The Curtiss C-46 Commando is one of the unsung heroes of World War II, always playing second fiddle to the famous C-47. A very capable hauler, the C-46 was kept in service after the war, serving in Korea and with a number of foreign air arms.
One of the prime postwar users was Japan, which explains the motivation for the newest kit from Platz, a 1/144 scale C-46D. The kit is broken down logically into a reasonable number of parts, and the molding is first-class. A simple cockpit is included, along with detailed landing gear and gear doors. The engines are not left out, either, having complete cylinder and crankcase details. Thankfully, I can tell you the four-blade Curtiss-Electric propellers are molded in one piece. The wheels have separate hubs with petite detail — a very nice surprise in this scale. Painting these was a breeze!
Cockpit windows are molded in clear plastic, yet you have the option of decals. However, without a bit of surgery your only option for the cabin windows is decals. Cowlings are molded in three pieces each, and there are separate exhausts.
The only options included are for markings (with two basic schemes) and different antenna fits. Playing to its hometown crowd, Platz provided tail numbers for seemingly every Commando in use by Japan. There is also one U.S. Air Force option from the Korean War, with a black-painted underside. I suppose you could also do this in overall silver — that way, the numerous stencil decals could be seen. It would have been nice if there had been decals for an earlier, U.S. Army Air Forces version.
Assembly is quick, helped by the wonderful fit of all components. I did not need any filler for this kit, and the only adjustments necessary were some trimming and squaring of the nacelle sides and landing gear bases. Platz shows some details about where to mount the various antennas, but that changed considerably from airframe to airframe — additional references would help. The antenna masts were the only kit parts that seemed over-scale to me, but they would be easy to replace if you wanted. The ADF antenna options are both petite.
Because of the limited number of parts, the kit is ready for paint very quickly. I installed the gear but left off the engines for easier painting and finishing. You could probably get away with leaving the wings off, too, if you wanted — the fit is that good. I followed Alclad II primer with Alclad II aluminum and dark aluminum, then gave the underside a quick coat of Tamiya NATO black using a mask cut from paper to protect the natural-metal finish — I held it against one side, then reversed it and held it against the other. I gloss-coated the undersurface for decals.
There are a surprising number of decals in this kit, even when doing the simpler USAF scheme. Detailed wing-walk markings are included, along with a number of stencils — many of which can’t be seen against the underside of the USAF version. The colors appear accurate, and the decals settle well — I used a little setting solution on the letters, numbers, and words just to make sure there was no silvering, but it probably wasn’t necessary. Each prop blade needs two decals to be carefully placed and aligned — luckily, I routinely wear an Optivisor (while modeling, I mean).
Adding the lovely gear doors and other bits finished my Commando. The model’s dimensions are right on the money, and I can recommend it to builders at all skill levels. I spent 14 hours on mine, much of that painting and decaling. This is a wonderful kit of an often-neglected warrior — I wish they would scale this one up to 1/72!
Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2013 FineScale Modeler.