I've been adding ongoing models to the Scalemates website, which allows you to create "projects" and then photo albums for models and link the two, and the act of uploading photos of the 1/700 Essex I've had on the workbench for years finally nudged me to finish it.
The model represents the Essex in the class' earliest configuration, with its initial radar rig and limited AA armament, and no hull number or prominent striping on the flight deck. I removed all the kit's masts and radars (painted red) and replaced them with photoetch and plastic, most notably lowering the SC radar to its initial (and extremely unsatisfactory) lower location on the starboard side of the funnel. It was raised before the Essex went into combat to the location shown atop a lattice tower in the first photo.
While the lead ship of the class initially carried aircraft in the familiar blue gray over light gray camouflage with round national insignia in six locations as shown in the March 1943 photo below taken during Essex's shakedown, by May the left wing locations had been painted over. This was what the Essex looked like during her early 1943 shakedown and as she entered Pearl Harbor in May 1943, as shown in the photo to the right, which was the appearance I wanted to model.
Completing the ship today didn't take much – I added the five deck-edge lattice towers, and I had to scratchbuild the director tower located in front of the island since I lost the kit pieces, but after the LUT, that's a piece of cake with rod and tube plastic and a kit director.
I could not avoid a very noticeable seam at the hangar deck level – that's just the nature of the kit, and one reason I didn't go overboard on detailing it.
The Essex makes a nice addition to the 1992 Lexington (CV-16) and 1993 Ticonderoga (still incomplete) on the late war shelf. It does make clear that the Navy Blue (5-N) I was using back then was entirely too dark. While I'll correct that on CV-14 when I get around to finishing it – the other two colors are close enough – the Lexington has far too much detail to ever be wholly repainted, so it'll probably stay as is.