by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The Beechcraft Model 18 / C-45 Expeditor is a true aviation classic. Designed in the 1930s, it was so successful that it remained in production until 1970, serving in a number of different guises during WW2.
Strangely, there's no modern kit available of the "Twin Beech", but Squadron have gone partway by taking an existing kit and breathing new life into it with what would normally be considered aftermarket parts as the latest addition to their their Encore range
The basis of the Encore kit is the venerable PM model I remember first seeing sometime in the early/mid 1980s. To this Squadron have added new resin details and high quality decals. The C-45 arrives in a very attractive end-opening box with an excellent front painting, and which features useful shots on the back showing the completed unpainted model (see at right). The kit comprises:
42 x grey styrene parts (14 not used)
13 x clear styrene parts
44 x beige resin parts
A new vacuformed windscreen
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The parts are divided into two bags - plastic and resin - and I was a little disappointed to see the clear styrene parts and the vacuformed windscreen left to knock about with the main sprues. Nevertheless, everything arrived intact.
The first impression is somewhat mixed. The styrene parts have a sort of "textured satin" surface and show a few sink marks and a little flash - but bear in mind, they date back around 30 years and the moulds have been in pretty constant use. The kit oddly features three distinct styles of surface detailing:
- fine raised panel lines on the tail surfaces
- quite neat engraved lines on the wings
- deep Matchbox-style engraved "trenches" the fuselage
The latter don't match up particularly well at the fuselage seams, but that's something of a moot point for anyone who chooses to fill and re-scribe them - something that's ideally needed for a more true-to-scale appearance.
Basically, I think the styrene kit is best regarded in a similar light to present-day short-run kits, and you'll need to bring many of the same skills to bear in constructing it. A test fit is fair, but it reveals a bit of work lies ahead - the wing roots will certainly need careful filling and blending, as the chord doesn't match. While you're at it, the wings' trailing edges should be thinned a good deal too.
Resin detailsThe new parts produced by True Details replace many of the more basic items throughout the original kit.
Beginning with the cockpit, there's a nice pair of seats for the pilot and co-pilot with cast-on lap belts, a centre console and a really excellent main instrument panel with detail that wouldn't look out of place in a larger scale model. There's a separate fuselage door provided, but if you do pose it open it will only serve to highlight that the main fuselage cabin is totally empty - so there's plenty of scope for scratch-building an interior if you want to go that route...
A weak part of the PM kit is the engines and cowlings. The resin parts replace both, and modifying the original cowls is going to require some quite careful surgery, because it looks like only the front should be removed and there's no obvious line to cut along on the top of the nacelles. Once you've got that done, the results should look very nicely detailed, as the resin engines are made up from separate crankcases and cylinders - something I've not seen before in this small scale. The propellers are also three parts each, so using a simple jig to keep them lined up correctly is probably a good idea.
There are also new control surfaces for the wings and tailplanes. Fitting the ailerons and rudders looks straightforward enough, but the elevator is a different matter. The thing is, on the Expeditor, the tip of the fuselage extends under the elevator, and PM moulded this as part of the tailplane. For some reason, True Details haven't included this on their replacement part, so if you use the resin elevator you'll be left with a nasty gap to fill underneath - something that isn't mentioned in the instructions. I'd thin down the trailing edge of the new elevator if you decide to use it.
Lastly there are new wheels. These are nicely cast, but I can't see a great deal of difference between the new and the old ones.
Clear partsThe Encore model uses the transparencies from the original PM kit. To be honest, they're not great - they probably show their age more than any of the other styrene parts. That's no real problem for the fuselage windows and landing lamp covers, because you can glaze them with Micro Kristal Klear or similar. The windscreen is pretty rough though, and would need a lot of polishing to save it, so it's nice to see the designers have recognised this and included a vacuformed replacement. This is very thin and nice and clear, although the canopy framing is a bit soft. It's not Falcon quality, but still a vast improvement over the injected part. No spare is included, so be careful trimming it to size.
Instructions and decalsThe instructions are printed in colour, which works very neatly highlighting the resin parts and where the original kit is to be modified. Construction is broken down into 6 logical stages, and a nice touch are the painting notes for each stage, with a generic colour chart with FS references.
Decals are provided for a pair of aircraft, illustrated in colour on a separate sheet:
1. USAAF C-45 Expeditor, 1941
2. Model 18, VF-FIE, Australia
The decals look excellent quality, with the thin and glossy items printed in perfect register. The civilian scheme should be very striking, with its white trim lines outlined in red. The white cabin roof is supplied as decals - so you may need a bit of patience getting them to conform neatly and hide the join. Alternatively, maybe you could paint the white section and carefully cut the thin red edging off the decals to apply separately.
ConclusionDespite the simplicity of the basic styrene parts, the Encore Expeditor certainly is not a beginner's model by the time you add all the resin extras. I'd recommend it to modellers used to working with short-run kits, who like a bit of a challenge. The results should be worth it though - with worthwhile improvements over the original PM kit.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.