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Revell Germany C-54 Skymaster

Although designed to be a commercial airliner, nearly all of Douglas’ DC-4 production airframes were C-54s ordered at the start of World War II. Of the 1,070 built, only 80 were manufactured postwar as DC-4s.

There have been previous kits of the Skymaster in 1/72 scale, but Revell Germany’s new kit leaves them in the dust. Boasting 352 parts and a “Skill Level 5” on the box, the new C-54 is a masterpiece of detail. This initial release provides parts and markings for postwar U.S. Air Force transports. Optional parts include two noses, opened or closed cowl flaps, alternate sets of carburetor intakes, raised or dropped flaps, and hinged control surfaces.

It took me a little while to decipher Revell’s codes concerning the various options. For example, the instructions show how to build three types of main wheels. But which one do you use? Looking again, one set has a “99/100” in the diagram. Well, steps 99 and 100 are the marking diagrams for this kit. So this was Revell’s code for using this type of wheel for the Skymaster in these colors. Not the clearest at first, but once I figured it out it was smooth sailing.

Despite the part count, the kit went together without major fit problems. However, I was surprised to find minor flash on some of the small parts.

Building the detailed interior involves at least 70 parts, nearly all of which will be difficult to see on the finished model. I wanted to see how it all went together, so I installed them all. As complicated as this was, all interior parts went together without trouble.

A novel reversible cabin floor is included. The attachment points for the provided web-style troop seats are on one side of the floor, slots for airliner seats (not included) on the other. Also inside are left and right cabin interior wall liners with uncovered structural detail. When the airliner version of the kit comes out, you’ll get covered interior walls and paired passenger seats to fit on the flipped floor. Clever!

There are outlined “knockout” areas in the fuselage halves and interior wall liners for the cargo doors, crew door behind the cockpit, and observation windows for a future rescue version. I cut the doors out to show what I could of the finished interior.

The instructions suggest adding 70 grams (2.5 ounces) of weight to the nose and forward fuselage to keep the model on all of its wheels, but I went with the tail-stand option instead. The nine-part nose gear is tricky to assemble but realistically complicated.

Building the wing, you have to decide whether to show the flaps up or down. To lower them, a small section of the trailing edge on each side of the lower half of the wing needs to be cut away and replaced with a new inner face. Four hangers hold each flap in the dropped position, but they are fragile and best installed when the model is nearly finished.

Step 33 of the instructions shows the small cylindrical oil coolers (J92) going into the bottom of the engine nacelles. Flip them around so that the little flat spot is forward, not toward the back. The flat spot allows the firewall (K97) to fit into place. Dry-fit and adjust the forward walls of each wheel well (N100 and N101) before gluing.

Each of the four engines comprises seven parts but, when finished, only three will be visible: the front face, prop axle, and exhaust stack. Each engine assembly fits very tightly into its cowl. You can choose opened or closed cowl flaps, too.
Most kits give you one set of landing gear wheels, but Revell gives you three different styles for the C-54, along with two types of main-wheel brakes and alternate main-wheel-axle spindle caps! Each main gear strut has 11 parts. All of the gear doors are molded closed; you have to carefully cut them apart along recessed lines to install them in the opened position. A couple of the small gear-door retractors (K186) were damaged in my sample.

I finished my model with Alclad II polished aluminum over Tamiya spray-can gloss black. The decals reacted well to Solvaset but seem to have a tenuous hold on the finish. I noticed that applying the starboard fuselage national insignia according to the instructions places it over a couple of windows. It appears that the aft windows on the starboard side were added to the postwar airliner conversions and need to be filled for the military transport; too late to fix that on my model though.

Final assembly involves several antenna masts, pitot tubes, and adding monofilament wires. In Step 94, the portside pitot tube is shown as N189 — it should be N191.
Clear parts O86 in steps 89 and 96 are anti-collision beacons. They would be appropriate for the colorful late-1950s marking option (mistakenly dated as 1949 in Step 99), but should be left off for the Berlin Airlift Skymaster I chose.

I spent about 30 hours on my Skymaster. I will build another, but I’ll not bother with all the interior detail. I’m hoping either Revell or an aftermarket decal maker will produce markings for Sacred Cow, the presidential transport used once by Franklin D. Roosevelt and for a couple of years by Harry S. Truman.
I recommend this kit for moderately experienced builders, and commend Revell for providing everything an advanced modeler could wish for.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the December 2015 issue.
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