Minicraft 1/48 Piper Cherokee 140
Model, Text and Photos by: Ken Zelnick
Given the large number of people who either are or want to be pilots, I find it surprising that there are so few models of general aviation aircraft available. The Minicraft Cherokee 140 is one of those models, and represents the second type of aircraft I was privileged to fly (the first was a Cessna 150, and will be covered in another build.)
The Minicraft model consists of 37 nicely molded white and six clear styrene parts with just a small amount of flash. Panel lines and rivets are probably overstated in terms of scale measurements, but should look all right on the finished product.
The instruction sheet is clear and laid out well except that paint colors are referenced by letters that are not defined anywhere in the kit. Fortunately, the Cherokee is a common sight at local airports, so if you are fortunate enough to live near one, you can make a quick visit and see for yourself. Just don't get caught removing the cowl to look at the engine unless you know the owner VERY well!
The kit comes with a stand that supports the finished model at its balance point. This stand comes with a connector that must be installed in a hole in the bottom of the fuselage when joining the halves together. If you decide not to use the stand, you will have to add quite a bit of weight to the nose of the model to get it to set properly on its tricycle gear. I opted for this approach, and used pieces of wheel weights packed between the instrument panel and firewall, and also around the engine. None of this is visible once the engine cowl is installed.
The first step is to paint and assemble the interior. This consists of a floor and three seats, the back two being joined together in one piece. Assembly is simple enough, and if you don't want to go to the airport and check out a real color scheme, you can design your own.
The wing consists of three pieces. The lower part is in one piece, and the floor/seat assembly attaches to the middle of this. The upper portions are then attached, leaving a space in the middle for the fuselage, which will come later.
The interior of the fuselage should also be painted, as it will be visible through the windows. The kit-supplied windows have quite a bit of distortion, so any extensive detailing will probably be lost in the final product. However, major components such as seat belts will probably be visible, and you may wish to build some from scratch, as they are not included. I used a combination of Humbrol and Testors enamels and Ceramcoat acrylics for the seats and interior. For black surfaces such as the instrument panel, I lightened the black with a little white, as pure black was too dark for the scale. For the instruments, I added some white "tick marks" and needles, then applied a drop of Future floor finish to simulate the glass covers.
Once the interior is detailed, and the windows and instrument panel installed, the fuselage can be closed and attached to the wing. If you use the provided stand, be sure to install its attachment pin at this time. On my kit, it was necessary to bend the sides of the fuselage together forward of the windscreen to get them to mate properly. This bend is appropriate, though, as once the fuselage is properly joined, the firewall and cowl fit nicely. However, the deck over the instrument panel did not join well, and I had to fill in a gap with some putty. It was not until later that I noticed the deck was not symmetrical, and is higher on the passenger's side of the plane.
The engine/exhaust/mount consists of eleven small parts, and the block/cylinder pieces are the worst molded parts in the kit. The mating surfaces are extremely rough, and appear to have been shot with insufficient plastic. This may be because so much leaked out of the mold to produce relatively heavy flash. This can be cleaned up, and should only be a minor inconvenience, as most of this assembly will be hidden inside the cowl. The exhaust pipes require some fiddling to get them to attach properly, but again this will be covered by the cowl. Unless you plan on leaving the cowl off, any extra detailing of the engine will be hidden. It should also be noted here that when the time comes to install the cowl, you may have to do some trimming to get it to fit.
The balance point is well behind the main gear, so weight must be added to the nose if the model is to stand realistically on its tricycle gear. Before installing the firewall, I attached a small amount of lead from a wheel balancing weight between the instrument panel and firewall to try to achieve that effect. As it turns out, more weight will be needed, and now will have to be added in the engine compartment, so if you choose this approach, add as much weight between the instrument panel and firewall as you can. An alternative would be to attach the model to a base of some sort (wood or diorama), but that wouldn't lend itself to "flying" the model around the living room while making engine noises. Admit it, you do it too!
The nose wheel is attached to the engine firewall before the engine and its mount. I also added the main gear at this time so I could determine how much lead I would have to add for proper balance. There are decals for the wheel covers, and it would probably be wise to apply them before installing the wheels to prevent the possibility of breaking the wheels off later. If you apply the decals now, remember to paint the wheels to match the fuselage, which will be overall white.
The engine cowl comes in two pieces, and I installed the lower one first, then packed in as much lead as I could around the engine. Quite a bit is needed to get the model to set properly on its tricycle gear. Note that once the upper cowl is in place, virtually all of the engine is invisible, so the lead and any superdetailing you did will be completely hidden. I had to do some trimming to the lower front part of the engine in addition to considerable thinning of the cowl in order to get the cowl to fit properly.
The upper cowl did not fit well, and required alittle sanding to fit into position. Once I got a "best fit", I still had to make use of some putty to fill in cracks and seams, especially along the lower left and right edges and the top rear edge just forward of the windscreen. This area will require a little sculpting to get the cowl and fuselage to blend together properly.
The horizontal part of the step just aft of the right wing is way too long, so I cut it to about half its original length. I had to do some carving and thinning to get it to attach to the fuselage smoothly.
The stabilator (combined horizontal stabilizer and elevator) is a one-piece unit that installs nicely. No extra work was needed here.
The model was now ready for its final paint scheme, which is simply overall white. I used Ceramcoat acrylic thinned with Future floor finish applied with a brush. It took several coats, and probably would have been easier and better with an airbrush. I then overcoated everything with straight Future to provide a high gloss surface for the decals.
The only parts left to install are the rather fragile propeller and extremely fragile radio antenna, so I decided to apply the decals at this point. As I mentioned earlier, it probably would have been easier to apply the wheel cover decals before installing the wheels, although I did this successfully without breaking anything. The wheel cover decals, and to a lesser extent the long stripes along the sides of the fuselage, have to go around some rather complex curves, and they didn't want to settle down well. Your favorite decal setting solution will be needed here. I didn't have any "real" setting solution, so I experimented with a tiny drop of Plastruct Bondene, a liquid cement that I got from my local plastic pusher. Using only the tiniest amount, I got the decals to snuggle down very well. A decal is provided for the anti-slip walkway on the wing, but instead I used Ceramcoat black mixed with a little white. When everything was dry, I overcoated the everything with another coat of Future, then used an eraser on the wing walkway to remove the shine.
The kit includes one piece that I can only guess is supposed to be an extremely thick antenna, and the instructions show it placed on the aft belly of the plane. I left this piece off, and instead installed a piece of stretched sprue that was more to scale on the upper aft fuselage in accordance with the planes I saw at the local airport. The propeller was the last piece to install. I painted the blades with Testors Steel and the cone and propeller tips with the same Ceramcoat white I used on the fuselage.
This is a fun build of one of the few examples of General Aviation aircraft. For the more ambitious pilots, it shouldn't be too difficult to convert this into a miniature replica of a plane you may have flown, or even are flying now. Remember, this is a hobby and you can build it any way you like. If you're not having fun at it, you're doing something wrong!
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