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American Kit

Minicraft 1/144 DC-4 'American' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2008 Manufacturer Minicraft
Subject DC-4 'American' Scale 1/144
Kit Number 14530 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Only tooling of the DC-4 and C-54 out there in styrene Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $24.95

First Look

American Kit
American Kit
American Kit
American Kit
American Kit

The Douglas Aircraft Company ruled the airliner market until the advent of the jet age, and even then Douglas would still keep a share of the market with its DC-8, DC-9 and DC-10. But rewinding to the beginning of the story, Douglas developed a new design that was one of the first all-metal airliners after the Civil Aeronautics Board (precursor to the FAA) ruled that airliners could no longer have wings or structural members made of wood.

Competing with the new Boeing Model 247, Douglas used their one and only prototype, the DC-1, to demonstrate the innovative capabilities of this next-generation aircraft. Douglas received orders for the design with its launch customer, TWA, though they wanted more seats and more powerful engines. The result was the DC-2. That led to further interest, greater capabilities, and the DC-3 was born.

Recognizing that greater range and payload was being sought by the growing airline industry, Douglas set out to create a four-engine workhorse to capture the longer-range market. While the first prototype flew in 1938, the design had a few bugs to work out and war broke out before the aircraft could enter the civil market. Like its brother, the DC-3, the DC-4 would enter military service, designated as the C-54. After the war, the DC-4 would enter airlines as well as a number of surplus C-54s.

Minicraft has been producing a nice variety of 1/144 scale aircraft subjects and this one was very much anticipated by modelers. This kit represents the first time the DC-4 or C-54 has been available in any scale as a styrene kit. Like many of the other molds in the Minicraft line-up, this tooling has been released a number of times with a number of different marking options. This kit, representing the early American Airlines DC-4, is a good subject to examine a little closer.

The kit is molded in white styrene and presented on four parts trees, plus a single tree in clear styrene with the cockpit 'cap'. Out of the box, the kit looks as good as the test shots did several years ago at one of the hobby shows. If I recall correctly, this was one of their first kits produced using three-dimensional CAD drawings to create the tooling more precisely and the kit more accurately.

Assembly of the kit is straightforward as the fuselage halves simply go together, as do the wing halves. The engines are nicely represented in this scale as are the landing gear. Even though the propellers are designed to move (with a hub back plate), you might consider leaving these off as well as the landing gear until you've finished with the bare metal paint and decal application.

Scale Master produced this nice markings of the early American Airlines paint scheme and have even produced the orange aileron, rudder, and elevator markings as well as the fuselage stripe and nacelle scallop designs. Even the black de-icing boots are provided as decals, making the job of painting this model easy.

I was wandering through a Hobby Lobby store recently and happened upon this kit on their sale rack, hence the review. You might recall that Hobby Lobby discontinued carrying the Minicraft line last year and marked their remaining inventory at 50% off. This kit must have been there a while as the final price of this beauty was a mere $4.32! Check out those sale racks guys!

Kits like this one are nice subjects, but not for their own sake, rather these models are simply blank canvases. Upon these canvases you can apply a wide variety of colors and marking to replicate any of the colorful liveries that have adorned these aircraft in their service with the world's airlines and air freight companies. The paints and aftermarket decals are out there. Go have some fun!

My sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for this review sample!