by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
It's hard to believe it's taken until now for a 1:32 kit of the T-6 Texan/Harvard to appear until now, but Kitty Hawk have spotted the yawning gap in the market and released a very fine kit of what is arguably the most famous trainer in history.
The kit parts represent a post-war T-6G (more on that slightly complicated subject later) and arrive in an attractive and sturdy conventional box, with the main sprues individually bagged, and the transparencies packed in a cardboard box for extra protection. The latter is a very nice touch, although ironically one of the canopy sections in the sample kit still has a small scratch (presumably this occurred at the packing stage), so it just goes to show that no matter how careful you are, accidents still happen.
Kitty Hawk's T-6 comprises:
233 x grey styrene parts
12 x clear styrene parts
6 x etched brass parts
Moulding at first sight is impressive; everything is very crisp and there's no flash evident. Looking a bit closer, though, there are a number of ejector pin marks (some of them very heavy, and highlighted in places by pale stress-marks) – and some of these are really quite awkwardly placed. There are also a few annoying sink-marks. I did find traces of mould release agent here and there, so give the sprues a good wash in detergent before assembly.
The surface finish for the metal areas of the airframe is really excellent, with really delicate embossed rivets and panel lines, plus a few appliqué panels and raised fasteners. However, I'm not so keen on the heavy ribs on the fabric-covered control surfaces – I'll definitely reduce these (luckily, the control surfaces are all separate, which makes life much easier), and I expect aftermarket replacements won't be long in appearing.
A test fit of the main airframe parts is encouraging. The fuselage halves clip together neatly, and there are drop-in sections for the top-decking for the nose and rear fuselage. The wing centre-section is a very positive fit, with the roots looking like they'll need no filling at all. The outer panel are separate and are moulded good and straight and again, if you're careful, they should need little or no filler.
A few detailsThe interior is very comprehensively detailed, with 56 parts plus etched seat harnesses (strangely not shown in the instruction sequence). The side frames are nicely moulded, but what's really irritating is that the ejector pins are on the visible side – and there are a lot of them. The mould designers won't have made many friends there...
Kitty Hawk offer a choice of U.S. and “RAF”-style control columns, and the instrument panels and consoles have the option of both raised-detail or decals (although these are printed with unlikely dark grey fascias). Comparing the instrument layouts with photos available online, the cockpit seems generally correct for a late-model T-6G, as earlier T-6s featured a completely different rear instrument panel (which wouldn't be hard to scratch-build if you wish). While the rear panel in the kit matches the layout for a T-6G, it does look rather small to me (more akin to 1:48). Perhaps this is on account of having to squeeze it in under the instrument shroud, but the actual instrument bezels are smaller than those of the front panel, which does look distinctly odd...
The seats are well moulded, but I have seen other styles in photos, so it'd be worth checking your references on these. The etched fret provides a straightforward harness for each seat which should look pretty good if painted carefully.
The engine section is similarly well detailed with no less than 39 parts. The engine cylinders have nice thin fins that should work well with a wash to highlight them, and the firewall, engine bearers and accessories are neatly done. Perhaps oddly, considering Kitty Hawk have included etched parts, there's no ignition harness provided.
There's a choice of long or short exhausts, but do watch out for sink marks here. The propeller comprises separate blades (which could perhaps benefit from thinning a bit?) and a 2-part hub with separate pitch actuator weights. Two styles of spinner are included: a 2-part one (which means an awkward seam to fill), plus a single piece version that's not mentioned in the instructions... slightly weird.
The undercarriage is simple and straightforward. The main gear legs are nicely detailed, and the wheels have nice hub detail. The instructions show a diamond tread pattern on the tyres, but those in the sample kit are bald – and there are also a couple of pesky sink marks caused by the locating pins inside.
The landing flaps are separate and designed to be displayed lowered, with rib detail inside the upper wing half.
The kit comes complete with a good selection of underwing stores included for anyone wanting to build an armed Texan:
6 x T-10 rockets
2 x Matra 122 rocket pods
4 x 250 kg bombs (surely, these are 250 lb bombs?)
2 x 7.7mm gun-pods
and, finally, a centre-mounted 20 gallon drop tank
That certainly should have your model looking armed to the teeth, but I must admit I'm disappointed that Kitty Hawk didn't include .30 cal gun pods or smoke rockets, thereby missing the chance to depict a Korean War LT-6G target marker - something I'd have thought would be a popular subject among modellers.
