1/144 C-54 Skymaster
Kit Number: 14614
Reviewed by  Dave Lennox, IPMS# 36138

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MSRP: $27.99

The C-54 was the military version of the Douglas DC-4 commercial airliner. It was flown by the Army Air Corps, later the Air Force, and the Navy with the "R5D" designator from 1942 until 1960, when it was retired from U.S. military service. The military version boasted a take off weight of 73,000 pounds with strengthened floors, a cargo hoist in the aft fuselage, and larger wing tanks. It turned in a top speed of 280 miles per hour on four 1,450 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engines. It was also the first dedicated presidential aircraft when Franklin D. Roosevelt flew his C-54, named "The Sacred Cow", to Tehran, Casablanca, Hawaii and other locales foreign and domestic. It was also used extensively during the Berlin Airlift.

Upon opening the box I found 8 pages of well laid-out instructions. They contained a brief history of the aircraft, 9 step assembly diagrams, a parts diagram, along with painting and decals for two aircraft. One is for a USAFE C-54 stationed in Germany in 1960 and the other is a MATS aircraft from the same period. The packaging is in three plastic bags, two holding four gray plastic trees containing 57 parts with the third containing three clear parts.

I was expecting to see the typical Minicraft 1/144 airliner kit with little surface detail, parts with rounded edges, lots of flash and out of scale propellers. I was immediately struck with a newer 2004 mold that had recessed panel lines that lined up very well across seams. The edges of parts are sharp with very little flash. The detail on small parts is very well done, and the propellers are so well detailed you can see the hub bolts. The landing gear doors are nicely detailed inside even if the wheel wells are not. The carburetor inlet and oil cooler air scoops have molded-in recesses and do not require drilling to add detail. The exhaust pipes are so well molded I almost did not need to use glue to attach them and the trailing edges of the wings and control surfaces are beautifully thin.

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The instructions called for 3/4 oz of weight for the nose, but I found 1/2 oz kept the nose down just fine. The wings fit well but the top root needed a little putty to fill the seam. A bit of care is required to seat the engines in the cowlings straight. The clear cockpit window unit needed some sanding and filing to get it to fit the contour of the fuselage correctly. Installation of the main landing gear came off without a hitch, but if the locator holes are used for the nose landing gear strut brace, the rake would be out of scale. I just moved the brace aft of the locator hole. About the only detailing I could think of doing was drilling out the exhaust pipes.

I primed the C-54 with Alclad II gray primer as a base for painting. To give the overall silver paint scheme some depth I sprayed some lowlight bands of black gloss around the fuselage and on some wing panels. After the black dried I sprayed the kit with Floquil Old Silver. I then airbrushed Vallejo silver on the control surfaces to represent the fabric covering. After decaling, I weathered with an oil paint and lighter fluid wash, and then sprayed the entire aircraft with Testors semi-gloss lacquer.

The Cartograph of Italy decals were dated 2009 and were very opaque with excellent register and a closely trimmed carrier. They did not, however, respond well to Microsol setting solution. I tried Solvaset decal setting solution from Walthers and found it to be too strong, wrinkling the decals. So, I cut the Solvaset with 50% distilled water and the decals snuggled down smoothly into the panel lines. The decal sheet also included windows and the deicer boots. I normally would have painted and masked the deicer boots, but I decided to give the decals a try. I found the curvature of the vertical stabilizer boot was incorrect and all of the other boot decals took a good deal of prodding to get them to lie correctly around the tight turns, especially around the tips of the wings and horizontal stabilizer. Even with the pushing and coaxing I had to do some touching up with black paint.

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I do not usually work in this scale, but I found it very relaxing. I took a vacation from superdetail, photo etched belt buckles and resin parts and just plain enjoyed the project. It builds into a very respectable addition to my collection as long as I provide a magnifier to see all of the molded in detail of this kit. It is a marked improvement over past Minicraft small scale kits and I anxiously wait to see what other little gems Minicraft has in store.

I'd like to express my sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for providing this kit to IPMS/USA and to them for allowing me to review it.