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T-34 Mentor Kit

Minicraft 1/48 T-34 Mentor Kit Preview

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review February 2018 Manufacturer Minicraft
Subject T-34 Mentor Scale 1/48
Kit Number 11671 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nicely detailed kit Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $34.95

Preview

T-34 Mentor Kit
T-34 Mentor Kit
T-34 Mentor Kit
T-34 Mentor Kit

In the late 1940s, Beechcraft submitted a design for a two-seat trainer to serve as a lower-cost alternative to the venerable T-6 Texan. The original concept was based upon the Model 35 V-tailed Bonanza, but this was replaced by a conventional tail that would find its way to the Model 36. The four-place fuselage was replaced by a tandem trainer arrangement while the wings, though they appeared identical to the Model 35/36 wings, were strengthened for +10g to -4.5g loads (aerobatic flight). The T-34A and B were both piston-powered trainers that were very similar in appearance though the US Navy B-model had a triangular notch under the rudder while the USAF A-model had a fixed fairing in that space. The A- and B- models had other subtle differences: the A-model's engine was carbureted, the B was fuel injected. The A-model had a steerable nosewheel, B-model steering was with differential braking. The list goes on, but other than the notch under the rudder and the paint job, the A- and B-models were visibly identical. The T-34C was a follow-on production version that arose in the 1970s to replace the piston power with a PT-6 turboprop engine. The C-model had other visible differences in the wings and the ventral strakes under the tail.

When I was first learning to fly with the Civil Air Patrol in the early 1970s, there was a T-6 and T-34 on the ramp along with the training Cessna 150. I never had the opportunity to fly either aircraft as they were off-limits to low-time pilots and students. Years later, the Navy Aero Club in Monterey had a T-34B which I did fly and thoroughly enjoyed. After a tour overseas (and no flying), I found the Davis-Monthan Aero Club had a T-34A which I also flew until one day when I showed up to take the aircraft up to Nellis AFB, it was sitting on 55 gallon drums after landing gear-up. That would be my last time in the Mentor.

Several years ago, Minicraft announced that they were developing a new-tool T-34 Mentor kit in 1/48 scale. Today, a later test-shot appeared in the mail! The T-34 is being released soon! While the box and box art aren't ready, the kit is looking nice. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on four parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. The kit has the parts to render a T-34A or T-34B, plus it has some parts to render Model 35/36 variants as well.

Note: You'll see some online stores listing this kit as the T-34A/B/C. This tooling will not render a C-model. Perhaps there are plans to release the C-model (and it would be welcome), they'll need new wings and fuselage parts to get there.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Exterior surfaces feature scribed panel lines and subtle raised rivet details
  • Detailed cockpit tub
  • Crew seats have molded-on crew restraints
  • Left side of cockpit tub has molded-on throttle quadrants (you may wish to modify these for throttle, mixture, and pitch levers)
  • Instructions call out 1oz/28g of ballast in nose required unless displaying on stand
  • Instructions indicate a display stand is included for in-flight display though not available in this preview kit
  • The fuselage halves come out of the box as B-model, add part B3 to render the A-model
  • Wing/fuselage joint features a pair of main spars to set dihedral box in the main wheel wells, and add strength to the model
  • The lower wing has chamfered edges around the main wheel wells to display scale thickness from below
  • Canopies are molded separately and are positionable
  • Positionable landing gear
  • Choice propeller blade chords/tips
  • Choice of two or three-bladed propellers
  • Choice of spinners for two or three-bladed propellers

Markings are included for two examples:

  • YT-34, 50-0735, USAF
  • T-34A, 51-0365, JASDF

There are so many possibilities with this kit. The title art above is right out of the Minicraft catalog for a yellow T-34B trainer though you'll find the white/international red trainer like the one I flew out of Monterey. The blue/white T-34Bs with red pin stripes flown by recruiters is another attractive scheme. The USAF T-34As were mostly silver. If you Google the T-34 in images, you'll find a variety of schemes for the aircraft in international service as well as some beautiful warbirds. I wish I could find a photo of that blue T-34 in Civil Air Patrol markings which had the red/white/blue tail that was parked next to our training Cessna. Perhaps one will surface one day. In the meantime, I can't wait to get this beauty onto the bench and see if it builds as nice as it looks!

My sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for this preview sample!

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