The transparencies are beautifully produced. The cockpit canopy sections are thin and crystal-clear. They represent the late-style canopy introduced on the T-6G that featured reduced canopy framework for better visibility. Two styles of rear section are provided – with and without canopy frames. Once again the instructions are a bit strange, because they show the earlier fully-framed canopy style – which leads us to...
An identity crisis?So, out of the box, it looks like we have a really nice T-6G (or its Navy equivalent, the SNJ-7). Ticking the boxes, we have a T-6G style cockpit layout and canopy.
However, Kitty Hawk have also included the necessary control columns and exhaust for a Harvard. The problem is, the kit's canopy is incorrect, because Harvard's canopies had a longer rear fixed section with a curved bottom edge (also seen on many Texans).
What is frustrating is that the designers could easily have accommodated both types of canopy if they'd only extended the rear fuselage drop-in section to include the rear of the cockpit opening. There should be a natural break along a panel line which, ironically, is missing on the kit (the luggage compartment door has no hinge-line).
The way the kit parts break down on the sprues, it doesn't look as though Kitty Hawk are intending a boxing with different fuselage halves so, until the aftermarket brigade get to work, you can't build an accurate Harvard (despite the control column and exhaust), or a Texan with the curved-style rear canopy.
Things get even more confusing with the kit's featured colour schemes - no less than 8 machines, almost all of which are “warbirds” or carry different style canopies to what's included with the kit. Hunting through various Internet links reveals:
1. “TA-349”, civil-registered N9523C. This is actually an AT-6C retro-fitted with late-style canopy sliding sections – but it still has a curved-base rear canopy.
2. SNJ-5 s/n 93449, civil-registered N9523C. Retro-fitted with late-style canopy.
3. SNJ-5 s/n 90917, US Marines, civil-registered N1038A - this aircraft has an early style canopy
4. RCAF Harvard Mk. IV “213”, civil-registered as CF-UUU – being a Harvard it has the “wrong” rear canopy
5. Bundesluftwaffe Harvard Mk. IV (not a Mk.II as the painting guide calls it) – “wrong rear canopy”
6. Italian Air Force T-6G s/n MM 5401, civil-registered as I-SSEP– photos seem to show a rear instrument panel updated with modern instrument (possibly true for other “warbirds” too)
7. SAAF AT-6A “7111” - this aircraft carried an early canopy and a cowl gun (not included)
8. RAF Harvard Mk. II – another “warbird”, civil-registered as G-BIWX. It's a Harvard, so “wrong” rear canopy again.
So, of all eight schemes, I think the correct canopy is only provided for options #2 and #6 – and they're both “warbirds”.
Instructions and decalsThe instructions are printed as a neat 24-page booklet. As noted above, some parts (such as the seatbelts) aren't shown in the construction sequence, and the Harvard's control column and exhaust are simply shown as “optional” with no explanation as to what painting schemes they're intended for. Other than that, the drawings themselves are clear and straightforward to follow,. As noted above, the illustrations rather carelessly show the early-style canopy which isn't included (presumably an earlier version T-6 is on the way – so I wonder if they'll include correct instrument panels to go with it?...).
The decals arrive on three sheets – two of which are huge and very impressive at first sight. The thin, glossy items are printed in good register – but look closely, and you'll see the colours are reproduced as fine dots. Something's gone wrong with one of the Italian roundels on the sample sheet, which has resulted in a mottled brown centre. The RAF roundel red looks far too bright for a wartime machine, but the subject is a “warbird” with non-standard markings. There's a good selection of stencil markings included, which are printed sharp enough to be legible with a magnifier. Unfortunately, that's something of a mixed blessing, because they are riddled with “typos”.
ConclusionKitty Hawk's debut in the 1:32 market deserves to be a major success as, out of the box, you have a very good T-6G / SNJ-7 – and one that could have been a real stunner if only similar care had gone into researching suitable colour schemes. Hence I can't help but think the designers haven't fully grasped the canopy/fuselage differences between the various T-6 versions, so I hope they will “bite the bullet” and revise how they've handled the rear section of the cockpit opening – something that will open up a huge range of interesting options for future releases.
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