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P-39 Kit

Monogram 1/48 P-39 Airacobra Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2006 Manufacturer Monogram
Subject P-39 Airacobra Scale 1/48
Kit Number 6844 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Very nicely detailed kit Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

P-39 Kit
P-39 Kit
P-39 Kit
P-39 Kit
P-39 Kit

Bell designed an advanced fighter aircraft in 1938 that featured a 37mm cannon firing through the propeller spinner and different configurations of machine guns depending on the version. The engine was mounted behind the pilot, with the propeller shaft running under the pilot's seat and between his legs. The aircraft incorporated one of the first nosegear arrangements on an operational fighter.

The aircraft was initially destined for France, but after that country surrendered to Germany, deliveries were instead routed to the RAF. In operations, the RAF didn't care for the aircraft. It lacked performance above 12,000 feet and the Allison engine was not supercharged (a result of some pre-war politics in the US defense industry). Nevertheless, the USSR employed the aircraft extensively as it was found to be a worthy fighter in Soviet service until MiG and Yak production could ramp up, with the Soviets receiving over half of the total P-39 production.

The US also had good success with the P-39 once its strengths were properly employed. Below 10,000 feet, the aircraft was more than a match for the early A6M Zero.

I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what used to be the nicest P-39 kit in any scale. With the release of the Eduard and, more recently, the Hasegawa P-39s in 1/48 scale, the state of the art in model design has come into play. Nevertheless, this kit doesn't give up its title easily.

Designed in the late 1960s, this kit was a product of Monogram's excellent design work (no computers) that rendered details in the gun bay, engine bay, as well as in the cockpit. Neither the Hasegawa nor Eduard kits offer this level of detail!

Molded in dark green plastic, this kit is presented on three parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. This was one of the early constant scale kits where the parts trees would dictate the size of the box. Prior to this point, we had 'box scale' where the kit was sized to fit in the box. That is why so many of the early kits were released in some rather bizarre scales. While this kit would fit into the 1969 blue box, it definitely didn't fit into the new one, hence the ends of two trees were snipped off at the factory to create a new 'box scale' concept.

By today's standards, the kit has a few minor bugs in detail and is also a product of the molding standard of the day - raised versus scribed surface decals. On this kit, it isn't that obvious. One of the more problematic details is the nosegear, but if you were to swap that out with a spare from an Eduard kit, it would be a little harder to pick this model out of a multi-manufacturer line-up.

Notice that the aircraft is photogenic on the left side. The gun bay, entry door, and engine bay panels are all molded closed. They're all open on the right side, but can be closed up with a little care as well.

Markings are provided for one aircraft:

  • P-39, 41-7143, Z-38

Many folks are excited about the release of the new Hasegawa kit, but if you have one or more of these Monogram kits in your stash, don't be so quick to stet them aside. This still builds into a nice model and is still impressive given the molds are over 35 years old!s