Hobbycraft 1/32 A-36A Apache Kit First Look
|Date of Review||June 2009||Manufacturer||Hobbycraft|
|Kit Number||1710||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||First injection-molded Apache kit in this scale; simple construction||Cons|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$47.95|
Building on the success of the Mustang Mk.I, North American Aviation pressed the USAAF to issue a contract for US-production aircraft. While the USAAF had acquired a handful of Mustangs for evaluation and were interested, money for fighter production was already committed for the year (1942). Ironically, there were funds available for an attack aircraft and the A-36 project was launched in an effort to keep North American's production lines open while funding could be directed to P-51 production.
To create an attack aircraft out of the basic Mustang airframe, the aircraft retained the two .50 caliber machine guns in the nose, replaced the four 20mm Hispano cannons in the wings with four additional .50 caliber machine guns, added hydraulically activated dive brakes to the wings as well as bomb racks. A special Allison engine optimized for sea level powered the aircraft, and the movable radiator intake scoop was replaced with a fixed scoop. Sand filters were later added to the carburetor intakes for desert operations.
North American produced 500 A-36s which remained in service throughout most of the war, initially in the Mediterranean theater and later in the China/Burma/India theater. The low-altitude Allison was at a significant disadvantage while flying over the 'Hump' in CBI operations. While the A-36 was a lesser-known variant of the Mustang, it did represent the USAAF's first combat experience in the Mustang family and as the war progressed, even the A-36s were frequently referred to as Mustang.
A number of years ago, Accurate Miniatures released the Allison-powered Mustangs in 1/48 scale, including the A-36. These kits were easy builds and featured some nice detailing for the price. Hobbycraft Canada obtained permission to produce these kits in 1/32 scale from Accurate Miniatures, and while some time passed since that permission was granted, we finally have these nice kits available in 1/32 scale as well.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and is presented on five parts trees, plus a single tree of clears. If you read our preview of this kit series, you know there are at least nine trees of parts to render the various early Apache variants:
- Common fuselage tree
- Three wing trees
- Two nose trees
- Common detail tree
- External stores tree
- Common clear parts tree
While the common trees have parts that apply to all the variants, there are some parts that are unique to a given variant and these are removed at the factory for kits where these parts aren't needed. For example, in this kit, we have the A-36, so the camera parts that were in the RAF Apache Mk.I have been removed from the fuselage tree. Also gone is the Malcolm hood, not that any Apaches were retro-fitted with that sliding canopy.
Most of the detailing from the Accurate Miniatures scales up nicely, but there are a few action items to tend to as well. The details on the instrument panel are soft and you might want to look into some aftermarket products to detail this out. The radio trays behind the pilot are very soft detailwise and you may be happy with that or you can do a little detailing back there to make these look right in 1/32 scale.
The rest of the cockpit is done right with the curved floor (which was the upper surface of the wing) provided and the control boxes on the sidewalls that don't reach the floor, just like the full-scale aircraft. Again, there are opportunities to do some super-detailing and detail painting to bring out these details and to add to the visual effect.
The kit provides you with the standard side-hinged enclosure which is actually two sets of parts on the clear tree. One set provides the cockpit enclosure closed, the other with the enclosure hinged open. Take your pick.
One other action item that could be corrected involves the wheel wells. Since the Hobbycraft kit is a scaled-up Accurate Miniatures kit, it brings with it Accurate's inaccuracy - the boxed-in wheel wells. This is also a bug in just about every other Apache kit ever produced, but there are some aftermarket wheel wells that can correct this error, but you'll have to surgically remove the molded-in wheel wells to replace them.
Since the main gear doors are typically closed on the early Apaches, this may be more effort than its worth. Here is a shot of the visible portion of the wheel well that would be visible even with the main doors closed. Personally, I think a modification is in order.
As with the Accurate Miniatures kits, the flight control surfaces of this kit are all molded in-place in the neutral position. This is fine for most builders, but the AMS builder may want to drop the flaps and perhaps pose the rudder and elevators. A little careful surgery and detailing will also add to the visual appeal of this kit. You can see photos of Apache flaps and flight controls in various stages of assembly and positioning in our online references here.
This kit is only user of the dive-brake wing parts and you can see in the images above that the dive brakes are molded closed but the vents are open. You might want to blank off the dive brakes with some sheet styrene from the inside of the wings to keep anyone from seeing daylight or hollow styrene wing shell through the brakes. The real aircraft had a solid surface on the inside of the brake wells.
Markings are provided for five examples:
- A-36A, 42-83956, N, 526 FBS/86 FBG, Sicily, 1943
- A-36A, 42-83840/HK944, C, 1437 Strategic Recon Flt, Italy, 1943
- A-36A, 42-84067, A, 527 FBS/86 FBG, Sicily, 1943
- A-36A, 42-84036, A-V, 525 FBS/27 FBG, North Africa, 1943
- A-36A, EW998, RAF, Boscombe Down, UK, 1944
These Hobbycraft Mustang kits are easy builds straight out of the box and there are lots of interesting color schemes to choose from whether you use the markings included in the kit or adapt aftermarket sets to render your subject. If you want to see what this kit looks like build-up, check out Tony Bell's build-up review here.
One final note about early Mustang/Apache main gear doors. Under normal circumstances, these doors were closed under hydraulic pressure and when the gear was lowered, they'd open to let the gear out and close afterwards. A P-51B/C/D/K would have these doors still closed after engine shut down, but after the aircraft sat a while and the hydraulic pressure would bleed off, the doors would open under gravity. Most of us would see photos of the doors hanging open and assume that all Mustangs and Apaches were made that way. Almost...
The Allison-powered Mustangs and Apaches also had hydraulic-powered main gear doors, but these were augmented with mechanical locks to hold the doors closed. When the hydraulics bled off long after engine shut-down, the doors remained closed. So is it wrong to pose these doors open? Absolutely not! When the crew chief or maintenance troops serviced the aircraft, these doors were simply unlatched and they'd drop open without hydraulic pressure to hold them up. You can see an example of this at North American's ramp with the Apache in the foreground with its doors closed and the one behind undergoing maintenance and its doors open (look here).
This was a cool kit when we first saw it nearly two years ago and when it finally did reach store shelves late last year, it was not surprising that the first run had virtually sold out right away. It is elegant in its simplicity which will provide you with a nice weekend project or the foundation for a beautiful AMS build. The choice is yours.
My sincere thanks to Hobbycraft Canada for this review sample!