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Minicraft T-34A Mentor

Review of the 1/48 scale aircraft kit with with good fits but few decals
RELATED TOPICS: AIRCRAFT
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Many Air Force and Navy pilots in the 1950s and ’60s took their first steps toward their pilot’s wings in the Beechcraft Mentor. The follow-on T-34C Turbo Mentor has been available in injection-molded plastic in 1/48 scale from Czech Model, but Mincraft’s kit represents the first piston-powered plastic kit in the scale. The all-new kit includes a detailed cockpit and sliding canopies, posable landing gear, and Cartograf decals with two marking options. There are four trees of medium gray plastic and one in clear as well as a four-part stand. The 15-page instruction booklet is easy to follow.

I painted the cockpit parts before assembly, which went forward without problems. No decals are provided for the nicely detailed instrument panels and side consoles. I sprayed them black, then carefully scraped the black from the raised bezels and hand-painted other details to good effect. I sanded the trim wheels (E-13) so they looked more to scale; as molded, they’d be more appropriate on a T-34 tank!

The fuselage halves captured the cockpit assembly perfectly. To save masking later, I sprayed the halves inside and outside around the cockpit silver before assembly.

Be sure to add nose weight in Step 8; it takes more than the recommended 1 ounce. I forgot, so my Mentor is at home resting on the stand.

In Step 8, I omitted a clear part in the nose — a light of some kind — replacing it with Testors clear part cement after painting; saved awkward masking and looks great. In Step 9, the instructions show a notch on the top of the vertical stabilizer with no explanation — just ignore it.

The wing-spar assembly clicks into place and provides a perfect fit for the upper and lower wing halves as well as the fuselage-wing join; I used no filler here.

The large canopies were easy to mask and can be posed open or closed. They fit well and look great in either position.

The landing gear needed a little extra work for proper fit. The struts were OK after I sanded the attachment points. But I had problems getting the main and nose wheel doors to fit following the instructions. They fit fine after I trimmed the L-shaped locators into straight pegs and slid them straight into the bays. They may be easier to install before the landing gear legs are in place.

Minicraft includes parts for two- and three- blade props and two types of spinners. I chose the two-blade prop with short spinner used by most early USAF trainers. The individual blades are easy to align thanks to a tabbed hub design.

I sprayed the entire aircraft with Tamiya TS-30 silver leaf before applying the excellent Cartograf decals with a little help from Microscale Micro Set and Micro Sol.

A nice surprise is the stand which can help you save space in your display cabinet and put you Mentor in flight. The upright can be easily trimmed to change the model’s altitude.

I enjoyed this easy build that produced a nice looking T-34, and I will be doing others in different versions and colors using aftermarket decals. Minicraft produced a winner here and anyone with a few models under their belt will be able to add it to their collection.


Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2019 issue.

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