Williams Bros 1/72 C-46 Commando Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||July 2008||Manufacturer||Williams Bros|
|Kit Number||72346||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Neat WWII U.S. transport aircraft||Cons||Raised panel lines may not please some modelers|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$32.95|
The Curtiss C-46 Commando was the outgrowth of a civilian transport design. It was first flown during 1940. Military production versions served as both troop transports and cargo aircraft in WWII, and continued active military service as late as the 1960’s, with units of the United States and foreign countries. Also, many war-surplus C-46s were employed by airlines in different parts of the world.
A partial list of users would include: the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Chinese Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Japanese Self-Defense Force, Flying Tiger Airline, Braniff, All-American Airways, and many many more.
The aircraft is most famous for “Flying the Hump” in the Far East during WWII. This was over the Himalaya Mountains, transporting desperately needed supplies to troops in China from bases in India and Burma. A variety of transports had previously been employed in the effort, but only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains. 3,140 were built.
Williams Brothers had a changing of the guard, in December of 2004. After 45 years in business, and founded by the late, original brothers Larry and Gainger, the immediate family could not continue the business. So, in March of 2005, all rights and assets required to produce the original products were purchased and moved from Los Osos, CA to Taylor, TX by Brett Industries, Inc.
To sustain the legacy of the original founders, the parent corporation will continue to operate under the brand name of “Williams Brothers Model Products”. The return of the products back to production began in August of 2005, with shipments starting in late August.
With nearly 200 products needed, production will focus priorities in the order of wheels, guns, pilots, engines, aircraft kits, HO kits and accessories until inventory can sustain operations at reasonable levels.
At the time that my 20 year old kit was produced in 1988, Williams Bros. was then located in San Marcos, CA.
The kit comes in a sturdy tray and lid type box. The boxart shows a C-46 flying over clouds and a coastline. It is in overall bare metal with U.S. star and bar insignia on the left wing and fuselage sides and the black tail number 2968093. The wing leading edge and the leading edge of the tail deicer boots are black. Next to this boxart is a short history of the C-46, followed by the kit’s features: two different propeller types, two types of wheels – injection molded or vinyl, landing gear can be installed extended or retracted and a selection of various decal markings.
A side panel shows color illustrations of other models in the Williams Bros. Line: a Northrop “Gamma” aircraft, a Boeing 247, a Spandau, Vickers, Parabellum and Lewis machine gun, a La Rhone radial engine, a Wright Whirlwind radial engine and a Pratt & Whitney “Wasp” radial engine and a Martin B10 bomber. No kit numbers are given for any of these or scales.
The other side panel has full color profiles of 2 other paint schemes offered on the kit’s decal sheet.
One is for an all bare metal aircraft of the Chinese Air Force. It has the Chinese national insignia on the wings and sides of the fuselage, blue and white horizontal stripes on the rudder and C-46289 in white on the tail. It has black de-icer boots on the wing leading edges and the leading edge of the tail.
The second one is in the markings of the Flying Tiger Line. It is overall bare metal. It has Flying Tiger Line in cursic letters and in red down the sides of the fuselage, with a red, white and blue stripe below, running the whole length of the fuselage from the nose to the front of the horizontal tail surfaces. There is a white oval on this stripe that has an illustration of the nose of a C-46 with a shark mouth on it. It has the dark blue registration number N67981 on the tail with a horizontal red, white and blue stripe above it. This number is repeated again under both wings in large letters in dark blue again. This one also has black de-icer boots on wings and tail. Both of these schemes are on the decal sheet. The decal sheet also has a black instrument panel and black wing walkways.
A fourth scheme on the decal sheet is not pictured on the box lid. It is of a C-46 with the U.S.A.A.F. circa 1943. It is in olive drab above and neutral gray below. The olive drab extends halfway down the fuselage sides. The aircraft has the early war U.S. white star insignias on blue circles with the red centers. It has the black de-icer boots and the tail number 15159 in white.
Inside the box are 2 large medium gray trees of parts in a sealed cello bag, a tree of clear parts and 2 black vinyl tires in a second sealed cello bag, the large decal sheet, the instructions and a membership application blank to join IPMS USA for the 1976-77 membership year. (membership cost $8.50 a year back then, by the way).
The instructions consist of a large single sheet of 17” x 11” format, printed on both sides. It is folded in half of it’s length to fit the box.
The face side begins with a short history of the C-46, followed by very thorough written instructions of how to proceed building each part of the kit’s anatomy. Then, there are minute descriptions of all the paint schemes offered in the kit.
The reverse of this page has one big exploded drawing to use for assembly. Next to the parts shown are painting suggestions for the scheme that you choose. The bottom of the page has a 3-view line drawing showing the C-46 head on, from above and variations of the horizontal tail trim tabs. There is a scrap drawing, in one corner of this sheet, showing 8 different types of masts and antennas that were employed on various C-46’s.
This kit is not a SHAKE THE BOX kit. It is aimed at experienced modelers, as some things have to be adjusted and changed – according to the scheme you want to do. Examples are: if you want shortened wings, you have to shorten them using the template on the instructions. If you are doing a version that has the observation blister on the top of the fuselage, you have to cut a hole for it. If you want wheels down, the doors are molded shut underneath the cowlings for the wheel wells. You have to cut them off and discard them and then use the individual doors, with nice interior detail. The horizontal tail flaps can have alternate tabs, depending on the version you do. If you do the Flying Tiger Airlines scheme, you have to scribe in an extra trim tab on the rudder for that. So, check your references for these changes needed for different versions and also where antenna went on them…and where. This is all left up to the advanced modelers amongst us.
There are no parts tree drawing in the instructions, also no part numbers are called out – nor are there any on the parts trees. You have to identify things by their shape in the big exploded drawing. This might make for some tedious work – for sure.
The first large medium gray parts tree holds: the fuselage halves, a lower wing center section, main wheels, engine cylinders, cowling parts, the dashboard, football shaped antennas, landing gear legs and struts, a bulkhead, cockpit floor, tail wheel, wing flap mass balances and pilot seats. (there are no crew figures in the kit) (37 parts)
The second large medium gray parts tree holds: the upper and lower wing halves, the horizontal tail upper and lower halves, individual propeller blades & centers, Cabin floor, landing gear doors, main wheel well upper walls etc. (41 parts) There are two types of propeller blades on this tree: 4 bladed propeller “cuffed” blades and 3 bladed propeller “Uncuffed” blades.
Detail on the kit is of the raised panel line variety. The kit was state of the art, back in 1988 when it was first released.
The small clear parts tree holds the cockpit and fuselage cabin windows and a clear observation dorsal bubble.(13 parts)
The two alternate black vinyl main wheel tires are next.
The decal sheet, already described above, completes the kit’s contents.
This is one neat kit and – as far as I know – is the only show in town for a model of the C-46 that has ever been produced.