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Special Hobby 1/32 P-36A Hawk 'Pearl Harbor Defender' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2005 Manufacturer Special Hobby
Subject Curtiss P-36A Hawk 'Pearl Harbor Defender' Scale 1/32
Kit Number 32003 Primary Media Styrene, Resin, PE
Pros The kit is 95% styrene, easy assembly, great detailing! Cons Clear parts not separately packaged
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $35.63

First Look


During that era between World War 1 and World War 2, aviation technology was in transition. Most companies were making the transition from biplane to monoplane, from fabric covered wood structures to all-metal (most retaining the fabric-covered flight control surfaces), open to enclosed cockpits, fixed to retractable landing gear, and so on. Many of these transitions were forced along by customer requirements during aircraft procurement competitions.

Such was the case in the 1930s when Glenn Curtiss responded to an Army Air Corps requirement for a monoplane fighter incorporating the attributes listed above. The resulting design from Curtiss would be the P-36 Hawk, which competed against the Seversky P-35. The P-36 was not successful in the competition, but the P-36A with more horsepower interested the Army and they procured a small number. The export version of this aircraft was the Hawk 75, and this was procured in numbers by France as the H.75A, by Great Britain as the Mohawk, and numerous other air forces.

By the time the US entered WW2, the P-36 was obsolete, having given way to the P-40 series while the Seversky P-35 led to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Nevertheless, P-36s did see combat in a variety of theaters, including in the defense of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. P-36As were among the handful of aircraft that were able to get airborne during the attack and were responsible for downing five Japanese aircraft.

Special Hobby has released another nice kit in 1/32 scale. This time it is the long-awaited P-36A Hawk. A quick glance at the sprues will reveal that this is an all-new design that is not based on a previous model.

The parts are molded in light gray styrene and feature very nicely executed surface detailing. The parts are presented on five parts trees, plus a single tree of transparencies. A set of Eduard colored photo-etch is also included that reveal some nicely printed details for the instrument panel.

Assembly begins with the cockpit. The instrument panel would have benefited from a photo-etched face with acetate instrument faces in this scale.

One important tid-bit that has come up in previous Curtiss kit reviews on the net is the cockpit floor. Some companies have mistakenly added a floor to the cockpit making it too shallow. With the P-36, P-40, and many other aircraft of this generation, the cockpit floor was literally the top of the wing, which meant that the floor curves with the top of the wing. Special Hobby nailed this detail spot-on. I almost wish that Special Hobby would offer the cockpit sprue separately for the Trumpeter 1/32 P-40B kit.

The fourteen cylinder radial engine is next in the assembly queue and it is nicely done. As there are no provisions for open cowl flaps nor any other way to see into the engine compartment other than through the front, Special Hobby didn't waste time with detailing the firewall or rear of the engine (engine mounts, exhaust manifold, etc.).

The main wheel wells are boxed in nicely with the stiffener details that are visible at the top of the wheel wells and lightening holes in the box structure.

The landing gear itself is also very nicely detailed including the tail wheel. This version of the Hawk had a retractable tail wheel and the details inside the tail are nicely done as well.

The three-bladed propeller is assembled into the hub halves and a little care will be needed to get the angles right.

The kit comes with two windscreens, one with a rounded surface used in this build and one with a flat windscreen. The transparencies are very thin and clear, though the sliding canopy was cracked in my example. The clear parts were not separately packaged and this would be the only complaint I have due to the damage.

Markings are provided for two examples:

  • P-36A, 46 PS/15 PG, as flown by 2Lt Phillip Rasmussen with one victory
  • P-36A, 47 PS/15 PG, as flown by 2Lt Harry Winston Brown with two victories

If this builds as nice as it looks, it should be a winner. We'll find out soon!

My sincere thanks to for this review sample!