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Minicraft 1/72 scale PBM-5A

RELATED TOPICS: AIRCRAFT
Kit:11669 // Scale:1/72 // Price:$69.99
Manufacturer:
Minicraft Models, 847-429-9676
Pros:
Fine recessed panel lines; excellent fit; movable control surfaces; optional cowl flaps, props, and radomes
Cons:
Rare variant; inaccurate props, cowl flaps, pitot mast, and radome
Comments:
Injection molded, 200 parts, decals
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Several years have passed since Mini-craft announced its intention to produce a 1/72 scale Mariner. After the passing of its owner, recession, and restaffing, Minicraft finally has produced its much-anticipated kit.

It’s a great kit, but not perfect. You may ask, “Why the amphibian PBM-5A?” The answer is simple: The only surviving example of Martin’s famous patrol seaplane is a -5A at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., and was likely the main reference of the kit designer, Bra.Z Models. There were only 40 -5A amphibious Mariners made, all post-World War II. But it’s clear from some of the unused parts on the sprues that Minicraft will eventually issue kits of -5 and -3 flying boats.

The kit parts are well molded in slightly soft plastic with fine recessed panel lines. Separating small parts from the sprues should be done with care — the four small bomb racks have eight sprue attachments! Interior details for the cockpit, bomb bays (in the nacelles behind the engines), and gun turrets are adequate for the scale. 

I was impressed with the fit. There was no evidence of warping in the fuselage halves (and they’re big). With a few exceptions, the assemblies fit together as intended. 

I found that the bomb-bay framing seemed to hinder a clean fit of the wing parts. If you decide to model the bays closed, leave out the framing. I had to cut away the inner edges of the inboard flap wells to allow the wing to fit into the recess molded into the fuselage. When you dry-fit the assembled wing to the fuselage, you’ll see what needs to be removed.

The kit features movable two-part flaps, ailerons, elevators, and rudders — and they all work! The three gun turrets are molded in halves. I thought I could glue, mask, and paint the clear turrets, then install the guns and base ring from below. But I found that they should be assembled as shown in the instructions. I ended up cracking the clear rear-turret parts in final assembly.

The molding of the engines is different from other kits I’ve worked on — rings of cylinders are slipped over the central crankcase, then fit between the cowl and ring of cowl flaps. You get both opened and closed cowl flaps, but there’s too much space between the individual cowl flaps; they look toothy. Minicraft supplies both three- and four-blade props, but the shapes of the blades and hubs on all are scrawny compared with photos.

The landing gear was trouble-free. You’re supposed to put a full ounce of weight somewhere in the nose to balance the model on its gear; I chose to hold the tail up with a segment of clear sprue rod.

The fit of the flight-deck canopy is too tight to install easily. I had to shave off the tiny lip along the rear edge to allow the part to drop into place. 

The kit decals are beautifully printed and settled fine. There are two marking choices with just insignias, prop warning stripes, and serials. One airframe depicted is the XPBM-5A, a conversion of a -5 flying boat. It’s one of the few -5As shown in photos, and I like the combination of tricolor paint scheme with the late-1947 national insignia. The other serial number given on the decals doesn’t jibe with any PBM serials. 

I spent 33 hours building this Mariner. The finished model is impressively large when you consider it is a twin-engined seaplane. Standing back to look, I see the model lacks the mounting flange of the large radome (you also get the later, mast-mounted radome). The double pitot-tube mast on top of the radome is misshapen, and the aforementioned propellers and hubs look puny. Also, there are no wingtip navigation lights; I made my own with little drops of white glue that I painted.

As familiar as the Mariner is, there’s precious little reference material. I referenced PBM Mariner in Action, by Bob Smith (Squadron/Signal, ISBN 978-0-89747-177-0). An online search of photos of -5A amphibians revealed little more than the published images and photos of the Pima restoration.

So, 1/72 scale aircraft modelers finally have a decent Mariner for their collections. Here’s hoping Minicraft will bring us the more-familiar -3 wartime versions soon!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the December 2013 FineScale Modeler

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