Monogram 1/77 Ford Trimotor

KIT #: PA-15
PRICE: 75 cents when new
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: Original 1956 issue


The Ford Trimotor has to be considered one of the ten most significant and influential transport aircraft in the history of aviation.  Its origins and history are well known, and the design stems from a combination of metal working techniques developed by Dr. Hugo Junkers in Germany during World War I, and the concept of the high wing tri-motor monoplanes developed by Anthony Fokker in the nineteen-twenties.  The original American all-metal transports were developed by Bill Stout’s Stout Metal Airplane Company, which was acquired by Henry Ford, who saw the future of aviation in the all-metal airplane.  Stout developed several Liberty powered mailplanes, eventually evolving into the Model 2-AT, which was a trimotor design.  This was unsuccessful, and Ford fired Stout, replacing him with Harold Hicks.  Later, a Trimotor Model 3AT powered by three Wright J-4’s of 200 hp. each, was built and flown, but this ungainly contraption was not what they were looking for, so the next design, the Model 4-AT, was built.  This became the prototype for the classic Trimotor, although minor changes were made, including the addition of an enclosed cockpit and different window arrangements.  Two basic models were produced,  the 11 passenger 4-AT with three Wright J-6 engines, and the 5-AT, which had three Pratt and Whitney Wasp radials.   The slightly larger 5-AT carried 13 to 15 passengers, and a total of about 200 Trimotors of both models was completed between 1925 and 1932, when production ended.  Some accounts say that Ford got out of aviation because several of his test pilots were killed in crashes, but the development of the more modern Boeing 247 and later the Douglas DC-2 probably heavily influenced this decision.

Ford did develop a Model 14 Trimotor prototype, but although the plane was ground tested, it was never flown, and Ford’s single place “Flivver” monoplane was never produced.  There were also several single engine prototypes, and a bomber version for the Army Air Corps was also tested. The approximately 200 Trimotors produced by Ford were operated by over 100 airlines throughout the world, and besides regular airline operation, they were used by barnstormers, freight haulers, aerial refuellers, forest fire tankers, sprayers, and parachute jump operations.  Today, approximately 11 Trimotors survive, although there may be more on static display in museums.  Several are regularly flown, giving the public a chance to experience the nostalgia of a bumpy ride in a noisy cabin.


 Two kits have been issued of the Trimotor over the years.  In 1956,  Monogram introduced a  Model 4-AT,  with an estimated scale of 1/77,  featuring a  the sloped windshield. The original kit depicted the Ford displayed in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan’s Greenfield Village.  This was the plane flown during the Admiral Byrd Antarctic Expedition in 1929, and the kit includes both wheels and skis, including two “Eskimo” looking persons and three sled dogs, along with a somewhat detailed sled.  The problem is that the plane in the Ford Museum, 4-AT-B, NX 4542, c/n 4-AT-15, has a Wright engine and a three bladed metal prop on the nose, , and the kit  engines look somewhat different from those on the displayed aircraft.  There is a photo of this same aircraft in the Ingells book on p. 44 which shows the airplane on wheels with a tailskid, in the same configuration as the kit, with three identical engines and propellers.  The colors are uncertain, although my black and white 616 photos of the plane in the Dearborn Museum in 1975 are listed with the colors of silver, red, black, and white, indicating that the NX numbers on the wings may have been red.  This is the color given in the kit decals, and since my decals were in reasonably good shape considering their age , which could be fifty years or more, were used to reproduce copies on my computer.  I opted for the black numbers, as this was the most common color for registration numbers on Fords.  The plane in the museum is definitely not in the same configuration as the one depicted in the kit.

The kit has been reissued numerous times, starting with P-15-98 and PA-15-98. Yep, that’s 98 cents, folks. The kits had skis and wheels, but no real tailwheel.  Later, the reissues included wheels only, along with a revised rudder and a new tailwheel unit.  One issue had decals and painting instructions for one of the Island Airlines Fords operated from Port Clinton, Ohio, to the Put-In-Bay Island resort  in Lake Erie.

In 1983, Monogram reissued the kit as #6056-0200, apparently with a $2.00 price tag.  It gives the same plastic as provided in the original, The tailwheel in the kit is no different, although the drawings show a different form. The decals provide markings for the Byrd airplane (NX4542) and for a TWA marked aircraft, N414H, which was used for publicity purposes during the 1980’s. The later issues are probably available at swap meets, and are worth getting.  However, I’ve seen and photographed N414H. and it is a 5-AT, not a 4-AT, so you’d best use these decals with the Airfix kit if you want to be accurate.

