 kill markings; and a VF-27 F6F-3 aboard the USS Princeton with the snarling cat mouth. Very nice decal options.