Kit: No. 2177
Manufacturer: Academy, distributed by MRC, P.O. Box 6312, Edison, NJ 08818-6312, phone 732-225-2100
Comments: Injection molded, 59 parts, decals.
Arguably the most aesthetically pleasing fighter aircraft of World War II (Spitfire fans will object, no doubt), the Bell P-39 Airacobra did not live up to its looks. Its performance at altitude was disappointing, but it found a niche as a ground-attack aircraft. The Soviets loved it, though, and more Airacobras flew with red stars than with white.
Academy's new 'Cobra features fine recessed panel lines, a moderately detailed cockpit, and markings for Bill Shomo's "Snooks 2nd" and Soviet Maj. Sirotin's aircraft. Options include spinners with 37mm and 20mm cannon muzzles, six- and 12-stack exhausts, wing guns for N and Q variants, and either a bomb or a fuel tank for the underbelly rack.
There were only a few tricks to assembly. You must add weight to the nose to keep the model on its tricycle gear. The cockpit floor extends forward to produce the ceiling of the nose-gear bay, so position the weight above the floor and ahead of the instrument panel. Study the instructions to determine which holes in the wings should be opened for the different machine-gun arrangements. You have to cut off a bit of the main gear covers if you pose the gear down.
The only fit problems I had were with the canopy and cockpit door. The radio on the back deck had to be cut down to keep it from interfering with the rear canopy. Academy molds the left cockpit door separately, and the curvature of the window portion didn't match the roll-over frame. I had to carefully bend the clear plastic door to get a better fit. The opening in the forward canopy had to be modified to fit around the door, too.
Cockpit detail is adequate if you intend to leave the door closed. Interestingly, the throttle quadrant of the P-39 was mounted on the left door jamb, making it a real knee-knocker. Because of this, pilots usually climbed in through the right door, but this door is molded closed on the fuselage. Academy engraved the throttle quadrant into the inside of the left door (not the jamb) and another on the inside of the right door. Hmmm.
I painted the model with Testor Model Master enamels, then glossed with Future for the decals. They conformed perfectly with an application of Micro Sol, but the dark camouflage showed through the white and yellow markings. Building and painting time came to 12 hours.
The finished model has a couple of outline problems. The fuselage between the front of the cockpit and the tail is not deep enough compared with photos in Squadron/Signal's P-39 Airacobra in Action and Wings of Fame Vol. 10. Also, the propeller is a scale foot short in diameter.
Still, this is the best P-39 in 1/72 scale, and the kit options allow modeling just about every version of the Airacobra. I'm going to stock up on a few more.
- Paul Boyer