Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Aircraft In Miniature
Accessory ID
Accessory Title AG-330 Start Cart
Types Featured SR-71
Kit Designed For Any

The cart

The AG-330 start cart was designed by Lockheed's "Skunk Works" to solve a problem unique to the SR-71 family. Due to the nature of the fuel used (JP-7) and the viscosity of the oil used to lubricate the engines, normal starting methods (electric or starter cartridge) were not possible and Lockheed came up with an unusual solution.

Two Buick 401 cubic inch car engines with automatic gearboxes were fitted in tandem driving a single vertical shaft which was connected mechanically to the SR-71's J58 engine. Once started, the Buick engines would turn over the J58 until it reached approximately 3200rpm, at which time a shot of Triethylborane catalyst would be injected to ignite the fuel and start the engine. Once running, the same procedure would be used to start the second engine.

during the mid 1970's, the Buick engines were replaced with a pair of Chevolet 454 cubic inch engines, although the carts were still referred to as "Buicks".

The model

There has never been a model of the AG-330 available in 1/72 until now, but thanks to Aircraft In Miniature (AIM), building an SR-71 diorama is much easier!

The kit comprises the main body of the cart cast as a single piece in grey resin and a shaft cover, one piece rear axle, two piece front axle, tow bar and four wheels all cast in white metal. No decals were provided for the review sample, but these will be available from Hannants.

AIM AG 330 CSC 009 324 1200 1600 80 rd 255 255 255

The resin is quite crisp, with details such as the tie-downs on the side well reproduced. The axles are quite basic and need flash removing, but fit well. The wheels are a mixed bag, being nicely detailed but the wrong size and thickness, and were replaced with those from a Hasegawa weapons set.

The AG-330s were originally painted gloss Insignia Yellow (FS13538), but changed to matt dark green (FS34052) during the mid 1970's. Some units, such as those used by NASA or the 9th SRW were painted more colorfully and are on display in the USA.

As noted, no decals were provided. On the Insignia Yellow carts, reflective silver tape outlined the edges and this was reproduced using white decal film as this best approximates the finish in 1/72 scale; the green aircraft had black tape. Instruments were created by scanning an image of the real cart, cleaning it up in Photoshop and then printing it onto clear decal film using an inkjet printer.

Overall, this is a highly useful and nicely detailed kit!

Review and images by Chris St Clair