Bell Airacobra P-400

Published on
Review Author(s)
Scale
1/72
MSRP
$23.59
Product / Stock #
70055
Company: Arma Hobby - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Arma Hobby - Website: Visit Site
Box front

History

The Bell P-400 was a development of the Bell Model 14 P-39 Airacobra series, which originated in the late thirties. It was an unusual design in that it featured an engine mounted behind the pilot, and a cannon firing through the propeller shaft.It also was equipped with a tricycle landing gear. It was designed for high performance, and the U.S.Army ordered quite a few before the beginning of World War II.

As later fighters appeared, it fell behind in performance, and a number were ordered by the British, designated P-400. The Army’s series ran from P-39B through P-39Q, and production ceased in 1944 in favor of such types as the P-47 and P-51. Many were used by the Army, while about half of them were exported to the Soviet Union, where they were used successfully in ground attack duties. The British had a few, but they rejected the rest, which were impressed back into the U.S. Army Air Force as the P-400. Some eventually were used in the South Pacific island campaigns where they were not too popular with aircrews fighting the Japanese, who had better performing aircraft. A few also found their way to the Middle East.

References

There are numerous books and articles dealing with the Bell P-39 and P-400 series. William Green’s Fighters, Vol,. 4,gives a good historical account, as does the Profiles publication on the type. The Osprey P-39 Airacobra Aces of World War 2gives a good account of the service career of the type, along with a lot of color information, especially on Russian P-39’s. Many books dealing with fighter aircraft of World War II contain valuable information about the type.However, the most useful publication I’ve found is the Squadron-Signal Publications Aircraft No. 43, P-39 Airacobra in Action,by Ernie McDowell. It contains much color and detail information on the aircraft, and any of the above materials will be useful in constructing an accurate model of this aircraft.

The Kit

This is not the first issue in the series by Arma Hobby, as they issued a P-39Q kit several years ago. It is even advertised in the P-400 instruction sheet. The kit is extremely well done, with highly detailed instructions, including four pages of color drawings on the versions for which decals are provided. Also, the kit contains almost 100 individual parts, some of which are for different variants, an excellent decal sheet for three different South Pacific P-400’s, a mask sheet for the windows and wheels, and even three small metal balls to weight the nose down so the plane doesn’t sit on its tail. The plane doesn’t balance until the prop is installed, however.The kit is extremely well detailed, especially in the interior, although I had to do a bit of trimming before it all fitted into the fuselage sections. The doors were molded in clear plastic, and attached to the door openings so you can see the inside parts of the doors. There are even decals to highlight certain interior details.

Decals

Decals are provided for three aircraft: P-400 of 3oth FS, 35 FG, at Port Moresby, NG, in 1942,P-400 AH736, of 80 FS, 8 FG, Turnbull Airstrip, Milne Bay, 1942, and P-400 “Hell’s Bell”, 67 FS, 347 FG, Guadalcanal, Nov. 1942. Decals are excellent and very colorful, and all aircraft are ex RAF planes reacquired by the U.S. in 1942. They are all painted in RAF type “sand and spinach” over light grey. Decals are provided for all of the small stenciling that aircraft carried for maintenance and operating information, but some were so small that I declined to use them.

Assembly

The kit goes together quite nicely, although the process is confusing if you don’t follow the instructions exactly. The interior is very complex, and the instructions, while cleanly drawn, sometimes caused me some confusion. Some interior parts needed to be sanded down to make them fit inside the fuselage. I painted the interior using zinc chromate paint, and did the exterior using acrylic paint. I had airbrush problems with the acrylic paint, and wound using a brush technique.After painting, I installed a few accessories, and since the airplane carried low frequency radio equipment, I installed an LF wire antenna running from the cockpit cover to the tip of the vertical stabilizer. I used unstranded electronic wire, and the result was good.

Painting and Finishing

I modeled the 80 FS P-400, and used the typical RAF colors.It has a colorful sharkmouth trim on the nose, and otherwise typical U.S. Army markings. I didn’t bother to do any weathering, as the airplane probably didn’t last long enough to have much fading. The spinner and rudder top were medium blue, and the decals were all accurately placed.

Recommendation

This is an excellent kit. I’ve read a review of the previous Arma Hobby P-39 kit on another website, and my opinions are similar to that reviewer, who gave unlimited praise for the kit. It is probably the best Airacobra kit on the market in this scale, although I would only recommend it for fairly experienced modelers. I’ve built other kits of this aircraft from other manufacturers, but this one is best. Get one while you can.

Thanks to Arma Hobbies and IPMS/USA!

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