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Hawk 81-A-2 Kit

Airfix 1/72 Hawk 81-A-2 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2011 Manufacturer Airfix
Subject Hawk 81-A-2 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 1003 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice kit of an the early Flying Tiger Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $6.95

First Look

Hawk 81-A-2 Kit
Hawk 81-A-2 Kit

The P-40 was an evolutionary development from the Curtiss drawing boards which started with the Model 75. Curtiss' Model 75 created the basic wing and fuselage that would distinguish this unique family, but equipped with a radial engine, this prototype would lead to the earlier P-36 Hawk. As engine technology continued, an Allison V1710 liquid-cooled engine was mounted on the firewall, and the resulting streamlined cowling led to the now-familiar P-40 silhouette.

As the early P-40s were entering production, export orders came for this sleek fighter and these were designated as the Hawk 81A. The RAF flew these aircraft in North Africa as the Tomahawk Mk.I where they received the now-famous shark mouth around the large chin radiator under the propeller spinner. Many of these early Hawk 81As found their way to the American Volunteer Group in China, also known as the Flying Tigers, and these Curtiss fighters were effective against the Imperial Japanese Army's air arm. Word of the shark mouth design on the RAF's Tomahawks reached the AVG soon shark mouths adourned their aircraft as well. As the efforts of the Flying Tigers gained interest in the US, Disney Studios created a Flying Tiger logo for the AVG which would be applied to many of their line aircraft.

Airfix has produced a nice rendering of the early Curtiss Model 81 in 1/72 scale. It looks like we finally have a proper version of this early P-40 which seems to have eluded other model companies. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on two parts trees plus one small tree of clear parts.

The kit is one of the few that has got the overall cockpit correct. One the mistakes that other companies have made is the depth of the cockpit. In these early fighters, the cockpit floor was actually the upper surface of the wing center section. Some companies made the mistake that there a floorboard in the cockpit like the P-51D which raises the floor line too high and results in a very short cockpit. Airfix got this correct.

The kit has a separately molded rudder, but the ailerons, elevators, and flaps are molded closed/neutral. The landing gear can be posed extended or retracted.

The only two issues I can see with the kit are: 1) the scribed detail is just a bit too heavy for this scale; and 2) the canopy and windscreen are molded together, so the canopy can only be posed closed (unless you're up for some delicate surgery). In the case of the panel lines, I've seen far heavier scribed panel lines and the modeler will find that these are easy to run a weathering wash through after painting and decals to bring out the panel lines. As for the canopy, the rear quarter windows were molded separately and the transparencies are nicely thin and clear.

Markings are provided for one aircraft, Chuck Older's famous P-40 wearing the number 68 and carrying the 'Hell's Angel' artwork ahead of the cockpit and the Disney 'Flying Tiger' artwork behind the cockpit. The red fuselage band identifies this aircraft as part of the 3rd Pursuit Squadon.

This is a welcome addition to the 1/72 scale flightline and fills a void in the early P-40 line-up that still waits in the larger scales.

Highly recommended.

My sincere thanks to Airfix USA for this review sample!