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Back-dating the Revell 1/96th Constitution to the Tripoli/Barbary Coast years, or use another?

9 replies
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  • Member since
    April 2003
Back-dating the Revell 1/96th Constitution to the Tripoli/Barbary Coast years, or use another?
Posted by nfafan on Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:52 AM

Hello all,

A couple years ago I went USS Constitutionally bonkers and acquired several plastic USS Constitution kits;

I have the smallish, 1-piece hull Monogram kit

The Monogram via IMAI-molds/ ex-Aoshima  1/120th(?) kit

The current Revell 1/196th(?) kit you find everywhere

An old Revell kit in unknown scale (smaller than IMAI/Monogram) – this is the one that has 4 open gun ports on each side – all others molded closed

And two of the big 1/96th Revell kits

Can anyone suggest what simple mods can be done to backdate these kits to reflect the Barbary Coast cruises and the 1812 sorties?

Or which kit(s) to consider for “post-war” versions, such as a version representing the post-1812 Pacific cruise version? 

Thanks in advance!

  • Member since
    June 2010
  • From: Irvine, CA
Posted by Force9 on Friday, March 29, 2013 10:43 PM

Hello nfafan...

I think a representation in the Barbary years would be very interesting.  Firstly it would require attention to removing/replacing a few elements from the kit.  The double dolphin striker would need to be replaced with a single, the trysail mast has to go, and the forward most gunport on the main gun deck would need to be filled in.  Additionally the bow trailboard would need the dragon and other elements removed and replaced with something generic.  I don't know what it should look like, but we do know those decorative elements were added in a later refit.  A figurehead (Hercules?) would need to be added. The stern would probably benefit with some additional ornamentation.

The masts might require rope wooldings instead of iron hoops... Dunno for certain.  Her armament might need to be altered based on additional research (Tyrone Martin "A Most Fortunate Ship" probably has it)

The Corne painting commissioned by Commodore Preble provides nice guidance for painting and other details for this period:

I hope you pursue this approach and post some pictures of your progress.



  • Member since
    April 2003
Posted by nfafan on Sunday, March 31, 2013 1:20 AM

Thanks for the reply!  Have a question on the Corne painting; I know why the white "band" around the gun ports was often painted ochre for deception during the 1812 campaigns, but any idea as to why Preble went with an ochre "band" around the gun ports as opposed to white in 1803, when not at war with England?  Going to have to get the "Most fortune ship" out again and do some reading...

  • Member since
    June 2010
  • From: Irvine, CA
Posted by Force9 on Monday, April 1, 2013 11:11 PM

The explanation for the 1803 ochre scheme is no more interesting than that being the standard gun stripe color of the world navies in that day.  The US was wild and crazy when they moved toward white gun stripes prior to the War of 1812.  I think it would've been unusual if the Constitution did NOT have an ochre stripe in 1803.

  • Member since
    June 2006
  • From: Carmichael, CA
Posted by Carmike on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 11:47 PM

I'm thinking that John Tilley (jtilley) is probably the best source of information on this matter, since the painting of the "Federal" frigates was proably greatly influenced by the practices which were followed for the frigates built during the Revolution.

I found the illustration below off the U.S.S. Constitution off Tripoli in 1804 on the web some time ago while considering the same subject.  

Assuming that this is accurate, the paint scheme seems to follow the general pattern for English warships for the period 1775 through 1798 (please see Model Ship Builder, Mar/Apr 1987, "English Warships in the Daysof Sail, Part IV"):

Hull: Yellow with black wales (in the picture above, the yellow extends far below the gun ports, so it is probably more than a streak) - the brig trailing the Constitution definitely has a yellow hull.  It also looks as though the masts are yellow (rather than white)

Upper works: Black, yellow or gilded carved work

Interior: Red (more likely green, but this is a guess on my part).

Bottom: Copper

Chapelle, "The American Sailing Navy," notes that "...the painting of the ships of the Navy was left to the commander's taste for a very long period; at least no regulations concerning this have been found prior to the '30's [1830's].  In the War of 1812, the American frigates were usually black, with a bright yellow streak along the gun ports, British fashion."  (page 417).

Good luck!


  • Member since
    September 2016
Posted by myhr99 on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 2:36 PM
Am also converting the REVELL 1/96 CONSTITUTION to 1803 appearance under Preble. Humphries building draft shows open railings along the entire length, but apparently she was built with stern bulwarks planked. I remember reading somewhere that the forecastle bulwarks were not planked until around 1808, but I can't find that reference now. Anyone know if the forecastle had open railings in 1803, similar to what's seen on images and models of USS ESSEX?
  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Chapin, South Carolina
Posted by Shipwreck on Sunday, April 1, 2018 8:45 AM

Here is some info from the Navy:

Documentation concerning USS Constitution & the color of her gun streak:

1804 October, Nathaniel Haraden, Constitution Sailing Master notes several times in his log book that the crew was employed painting the hull of the ship black and the gun streak/stripe yellow; see

Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Volume 5, between pps. 73-81. 

On the Bench:

Revell 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird

Revell 1/96 USS Constitution - rigging

Trumpeter 1/350 USS Hornet CV-8

Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer Prep & Reasearch



  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: North Carolina, USA
Posted by Model Monkey on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 8:48 AM

Enjoying the thread, great discussion.  Building mine as in 1812 but am fascinated by the ship's earlier appearance. 

Best wishes to all on your models.

  • Member since
    September 2005
  • From: Groton, CT
Posted by warshipguy on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 2:39 PM


I would also purchase the CD USS Constitution Plans published and sold through the USS Constitution Museum.  It includes many drawings of how the ship changed throughout each of her conversions.  You might also contact the museum for specific information about her appearance in 1803.  And, don't be surprised by the ochre gunport stripe; Constitution changed the color several times.  She even sailed around the world once painted white with a crimson stripe.

I would recommend the Revell 1/96 kit for the conversion.  Of all the models of the ship, this one seems to more closely represent her in the War of 1812 era, although the model does not truly do so. Look at Force 9's log. The smaller Revell kit represents her between 1833 and 1870.  The Imai/Ertl/Monogram kit looks to be of a later period.


  • Member since
    September 2005
  • From: Groton, CT
Posted by warshipguy on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 10:20 AM

I also found this link to a great model of the USS Constitution at the time of her launch.

Please note the open bulwarks, the Hercules figurehead, single martingale, the color scheme, two yards on the bowsprit, and the different propostions to the masts and rigging.

If the link does not work, simply go to and look in the March 2007 folder.  The story was posted March 16, 2007 at 3:26 p.m.




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