The Gold Medal Models Gold Plus Set GMM 350-22A for the 1:350 scale USS Essex by Trumpeter is designed to complement the basic GMM fret for the kit, GMM 350-22 (Click for review of basic Essex fret from Gold Medal Models). In looking at the fret, one will quickly see that this fret is not an afterthought or a collection of "nice to have" items. The two frets do indeed complement each other perfectly. As with the GMM basic Essex set, the Gold Plus fret is also indispensable in the super-detailing of Essex

Essex1595fret.JPG (160362 bytes) Essex1586det.JPG (141606 bytes) Essex1597det.JPG (165548 bytes)

About half of the fret is devoted to catwalks and galleries. The Trumpeter kit has the Oerlikon gun galleries but what about the connecting catwalks? Each gun gallery was connected to the others by catwalks, so that it would be unnecessary to go up on the flight deck. GMM provides thirteen custom designed catwalks, six to starboard and seven to port. Each customized piece features a perforated tread and unique rail design and four of them have special platforms incorporated in the catwalk. These thirteen catwalks line the flight deck in highly prominent positions and are sure to attract attention. 


Flight Deck Catwalks
Essex1609samidcat.JPG (164131 bytes) Essex1610catp125.JPG (196226 bytes) Essex1608catdet.JPG (172851 bytes)
Essex1613scat2det.JPG (183695 bytes) Essex1625catP7.JPG (185359 bytes) Essex1626catP3.JPG (199000 bytes)

To complement the catwalks GMM includes bow and stern galleries. These items have the same beautiful perforated walkway and are as, if not more, prominent than the flight deck edge catwalks. Each gallery has railing on both sides. They are attached to the underside of the flight deck overhang at the bow and stern. In these positions, they cannot help but be noticed. 


Bow & Stern Galleries
Essex1611bowgall.JPG (121627 bytes) Essex1615sbowgall.JPG (133107 bytes) Essex1619sbowgallend.JPG (127936 bytes)
Essex1620aftgall.JPG (139109 bytes) Essex1628catgalldet.JPG (176257 bytes) Essex1621galleryends.JPG (164377 bytes)

The Essex Class had a lattice structure as part of the tripod mast. This lattice work varied in height between early fits and late war fits. As Gold Medal Models has designed this fret for early, mid and late war Essex Class carriers, Loren Perry has provided not only the early fit lattice structure but also the late war taller lattice. Another prominent feature on the island is the wind deflector or baffles. GMM provides two strips of wind deflectors with 160 deflector supports, which create the distinctive honeycomb look. This is probably the most delicate assembly of the fret, as each support is extremely small but GMM has notched the deflector strips to simplify the attachment of the supports to the correct positions on the defector. The way these pieces are designed, they are equally suitable for round bridge or angular bridge variants of the class. Although not part of the bridge detail another large and distinctive item is the Landing Signal Officer position. At first I wondered why GMM included one as one had appeared on the basic fret. However, after a quick check, I discovered that the one on the basic fret was for the aft LSO position. The one included on this fret is for the bow position. It includes two options for windscreens, with and without a window. Additionally GMM provides two substitute boat cranes.


Island & LSO Detail
Essex1607tripods.JPG (198319 bytes) Essex1603baffles.JPG (192507 bytes) Essex1618lso.JPG (170342 bytes) Essex1627cranedet.JPG (199286 bytes)

The second major area of emphasis for this fret is the outfitting of the ship’s armament. Every gun position on the ship will receive its own super-detailing treatment courtesy of Gold Medal Models GMM 350-22A. Each twin 5-inch/38 position receives a special platform. The lower two positions (#1 & #4) receive distinctive large platforms, while the super-firing positions (#2 & #3) receive smaller platform extensions. With both styles the deck is perforated and the large lower platforms display a very distinctive deck design. Open mount single 5-inch/38 mounts on the port side receive gun rails with fusing position on each left rail. The 40mm Bofors receive gun shields, sights and aft railing. Two types of aft railing are supplied on the fret. One design is for the early Essex and another for the late war variants. GMM also supplies a template to ensure that the gun shields are shaped correctly. GMM supplies 18 sets of parts for the Bofors. Last but far from least are the parts for 61 Oerlikon 20mm positions. Each Oerlikon will receive a gun shield, elevation wheel, gun sight and shoulder brace. Frankly, these parts are indispensable to accurately portray these gun positions from 5-inch to 20mm. 


Armament Detail
Essex1606gunplat.JPG (152998 bytes) Essex1614platext.JPG (155777 bytes) Essex1622fiveopen.JPG (105299 bytes)
Essex1617open5.JPG (152749 bytes) Essex1598bofors.JPG (209314 bytes) Essex1599shield.JPG (216131 bytes) Essex1616oerlikondet.JPG (174627 bytes)

While the bulk of this fret is comprised of critical "must have" items, GMM has included smaller items that may be characterized as "bells and whistles". I use this phrase, not to down grade them, but to indicate that they serve to provide the last degree of super-detailing as opposed to being a critical item. GMM has included four different designs of bridge mounted loud speakers in this fret. Each has its own distinctive shape and size. Which type you use depends upon the particular ship that you are building. If you wish to portray your Essex Class carrier in landing operations, GMM includes a full set of arresting wire sheaves and barrier supports. Rounding out the fret are extra whaleboat detail and accommodation ladders. 


Bells & Whistles
Essex1624spkr14.JPG (192474 bytes) Essex1604spkr2.JPG (195862 bytes) Essex1602loud.JPG (188764 bytes)
Essex1612spkrD.JPG (173292 bytes) Essex1623arrest.JPG (158399 bytes) Essex1601sheaves.JPG (164779 bytes) Essex1605aclad.JPG (192236 bytes)

Instructions
The instructions for the Gold Medal Models Gold Plus Essex Set are in the typical GMM modular format. One large, back printed, page shows modules for the assembly and attachment of the contents of the fret. Each module clearly shows assembly in a clear, concise diagram as well as text. There is no ambiguity in these instructions. Thirty seconds to read the text and study the diagram of a particular module is more than sufficient to allow the modeler to assemble the parts in that particular step correctly the first time out. 


Instructions
Essex1629Inst1.JPG (59960 bytes) Essex1630Inst1a.JPG (106931 bytes) Essex1631Inst1b.JPG (105635 bytes) Essex1632Inst1c.JPG (140063 bytes)
Essex1633Inst2.JPG (55473 bytes) Essex1634Inst2a.JPG (139640 bytes) Essex1635Inst2b.JPG (51447 bytes) Essex1636Inst2c.JPG (82489 bytes)

Verdict
The parts beautifully crafted and are of the highest quality and precision. The Gold Plus Essex Set does complement, rather than supplement the Gold Medal Models Basic Essex Set. Almost all of the parts on this fret are as important as any on the basic fret. The two frets, basic and Gold Plus, form the whole ensemble, allowing the super-detailing of the 1:350 scale USS Essex or any of her sisters.

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