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Trumpeter 1/32 P-47D Bubbletop Thunderbolt Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2007 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject P-47D Bubbletop Thunderbolt Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2263 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Superdetailed and superbly engineered Cons
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $149.95

First Look


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.

Several months ago, Trumpeter released their 1/32 scale P-47D Razorback Thunderbolt kit which is an AMS modeler's dream ( look here). At the same time, Hasegawa released their own 1/32 scale P-47D Thunderbolt, though this was the later block bubbletop version. Well, Trumpeter is back with their bubbletop Thunderbolt and Hasegawa is due to release their version of the razorback in the near future.

This kit is molded in the usual Trumpeter light gray styrene and presented on sixteen trees, plus two trees molded in clear, and a separate clear cowling. A small fret of photo-etched parts is also included containing seatbelts, shoulder harnesses, radiator grilles, and compressor blades. The main gear and tailwheel tires are rubber, as are the 50 caliber ammo belts.

The detailing on the kit's surfaces is finely scribed and include lots of rivet details. While this will be more visible on bare metal schemes, they will be significantly subdued with standard camouflage colors.

The cockpit is very nicely detailed and will only require some careful painting to make the details stand out. Like most Trumpeter releases, the instrument panel is enhanced with instrument faces printed on clear acetate that will align behind the instrument panel itself. The look is quite realistic.

While the cockpit is nice, the engine is a magnificent work of art. There is good reason to provide the cowling in clear, though you might want to leave the cowling off altogether. This engine is easily one of the most detailed they've done to date and would most definitely look great off the aircraft and on an engine stand. The problem is that the engine doesn't stop at the firewall. Trumpeter has recreated all of the ductwork for the aircraft's supercharger system that sits in the rear fuselage behind the side vents. The supercharger itself has a photo-etched compressor, but there is just no way to see any of that detail unless you leave one side of the kit fuselage off.

The engine, firewall, ductwork, and supercharger make into a huge assembly that also serves as the mounting point for the cockpit tub before the whole thing goes inside the fuselage halves. This assembly also has wing main spars, fore and aft, which the assembled wings will slide over and provide a good mechanical mounting as well as ensuring proper dihedral.

The flight control surfaces and landing flaps are all molded separately and can be positioned to taste.

One of the most common mistakes made with P-47 kits is the alignment of the leading edge machine gun holes. Some manufacturers see the restored Thunderbolts out there and assume these are accurate. One of the odd design quirks of the aircraft was when Republic mounted the machine guns to be horizontal to the ground rather than aligned with the centerline of the wing leading edge. This would be the line that runs from the wing root to the wing tip when viewed from the front. Check out photos of the combat P-47s, not the restorations, and see how the inboard machine gun hole sits above the wing leading edge centerline whilst the outboard gun is below that same line.

The gun bays are nicely laid out with the ammo troughs and gun mounts, with each of the eight machine guns provided as well.. The gun doors atop the wing are molded separately so they can be positioned open or closed.

As mentioned before, the cowling is clear, though the lower duct walls that sit at the bottom of the cowling and the cowl flaps are gray styrene. You do have your choice of open or closed cowl flaps.

The kit provides FOUR different propellers, so you can select the propeller used by the aircraft you're representing - check your references.

External stores include:

  • two bazooka rocket launchers
  • two 500 pound bombs
  • two 250 pound bombs
  • two 150 gallon metal drop tanks
  • two 75 gallon metal drop tanks
  • two 108 gallon paper drop tanks
  • two 108 gallon flat metal tanks

Markings are provided for two aircraft:

  • P-47D, 44-20514, GQ-U, 355 FS/354 FG, 'Wee Speck'
  • P-47D, 42-26628, LM-C, 62 FS/56 FG, 'Miss Fire'

The color profiles in the kit use Gunze Sangyo color numbers. The decals also include a set of maintenance stencils.

But there are two sets of decals. One is the large sheet with the markings and stencils, but this kit also includes a specially protected sheet using a different color process to render that lovely nose art for the 56 FG aircraft. Trumpeter is stepping up their game even more!

So how does this kit stack up against the Hasegawa kit? The Hasegawa kit is half the suggested retail price of the Trumpeter kit. Is the Trumpeter kit worth twice as much as the Hasegawa kit? I think so. For a simple build, I'd go with the Hasegawa kit, but if I am having one of my usual AMS attacks, the Trumpeter kit is the AMS modeler's dream. There is so much detail there, and still more possibilities to add, that only you and God will know what is inside that fuselage. That is until the IPMS Judges turn in their mirrors and flashlights for fiberoptic borescopes to boldly judge where noone has judged before...

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!