This is the only kit depicting the model 4-AT, and can be used for any of the 4-AT variants. I’ve done the original prototype, which requires new cabin windows, an open cockpit, and other modifications.  A few 4-AT’s appear to have been fitted with flat windshields like the 5-AT, and these could be vacuformed if necessary.

The Airfix Ford depicts a model 5-AT, and is in true 1/72 scale.  It is a much later kit, and much superior in most respects, but it does represent a different model, with different dimensions, so it probably makes more sense to use the Airfix kit for the 5-AT and its variants, while using the Monogram kit for the earlier models.

The kit is molded in silver plastic, and provides 33 parts plus 4 clear plastic window assemblies.  There is no cabin or cockpit interior, although not much can be seen in the passenger cabin, and little can be seen in the cockpit.  For a kit of this vintage, there isn’t much flash, although some trimming is required.


The windows should be glued in place before major assembly, and the little triangular window should be inserted into the cabin top before the wing is attached to the fuselage. Also, add the windshield, making sure that it fits in place correctly. I used white glue to seal the gaps, and it worked fine.   I made a small floor, with seats and a control column, with an instrument panel in front. They fit on a small ledge inside the cockpit area.  The cockpit detail is not very visible through the windows, but I know it’s there.  Glue the fuselage halves together, making sure that all seams are in contact.  There is a small seam on top of the fuselage that may require some trimming and filling, but this is nothing serious. Add the landing gear struts and the rear stabilizer bracing struts before attaching the fuselage bottom section. Clamp this in place. Be sure to mask all of the windows before adding the wings.  Since the side cabin windows are identical, they are childishly easy to mask.

The wings are molded in three pieces, and they fit quite nicely, although getting the seam removed from the leading edge corrugations  can be quite a chore.  It takes a lot of sanding and  filing, but can be done.  The fuselage almost snaps together, and the horizontal tail surfaces fit into place easily,  typical of Monogram kits of a later generation.  The rudder mounting tab take a little trimming, but also fits into place with no problems.  The wing-fuselage fit requires a little trimming, but only a little filling is required on the seams above the cabin.  The engine nacelles fit perfectly, although some trimming is needed, and the struts align themselves properly. Once the struts are added, the nacelles fit into place under the wings.  Since the airplane is silver, all of this can be done before painting.   The engines should be painted silver, and then the cylinders can be painted black, as per instructions. I trimmed the pushrod housings off with a knife to make them look silver, and the results were good.  The prop on the fuselage engine should probably have  black rear blade surfaces as an anti-glare measure, especially since the cowling immediately ahead of the cockpit is painted black, or dark blue.  I just left the other props silver, as they needed no anti-glare paint. Now the engines can be attached to their mounting positions.


Once the wings, tail surfaces, and engine nacelles are on, an overall coat of silver can be applied.  After that, I coated the model with Glosscote, in preparation for the decals.  My newly made decals worked perfectly, although fit on the corrugated surface could have been a little better.  With the decals in place, I attached the skis and made sure they lined up properly.  They just pop into place. Just sitting the airplane on a flat surface forced the skis into the proper position.  Now the various wires and control cables can be attached while the masking tape on the windows is removed.  Use a good three view for the wire locations, but all of the control horns except for the rudder are molded into the control surfaces.  You’ll need to make this one. Keep in mind that if you build the wheeled version, the plane has a tailskid, not a tailwheel, as shown in the photo below.


This kit is an oldie and a classic, but with a minimum of experience,  the average modeler should be able to get this one together easily.  Remember that the modeling public at that point in time was mostly kids, not adults, so the kit was designed with that in mind. Still, the kit can be made into a very presentable model without a lot of effort, and it looks very good on my shelf next to other models in the same general scale.  This kit is worth getting several of, especially if you want to model some of the basic Ford variants. There are some after- market decals available, but the basic kit decals are also useable.  Get several of these if you want to build this historic airplane. Unless they reissue it, the price is bound to go up.


There is certainly no shortage of materials and information relating to the Ford Trimotor. Perhaps the most notable author on the subject is William T. Larkins, a lifelong aircraft photographer (still active), founder of the American Aviation Historical Society, and author of several works on the Ford, including “The Ford Story” and Profile  No. 156 on the Ford Trimotor. Douglas Ingells also produced a short paperback “Tin Goose”, which gives a useful historical account of the Trimotor’s career and lots of good photos. .  There are numerous sources on-line, so there is no reason to not have the information when you start one of these models.

Brian Baker

June 2015

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