by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
For decades modellers wanting a quarter-scale Airacobra had to make do with Monogram's old, but excellent, kit. Then a few years ago, Eduard released a series of excellent P-39/P-400 models that marked a turning point in their production techniques and gave us truly modern kits of this important aircraft. With such good models available, it surprised many when Hasegawa announced their own series of 1/48 scale Airacobras - first the P-400 and now a P-39Q/N. The first release slipped through our Review-Net, but I couldn't resist snapping up the new version.
The kit arrives in a sturdy top-opening box and consists of:
110 x grey styrene parts (12 spare)
17 x clear styrene parts (5 spare)
4 x poly caps
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The parts are superbly moulded - really crisply detailed, with a polished finish and finely engraved panel lines, embossed fasteners, some raised panels and very nicely depicted fabric control surfaces. As you'd expect with a new kit from one of the majors, there's basically not a trace of flash or any sign of sink marks.My only gripe is that there are a few prominent ejector pin marks to deal with - e.g. on the inner faces of the cockpit doors and landing gear covers.
Test FitI didn't expect any the fit of the main parts to hold any nasty surprises and I wasn't disappointed; the fuselage halves clip together neatly with all the panel lines matching up and the fit at the wing roots is good. The wings themselves are very nice, with much finer leading and trailing edges than Eduard's kit (really the only criticism that can be fairly made of that kit) and the tailplanes locate very precisely.
Hasegawa have taken a bit of flak lately for "over-engineering" some of their kits - trying to get multiple variants out of a single tooling by using optional inserts which haven't always been the best of fits. Well, the P-39 follows the same trend, with separate nose parts and wing panels to reflect different armament options. A quick test showed the underwing inserts fitted well, but the top of the nose sat a little deep.
Construction breakdownHasegawa's clearly drawn instructions break the assembly down into 9 stages. Colour refs are provided at each stage for Gunze Sangyo paints, but I'd be very wary of the suggested Zinc Chromate Type 1 for the interior; Detail & Scale state that Bell used a specific dark green unique to them. This dark green is borne out by period photos and shots of unrestored aircraft - although some sources dispute the name "Bell Green" as an official colour.
Stages 1 & 2 tackle the interior and fuselage. The cockpit/nosewheel-well are impressively detailed - 25 parts in all. The cockpit seems very complete compared with reference photos, all that are really missing are the gun priming handles and a seat harness. The instrument panel is very crisply moulded and should look great with some careful painting - there are also decals provided which can be punched out for the bezels. The instructions helpfully indicate that 15g of weight is needed in the nose to prevent the kit being a tail-sitter, but it's not as neat as Eduard's solution of supplying a made-to-fit white-metal weight.
Stages 3 & 4 turn to the wings and tail to complete the basic airframe. The kit provides a choice of a drop tank or bomb for the centre-line carrier - both are well done with decals provided for each as appropriate. There are separate inserts for the wing guns in the leading edge and underwing panels with cartridge case chutes or blanked-off ready for the underwing gun-pods.
Hasegawa provide a choice of how to depict the navigation/formation lights; they are moulded on solid, but they can also be sliced off and replaced with tiny clear parts.
Stage 5 covers the propeller, nose panels and exhausts.
Stages 6 & 7 deal with a well detailed landing gear. The main wheel wells are maybe a little shallow, but are beautifully detailed, complete with actuators for the covers. The gear legs are equally well done and the wheels have weighted tyres and very crisply moulded hubs.
Stages 8 & 9 add the bomb or drop tank and gun pods, before finishing everything off with canopy. The cockpit "car-doors" are separately moulded in clear plastic. The window sections are crystal clear, but the inside of the doors have really irritating ejector-pin marks to take care of. As with all Hasegawa kits, the clear parts are packed in a bag with the decals - which seems safe enough, but the main canopy in my kit had somehow got scuffed in transit. It'll polish up perfectly well, and it's hard to see how the damage occurred (Hasegawa did all the right things...), but it's annoying nevertheless.
Painting & Decals The kits includes markings for 3 colour schemes:
1. P-39Q, s/n 220746 flown by Lt. Clarence "Bud" Anderson, 357 FG, 363 FS, California, October 1943, with a red nose band and skull mascot on the doors.
2. P-39Q, s/n 219447 flown by Wing Commander Edward S. Chickering, 357 FG, California, October 1943 - "Saga Boy II" with white nose and wingtips and commander stripes around the rear fuselage. This aircraft is featured on the cover of D&S Vol. 63 in an original WW2 colour photo.
3. P-39N, flown by Lt. Bill Fiedler, 347 FG, 68 & 70 FS, Guadalcanal, June 1943 with a small skull and crossbones on the nose.
The decals are well produced, perhaps a little on the thick side, but printed in perfect register and the colours look good. Hasegawa provide decals for the nose bands on schemes 1 & 2 and the wing-tips on 2, but how well they'll conform to the prominent raised details is debatable - and many modellers will prefer to paint them anyway.
ConclusionHasegawa's P-39 looks an excellent kit. I was initially somewhat doubtful of the need for another model of the Airacobra, but it definitely earns its place on the shelf! Beautifully moulded to the highest modern standards, it's suitable for modellers of all abilities. It's good value too at £16-99. Recommended.