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Build Report: Hobbycraft 1:48 P-35A

I’ve always had a fascination with the aircraft the US had in service just prior to, and in the early stages of, World War II. They were often under-powered, under-gunned and out-maneuvered. But they were all we had, and brave pilots took to the air, despite the odds, in an effort to stem the tide of Nazi and Japanese tyranny.

One of those aircraft was the P-35. A product of the Seversky Aircraft Company, the P-35 was first ordered in 1936 by the Air Corps. Eventually, it was superseded by Curtiss’ P-36 and P-40 models. Further models were built for export to Sweden, though an embargo against weapons exports to nations outside of the UK meant that quite a few aircraft built for Sweden ended up in USAAC service in the Philippines when the war broke out. This kit represents one of those aircraft.

The aircraft intended for Sweden had an odd compartment for an observer/passenger, though the kit does not model anything for this area. I found a few reference photos, and built some bits from sheet plastic to fill in that area. I added a few sidewall details, a floor, and an aft bulkhead, as well as a seat from the spares box, and oxygen bottle, and a few boxes and wires. It looked pretty convincing, although once closed up in the fuselage with the window in place, you can’t see much of anything other than the glare off of the window.

The cockpit is reasonably well detailed. Certainly not sophisticated, and those with mild-to-severe cases of AMS will probably look for after-market options, or do some scratch-building. I found it to be acceptable for an open cockpit build, though. It did take a bit of fiddling to get the cockpit in, along with my own parts for the cargo area, and get the fuselage closed up. Once all was aligned though, the fuselage closed up nicely.

The wing to fuselage fit needed some work, with fairly substantial gaps at the wing roots and fore and aft joins on the undersides. Oddly, the two upper wing parts had different edges to join the fuselage. One followed the contour of the fuselage wing root, but the other was just straight, missing a slight angle in it, so that side had a pretty large gap to fill. All the gaps were filled with stretched sprue, a large does of Tamiya Extra Thin Cement, and some Mr. Surfacer 1000. (Although my bottle is getting dried up, so it’s probably Mr. Surfacer 650 by now…)

The P-35A has LOADS of panel lines, almost as if they built the aircraft some scrap bits of aluminum lying about the work place. What that means for the modeler is you will have lots of rescribing to do, because there is a lot of sanding to be done. My suggestion is to rescribe the panel lines before sanding, because they are fairly petite, and just a little sanding will destroy them. So having them fairly deep will help with making sure you don’t lose a lot of detail. (I say all this because I learned the hard way….)

The only other potential “gotcha” I ran in to was the landing gear. The P-35 had some really odd landing gear, with large fairings that covered the gear when retracted. The parts are designed to be used for open or closed landing gear configuration, though if you choose the open configuration, you have to trim off part of the forward gear covers. When you trim these off, trim less than is recommended, and then do some testing fitting and sand as needed. Also, I found it easier to fully install the gear in to the wing, and then add the forward gear covers afterwards. The instructions have you build the covers and struts as a unit and then add them in, but if you do this, it makes fitting the gear covers- and sanding them if needed- very difficult. Whatever method you use, careful planning and test fitting will save some headaches.

I chose to paint the model in an olive drab/neutral gray scheme that was used by Philippine-based P-35s. The paint was applied over a natural metal finish, and because of the tropical conditions in which the paint was applied, it chipped off really quickly. I found a photo of an aircraft that had most of the paint worn off of the front half of the airplane. I tried unsuccessfully to replicate that. In the end, I decided to model it after another photo I had that showed a plane with far less severe weathering.

I used Tamiya paints for the upper and lower colors, and a combination of Modelmaster paints and Prismacolor pencils for the weathering. Decals were kit decals, and they went on pretty well.

Overall I was pretty happy with the build. The kit can be picked apart pretty severely in terms of accuracy, but overall it looks the part of a P-35A. And being that it’s the only kit of this fore-runner of the P-47, it’s the go-to kit if you’re doing a full collection of the Seversky/Republic aircraft that led up to the P-47. You can certainly see the family resemblance looking down at the wing profile.

It takes some work, but it’s not a bad kit. Certainly nothing about it’s construction that a modeler with a little experience handling some gaps and variations on documented assembly sequences could not handle. And when done, it looks pretty good!