Minicraft/Hasegawa 1/72 T-34B Mentor
Kit Number: 088
Price: $4.00 for the Minicraft boxing when new (1983), though the last Hasegawa MSRP I saw was $15.00!
Decals: One version, a USN training squadron coded 2S
Reviewer: Scott Van Aken
Date of Review: 8 August 1997
The T-34B was the US Navy's first postwar primary trainer, replacing the SNJ and N2S biplane trainers of WWII. A simple aircraft devoid of any sophistication or powered controls, it was an aircraft with almost no vices and easily handled by even the most ham-fisted student pilot. It was finally replaced by a more complicated stable-mate, the turboprop-powered T-34C, an aircraft that is just now reaching the end of its service and will be replaced by the new JPATS aircraft. The ruggedness of the T-34B and simplicity of design is seen in the hundreds still flying with Navy and Marine Flying Clubs and operators world wide.
The kit is molded in light grey and comes complete with a tow tractor. I did not build the tractor, but it is a simple affair of about 10 parts. The T-34 itself is a rather simple kit to build, consisting of about 25 parts itself. The interior consists of an interior floor with instrument areas, two seats and two control sticks. The instrument panels are decals that are put on after the interior is painted a medium grey. There is an instrument package that fits behind the aft seat which is basically the ARN-6 ADF receiver antenna, the aircraft's sole long-range navigation aid. Once the cockpit is painted and installed in the fuselage, the fuselage is glued together and any assembling errors (in my case there are many) taken care of with sandpaper and putty. Be sure to load the nose with as much weight as you can as this plane is a dedicated tail sitter.
After that was done, the nose cap, with propeller, was attached. I wanted a spinning prop. You can put it on at the last stage if you want. The nose cap needed some sanding to properly mate with the surrounding fuselage. There is not much in the way of surface detail except a few raised lines. The wings are the relatively standard three-piece, full span a affair with the ailerons and flaps molded with the top wing, giving a nice sharp trailing edge. The wheel wells are not boxed in and have no detail. It was then attached to the fuselage and a bit of putty needed for a smooth blend. Addition of the horizontal stabilizers made for a complete airframe.
At this stage it was time to decide on a paint scheme. The kit scheme is for a T-34B late in its career with a white airframe and international orange panels, called the high-visibility split scheme. I wanted an all yellow scheme from earlier on. Looking through several books, I settled on a standard scheme coded 2C from NAAS Corry. Testor's Model Master paint was used and lightened up a bit as it looked too dark. The wheel wells and inside of the gear doors were painted aluminum and then stuffed with TP prior to painting. The canopy was also attached and masked off. Once the aircraft was painted, decals were applied. I used the wing walk decals, insignia and 'Navy' decals from the kit. Other numbers (code and serial) were from Microscale and Scalemaster sheets for individual numbers/letters. The anti-glare panels were cut from a sheet of solid black and trimmed to fit.
Final assembly consisted of installing the undercarriage (very fragile looking, but very strong), gear doors, landing lights, and prop spinner. The inside gear doors were normally closed, even after power was removed so they were glued in the up position. They could be lowered manually for maintenance.
Overall a very satisfying (and small) kit. In spite of loading the nose with weight, it will tail-sit if bumped. I have wanted to buy several more, but the outrageous price I have seen this kit listed for recently has successfully stayed my hand from my wallet! If you can stomach the price, it is very much recommended. There is a vacuform conversion kit for the T-34C available from Astra models should you wish to do the turbine-powered version and several years ago, Czech Model released two versions of the T-34C in 1/48 scale.
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