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P-47D

Vintage Fighter Series 1/24 P-47D Thunderbolt Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2008 Manufacturer Vintage Fighter Series
Subject Republic P-47D Thunderbolt Scale 1/24
Kit Number VF2404 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Lots of detailing, beautiful engineering Cons  
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $159.95

First Look

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The Republic P-47 first took shape as the Seversky P-35 before that company became Republic. The design was evolved through the P-43 Lancer before the requirements led to World War II's heaviest fighter, the P-47.

The P-47 was designed with the typical streamlined cockpit of the day before rearward visibility in aerial combat became a requirement. Later P-47s were redesigned with the rear upper deck cut down to facilitate a bubble canopy atop the fuselage which provided excellent all-round visibility. This new design was introduced part-way through P-47D production, which for whatever reason didn't warrant a new model designation.

P-47s were among the first fighters to accompany the USAAF over to Europe as the United States entered the war. While many fighter wings were quick to transition to the P-51 Mustang as soon as it was available, the 56th Fighter Group was one of the only organizations to refuse the Mustang and see the war through in their beloved Thunderbolts.

Almost three years ago, I had the privilege to review a kit from a new model company. The kit was a 1/24 scale P-40B Tomahawk (review here) and the company was Vintage Fighters. Well these folks are back and in a BIG way. This is their second tooling and it covers the P-47D Bubbletop Thunderbolt also in 1/24 scale. So how did they do?

The kit is molded in gray styrene and is presented on 23 parts trees, plus separately packaged fuselage and wing halves, plus a single tree of clear parts, vinyl tires, and vinyl pilot figure. Where their first kit was similar to one of the Airfix 1/24 kits, this release is more like a Trumpeter kit.

Unlike a Trumpeter kit, this beauty is not over-engineered. There isn't time/space wasted on details where you can't see them. On the other hand, it is clear that the Vintage Fighter folks spent a great deal of time working on getting those details that you will see 'just right'. Gone are the moving features, and in their place are some nice details and options.

I decided to dry-fit the fuselage halves together and you can see top and bottom that with no tape or rubber bands, the fuselage halves go together nicely. There is just a hint of sink marks where the locator pins are provided that may or may not be an issue. The panel lines and rivet detailing is softer on these surfaces, so under a coat of paint, the surface detailing should be just right. These rivets are not the sharp divots as in Trumpeter's tooling, these are almost non-existent.

Starting off in the cockpit, this 'pit' is extremely detailed as the throttle quadrant has individually molded throttle, propeller, and mixture levers. Two different gunsights are provided and each has clear lenses.

The instrument panel is three layers thick, with the middle layer a sheet of styrene with raised instrument details molded onto the surface. If you paint that surface black and dry-brush white over the details, then sandwich the results and put a drop of Future onto each instrument face to simulate glass, I think you'll be pleased with the results. The only details missing in here are the seatbelts/shoulder harnesses. This is because the kit was intended to seat the nice-looking vinyl pilot figure, and molded on belts/straps would only get in the way. If you're not using the pilot figure, you'll need seatbelts/shoulder harness, and perhaps Eduard will render these.

I am really hoping we see a set of color placards released for this kit from Eduard since in this scale, everything is clearly visible and it would be the perfect touch to highlight this kit's beautiful detailing.

This is the first kit I've seen of the Thunderbolt that gets everything under the cowl 'just right'. The R2800 looks every bit as detailed as Trumpeter and in fact, there is lots more plumbing in this kit. As with the Trumpeter kit, this kit captures the details of the visible portions of the ducting and even has some beautiful details on the firewall replicated. As stated above, Vintage Fighters didn't worry about details inside the airframe that you won't be able to see (like the supercharger in the tail section), but what you do see here is great. Where this kit departs from the Trumpeter P-47 is what makes this kit 'just right' - the cowling. Where Trumpeter provides a clear cowling to help you show off all of that nice detailing, Vintage Fighters provided the cowing in four segments, just like the real aircraft. You can pose the cowling buttoned up or with one or more panels removed. Now we're talking...

To facilitate structural strength in a kit this size, Vintage Fighters designed a main spar that extends out of the fuselage and part way into the wings. This will provide a stronger bond at the wing root as well as set the proper dihedral in the wings at assembly.

You'll notice the turtledeck and vertical stab are separately molded from the fuselage. I see a later block P-47D/M on the horizon.

The rudder and landing flaps are separately molded and are positionable, though for some reason the elevators are molded with the horizontal stabs and are locked at neutral. If the gust-lock is installed, this would be fine, but with a pilot in the cockpit, the lock would be removed (or the pilot would be killed trying to fly with no pitch control).

The landing gear looks nice with separately molded oleo scissors to make it easier to polish the hydraulic section of the struts. The entire tail wheel bay is assembled separately and inserted into the tail when ready, which means you can leave this off the aircraft until you're finished with painting.

The wings have separately molded gun bay access doors so you can pose these open to reveal the eight .50 caliber machine guns. One wing has the ammo bay door separately molded to reveal the ammo troughs fully loaded with ammo belts. The gun placement is correctly aligned parallel to the ground.

Four different propellers are provided so you can opt for the correct prop for the aircraft you're modeling. Check your references.

In addition to the gun bays, you have a number of external stores options:

  • 108 gallon underwing metal tanks (2)
  • 108 gallon underwing paper tanks (2)
  • Bazooka rocket launchers (2)
  • 500 pound bombs (2)
  • Flat metal centerline drop tank (1)

The kit provides three sheets of decals, one of which was too large for my scanner. Markings are provided for six different subjects, but in the only real glitch I've found in this kit, the instructions do not identify these subjects nor do the color profiles show you what colors to use to replicate the indicated color schemes. Doing some forensic work, here's what I can piece together on these markings:

  • P-47D-25-RE, 42-26640, WZ-X, 84 FS/78 FG
  • P-47D-25-RE, 42-26635, MX-E, 82 FS/78 FG
  • P-47D, unknown, NV-K, RNZAF
  • P-47D-28-RE, KJ-159, RAF (Thunderbolt Mk.II)
  • P-47D-22-RE, 42-26520. 80, French Air Force
  • P-47D-27-RE, 42-27295, 23, French Air Force

This is a beauty of a kit and is easily the best Thunderbolt produced in any scale. If it builds as nice as it looks, this is the Thunderbolt 'King of the Hill'. It would have been nice if each of the full-color profiles at least identified the subjects being presented as well as the basic colors used for the camouflage (where applicable).

This kit is listed by the US importer, Stevens International, with a suggested retail price of under $160. Keep your eyes open as there appears to be some confusion on pricing as some online retailers show the price higher than this. I'm sure the pricing will sort itself out by the time the kit arrives on store shelves.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!

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