Croco 1/72 Nakajima Ki-34 (updated preview - See Below)
Scott Van Aken
The Ki-34 was originally designed as a civil transport. Nakajima
Aircraft Company, which had the license-production rights to the Douglas DC-2,
began design work in 1935 on a smaller twin engine airliner for routes which did
not have the capacity to justify use of the larger DC-2. The initial design was
designated AT-1, and after numerous design iterations, flew as
a prototype designated AT-2 on 12 September 1936. The design was all metal,
except for the flight control surfaces, which were plywood. The wings used a
multi-cell cantilever design. The prototype was fitted with 432 kW
(580 hp) Nakajima Kotobuki 2-1 radial engines with fixed pitch
wooden propellers, which were replaced in production models with Kotobuki-41
529 kW (710 hp) nine-cylinder radial engines, with variable pitch metal
A total of 32 AT-2s were produced for Imperial Japanese Airways (Dai
Nippon Koku KK) and Manchukuo National Airways, operating on scheduled routes
between Tokyo and Hsinking, Tokyo and Tianjin, and within Manchukuo. These
aircraft remained in operational service until the surrender of Japan in August
With a high demand for increased military transport capability after the
start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the Imperial Japanese
Army adapted the AT-2 design for military use by fitting with more powerful
Nakajima Ha-1b radial engines and re-designating the aircraft as the Army Type
97 Transport and Ki-34. The initial 19 aircraft were produced by Nakajima
Aircraft, and another 299 aircraft were subsequently produced by the
Army-affiliated Tachikawa Hikoki K.K.. The final airframe was delivered in 1942.
In operational service, the Ki-34 was used as a utility
aircraft for liaison and communications duties, and for paratrooper training
and Special Forces operations.
At a later date, some aircraft were transferred to the Imperial Japanese
Navy, where they were known as the Navy Type AT-2 Transport or Nakajima L1N1.
Several were also transferred to the air force of the Japanese puppet state of
China-Nanjing in 1942.
Croco is a fairly new company from Latvia that has
produced a few kits of aircraft frequently overlooked by the mainstream kit
makers. This is one of his more recent, the Nakajima Ki-34 'Thora'. Most of you
have probably never heard of this aircraft and that is why one has to rely on
the 'garage kit' resin manufacturers for types like this.
kit is nicely molded with fine engraved panel lines. Typical of the genre, you
will need to clean up every part as there is some flash on it all. I found a few
air pockets, but they were quite small and those of us who have built kits like
this should be used to finding things like this. Rather than show a mass of
small resin parts embedded in resin wafers, I thought I'd provide some of the
major bits as an example.
You are provided with a full cockpit and cabin with the latter having side
mounted jump seats. Both pilot and co-pilot seats are molded onto a raised
section that fits on either side of the cockpit. A control stick and instrument
panel complete the cockpit. All of
the clear bits are vacuform plastic and two full sets are provided for the
cockpit section and the cabin windows. You also get a clear nose piece. Now I
know darn little about this plane, but from what I can glean from photos on the
net, the civilian version gets the clear nose piece and the military one a solid
All the flight surfaces are a single casting. The wing has a center section that
includes the bulk of the engine nacelles and the gear wells. Outer wings are a
butt join so I would highly recommend some sort of metal pits to hold the outer
sections in place. The engines are nicely molded and you have a choice of
cowlings. One has the little speed fairings around them and the other is smooth.
Again, looking at photos is the only way to determine which one you should use.
It is difficult to tell if the props are wooden or metal, but I guess it really
makes no difference.
The aircraft has no gear doors so that is something you don't need to worry
about. The landing gear is very nicely done and quite scale. This may cause
issues down the road from the weight of the model deforming the gear. Then
again, it may not. The main gear legs look like those from a DC-3/C-47 so you
might want to look into replacements from Scale Aircraft Conversions. main wheel
and tail wheel/gear are a single piece.
Instructions consist of two 4x6 inch photographs of drawings. One shows
detail stuff form the interior and landing gear, while the other is an exploded
view of the general airframe. There is a third that shows the markings and
photos on which the markings are based. OK, not standard stuff, but not really a
major deal and one that those who are building these sorts of kits should be
able work with. No readable color information is supplied (notes are written in
Two markings options are provided. Both planes appear to be overall
silver/unpainted metal. One is with the Manchukuo air force with a yellow fin.
This plane shows the solid engine cowlings. The other has some sort of writing
on the aft fuselage with a hinomaru on the fin. The photo of this plane I found
on the net shows it has the earlier cowling with the little cylinder fairings. I
was rather surprised that the tail marking from the box top photo was not
included as it seems that many of the 'net photos of the Ki-34 had these
markings. The decal sheet is very nicely printed with no registration errors.
had provided some updates in terms of parts for this kit. First of all, they
have added some cabin interior detailing in terms of fuselage framing. This
should provide something to look at if you build the door open. It also adds
strength to the fuselage halves. They have also provided a cabin floor piece,
which will help with stiffening as well.
they realized that the kit's resin gear would probably not work well holding up
the model so have produced the landing gear with metal reinforcement. This
applies to the axle stubs on it as well. The tail gear got the same treatment. I
know these are
not easy to make so two thumbs up to Croco for putting in the extra effort.
After initially posting this, I was informed that the decal sheet shown is an
optional sheet that you can get from Croco if you did not want to do the
standard military version as shown on the box top. This is the standard decal
sheet. It seems that a goodly number of Ki-34s served with this unit and an
Internet search will show a variety of camouflage schemes used on these planes.
All of the upgraded bits will be included in the kit you get from Croco.
I am a huge fan of these sorts of subjects and am
very pleased to see them being released in some form or another. Somewhere in
the piles, I have a Ki-57, which is what augmented/replaced this aircraft in
service and should really find the time to build it.
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