Blue Ridge Models 1/700 USS California (BB-44)
box art by Wayne Scarpaci
Reviewed by Timothy Dike
January 2014

The California, the second Tennessee class served first as flagship of the Pacific Fleet. She moored on the south end of Battleship row at Pearl Harbor and was among the ships damaged and sunk on December 7th. Like many of the other ships California was refloated and repaired 

After a major reconstruction in 1944, California emerged looking like a modern fast battleship. Gone were the cage masts and open 5" guns and in their place a modern looking superstructure and a battery of 5" twin mounts supplemented by 40 mm quad mounts and numerous 20 mm guns. She sailed back into action to enact her revenge for Pearl Harbor. Late in 1944 she was involved in a collision with sister Tennessee and had to return stateside for more repairs. California again sailed into the Pacific and helped support the invasion of the Philippines. She was hit by a kamikaze while providing shore bombardment at Lingayen Gulf. This time she stayed on station until the area was secured and then once again returned to Puget Sound for repairs. She was back in action at Okinawa in June 1945 and stayed around to support the occupation of Japan following the surrender. 

California received seven battle stars for World War II service. A more detailed account of the California's history can be viewed on the DANFS page.

This new kit is based on the Classic Warships kit.  Blue Ridge Models began with that kit, remastered many of the parts, added some of the best aftermarket accessories available and brought it up to the standards we expect from today's kits.  Also available is the West Virginia and Tennessee from the same time frame. The kit depicts the ship in 1945, but with all the extra parts can be backdated to 44 easily. 

The hull is cast in the typical waterline style with deck planking inscribed into the surface. The anchor ways are clean with no molded-on chain. Casting is pretty good overall and there is plenty of surface detailing and virtually no cleanup needed. 
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A wood grain laser cut deck overlay specially designed by Artwox Models is provided for those who can't resist that real wood look. It can be left in it's natural wood color if your doing a post war version, or stained blue for war time colors. The planking is nicely scribed on the surface and all the shapes are precut to fit around the deck fittings. The deck has a self adhesive coating on it, so it's virtually peel and stick. 
The superstructure parts are cast on resin wafers. Some flat sanding will be needed to separate the parts from the resin over-pour. Shapes look good and the only real flash is on the bottom. Gun directors area also included with accurate shapes. Those parts are cast on resin runners with only a very thin resin film on some parts to remove. 
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Main guns are cast in resin with pretty good detailing.  Five turrets are included, four plain, and one with gun tubs cast on the roof. Separate gun barrels are included with cast on blast bags shown on the sprures below. The 5" gun turrets are nicely cast and shaped. They have sighting hoods and access hatches. The modeler will have to drill the holes for locating the machined gun barrels shown further below. Some gun platforms and tubs are also included on this resin wafer. 
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Ten quad 40 mounts are included with a whole bunch of extra gun barrel cast in twin sets. These are nicely cast and are provided as a choice for the modeler (photo etch versions are also included). Mk-51 gun directors are well done will look really good in this scale. More gun tubs and the main gun blast bags are included here.
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The ships boats and a multitude of rafts are provided here. Tubs for the Mk-51's and searchlights are cleanly cast. Closed and open chocks are also included to place around the deck edge. 
Two Kingfisher Float planes are included supplied by Trumpeter. They are molded in clear and have look pretty good. I am not a big fan of clear molded parts, but some may like this feature. It allows for the canopy to be masked off prior to painting and the mask to be removed to reveal a clear effect.
The twelve CNC turned 14" gun barrels supplied by Master and are typical of their high quality work. Ends are center drilled for a hollow look and the other end has a nice mounting pin to help locate them into the blast bags provided. There are sixteen Brass Turned 5"/38 cal. barrels that are scale diameter and length. A turned brass mast is also included with the proper taper. 
No less than 7 photo etch frets are included with this kit. Everything you could think of to add to this kit and then some is included. 
The first fret is the basic items like railings, vertical and inclined ladders. Also included are some cool items like lookout seats and yardarm antennas. 
The second fret includes a wide variety of parts. Everything from more railings to brackets, radars, catapults, and cranes assemblies. The majority of these will not be needed but save this fret as it has a lot of nice parts for your other projects. I have included a few detail views of this one below. 
This fret produced for Blue Ridge Models by Tom's Modelworks has some really nice radar assemblies, catapults and cranes. Many of the custom platform, brackets, and other details are included here 
Another fret from Tom's Modelworks is this US Radar set with the main gun director radar and even more.
A whole fret of relief etched 40 mm quads is provided from F-Star. This are provided as an alternative to the resin version giving you a choice.
Also from F-Star are open doors and hatches with a variety of styles. Nicely etched, these will really dress up your ship and provide plenty of extras for other projects. 
Finally 20 mm twin and single light weight mounts are included. These are the tripod style mount and include separate shields and ammo cans.
The decal sheet is a real treat and includes flags and pennants as well as both prewar and early and late war hull numbers. These are printed by Microscale and are typical of the high quality decals they usually produce. They are nicely registered and sharp.
The instructions come in a comprehensive 20 page booklet with plenty of construction views, parts list and painting instructions. It's nice to see a high end kit with high end instructions. There is also an adendum explaining the extra parts included in the kit that allow you to do a 44 version. 
This new kit from Blue Ridge Models is packed full of detail and options. It's truly a complete one stop kit with nothing else needed except glue, paint and time. The resin is sharp in detail, the photo etch is first rate, and CNC machined gun barrels make this a first class solution for your late war battlewagon. The nice thing is you can pick and choose your options and build it your way!
This is kit #70002 USS California 1945 for $135 available now at Freetime Hobbies. That may sound pricey at first until you add up all the extras in the kit.