Build report: Accurate Miniature’s 1/48 P-39
The P-39 was one of the great underdogs of World War II. In many ways it was the fighter that could’ve been, had some different decisions been made. It’s certainly one of the sleekest fights of the war. If looks alone counted, it would be right up there with the Spitfires and Mustangs. Unusual in almost every way, from the mid-fuselage mounted engine to the dual car-like doors on either side of the cockpit, it fell short of performance expectations, and for the most part was a stop-gap fighter. Many American pilot’s gave it the not-so-flattering nickname of “Iron Dog”, in fact. After some initial use in the war, most Airacobras in American hands spent the war as advanced fighter trainers preparing pilots to fly in Mustangs and Thunderbolts. It did see some success as a lend-lease fighter with the Russians, who made good use of it’s low-level performance and nose-mounted 37mm cannon.
Despite it’s reputation I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, and I’ve always wanted to build one. So I picked up Accurate Miniature’s P-39 Racer at my favorite hobby shop, Hayes Hobby House in Fayetteville, North Carolina and put it right on top of the build pile.
|Kit: Accurate Miniatures P-39Q/Racer|
|Decals: Two post-war pylon racers; Bud Anderson’s “Old Crow”|
|Reviewer: Jon Bius|
|Notes: Great kit, excellent fit|
This is actually a re-boxing of Eduard’s highly regarded P-39, with an additional resin piece for the air scoop mounted on the bottom of the racers. The parts are superb for the most part… the only thing I had to deal with was some warping on one fuselage half, which happens from time to time with injection molded kits- more on that later. (And it did not hurt the final result!) The sprues contain the parts to build every variant from the P-39D all the way to the Q, including the P-400. In fact, Accurate miniatures is already shipping these same sprues with a different set of decals that models some Guadalcanal Airacobras.
The detail and casting is exactly what you’d expect- sharp. Plenty of interior detail, crisp panel lines and everything simply looks excellent. The clear parts are very nice, clear and appropriately thin. Three decal options- two racers, plus “Bud” Anderson’s P-39Q are included on a superbly printed decal sheet. A wonderful set of masks are included that provide masking for not only the canopy, but also for the wheels and under-wing light.
I started by airbrushing all of the interior parts Pollyscale Medium Green. Bell painted the interiors of their aircraft a medium green color, often referred to as Bell green. I decided to short cut the research, call it medium green, and go for it. I actually like it better than the ZC green normally seen on US aircraft, as it looks better to my eye.
The cockpit “tub”, which also includes the nose gear wheel well, is a superb little model in itself. Eduard’s boxing comes with a P/E fret to add additional detail, but even without that, the Accurate Miniatures boxing is very good looking built completely out of the box as I did.
After putting the medium green down, I picked out the various black boxes and so forth, adding bits of color here and there to represent various switches and knobs. I used Testors silver in the little square bottle to dry brush highlights in the cockpit, then followed up with an acrylic wash of burnt umber artists acrylics in the tube, mixed with liquid soap for foaming dispensers. I’ve become very happy with this combination, as it works extremely well for me.
As this plane has a nose gear, I added some small lead fishing weights in the wheel well area to avoid the kit having a “tail sit” once it was completed.
The left fuselage half was warped fairly significantly , but after some test fitting and thinking about it, I came up with a strategy to deal with it. Since the right half was straight, that would serve as the alignment piece to line up the left half. As is typical with many Czech-produced kits, there are no alignment pins. To facilitate the fit, I cut some small pieces of sprue and mounted them on both fuselage halves to hold things in place.
Next, I glued the fuselage tub into the right side, as I thought this would serve to “stiffen” the right fuselage, and to give additional area that the left half could be aligned to. I let that dry overnight to make sure it was firmly in place.
Once that was done, I dry fitted the left fuselage half in place, holding it in place with masking tape to see how well things would fit when glued. Satisfied with the fit, I started the “surgery”.
