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Sword 1/72 scale T-39A Sabreliner model kit review

Fit issues aside, a good replica of important military trainer results
Kit:SW 72142 // Scale:1/72 // Price:$39.99
Fine recessed panel line details; good photo-etched metal parts; handy window masks; good decals
Duplicated parts not explained in instructions; location of some small parts is vague; wire from modeler’s stock is needed for the nose wheel
Injection-molded plastic (gray, clear); 98 parts (6 photo-etched brass); pre-cut vinyl window masks; decals
It’s a trainer! It’s a biz-jet! It’s both, really; it’s North American’s Sabreliner, named for the wing design that is based on that of the F-86 jet fighters. I believe this is the first injection-molded plastic kit of the Sabreliner. This kit has USAF jets, and a second boxing features U.S. Navy aircraft.

Sword’s kit has finely engraved panel lines and good shapes, but the small parts must be carefully removed from the sprues. There appears to be some disconnect between what you get in the box and what you are shown in the instructions.

For example, the instructions have you build the cockpit from a separate floor, side consoles, and forward bulkhead, and those parts are on the sprues. But there is an additional sprue with a one-piece cockpit tub that is not mentioned in the instructions. The one-piece tub fits fine in the fuselage, and I saved time using it. The sprues also hold a duplicate set of main wheels, and there is an alternate set of nose halves that have a different landing-light configuration. Sword doesn’t indicate the need for added weight in the nose, but I added some just in case.

Most of the parts fit well, but I had trouble mounting the engines to the rear fuselage. Instead of using a tab and slot system, Sword molded full-length openings in the fuselage sides to fit the engine pylons. But the openings are smaller than the pylons. So, should I cut and file the openings a bit larger to accept the pylons? And if I do, how far in should the pylons go? I decided to glue each pylon along the entire rim of the opening; fortunately, there was enough mating surface there to get adequate “purchase” of the glue joint.

I really like how Sword provided interlocking sets of photo-etched metal (PE) intake vanes. They fit perfectly together and in between the engine nacelle halves.

The fit between the assembled wing and the fuselage needed a little trimming at the trailing edge.

There were no axles molded into the nose-gear strut, and the instructions have you make axles from wire. So, I drilled a small hole through the strut and into the wheel hubs to fit a short piece of brass rod.

Mounting the main gear struts was OK, but the tiny retractor struts have infinitesimal pins on their ends that are supposed to go into imperceptible receptacles in the wheel wells. Easier said than done. A little drop of liquid cement softened the plastic enough to get the ends to stick, but I can’t tell if they landed in the right positions.

The clear cockpit cover molding is good, and Sword provides pre-cut vinyl masks that work well.

I painted the model with gloss white and some of my old trusty Model Master Aircraft Gray (FS16473) rather than Light Gray (FS36495) as suggested in the instructions.

The decals were beautifully printed and behaved well, but the shapes of the black wing walks don’t jibe with the markings diagram. I’m still not sure I have them positioned correctly. The sheet gives alternate markings for a jet painted in “Europe One” camouflage.

In the end, Sword’s Sabreliner is a fine addition to my 1/72 scale USAF collection. I spent just 16 hours on it. I’ll bet we’ll see several more versions of the kit with a variety of Air Force and Navy markings.
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