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Reviews : American : American WW2 Last Updated: Apr 21st, 2015 - 23:52:06

C-46 Commando. Williams Brothers. 1/72nd Kit 72-346
By Clarence Wentzel. IPMS USA
Apr 15, 2006, 16:58

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Originally intended as an airliner for carrying 36 passengers in pressurized comfort above the weather, the Curtiss C-46 Commando would become best known for flying the “hump” over the Himalayas to provide urgently needed supplies to the allies fighting the Japanese in China. The C-46 could carry over two and a half times the load of the better known C-47. At the start of World War II, the C-46 was rushed into volume production and as a result, encountered a number of teething problems but the C-46 performed its job well. Following the war, a small number of the aircraft were used for airline and freight operations, however it has never received the publicity of the C-47 (DC-3).

To date, only one kit of this significant cargo airplane has been produced, that from Williams Brothers. The kit was designed in the mid-1970’s and compares poorly with more modern kits but it is the only kit of C-46 and it is accurate according to measurements and comparison with photos. Before starting assembly of the kit, the modeler must plan to carve plastic to finish the kit. This is because Williams Brothers molded features from various models of the C-46 into this kit and modelers will have to modify something, no matter which version they choose to build. I had to carve the tail wheel doors open and remove a fuselage reinforcement from the right side. Also, the main wheel doors are molded closed. To display the wheels down, the door areas need to be removed from the nacelles. Also, most of the smaller parts need to be cleaned up before they can be used. It is standard to have to clean up a mold parting line with most kits but with the C-46 kit, the parting line was in many cases a parting ledge. On the positive side, the plastic was very soft and carving and sanding was easy.

Before starting assembly, I talked with Richard Marmo who had built this kit thirty years or so ago. He stated that the key problem is the main floor. There are small tabs on the fuselage sides but they don’t clearly locate the floor. The is a bulkhead behind the cockpit which can be used to locate the floor but it some material must be removed from the sides of the floor to make the fuselage join correctly. With this kit, the rule is to pre-fit parts several times before gluing.

Now for some comments on problems that I encountered with the kit. I first thought that the fuselage side windows fit well. In retrospect, I should have superglued them in place and polished them flush from the outside. I also had a problem with the observation dome. No good location details were given-I had to measure plans to find the location, cut the opening and then sand the bottom of the observation dome to fit the contour of the fuselage. I had problems locating the position for gluing but finally got it reasonably right.

The Windshield. The unique windshield of the C-46 was supplied in two parts. Williams Brothers indicated that they should be glued in place in each fuselage side before the fuselage was assembled. I didn’t follow this direction because I was afraid of how the cockpit and the windshield joint line would look. I glued the windshield in place after completing the fuselage assembly and the cockpit with white glue and then painted the nose area. At this point, I wasn’t satisfied with the fit of the canopy and replaced the injection-molded part with a vacu-formed part from True Details. This looks ok but not perfect. If I were to build the model again, I would glue one side of the windshield in place with superglue, ensuring a perfect fit. I would then trim the other windshield half until it fit perfect and then superglue it in place.

The propellers consisted of six parts, the hub front, the hub back and separate blades. Lots of clean up was required on blades but again, the soft plastic made this easy. I was worried about having to assemble the parts freehand but this really went smoothly.

Antennae. The C-46 featured an overwhelming number of different antenna configurations. The plans from Williams Brothers give indications of the antennas and pitot tubes used by the various versions offered however the modeler should search photo references to be sure. In my case, it took lots of study to feel comfortable with the antenna array. Williams Brothers did not supply any of the antennas with the kit. They did, however provide full size drawings to be used to scratchbuild the necessary parts. I used the soft plastic sprue runners from the kit to produce a number of the antenna.

One last construction heads-up. The plans show a nice exploded view of the right hand landing gear. The location of the exploded view on the page could lead some people (read that to mean your author) to believe that it is the left-hand landing gear. Be sure to check photos before gluing the gear in place to avoid having to pop glue joints later.

The kit provides markings for four aircraft – an olive drab/neutral gray early war model, a natural metal late war model, an overall olive drab model from the Chinese Air Force and a natural metal freighter from Flying Tiger Line, circa 1950s. In addition, Williams Brothers offer an after market decal sheet with of a late war model in camouflage with a pin-up nose art. I chose to model this version and a quick call to Carlo Medina of Williams Brothers got me a sample of this decal sheet along with a reference showing a photo of the actual airplane. Great service.

With the recent publication of the “C-46 Commando in Action” book from Squadron Signal, lots of modelers will want to take another look at this kit. The book provides good, detailed photos for the modeler plus a number of additional color schemes. This kit requires a lot of work to produce an acceptable model but the work is not beyond the capabilities of most modelers, even beginners. The key rule to remember is to test fit the parts together and make any adjustments before gluing. My thanks to John Noack and William Brothers for providing this kit and allowing me to add this important, impressive model to my collection. Recommended with the cautions noted. I am now thinking of digging out that Northrup Gamma kit from Williams Brothers to add to my collection.

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