First, I aligned the rear part of the fuselages halves together, holding them in place with a rubber band. I use super glue to tack a couple of points along the fuselage, top and bottom. With that firmly in place, I used Tamiya Thin Cement along the rest of the join to make a strong connection. At this point, only the fuselage halves aft of the air scoop just aft of the cockpit were joined. I let that dry overnight.
Having let that dry completely, joining the forward half of the fuselage pieces together was simple, and because the aft pieces were alighed, and the forward piece had the cockpit and wheel well structure to join to, I simply held that together with a rubber band and used Tamiya Thin Cement to hold it all together. It took a little extra time, but it just goes to show you with a little strategy and patience, things that may seem like problems can simply vanish.
With that taken care of, the rest of the build was uneventful. Very little filler was needed along the fuselage seams…. just a drop or two of CA spread along the seams and some sanding swipes made the join seem like it was one piece.
The wings went together equally well, with only minimal sanding needed to smooth out the joins. I also added the underwing .50 caliber gun pods that the P-39Q carried, having drilled out the holes for their mounting pins before assembling the wings.
With a final sanding to make sure everything was smooth, I prepped the surface with a good rub of isopropyl alchohol to remove any dirt and grease that would prevent the paint from adhering.
Painting and decals
Though the kit box art depicts an Airacobra Racer, I decided to build it as a P-39Q with the included decals for an aircraft Bud Anderson flew when he was stationed in California, before shipping off to Europe.
The tail of his airplane was red, so I started there. Having first put down some black along the panel lines for pre-shading, I sprayed on Model Master Acryl Insignia Red, making sure to let some of the pre-shading “shine” through. I lightened up the red a bit with white, and sprayed that one to provide a b it more contrast. After that had time to cure, I masked off the tail ,and the red stripe around the nose.
Next I hit the undersides with Pollyscale Neutral Gray, again letting the pre-shading show through. I followed that up with some of the neutral gray lightened a bit with white. Once this had thoroughly dried, I masked off the undersides.
The top of the aircraft was OD green. I started with Tamiya OD Green, which is very dark. I put it down as described above witht he other colors, and then followed it with a lighter shade of OD, this time Pollyscale OD Green. I added a final coat of the Pollyscale OD, lightened up with some white to provide some weathering and highlighting.
I like using a Prismacolor silver pencil to do paint chipping, so before putting down a coat of Future, I chipped away at various panels and areas of wear. Satisfied with this, I put down a good coat of Future.
The decals that Accurate Miniatures provides with the kit are nothing short of fabulous, settling down very well on their own, and snugging right down as if painted on with some Pollyscale Decal Softener. The kit has about a zillion stencils, which I wimped out on after about five or six, theorizing that at this scale, they wouldn’t be visible. I didn’t actually check that out with research, but I can live with that. 😀
With the decals in place, I put down another coat of Future to seal them in. I put down a panel line wash of the soap and artists acrylics described previously, this time using black. The final painting step was to use a highly thinned mix of a light gray to add exhaust staining, as I’d noticed that many P-39s had a grayish, almost white, exhaust stain pattern.
I added the last bits and pieces- wheels and landing gear, gear doors, cockpit doors and so forth.
The final step was to take the shine out of the Future, using Pollyscale Flat. I’ve used Pollyscale Flat for a while, but the most recent bottle I purchased has been leaving some awful powdery looking stuff. I’ve tried several techniques recommended on various web forums to thin the dull coat so this will not happen, but unfortunately the problem persisted, resulting in too much lightening than I intended for this aircraft. I wouldn’t call it ruined, but I do think I’m going to look for another dull coat.
With all of that done, I removed the masks that came with the kit for the clear parts. They were perfect, coming off without a problem, and leaving no residue. I’m a firm believer now in the value of canopy masks!
This is a great kit, hands down. I’m quite pleased with the look of Bud Anderson’s “Old Crow”, and the examples I’ve seen of both racers were also great looking. The kit goes together well, fits good, has nice detailing, and ends up being a very fine addition to your display shelf.
If you’re looking for a P-39, or want to do something a little out of the ordinary, then Accurate Miniatures P-39 Racer is right up your alley. Highly recommended!