In-Box Review
Airacobra Mk.1 / P-39F
In RAF and RAAF service.
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

The P-39 Airacobra has consistently figured high in most-wanted polls for large-scale aircraft subjects for the last 15 years or so, so it's amazing that it's taken so long for an injected kit to appear. Special Hobby has previously released the P-39D and 'Q, and the latest addition to the range is the ill-starred RAF Aircobra Mk. 1 and an RAAF P-39F.

The career of the Airacobra with the RAF is a dismal episode. Originally christened the Caribou (what were they thinking!?) but quickly re-named to fall in line with the U.S. version, the performance of the aircraft fell far short of what was advertised. This was principally because the aircraft wasn't equipped with the supercharger fitted in the prototype. A hot debate ensued, with Bell arguing that British officials knew full well that the equipment had been deleted from production aircraft, while their counterparts claimed they were victims of deception.

Meanwhile, the aircraft were issued to 601 Sqn. in August 1941, and some idea of their unpopularity with RAF crews can be judged by the fact that, over thirty years later, a former 601 pilot and friend of my family still despised and distrusted the Airacobra when I asked him about his wartime experiences! After several months of use dogged by problems, the RAF were glad to see the back of the aircraft (601 Sqn. reequipping with Spitfires) and the surviving Airacobras were shipped off to Russia where, ironically, the VVS used the type with considerable success, eventually receiving around 5,000 P-39s of various marks.

In Plastic
The kit arrives in an attractive top-opening box. The styrene sprues are bagged separately and the resin parts, etched frets and decals are bagged and stapled to a cardboard insert for further protection. The kit comprises:

139 x grey styrene parts
12 x clear parts
5 x resin parts
126 x etched parts, some pre-painted

It's worth stressing that this is a semi-limited run kit so, although the standard has risen to the point of being almost unrecognisable compared with such kits of just a few years ago, it still will require some extra experience and modelling skills to get the best from it.

That said, the moulding quality is good in general. There's little flash evident, but I did find some faint sink marks on the exterior where there's thick moulding on the reverse side of the parts. The surface finish is excellent, with the polished parts featuring neatly engraved panel lines and fasteners, some raised panels and quite subtle fabric areas. There are even locating pins on the main parts, and the airframe clips together very cleanly in a test-fit.

A few details
The 50 part cockpit is a mix of styrene and etched parts. There's a choice of plastic or pre-painted Eduard instrument panels and consoles, plus alternative coloured etched seat harnesses for the RAF and RAAF versions kitted. Completing the cockpit is a nicely cast resin gunsight.

The wheel wells and undercarriage are quite well detailed. The mainwheels have separate hubs that will make painting easier and the tricycle landing gear is cleanly moulded. The tyres are unweighted.

All the control surfaces are separate. The landing flaps are raised.

The kit provides a choice of drop tank or bomb, and the latter is especially nice, with etched tail-fins, fuses etc. I'm not sure how appropriate the stores are to an RAF Mk. 1 as none of my photos show any carried. Herein could lie a problem because the centre-line rack is moulded integrally with the wing, so some careful surgery will be needed if you decide to remove it.

There's a choice of propellers and both 6- and 12-stub exhausts. The resin exhausts are beautifully cast with hollow ends.

Last but not least, there's a crystal clear injected canopy and "car-doors". The inside of the latter is built up with etched panels, document cases and handles.

Instructions and decals
The instructions take the form of a large 12-page booklet with very clear assembly diagrams. The 29-stage sequence is logical and everything looks pretty straightforward. There's no mention of any nose-weight, but I'm pretty sure the kit will be tail-heavy without some.

As usual with Special Hobby kits, Gunze Sangyo paints are recommended. The colour suggested for the cockpit and wheel wells is H58 Interior Green, but both Detail & Scale and Mushroom Books clearly show a distinctive colour known (maybe unofficially) as "Bell green" that was specific to the company's products.

