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A-36

Accurate Miniatures 1/48 A-36 Apache Build Review

By Kelly Jamison

Date of Review July 2006 Manufacturer Accurate Miniatures
Subject A-36 Apache Scale 1/48
Kit Number 3401 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice fit, easy build Cons Instruction sheet
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

Background

The Army Air Force put out a contract for a high-speed dive bomber to support ground troops. The forward looking team at North American spent just a few days and drew up all the modifications to the new P-51 that was just coming off the line at Inglewood California’s assembly line. The Mustang 1A being produced for the British, was still hot off the tarmac in Southern California. There were a few growing pains that was quickly being addressed. The A-36 was slated during a perfect time of getting all the bugs worked out of the assembly process.

The biggest differences were the aluminum slatted brake panels on the top and bottom of the wings. A persistent rumor is that they were wired shut. Numerous reports from retired pilots that flew the A-36 said they were never “wired shut” while being used as a dive bomber. The rumor probably started when the old war weary aircraft were brought back to the US and used for advanced trainers for fledgling fighter pilots.

The other big difference in the P-51/Mustang 1A was the armament. Four .50 cal machine guns graced the wings while two .50 cal machine guns were placed in the nose. Bomb shackles were placed below the wings but set very close to the main landing gear struts. Even though its life span was short, the A-36 was a very successful dive bomber and wrote its own chapter in one of the best fighters ever flown, the P-51 Mustang.

The Kit

The kit comes in the usual fantastic boxing and art we have come to expect from Accurate Miniatures. This particular kit was not only their first but their first run too. It comes with the false bottom hiding all the glass, decals and instruction sheet. The top of the false bottom has a great scale drawing suitable for framing. I don’t know what others think but I have a hard time throwing away most of the AM boxes.

A-36 The kit comes molded in a dark olive drab color. You will note that the fuselage is broken down to where different noses can be used giving the flexibility to make any of the early Mustang series all the way up to the P-51C. The glass on this run of kits was still a bit sub-par. The later releases solved the problem. The instrument panel was also done in clear. One of the Achilles heels of the early AM kits was the instructions kit. They can be vague and miss a few steps if you are building different variants of the P-51. More on this as it happened. (The instructions got better then bottomed out with the Vindicator).

One of the things I absolutely loved about this kit was the Model Paint Reference Chart on the back side of the decal placement and history card. I don’t know who was personally responsible for this little gem but Wow! Keep it near your paint drawer. You get Federal Standard numbers and the cross-referenced numbers of most of the major manufacturers colors. This is a very nice reference sheet to have. Thank you whom ever you are.

Construction

A-36 I glued the halves of the fuselage and nose sections before gluing the two halves together rather than build the nose and the fuselage as separate assemblies as called out by the instruction sheet. You do have to remember to glue the instrument panel in before gluing the two fuselage halves into place. The cockpit was a fun and quick build. The beauty of this “pit” is that you can go crazy and super detail it or just build it stock. Either way you will not go wrong. It went together with no problems and looked great with a light black wash to bring out the detail. I used Zinc Chromate Green from Model Masters Acryl line paints. I like the look of it. I dry brushed some British Interior Green to help the worn look and highlight some of the more prevalent details. I didn’t put in the rollover cage or the seat until after the final painting was done to keep sanding residue off these areas. You will see the seat temp installed just for reference. A set of photo-etched seat belts really dress up the area.

A-36 I had no problems gluing the fuselage halves together. Don’t forget the tail wheel and the small scoop on the front of the engine cowling. A quick swath of Mr. Surfacer 1000 over the seams and a quick hit with the sanding stick took care of the fuselage. It was just that easy. I set it off to the side until I could finish the wings.

A-36 The wings needed some blank out panels glued over the dive brakes. With the wings together, you can see through the dive brakes without these small rectangles.  Airwaves makes a nice little photo etch (AC48066) set that allows you to extend the airbrakes along with some seat belts and a few other odd and ends to dress up your build.

A-36 Now to one of those things I forgot to do. Now is when you need to glue in the machine gun barrels. They are slightly hidden in the wings. Use a good reference to check out how they should look. You can also drill out the bomb racks so you don’t have to search for the holes from the outside of the wing. The wings glued up with no problems and alignment was good. I used a curved blade to scrape some of the flaps and ailerons with small divots to represent the oil canning of the thin aluminum skin. It is a technique that I am still developing. You can read more about it by reading my review here.

