As I’ve said before, Revell did a great job of modeling the Gato class from the early years of the war. But many of the fleet boats went through major changes over the few short years they were in service. It is not uncommon to see different configurations of the boats in pictures taken no more than 6 months apart. Much of the conversions were due to technology advances, as well as availability of different armament.
But one of the most visual changes has to do with the fairwater, which contains the conning tower and the bridge. David L. Johnston wrote a very good guide to the different modifications of the Gato fairwater through out the war. He assigns a classification of Mod 1 through 4, and discusses the differences between “Government Boats” (those built by government run shipyards) and boats built by Portsmouth and Electric Boat. His guide can be read and downloaded here.
My conversion for my model falls in the Mod 4 class. This is commonly referred to as the “Covered Wagon” look. It required removing much of the side platting of the fairwater above the conning tower, the fairing around the periscopes, and lowering the bridge. This revealed the I-beam supports for the periscope shears, and gave it the distinctive look.
Now, as I said in my last blog post, I could have done this by cutting the kit and using the White Ensign PE set. But there were other mods done to the after cigarette deck that I need to account for.
So, I began a search for other aftermarket conversions. And I found two companies that make modified fairwater conversions for the Revell kit.
One is Iron Bottom Sound. I contacted their parent company, East Coast Armory on Facebook, and was assured that Iron Bottom Sound is still in business and capable of providing the products they advertise.
IBS has a lot of conversions from Gato to Balao class, as pictured below:
However, their conversions for Gato class are very few. They do have a two versions of the Wahoo, one seen here:
None of their other Gato class fairwaters reflect the covered wagon conversion. IBS does have many other additions and mods for armament and such. But I didn’t see anything I was particularly drawn to.
The other vendor is Nautilus Models. I contacted James Corley, the vendor through Facebook and email. James used to own a hobby shop in the Atlanta area, but has closed it and moved to Florida. He still manufactures the parts and kits for Nautilus Models, and ships on the weekends. His customer service is excellent. He has taken the time to talk with me on the phone about the USS Lapon, the differences between Portsmouth boats and EB boats, and the different configurations of the Gato submarines. Where many vendors have chosen to tackle the many mods of the U-Boats, James has concentrated on the Gato class submarine.
And right there, on his website I found the modification I was looking for. His USS SIlversides kit converts the Gato fairwater down to the Mod 4 configuration.
James has several conversions for the Gato class.
As well as many additions, such as early and late war SD Radar masts, 5/25 deck gun, etc.
His website is best accessed here for US customers, and here for overseas orders. A note about the website. Most all of the blue links work to take you to description pages of the products, but with James’ move to Florida, he hasn’t had a chance to correct some of the links to the pictures of the products. In some cases, you will only see the thumbnails.
And so I ordered the Silversides conversion from James. Shipping was fast, and it arrived packed very well.
The kit included a PE set which is also available as a separate item. A quick inventory revealed that a couple of parts were missing. But an email to James that night resulted in the parts in the mail within a couple of days. I’m very pleased with the customer service James provides. He assures me that any item on his order page is available, except the 1/144 Trumpeter Gato conversions. He is still working on the GUPPY snorkel conversions.
So now I have my Big Ed set, my White Ensign set, and my Nautilus Models fairwater conversion. The NM fairwater calls for using the kit periscope shears and assembly. I’ve chosen to build the periscope shears using the White Ensign PE set, and use it with the Nautilus Models fairwater kit.
I’ve already begun some of the construction, as you can see in the following pictures.
In my next post, I will go over this construction in more detail, and talk about some of the issues I’ve run into working on this part of the project.