C-45 Expeditor Model 18

Published: August 29th, 2011     
Product Image
Box Art
Reviewed by: Stephen Bierce - IPMS# 35922
Scale: 1/72
Price: $19.95
Product / Stock #: 72102
Product provided by: Squadron

Beechcraft has built many multi-engined airplanes over its long and successful history, but when anybody in aviation mentions a "Twin Beech", they don't mean a Baron, a Duke, or even a Super King Air - they mean a Model 18. Designed at the end of the 1930s as a competitor to Lockheed's Electra 10, it soon eclipsed that type in production with demand for light transports and aircrew trainers during WW2 (with Lockheed busy with building P-38 Lightning fighters, Hudson bombers, and bigger transport planes, Beech was in the perfect position for the business!). Thousands built, they served second-line military roles all over the world with all the Allied nations, and Beech kept the type in production afterwards for the growth of postwar air travel. Many are still in flying condition today and they are often seen at warbird airshows.

Encore's kit is basically a combination of a reissue of the Turkish PM/Pioneer 2 brand Twin Beech of the 1970s/80s with new resin and vacuform parts. The new parts include engines, propellers, cowlings, cockpit pieces, and control surfaces, as well as a few additional detail parts. It represents a baseline production Model 18 from the wartime and early post-war years.

When I received this kit, I was a student at Tennessee Tech Center at Morristown in the Aviation Maintenance Technology program. Among the aircraft at the school's campus on the grounds of Morristown Airport is a Twin Beech that had belonged to an air charter company years before. While I could have been tempted to model that specific machine, it would have been impossible, as it was a later example than the one represented in the Encore kit, and had been converted to turboprop power and had a fuselage stretch, a new cockpit, and tricycle landing gear. (I suppose Encore can follow up this kit with a "mix-and-match" modified post-war Twin Beech kit, which would include these hardware changes as well as the improved tailplanes of the Pacific Airmotive Tradewinds version!)

Even with limiting myself to the basic version, the Encore kit requires a lot of surgery. I decided not to use the resin control surfaces, as getting them right would have been beyond my skill set. I still had to saw off the cowl halves from the wing/nacelle parts so I could use the resin cowls and engines. I also had to cut holes in the fuselage halves to add a feature shown on the box art but not included in the kit itself - skylights for the cockpit! I also filled in the holes in the undersides of the wings for the landing lights at this point.

Encore's parts do a lot of help to the kit cosmetically but don't help the basic kit's fundamental problems with fit and alignment. I had to do some fiddling and trimming to make the cabin fit in the fuselage halves, and re-drilled holes in the cockpit floor for the control columns because the new resin dashboard sits right on top of the original position for these parts. The resin seats are the same shape as the plastic originals and only add seat belts (which look chunky and out of scale). The resin parts also include a one-piece cabin door; to use it means drilling out the spot on the left fuselage where it goes, then installing it. But if you pose it open, you'll have to provide the steps for crew access yourself. Many Twin Beeches have a two-piece door; the top half swings out and back, the bottom half swings DOWN to allow an air-stair to unfold. It would have been very clever for Encore to have something like that, and it would be a fun feature for a modeler to show off.

There are no passenger seats or hardware for the cabin aft of the crew cockpit. While benches can be easily fabricated from sheet plastic, it would have been nice to include some seats, and it would have been a good excuse to pose the door open, too. The cabin windows are molded plastic with no vacuform alternative offered, so the interior is tough to see inside. I filled in the window ports for the door and the luggage compartment as I didn't want any interference with the rear cabin bulkhead against the fuselage halves.

I used the vacuformed windshield, and pieces of its surplus plastic became skylights for the cockpit. It wasn't until I began painting that I noticed the frames for the panes were wrong in front. There are pane lines right in front of the pilot and co-pilot positions (where they aren't on the real plane!) and no pane line in the very center of the windshield (where it is on the real plane!). Fixing it would have been a lot of work, and I hope Encore corrects this mistake in later issues.

The resin Wasp Junior engines were a particular problem. They are rendered as separate crankcases and piston cylinders, which means that the builder has to install every single cylinder one at a time. There are locator holes on the crankcases but no corresponding tabs on the cylinders. There are too many ways to make mistakes. And the completed engines were tough to fit into the cowlings...to the point that I had to file down the tops of the cylinders to make them fit inside. I hate having to do that. They are a great improvement over the Turkish plastic parts in detail - if you can get them assembled right!

The resin propeller parts were just as nasty. While cleaning two of the blades, I wound up breaking the tips off and had to replace them with the plastic parts. There is little wrong with the plastic props and if I had it to do again, I might have used them as is. There are resin main landing gear wheels, but they have to fit the plastic main gear struts, and don't do it very well. The engine exhausts are nice, and probably the simplest of the resin parts to use.

One hazard of an airplane of this layout is proper alignment at final assembly. Looking at it completed, I see I gave the right wing too much dihedral and it threw everything a little off from there. I guess it isn't as bad as it seems. But making sure the horizontal stabilizer is horizontal, and the vertical tailplanes are vertical, is a tricky business. If I chose to use the resin parts with these, it would have complicated the matter even more.

Encore gives you two choices on paint scheme: a typical USAAF C-45 scheme from 1941, and a Beech factory postwar paint job for an Australian customer in the 1950s. I initially thought of replicating the paint layout for the C-45 in the movie 1941 (which wasn't too different from Encore's, just go for overall Aluminum rather than Olive Drab over Gray). I changed my mind and went with the Aussie colors, with a modification inspired by a Twin Beech from another comedy spectacle, It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. That plane had bold striping along the wings and tail that worked well with Encore's decals. The decals had some fit problems on the top of the fuselage and the tips of the wings, but I was able to use a White paint pen to fill the gaps and make other corrections. The main paint colors were Testors standard flat Sea Blue and Model Master Guards Red for the striping.

Scale accuracy and general proportions are fairly good. However, I can only recommend this kit to advanced aircraft modelers who are willing to put in a lot of work. It is possible to make a contest-winner out of the Encore Twin Beech, though if I were a judge, it would really impress me more about the builder's ability than the engineering of the kit.

Thanks to John Noack, IPMS/USA, Squadron Products, HobbyTown USA, Peter Bos, Paul Francis, and members of Knoxville Scale Modelers for this project.

  • Kit contents
    Kit contents
  • Completed kit comparison
    Completed kit comparison
  • Left front
    Left front
  • Left rear
    Left rear
  • Front
    Front

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