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Minicraft Models 1/144 scale VC-54C "Sacred Cow"

Kit: No. 14497
Scale: 1/144
Manufacturer: Minicraft Models, 921 North State St., Elgin, IL 60123-2146, www.minicraftmodels.com
Price: $24
Comments: Injection-molded, 59 parts, decals
Pros: Needed subject, well-molded, thin trailing edges, excellent decals, FDR's elevator included
Cons: Some errors in the instructions; part numbers in assembly steps don't match sprues
What is a "Sacred Cow?" Well, in this case, it was the first aircraft specially adapted to carry the president of the United States. The C-54 was a military DC-4, and this particular one was furnished with a small suite in the rear fuselage and an elevator to lift Franklin D. Roosevelt in his wheelchair. As it turned out, FDR flew in this aircraft only once, but it was used by President Truman and other VIPs well into the 1960s.

Minicraft's new 1/144 scale release of the C-54 is molded in dark-gray, flash-free plastic with recessed panel lines. It's not a complicated kit. Assembly is straightforward, and the exploded views in the instructions are easy to follow - good thing, because the part numbers don't match up with those on the sprues.

The one-piece wing undersurface has a molded-in spar that keeps the wing from warping and establishes the proper dihedral. The trailing edges of the wings and tail surfaces are sharp. I needed a little filler around the wing-root fairings.

Well-formed engine fronts and one-piece cowls are supplied. Propeller shaft retainer disks are included for spinnable props. The separate long exhaust stacks are handed, so test fit them before applying glue. Not all C-54s had the long exhausts, so check photos.

There is no interior, but you wouldn't be able to see much through the tiny cockpit windows anyway. Be careful attaching the clear cockpit roof as the rear seam is close to the navigator's astrodome. The cabin windows are represented by decals.

There is no detail in the wheel wells, but the landing gear is very good for the scale. Watch out: The instructions show the nose-gear strut going into the forward mounting hole with the retraction strut to the rear. The opposite (as shown in the boxtop painting) is correct.

If you choose to install the president's elevator, you can use it to hold up the tail. Otherwise, you'll need to add weight to the nose.

The Scale-Master/Cartograf decal sheet is beautifully printed and includes the leading edge de-icer boots and tiny "Sacred Cow" legends for the provided wheel chocks! It took some extra setting solution to get the yellow "salute" diamond around the nose and the de-icer boots on the horizontal stabilizers. Note that the national insignias on the fuselage were not opposite each other; the decal has it right.

I didn't add the anti-collision beacon atop the vertical tail, as that came along in the early 1960s. It may be on the aircraft now, but I wanted to represent the aircraft in its original appearance.

The finished model scales out right on the money with the dimensions in Swanborough & Bowers' book, U.S. Air Force Aircraft Since 1909. I spent only 12 hours on my VC-54 and am pleased with it.

Despite the shortcomings of the instructions, Minicraft's kit is a welcome addition to my 1/144 scale collection. The base kit is sure to be reissued in several airliner liveries soon.

- Walt Fink

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