KIT: Beechnut 1/72 PT-16/20
KIT #: 1
PRICE: $13.00 at the time
NOTES: Company long out of business


            A 1934 civilian design, the Ryan ST – Sport Trainer, begat a series of primary trainers which were the first mount of most of the US’s WWII aviators.  Increasing model numbers generally denoted larger engines with related improvements. The PT-21 featured a bullet-nosed 5 cylinder Kiner radial. The –22 featured the largest engine, and in northern climes, the civility of a fully enclosed cockpit.


            A score or more years ago saw the advent of the short run model kit craze.  “Craze” may be an inappropriate term, because the only  crazy ones  may have been the proprietors of the cottage companies. The premise may have been valid that for the reward of building unusual subjects modelers would pay a premium price not only in $$, but in labor, patience, and sanity. The economics  behind the premise were not.  Only one of the original fist-full survives (Pegasus).

            One of the last to arrive on and first to depart the scene was Beechnut, which debuted with this kit. The accompanying pictures describe better than any accretion of words what awaited the modeler on opening the plastic bag. Most parts were useful only as guides for finding or building alternate pieces, which is how this example was built. Under circumstances that age has turned  fuzzy, I spoke to Beechnut’s founder, one Jim Usted, who confessed to being also the CEO, President, Financial Officer, Master Sculptor, Tool and Die Maker, Production Crew,  Advertising Manager, Shipping Department, Accounts Receivable, and Customer Service Division, though he was somehow not the sole decision maker. He apologized for the kit’s shortcomings, saying that despite his initial instinct to keep things simple, as with solid wing panels, he had been talked into trying to do too much too soon. His promise to correct faults in the future was well kept. Subsequent releases nudged the state of the mainstream art, though getting one together was never an OOB (Out of the Box) affair. (q.v. my Stinson L-5 Sentinel review.)


            The first step with one of these kits is deciding what to keep and what to replace.  The fuselage halves were by necessity keepers, so these underwent extensive cleanup, to include opening of the sealed cockpit holes and thinning of the insides so a pair of seats could be squeezed in. The attached vertical fin and rudder were grossly oversize and had to be filed and re-scribed.

            Doing likewise to the horizontal tailplanes didn’t appear profitable. I found a set from a wrecked Monogram P-6, and using the scale drawings that came with the kit re-contoured them to an acceptable approximation.

            The same technique provided a pair of wing panels far superior to those Mr. Usted molded.  The starting point for the Extreme Makeover was the lower wing of a Revell PT-17 (Stearman).  The chord had to be narrowed, the tips re-shaped, the control surfaces filled and re-scribed, and the exaggerated rib scalloping toned down.  After mounting to the fuselage trailing edge fillets had to be formed from judiciously shaped blobs of epoxy.

            A replacement set of spatted landing legs was just too much to expect, so the four halves were duly thinned, mated, and prettied up. Prior to painting holes had to be drilled for the exhaust stacks and the air intake opened and shaped.


            Most Ryans had polished aluminum fuselages and chrome yellow flying surfaces. Some wore USAAC blue, so that’s what this one got; a scheme copied from a photograph of one which oddly did not wear the usual number on the nose or flank. Insignia, rudder stripes, and underwing  “U.S. ARMY” came from the spares pile. A heavy coating of Future glossed over all glitches.


            Windshields were formed by heat-wrapping pieces of acetate around a dowel, followed by tedious snipping and sanding. Tail wheel and wing struts popped out of the spares box, along with a prop whose spinner had to be enlarged with putty. Exhaust pipes were bits of pulled sprue, which was also the medium of choice for rigging, as the model seemed too small to survive all the drilling necessary to run my usual monofilament thread.


            The Beechnut PT built up into a not entirely accurate but at the time acceptable representation of a pretty and historically important airplane.  Several of the Ryan series have since been kitted by Pavla or MPM and may still be available.

May 2007

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