The Bell P-39 Airacobra was a beautiful design. It had an innovative layout for the fuselage, with the engine mounted in the center fuselage, behind the pilot. The P-39 was also the first US Fighter with a tricycle undercarriage.
With these advantages came one large disadvantage. The engine did not have a turbo supercharger, which prevented the aircraft from performing well at high altitude, above 12,000 feet. Because of this, the RAF rejected the P-39. The Soviet Air Force did accept the Airacobra, as most of their combat took place at low to medium altitudes.
The P-39 also had a solid weapons system. The central mounted engine allowed the mounting of the T9 37mm cannon in the nose. This weapon could penetrate 8 inches of armor at 500 yards.
The P-39 was used by the US Army in the Southwest Pacific, mostly New Guinea. There were also P-39s in Alaska, where they were used against the Japanese invasion of Attu, but with limited success because of weather problems.
There are two grey and one clear sprue in the box, along with the decal sheet. There are markings provided for three USAAC P-39s and one Soviet aircraft. Two of the US Airacobras are from New Guinea, the other from Alaska.
Construction is fairly straightforward and simple. The interior is assembled in Step 1, painted, and inserted in the right fuselage half.
I ran into my first problem with the instructions at this point. They call for a nose weight in the fuselage but give no clue how much weight is needed. I cheated this one by assembling the fuselage halves, then cutting little pieces of lead sheet to about 1 mm width and about 1.5 cm in length, then inserting them through the hole for the prop. When the model felt pretty nose heavy, I put some Elmer’s glue in the hole. This worked.
I attached the wing to the fuselage and was gratified to find that Tamiya Extra Thin Cement worked beautifully. I didn’t put on the horizontal stabilizers. Instead I painted the model.
This was a pretty simple paint scheme. The upper surfaces were Olive Drab (FS 34087) and the underside was Neutral Gray (FS 36270). I was able to free hand these colors. I masked the cockpit interior. I also painted the horizontal stabilizers and the landing gear doors. I painted the landing gear wells Zinc Chromate (FS 24151 is pretty close) as well as the inside of the gear doors. I painted the top of the tail and the prop spinner red with Tamiya using a brush.
Once I was satisfied with the paint, I sprayed the entire aircraft with Future to give the decals a smooth surface.
I chose the 1943 New Guinea scheme because this was the period when my father was in New Guinea.
Some of these decals were very tiny, and because the decal film was thin, I had problems with the smaller decals folding as I applied them. The tail serials wrapped around the paper, clinging to the back instead of sliding off the paper onto the model.
The larger decals like the national insignia were not a problem.
Because of the delicacy of the decals, it took me 3 sessions, each a day apart to get the decals on.
Once the decals had set overnight, I put on a coat of Testors clear flat acrylic to dull down the finish and protect the decals. I put on the horizontal stabilizers.
It was also now time to put the landing gear on, add the gear doors and put on the canopy.
Here again I hit a problem with the instructions. The color callout for the landing gear legs is zinc chromate, but the photo on the box top shows metal landing gear legs. I went with the photograph, using Testors Metalizer Steel, not too shiny but silvery color.
The landing gear fit pretty nicely. I used liquid cement thickened with tube glue to give me some ability to put the parts in place and still have some time for alignment.
I put the canopy on with Krystal Kleer. It worked just fine, and the canopy had a good fit.
The last item was the propeller and spinner. This was somewhat troublesome, as the attachment between the prop hub and the sprue was fairly thick. I spent about a half hour cutting on this part, trying to get the spinner to fit. I was also afraid I was going to cut off one of the prop blades, but I avoided this. The spinner went on.
And the model was finished.
Recommended. This kit has a couple of problem areas, but generally fit and design are excellent for a kit of this scale. It was not a difficult build overall, and I was glad to do a model with a connection to my family history.
Many thanks to Brengun for this excellent kit, and to IPMS/USA for the chance to build it.
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