The kit includes decals for 3 aircraft:

A. Aircobra Mk. 1, s/n AH485, UF-O, 601 Sqn., RAF.
B. Aircobra Mk. 1, s/n AH601, UF, “Skylark XIII” 601 Sqn., RAF.
C. P-39F Airacobra, s/n A53-6, FA-F, 82 Sqn., RAAF

The decals are excellent quality. Printed by Aviprint. the items are thin and glossy, and the sheet is my kit is printed in perfect register. The Sky codes look arguably a bit vivid on the sheet, but may tone down when applied. A comprehensive set of stencils is included, along with a clear placement diagram.

Special Hobby's Airacobra is a large and impressive kit - not suitable for beginners, but experienced modellers should delight in the chance to build a largescale P-39 at last. Recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Quite cleanly moulded and well detailed. Excellent quality details.
Lows: Some extra building skills required. A hint of sinkage here and there.
Verdict: A fine quality semi-short run kit that should build into a very fine model.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:32
  Mfg. ID: SH32025
  Suggested Retail: £35-60
  PUBLISHED: Oct 11, 2008
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Hi Rowan well, you know it is not my scale .. still I read the article and it is good as always. One remark about the sprues: they look pretty much like Eduard! I know the MPM group as such is already a biiiig conglomerate but there have also been connections to Eduard (Avia B.534 and Fulmar come to mind) so maybe it is just a case of lessons learned but maybe Eduard is trying 1/32 scale tooling for their forthcomming Bf 109 E ... from the photos the sprues look better than standard SH (just had another look at the Fokker D.21) all the best Steffen
OCT 10, 2008 - 09:51 PM
Hi Steffen I know what you mean about the Eduard "feel" and I wouldn't be surprised if the kit has benefited from the collaboration between the companies. In my opinion, Special Hobby's wings are an improvement, with thinner trailing edges and a less blunt profile. All the best Rowan
OCT 11, 2008 - 12:19 AM
Hi Rowan .. To be clearer I did not wrote of the P-39 kit but just of the style how the sprues are done. Rounded at the corners, nice panel lines ... and yes now you are pointing that out. Eduard already have P-39 data so it would be logical to do the tool when MPM is paying it. .... Hope Eduard will stick (mostly) to 1/48 .. there are enough kits that could be (re)done the Eduard style ... e.g. their own Tempest best regards Steffen
OCT 11, 2008 - 12:28 AM
Hi Modeller's: I am in the later stages ( painting) of the MPM Special Hobby P-39D which I have converted to a P-39K. The P-39F reviewed seems to have the same sprues as the P-39D the only difference that I noted was the 12 exhaust stubs rather than 6. But that is resin part anyway. I was expecting lots of fit problems after reading about a builder on the web who had 3mm gaps in the wing root and lots of flashing. I had just the opposite problem the wing root was a little too tight. But it was a minor and welcome problem which took 10 minutes to fix. I also had no flash, there were a few seams on the landing gear but noting unusual. The fuselage was an exceptional fit but I did remove the locator pins in a couple of places were they didn't seem to line up. I used no filler at all. There isn't enough detail in the cockpit for 1/32nd scale but we are modelers, aren't we? I added cables to the cockpit and 1/32nd instruments to the instrument panel and glazed them with future. I also added gun charging handles, door handles, emergency release handles , a trim wheel and a document case for the right hand door. The wing tops and bottoms didn't quite line up and I had to trim 1mm of over hang from the wing tip a 5 minute job. The two gun ports where only half circles but 10 seconds with a round file and that was done. What I really liked about the models was that it is the first 1/32nd P-39 injection modeled kit and it was half the price of a Trumpeter kit. The canopy is very thin and delicate. It fits perfectly, but mine had a huge crack. I e-mailed MPM yesterday and today they said they are sending me a new canopy free of charge. That's what I call service. I am very satisfied with MPM and their Special Hobby line. This is my second model, I also built the F2a Buffalo enjoyed building that too. Keith Anderson Twain Harte, California Miwukrealtor@gmail.com
JUL 08, 2009 - 06:24 AM
I've already built this model, and the only problem that I found with it was getting the wingroot intakes mounted properly. It took a lot of work to get the wing upper and lower halves to fit propwerly over them. Other than that it's a beauty!
JUL 08, 2009 - 06:38 AM

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