The Vultee BT-13 Valiant has been pretty shamefully neglected by major kit manufacturers over the years. This is bewildering in view of its importance to the Allied war effort - the Valiant was the most widely produced U.S. basic trainer and served with both the USAAF and USN. A grand total of 11,525 were built before production ceased in 1944 and, at one point, Valiants were coming off the production line faster than engines could be provided for them! This led to a new version, the BT-15, powered by a Wright Whirlwind in place of the original P&W Wasp Junior. Thanks to the rather noisy engine and the way the Valiant tended to vibrate a lot at low airspeeds, the BT-13 soon acquired the affectionate nickname " Vultee Vibrator". The Valiant was never in the headlines, but served throughout WW2 and it's useful life only ended with the advent of the first jet aircraft, which forced a total re-think of the training programme. With that, the BT-13 rapidly disappeared from the U.S. inventory.
In resin form...
While subjects like the BT-13 may not be economical for major injected kit producers, they are ideal for short-run manufacturers and Planet Models have stepped in with the release of an excellent resin kit of the Valiant. I ordered my kit from Modelimex and it arrived safe and sound in a very sturdy flip-top box, packed with polystyrene foam chips to further protect the contents. For a small company which produces short-run resin kits, Planet Models' boxtop artwork is particularly attractive.
The kit comprises:
47 x beige resin parts
3 x vacuformed clear parts (plus spares)
2 x white metal gear legs
Decals for 2 colour schemes
The casting is excellent - well up to the high standard I've come to expect in Planet Models' recent releases. I found just one or two minute bubbles that will take a moment or two to fill, and one rudder hinge isn't quite fully formed. The fuselage, wings and tail surfaces are all ready-separated from their main casting-blocks, so that will help speed-up preparing things for assembly. Surface detail consists of very neatly scribed panel lines and small corrugated areas on the trim tabs.
Construction looks very straightforward - the kit is designed to assemble as much like a conventional injected model as possible. The fuselage halves each have a small pour-stub to trim off at the tail, while the wings and tail are ready to go. A test fit shows the fuselage halves line up well and are nice and straight. The wing/fuselage joint needs a little trimming under the belly of the model, but the wing roots are a good fit and the chord of all the flying surfaces match their attachment points well.
The cockpit is nicely detailed, with a pair of excellent seats with moulded-on harnesses and well detailed instrument panels. The inside of the fuselage halves have integral sidewall structures ready for separate oxygen bottles, throttles and trim wheels, while the centre bulkhead doubles as a crash-bar. Neatly cast rudder pedals and control columns complete what should be a suitably busy office.
The rest of the construction looks pretty simple. The engine is cast as a single piece and the fine detail on the cylinder fins puts any injected kit engine to shame. The propeller is again one piece, with a well handled hub, complete with pitch adjustment weights. The cowling is thin and accurately cast, but will need carefully separating from its casting block and the front edge cleaning up. The exhaust are separate and are hollowed out.
The most numerous external parts are the flap actuators - 5 per side - all delicately cast and supplied in a separate packet for safe keeping.
Lately, Planet Models have used a rigid black resin for their undercarriage parts. Not so with the Valiant - which has a return to white metal parts. The casting is quite good, but not as sharp as the kit's resin components. Still, the gear legs should clean-up fine, and there's no doubt they'll bear the weight of the heavy one-piece solid resin wing. The wheels are "un-weighted" and have good detail on the treads and hubs.
Rounding everything off is a set of vacuformed clear parts for the canopy and landing lamp covers. Planet Models have thoughtfully included a spare for everything in case of accidents. The canopy is very clear with a precisely defined framework and the provision of the spare encourages you to open it up to show off the kit's nice cockpit.
Instructions and Decals
The assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and include generic colour names in Czech and English keyed to most parts.The construction is broken down into 3 main stages with 8 sub-sections, and the suggested sequence looks perfectly logical.
Decals are provided for a pair of Army trainers - "209" and "L153" - both painted in an identical ANA Light Blue and Orange Yellow colour scheme. The small decal sheet contains national insignia and individual markings, plus a few stencils and the propeller manufacturer's logos. The decals are printed by a company that's new to me - BOAAGENCY - and are thin and glossy and in perfect register. It's hard to judge the colour density on the sheet - the yellow numerals look good, but applying them over the blue paint scheme will be the acid test.
Planet Model's BT-13 Valiant looks a fine model of a badly neglected subject. The excellent casting and straightforward construction would make this a good choice for anyone wanting to try a complete resin kit for the first time and it will build into an impressive and colourful model that will fill a yawning gap in any 1/48 scale collection of US WW2 aircraft. Recommended.
Planet Models' Vultee BT-13 Valiant is available from Modelimex - specialists in Eastern European short run kits.
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