27 December 2014

NC-2A & NC-8A U.S. Navy Mobile Power Units – Verlinden Model Kit Review

1. Introduction
Vehicle: NC-2A & NC-8A U.S. Navy Mobile Power Units
Model kit manufacturer / country: Verlinden Productions / USA
Scale: 1:72
Catalogue number: 2584
Release time: late 1990s or early 2000s

NC-2A is a mobile electrical power unit designed for use aboard ships. It's purpose is to provide external electric power to aircraft for pre-flight or maintenance purposes. The vehicle has seen active service on the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers from the early 1970s until the late 1990s.

The NC-8A is a purpose-built land-based vehicle designed to provide external electric power to aircraft for pre-flight or maintenance purposes. It was in service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from the early 1970s until the late 1990s. It is a purely land-based vehicle that does not go to sea on aircraft carriers.

2. Kit
2.1. Box
The box is a small side-opener (10 x 10 x 4 cm) made of soft cardboard, with the boxart being a photograph of assembled and painted models. There is a warning that decals are not included. The name of the kit printed on the box – "US Navy NAS EPU Tractors" – is technically incorrect. Firstly, it must be noted that neither the NC-2A nor the NC-8A is a tractor. A tractor is a vehicle with the primary purpose of towing something. The purpose of both vehicles in question is to provide electrical power to aircraft. Therefore they could be called mobile electrical power units, mobile power plants or mobile generators, but definitely not tractors. Secondly, the "NAS" acronym (Naval Air Station) is only applicable to NC-8A. NC-2A has been designed for shipboard use, and I haven't found any photographic proofs that it ever saw operational service ashore.

2.2. Instruction
Instruction is provided on one black & white A5 sheet. It is a disappointment due to being irrelevant. In particular:
1) It only covers the NC-2A model; nothing is said about the other model, the NC-8A, at all.
2) The building diagram explains us how to assemble the parts that simply do not exist in the kit (compare the diagram and the photograph showing the contents of the kit). I surmise that the building diagram is copy-pasted from an instruction for the 1:48 scale model of the same vehicle.
3) Instead, this instruction tells us how to apply decals. Which are, as we already know, not included.

None of the shortcomings that I list here are critical (I don't think that modellers really need guidance on assembling something that consists of 6 parts in total) - but they do, alas, reflect the manufacturer's attitude.

2.3. Resin Items
The kit is cast from pale cream resin. A thin plastic rod is also included to make steering columns. Quality of casting is excellent: edges, meshes, rivets and other tiny parts are exceptionally crisp.

There is a lot of fine detail on both models. The problem is that those details, while being fine and nice-looking, are inaccurate. The key issues are illustrated (and numbered) on enclosed pictures.

1) Headlights and retroreflectors on the front panel are positioned incorrectly.
2) A prominent slot (through which power cables run) on the front panel is absent.
3) A "step" on the real vehicle's front panel is very prominent, whereas on the model kit it is barely discernable.
4) Front bumper is too thick; it should be thinner.
5) Radiator vent's frame is too thin; the mesh is diamond-shaped instead of square.
6) Tail lights and retroreflectors on the rear panel are positioned incorrectly.
7) Rear bumper is too thick.
8) The shape of the dashboard's housing is inaccurate.
9) The kit's left front fender is much too thick (this, obviously, is due to requirements of the resin casting process).
10) A box-like projection on the cockpit floor (that probably houses steering gear) is absent.
11) Generators' instrument panel is inaccurate.
12) Dashboard layout is inaccurate.

13) Radiator grille is too tall.
14) Headlights are positioned incorrectly.
15) The hinge of the cable reel compartment's door is placed too low.
16) Dashboard layout is inaccurate.
17) Generators' instrument panel is inaccurate.
18) The hood / body split line is placed too high.
19) Two downward-looking projections below the cockpit are absent (due to requirements of the resin casting process, again).

3. Decal
Not included.

4. Alternatives & Aftermarket
There is a photo-etched detail set produced by F4Models (cat. # 7032) that is designed to correct many of the Verlinden's kit shortcomings.

5. Conclusion
 - Very good quality of casting.
 - Major inaccuracies in shape and geometry of both models (see section 2.3 above).
 - Decal not included.

The conclusion is, therefore, as follows: major surgery is required to make this kit look like an accurate representation of NC-2A and NC-8A vehicles.

6. Reference Data
[1] NAVEDTRA 14014, Chapter 9
[2] NAVEDTRA 14311, Chapter 2
[3] Historic photographs found on airliners.net, carrierbuilders.net and elsewhere on the web.