Kit: Minicraft 1/144 DC-3

Price: US$10.00

Markings: Pan Am 1940, Swissair 1939, KLM orange neutrality scheme 1939

Accuracy: not quite, but close enough for me with some fixes

Review and photo by: Andy Abshier

The DC-3 is truly the airplane that needs no introduction. It is probably on everybody's short list of greatest aircraft designs ever built, and after 60+ years of flying its stellar reputation continues unabated. Most military modelers know this design as the C-47, but the DC-3 was built, first and foremost, as an airliner. It was only the first role that the DC-3 excelled at; by the start of World War II, 90% of all air passengers in the United States were on DC-3s.

The traditional airliner scale of 1/144th has always lacked an injection-molded kit of this airplane. Minicraft finally stepped in to fill this gap in 1996. My first impression upon opening the box was that it sure was a cute lil' thing! Only 37 parts are needed to build the model. All parts feature excellent scribed detail; the landing gear, even in this small scale, is very nicely done, though the tires could have been better. Then I looked at the fuselage, and that's when I started noticing the problems.

The fuselage is molded with solid cabin windows. Though a lot of the airline builders like using decals, I'm not one of them so I would have preferred that these were supplied open. A clear windshield is provided; the opening for it in the fuselage is rather large for the scale (as is the windshield). The nose seems a bit chunky, also. A DC-3 tailcone is molded on, but is too long. Finally, there are 8 window outlines molded on the right side but the 8th window is opposite the boarding door--a configuration I have never seen on an actual DC-3.

The boarding door is scribed with an angled bottom edge, and the baggage door is large. These were both common modifications to postwar DC-3s, so as such they are not inaccurate, but the configuration given is wrong for the decal options provided. Swissair and KLM both used DC-3s with right-hand passenger doors and small baggage doors. In addition, the two airlines (and most other pre-war airliner DC-3s) used Wright single-row radials, not the Pratt & Whitney dual-row radials supplied in the Minicraft kit. The P&W engines are OK for the Pan Am version.

Lest you think I am very hard on this model, I can tell you that most of the fixes are not hard to do. It is easy work to fill in the incorrect 8th window and sand it smooth; ditto for the passenger door and cargo door, if not needed for your variant. Fixing the tailcone wasn't difficult. With careful assembly and judicious masking, the windshield area came out looking much more accurate than the kit parts would have suggested.

Most of the parts come together easily. The wing and vertical tail trailing edges are agreeably sharp, even though they are molded in halves. The lower wing is molded in one piece tip to tip, and the upper wing halves fit well to the lower half. Wing to fuselage fit is not as good, but I found that by cementing the wings to the fuselage before gluing the lower front fuselage halves together that a much easier gap to fill--the lower fuselage--was left instead of having to deal with the wing roots!

I chose the Liveries Unlimited BEA sheet to finish my model. It just happens that BEA used the passenger door and cargo door as scribed on the kit, which was a plus for me! The model was finished with SnJ Spray Metal with Testor's Gloss White for the upper surface. The LU sheet provided the de-icer boots. I first sprayed the de-icer decals with flat coat, then cut the boots out close to the margins. Once on the model, the flat-coated decals responded well to decal solvent, and the result was de-icers with a painted-on look but for a lot less work!

The Minicraft kit is good. It needs some help to bring it to full potential, but it nonetheless fills an important gap in any 1/144th transport collection. May their forthcoming L-1049 and DC-6B kits be better!

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