SHIP: Review - Merit 1/48 scale Elco 80' PT Boat Late Production

Kit Review: Merit International 1/48 scale Kit No. 64801; U.S. Navy Elco 80 ' Motor Patrol Torpedo Boat Late Type; 417 parts (382 in grey styrene, 22 e
tched brass, 13 clear PVC plastic); retail price US$93.00
Advantages: nice size for this type of boat; plenty of details provided and nice parts breakdown with slide molding used to capture many aspects
Disadvantages: only one version possible with this kit
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all "splinter fleet" fans or late WWII US Navy fans
    While lightweight torpedo boats have been around for more than 150 years ( starting with the spar-torpedo fitted steam launchers in the US Civil War) it was only in WWII that the designs hit their zenith and became more than nuisance raiders. Up until that point the acme of torpedo boat operations h ad been the sinking of the Austrian battleship Szent Istvan by an Italian c raft in WWI.
    In 1941 the US got into the game and had several manufacturers, most notab ly Elco and Higgins, work out designs for fast, light wooden boats capable of carrying at least two torpedoes and machine guns for coastal patrol and raiding work. Eventually, two designs were chosen for mass production, the 78-foot Higgins (199 built) and the 80-foot (326 built) Elco design.
    The early model Elco boats had three Packard Merlin engines of 1350 horsep ower, carried four Mk VII or Mk VIII torpedoes in black-powder fired launch tubes, and a pair of twin .50 caliber machine guns in tubs and a single de ck-mounted 20mm Oerlikon cannon on the stern. Their value was proven in the South Pacific and the most famous of the early boats was probably PT-109, whose commander was John F. Kennedy.
    By late 1944 the boats were under modification, and based on operational r esults and field modifications they were now heavier and better armed. The standard 1945 build saw the boat now carry four superior Mk XIII aerial tor pedoes in flip-off racks, and the .50 caliber machine guns and 20mm Oerliko n gun were augmented by a 37mm Oldsmobile cannon (borrowed from the P-39 Ai racobra) at the bow and a 40mm Bofors gun at the stern. Boats could also be fitted with two 8-shot 4.5" rocket launchers and up to eight depth charges as required, and some also added extra machine guns and 20m Oerlikon guns. Most now sported a folding radar mast with one of three different radar an tennas fitted.
    The US Navy fielded 40 squadrons of 12-16 PT boats during the war and they served in the Pacfic, the Channel/North Sea area, and the Mediterranean. 9 9 of the more than 525 boats built were lost to various reasons.
    Due to their "speedboat" appearance and other intriguing aspects of their design and function, PT boats have always been popular with modelers and we re among the first subjects made as plastic kits in the early 1950s. Two of the oldest kit were the box-scale Revell Higgins boat PT-212 and the 1/64 scale Lindberg Elco boat.
    Over the years other kits have been released in scales from 1/700 to 1/32 with probably the most widely sold being the Revell 1/72 PT-109 and similar early Elco boats covered in re-releases of those molds. But the Revell kit was seriously flawed by such things as a wood-grain effect on the deck rat her than the smooth mahogany planks used on real boats.
    The most recent releases were a 1/32 Lindberg Elco oriented at R/C modeler s and two versions of the 80' Elco in 1/35 scale by Italeri. But these are very large models - the Lindberg one is 30" long with a 7 3/4" beam and the Italeri one is not much smaller at 27 1/2" and 7". While the latter kits a re nicely detailed and have two supplemental kits available (crew set and c onversion to late boat fittings) a kit of one of the later Elco boats there will run you up to $270 and take up a large amount of space.
    Into the fray comes this nice new kit from Merit in a more sensible 1/48 s cale. The model is now a more manageable 20" long and 5" in beam, so more s uited to a shelf or reasonable diorama size. Merit has done their homework and the kit shows that it matches the late war fittings very nicely.
    It comes with all fittings for the late war Elco: 37mm gun forward, two tw in .50 tubs, a 20mm cannon, 40mm Bofors, four Mk. XIII torpedoes, and the t win flip-out 4.5" rocket launchers. It has the "streamlined" radar antenna with additional antennas fitted to the mast as well as the small skiff carr ied by later production boats (early ones had only a small life raft).
    From the directions it can be seen that different versions of the Elco wil l be released later on, as there are a large number of pre-marked holes on the underside of the deck and this kit only needs about two-thirds of them opened up prior to Step 1.
    Kit construction begins with the assembly of the deck to the hull, and the 20mm Oerlikon gun. This comes with two spare 60 round drums. Step 3 instal ls the propeller skegs and rudders as well as the shafts; these are plastic and some modelers may prefer to replace them with brass rod for durability . Also covered are the 20mm ammo lockers with one suggested to be shown ope n with the spare drums in it.
    Step 6 is the assembly of the twin .50 sets and each one consists of 20 pa rts; they are fixed in elevation but made be traversed once complete. Next is the 37mm bow gun which is far simpler, but then again so was the origina l.
    Step 9 covers the deck house and its windows; the kit claims they are PVC plastic but the sheet looks like styrene; personally, I use something like Micro Krystal-Kleer or Future acrylic wax to stick them in so if done that way should not be a problem. Also included is the radar mast; this is a fix ed mast on this kit and is not designed to fold down into its non-operation al position.
    Step 10 is the pilot house which is very similar. Super-detailers may wish to enhance the coxswain's position with finer throttle levers and other bi ts seen in closeups of the area on the actual boats; all the kit provides i s an instrument panel and ship's wheel with a relatively simple throttle qu adrant.
    Step 11 is the 40mm Bofors which is nearly as detailed as the much larger 1/35 gun on the Italeri kit and consists of nearly the same number of parts !
    The next step covers the engine room cover and ventilator assembly, as wel l as the deflector to prevent the 40mm gun from hitting the bridge area.          Steps 14-16 cover the four torpedoes and their racks, and 17 provides for the ammo storage lockers for the 4.5" rocket launchers. These made shown op en or closed. 18 are the rocket launchers, which can be swivelled inboard f or loading/stowage or outboard for firing.
    19/20 are the mufflers with the very delicate control rods for the bipass valves offered as single left and right assemblies.
    The rest of the direction steps cover mostly attaching the previously asse mbled components to the deck. The last step covers the sturdy stand and ide ntification plate, but most modelers will probably want to assemble this FI RST so you have a safe place to set the model when working on it!
    The finishing directions cover only one boat in two-color black and dark g reen paint with the reddish lower hull, but these boats had a multitude of schemes and finishes in many other colors and schemes. Happily Merit provid es a full decal sheet with two sets of large hull numbers and six small set s (0-9) as well as two US flags; alas, the latter are completely useless as they are 50 star flags! (48 was the WWII size.) A draft gauge from 6 feet down is also given.
    It is likely this kit will soon see targeted decal and marking sheets base d on available photos as well as crew figures, and perhaps some different a rmament combinations. An early version is likely to follow soon based on th e hole pattern under the deck and parts breakdown.
    I used the two Squadron "In Action" books as references for the review - 4 007 by T. Garth Connelly and 4034 by David Doyle, who also has an "On Deck" book on 80' Elco boats from Squadron for super-detailers.
    Overall this is a lovely kit and a really decent size to permit extensive detailing and finishing and still not require a garage for storage!
    Thanks to Tony Chin of Merit for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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