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L-4 Kit

Bronco Models 1/35 L-4 (O-59) Grasshopper Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2008 Manufacturer Bronco Models
Subject L-4 (O-59) Grasshopper Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35014 Primary Media Styrene/PE
Pros Nicely detailed kit Cons
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $62.95

First Look


Piper Aircraft Company's J-3 Cub was designed to be a light training and utility aircraft that would be built between 1937 and 1947.Following the same idea as Henry Ford's Model T automobiles that came in any color (as long as it was black), the J-3 Cub would become an icon in its standard "Cub Yellow). Powered by a four-cylinder 65 horsepower engine, this all-fabric covered aircraft was supposed to be elegant in its simplicity, ease of maintenance, grace in flight, and low cost. What Piper developed was, and still is a classic aircraft.

When the war drew close, the J-3 was the right aircraft at the right time to support the new Civilian Pilot Training Program and by war's end, around 80% of military pilots had received their initial training in the J-3.

When war did come, Piper performed an extensive modification to the basic Cub to turn it into a military machine - the aircraft recevied a coat of green paint. Actually, these aircraft would also receive more window area around and over the top of the cockpit to improve observer visibility.

These aircraft were easy to dismantle, ship into theater, and get back into service. In its military role, the Cub became the Grasshopper, receiving designations like L-4, O-59, and NE-1. Whatever the designation, the Grasshopper could operate in austere forward areas and provide critical liaison, forward artillery observation, reconnaissance, transportation, and medevac duties.

I remember when Bronco first announced this kit, it had several distinctions - the first J-3/L-4 in styrene larger than 1/48 scale, the first aircraft from Bronco Models, and the first multimedia Cub in any scale. What is especially nice is that this kit is scaled to sit with your 1/35 scale armor instead of your 1/32 aircraft. Grab your Tamiya 1/35 Jeep and some figures, and you've got a vignette.

The kit is molded in Olive Drab styrene and presented on three parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The glazing is done in styrene! A fret of photo-etched parts round out the kit.

Construction (of course) starts in the cockpit, and you'll be pleasantly surprised how the details in this cockpit are faithfully reproduced. The front seat has a map pocket molded onto the backside with a map portruding out of the pocket. Seatbelts and shoulder harnesses are provided as photo-etched parts. The tubular steel frame that surrounds the cockpit is also represented nicely. Note that the tubular frame isn't complete, but the more visible elements are replicated. The AMS modeler will want to grab some Evergreen tube styrene or brass rod and fill in the framework.

Remember that the interior surfaces of the cockpit are the same outer surfaces - fabric skin. The fabric texture is nicely done without being overdone. The few aluminum panels are also clearly represented on the fuselage and the underwing maintenance access panels.

Among the features of the kit:

  • The kit comes with two types of rear seat, depending on the version you're building
  • The lower entry door is positionable and is provided as both styrene or photo-etch
  • The upper entry door in the glazing is molded into the rest of the starboard glazing, but is molded to be easily cut away
  • The windscreen is nicely molded and Bronco opted not to mess with rivet details around the edges of this sharply curved part. Instead, the rivets are provided as photo-etched strips that will frame the windscreen after installation
  • Optional bedrolls and personal weapons are included
  • The rudder and ailerons are separately molded and positionable
  • The elevators are molded onto the horizontal stabs, BUT they are designed to be positionable. Nice touch!
  • The four-cylinder engine is very nicely detailed. All you need to add is ignition wiring (and that is a visible detail!)
  • An HF longwire antenna is also provided in the kit for your observation aircraft

If you pay attention to the instructions, you'll note that the English translation of the rivet strips that surround the windscreen are called "Wing Nuts". So THAT is what those things are for...


One additional 'nice touch' is the resin crew figure that has the pilot in his period attire posed casually next to his aircraft.

Markings are provided for four L-4s:

  • L-4A, 42-36383, Operation Torch, North Africa, November 1942
  • L-4J, 43-30238, 24-A, Artillery Headquarters, US 3rd Army, Italy, 1943
  • L-4H, 9676, 39-F, V Corps Field Artillery, Normandy, 6 Jun 1944
  • L-4B, 91st Bomb Group, 8th AF, Bassingbourn, UK, 1945

This is a magnificent rendition of the L-4 and is definitely the best in any scale (except 1:1). The details and features of what might otherwise been an empty shell of a kit really speak well of any future aviation subjects that might come from Bronco Models. This will look great next to Tristar's nice 1/35 Fi 156 Storch kit. In fact, if you look around the internet, you'll find the last dogfight of World War Two was reportedly between an L-4 and a Storch.

For those who'd rather have the civilian J-3, it wouldn't be difficult to remove the applicable windows and 'backdate' the airframe to a conventional Cub. Break out that yellow paint!

This kit is highly recommended!