A-36 Now it was time to mate the wings to the fuselage. The wing joint was a bit off and needed a little putty to smooth it out. I re-scribed the prominent panel lines in this area. Nothing you can’t handle. The radiator scoop on the bottom of the fuselage needed some putty to smooth out the aerodynamic look there. Again, a little putty, a sanding stick and 5 minutes while watching your favorite TV show and you are done.

Painting & Finishing

A-36 I used a set of Fast Frames to mask off the canopy glass. I wasn’t real happy with the fit of the glass and might get a set of Squadron aftermarket canopies to show off the interior of the cockpit. I just didn’t have the time on this one. Once all the glass was temp installed, I pre-shaded the panel lines and airbrushed the Zinc green onto the canopy area. Now we are ready for the main colors.

Awhile back I picked up a SuperScale decal sheet (48-612) on a half price bargain bin at my local hobby store. I am using the A-36A-1-NA “Dorothy Helen” Pilot: Major John P. Crowder Sicily, 1943 524th FBS. I liked the red bordered Stars and Bars and the yellow stripes on the wings. So I used Polly-Scale Japanese Deep Yellow and painted the wings in the area that will be masked off. Let this paint dry overnight so as to not pull it off when masking. Tamiya 10mm tape is just about a perfect match for the width of the stripe. Just tape over the yellow and continue to paint your aircraft.

A-36 Next came Model Master Acryl 5111 with white mixed in to give it a more faded look. Remember to paint the scoop under the wing too. Not a usual place to paint Mustangs. Acryl makes a nice Neutral Grey 5125 that I used on the undersides of the kit. Hit your landing gear covers and wheel covers while you have the airbrush out. A coat of Future Floor Wax prepares the plane for decals.

The decals were a bit on the thick side for SuperScale. The colors were opaque and went down with no problems but we are not reviewing them here. Next came another coat of Future Floor Wax to seal in the decals. Once dry it was time to hit it with Acryl Flat Coat to knock off the gloss sheen. The plane was really looking great.

Final Details

To replicate the two light lenses on the left wing, I used aluminum tubing with some Testors Window Maker white glue. The canopies got cleaned up and glued into place. Again I think the kit would look a lot better with a set of Vac canopies and a little work on the locking mechanism.

The spinner is of the right shape and fits well but I think the propeller is a bit on the thick side and the prop tips do not look right. I think I might do a little more research on this and maybe replace the prop at a later date. You might come up with a different opinion when you look at it.

This is where I couldn’t get the machine guns into the wing without dropping the barrels into the wing completely loosing them. I took the cowards way out and saw a picture of the gun ports covered in tape to keep the Mediterranean dust out of the barrels. I saw this in some documentation but I could not find a picture of this very aircraft with the covers on.  Not the best way of doing this but I was out of tubing! Take care in installing the nose machine guns. There is not a real positive feel for where they should go.

A-36 The landing gear and wheel covers were no problem at all. A set of True Detail Brick Pattern wheels were used but that was a luxury. The kit wheels are just fine. You can choose the flat wheels or the inflated wheels. Your choice and both look good. Many of the True Detail wheels look under inflated. They fit well and look great in place. Don’t forget the small linkage that hooks up to the wheel covers.

A-36 The 500 lb bombs are easy to build and look good hooked up to the shackles. I painted them straight up Olive Drab and used strips of yellow decal to dress them up. Last but not least was the antenna and pitot tube which I have a habit of knocking off and loosing unless I glue them on last.

Conclusions

I enjoyed the build tremendously. It went very fast and before I knew it, the Apache was sitting in my display case. I highly recommend this kit to just about any level of model builder. The only thing is you should be familiar with basic construction concepts and not depend on the instruction sheet for the entire build. The canopy will be a bit of a pain for the more novice modeler.

I applaud AM for tackling such a subject and also giving us Allison powered early Mustang variants. I plan to build the whole line of P-51s as time permits. It looks great and the AM quality holds its own against the Tama-gawa’s of the world. Build it and use it to expand your skills. Make it factory fresh or about to be grounded on the fields of Tunisia.

A-36 A-36 A-36 A-36

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