Minicraft 1/48 T-34 Mentor Quick Build Review
|Date of Review||February 2018||Manufacturer||Minicraft|
|Kit Number||11671||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nicely detailed kit||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$34.95|
For a look at the kit out of the box and a highlight of the features and options, look here. After building Minicraft's 1/72 PBM-5A Mariner several years ago, I knew Minicraft was on the right trajectory to improve the quality of their kits. With a test-shot of the upcoming 1/48 T-34 Mentor in-hand, I had to see how Minicraft has progressed.
Remember that in our quick-builds, I do not use fillers or paints, what you see in the photos is bare plastic. I use Tamiya Extra-Thin Cement for construction along with a sharp set of sprue cutters, hobby knife, and a set of files. Just the basics. The fit of the parts is excellent though you will need to be mindful of bits of flash as well as sprue stubs which will adversely affect the fit of your model. The more care you take during assembly to test-fit and clean up any molding/carrier remnants, the more you'll really enjoy this build.
Since this is a test-shot, I'm not going to focus on the step-by-step details as the instructions may not be finalized. My comments will be directed at these draft instructions.
The first few steps are focused on the cockpits and I must say, the assembly is very straightforward. You can see that there are nice details in the front and rear 'pits.
The assembled cockpit drops into the fuselage halves and the fuselage is glued together.
The front of the cowling encompasses several parts which starts with ballast. According to the instructions, you need 1 oz of ballast, but I used some lead 1/4 oz ballast blocks from the model railroad world and only two would fit inside. As it turns out, 1 oz of ballast would probably damage the nose gear but 1/2 oz is perfect for weight and balance of the model. With the ballast inside the cowling, I installed the parts for the cowling face and you can see how nice that fit looks.
One of the mysteries of the kit is the coming for the front instrument panel. The instructions show that it goes somewhere on top of the panel but it doesn't fit at all. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what would happen to the fit of the windscreen with the coming in place and I discovered that the coming is keyed to fit inside the windscreen! I used white glue to mount the coming in the windscreen and set it aside to dry.
The kit has a mainspar structure that mounts to the underside of the cockpit tub and extends out either side of the fuselage. The lower wing is mounted to this assembly followed by the upper wing halves. The fit is flawless! I placed the model in my HobbyZone USA PS01 Aircraft Jig and the ballast in the nose provided the down-force to set the dihedral in the wings and close the minimal gaps in the wingroots. I ran a bead of liquid cement along the wingroots and let the model rest while the glue dried.
I decided to install the fairing under the rudder (part B3) which is the most visibile difference between the T-34A and T-34B. The A-model had this fairing under the rudder while the B and C models left that area open. In this case, the fairing doesn't fit so snugly and extends aft of the rudder. No problem, once the glue set up, I used my sprue snippers to trim the fairing flush with the rudder trailing edge.
Before we start adding canopies, landing gear, etc., here's a look at the fit of the wing/fuselage joint. There's a slight gap ahead of each of the exhaust megaphone openings but that's the only real opportunity for filler. Well done Minicraft!
I opted to wait on installing the canopies until last. Next up is the landing gear and there are some cautions I'll share. First up are the main gear and I would glue the gear struts to the retraction mechanisms and let them dry before moving forward. Because the inboard main gear doors are molded closed, you may not notice the mounts inside the wells for the retraction arms, but I took the assembly and gently maneuvered the tabs for the retraction arms and main gear struts into their respective places and cemented them into place.
There is a note in the instructions that the lateral tabs on the main gear doors are recommended to be removed. The tabs were evidently there for a previous method of mounting the doors but the design changed. You MUST remove the lateral tabs so that the remaining tabs will fit into the slots left by the main gear base and main gear wells. The fit is spot-on.
There is a similar note for the nosegear assembly that you might want to skip ahead to install the gear doors before adding the nosegear strut and retraction arm. You definitely want to put the doors in first as I'll explain - there are several holes on either side of the wells for the doors and the gear parts. With the doors in place, I discovered that part B18 wants to sit in the same hole. I initially put it into the other hole next to the starboard gear door, but part B21 needs that hole. Since there is no place for B18 and I have no idea what that part is supposed to be, I discarded it. B21 is the retraction arm for the nosegear and I definitely need that.
Below you can see that the model is now on its gear and that 1/2 ounce of ballast works perfectly.
The final steps were to assemble the propeller (five parts) and add the canopies. While the propeller wasn't a problem, I discovered that the windscreen with the instrument panel coming wasn't going to sit flush on the fuselage. I discovered that the top of the front instrument panel needed to be filed to allow the coming to rest atop of the panel. That explains why it wouldn't fit when the instructions wanted it glued to the top of the panel earlier. After some filing and fitting, the windscreen fits perfectly.
The canopy segments are molded thin and clear, so care will be needed in handling them. The center canopy segment has small tabs molded inside that fit into corresponding slots in the canopy rails which provides a great locator and that segment was also glued into place. The front and rear sliding canopies literally drop into place but are not going to be positionable. You'll need vacuformed canopies to get them to be positioned open.
Aside from the minor bits mentioned above, this kit goes together better than most of the models I've built lately and demonstrates how Minicraft is using better CAD/tooling processes to get such precision out of their parts.
One last note - the kit does have an interesting detail bug. This model has the wrong wingtips for a service T-34A or T-34B. The 'stock' T-34A/B has the same rounded wingtips as any WW2 fighter or trainer like the T-6 Texan. This kit has Hoerner wingtips which actually add several inches to the wingspan and add a concave surface to the underside of the wingtips to provide less drag. When I was flying the T-34s at the Aero Clubs many years ago, I noted how sexy the Hoerner wingtips would look on the T-34 as several of the Beech Bonanzas parked nearby were so-equipped. Over the years, private owners and some Aero Clubs added Hoerner wingtips to their T-34s, so you'll see both types out there, but not on active duty Mentors. The Hoerner wingtips did find their way to the production T-34C Turbo-Mentor, but that's another story. If you're building a warbird, you can leave the wingtips alone, but if you're doing one of the service aircraft or an unmodified example, you can add a little filler to the concave undersides and reshape them to blend with the underside of the wing's shape and round out at the wingtips. No big challenge here.
This project was fun and I'm looking forward to this kit's release so I can build several examples including the T-34B that I flew around Big Sur...
My sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for this review sample!