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Bell P-39D Airacobra


Special Hobby, 1/32 scale

S u m m a r y

Catalogue Number: SH32002 – P-39D Airacobra
Scale: 1/32
Contents and Media: 145 parts in grey styrene, 12 parts in clear injection plastic, 3 resin parts, 1 color photo-etched fret, decal sheet for three aircraft
Price: USD$57.60 available online from Squadron
Review Type: FirstLook
Advantages: Crisp and consistent recessed panel lines, narrow attachment points to sprues, locator pins, and high quality markings
Disadvantages: Experience often required with limited run kits
Recommendation: Highly recommended for modelers with some experience building limited run kits

Reviewed by Ian Robertson

 Special Hobby's 1/32 scale P-39D Airacobra will be available online from Squadron.com



The Bell P-39 (and P-400) Airacobra was the first American fighter fitted with tricycle landing gear and a mid-mounted engine.   It was intended as a high altitude interceptor; however, poor engine performance and a general lack of reliability hampered its effectiveness in this role.  Despite the P-39’s lackluster performance and unpopularity with American and British pilots, it served alongside other Allied fighters in the South Pacific and the Mediterranean.  However, the Airacobra’s most celebrated successes came while serving as a lend-lease fighter with the Soviet Red Air Force.  P-39s proved to be very effective on the Eastern Front where most combat took place at low altitudes.  Indeed, many Russian pilots achieved ace status while flying the P-39. 

Special Hobby's 1/32 scale P-39D Airacobra is typical of recent releases from this company.  The plastic is smooth with a satin texture and crisply engraved panel lines.  Some panels on the fuselage are raised slightly from the model’s surface, but not enough to appear awkward.  The sprue attachment points are narrower than one often finds in limited run kits, which means that less damage is likely to occur when removing parts from their sprues.  Some of the smaller parts exhibit minor flash, but this should be easy to clean up.   

The kit contains 145 parts in grey styrene, although the instructions indicate that some of these parts are not for use (perhaps additional versions are planned for the future).  There are 12 parts in clear plastic, with the doors and main canopy being the main pieces.  A highly detailed fret of color photoetch is supplied.  Resin parts are limited to two 6-stack exhausts and a gun sight.  Markings are included for three USAAF aircraft serving in New Guinea, all of which are in standard olive drab over neutral grey. 


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Unlike some of the earlier Special Hobby releases, this kit includes locating pins for the major parts (fuselage halves and wings) – a welcome feature for many modelers.  Be certain to test whether a nose weight is necessary before gluing the fuselage halves together. 

The wings have been designed with a single lower section and two upper halves, so the join to the fuselage should be strong and positive.  The horizontal tailplanes attach securely to mounting slots on the empennage. 

Special Hobby has provided separate control surfaces for the ailerons, elevators, and rudder.



A centerline drop tank and bomb are also provided. 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


The resin exhausts are well detailed and hollowed out at the tips.  The kit includes only the 6-stack exhaust, not the 12-stack exhaust system seen on the P-400.



The resin gun sight attaches to a tubular frame (part C33) and requires the addition of a clear reflector (part K6).



The photo-etch fret features colored seat belts, buckles, and fins for the centerline bomb.




The transparencies with this kit are thin and very clear.  The main canopy is a single piece, with separate pieces for the doors.  Special Hobby wisely cast the doors in clear plastic so that all is required is a simple mask for the window while painting. 



The doors may be positioned either open or closed.



Markings are supplied for three USAAF aircraft, all in standard olive drab over neutral grey camouflage. 

·        P-39D-1BE, 41-38350, 35th FS, 8th FG, pilot Lt. I.A. Erickson.  Milne Bay, New Guinea, 1942 (this scheme is featured on the box art) 

·        P-39D-1BE, 41-38357, 35th FS, 8th FG, pilot Lt. Leder.  Milne Bay, New Guinea, October 1942. 

·        P-39D-1BE, 41-388338, 36th FS, 8th FG, pilot Lt. Donald C. McGee.  Seven Mile Strip airfield, Port Moresby, New Guinea, June 1942.   The aircraft is named “Nip’s Nemesis II”.



The decals, which are printed by AVIPRINT, are thin and in perfect register.





Special Hobby’s 1/32 P-39D Airacobra is a much anticipated and very welcome addition to the growing selection of large scale planes on the market.  The quality of the parts is excellent, and a built up example of the model at the 2007 IPMS USA Nationals in Anaheim convinced a lot of attendees to purchase the kit.   

Because it is a limited run kit, extra time and care may be required to prepare and assemble the parts.  However, if you have experience with limited run kits then this one should not present any major difficulties. 

Highly recommended to modelers with moderate experience.

Thanks to MPM/Special Hobby for the review sample.

Review Text and Images Copyright © 2007 by Ian Robertson
Page Created 29 August, 2007
Last updated 24 December, 2007

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