Revell 1/48th P-39 Airacobra

KIT #: 5255
PRICE: $14.95 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Andrew Abshier
NOTES: Reissue; includes parts from the ProModeler release



The P-39's history has been well covered in other reviews on MM, so go there if you want the rundown!


Revell's P-39 was originally released as a Monogram kit way back in 1967.  The kit marked a turning point in Monogram's history; up to that point most of their 1/48 scale kits were little more than build-it-yourself toys, with many operating features and very minimal to nonexistent interior details.  Monogram's P-39, for the first time, emphasized interior detailing over toy-like features, and was, for many years, the only P-39 available in 1/48 scale.

The kit is molded in gray and packaged in a single bag, with the clear sprue adrift on the bottom of the box; fortunately all of the parts were undamaged.  Molding, even from these old molds, is very good, with no sinkmarks visible and very little flash.  Surface detail consists of finely raised lines, with fabric detail where appropriate; the fabric detail is a bit overstated but should look fine under paint.

Where the kit shines is in the interior.  Quite a lot is there!  The cockpit is very complete with good detailing on the instrument panel and sidewalls.  The seat has molded on harnesses, and the instrument panel has detailing front and back, with decals available for the instruments if desired.  Aside from the cockpit, there is a fully detailed gun bay forward, which includes the cannon and nose-mounted machine guns. Behind the cockpit on the right fuselage half is a molded-in engine section.  Detailing on all is very good.  Removable panels are provided, which you can glue over all this if you want to, but why?

The only proviso to all this nice detailing in the nose is that there is precious little space to put nose weight.  Revell's instructions suggest placing it in the cannon ammunition magazine and the oil cooler, but that's not going to be nearly enough space because the P-39 is a determined tail sitter!  You're probably better off drilling holes into the tires, placing pins, and mounting the model to a base if you're going to build your model with the access panels open.

The wheel well detail isn't as comprehensive as on the newer P-39 kits but is adequate.  The nose gear doors have positive locators, which is a blessing after battling the nose gear doors on the Eduard kit!  Unfortunately the model is engineered so that the nose gear strut has to be installed before assembling the fuselage halves, so care will need to be taken to avoid breaking off the nose gear strut during painting.  The radiator inlets and outlets are just blanked-off areas, and would bear extra detailing. 

Clear parts are nicely molded.  Unlike the newer P-39 kits the side windows need to be mounted on the cockpit doors, but white glue should take care of that easily.

The extra interior detailing lends itself to diorama building, and all of the figures from the ProModeler release--the last time the P-39 kit was issued--are included, with a standing pilot figure in full flight gear, and a mechanic squatting on a 55-gl. drum, in a working pose.  The newer figures are nicely sculpted, and with all of the 1/48th ground vehicles and accessories now available, the diorama possibilities are many.

Markings for three versions are provided:

1.  P-39D-2, 51st FG, North Africa 1943 in olive drab over neutral gray.

2.  P-39Q, "Devastating Devil", 49th FS/15th FG, Canton Island, 1943 in Sand over Duck Egg Blue.

3.  P-400, "Hell's Bells", 347th FS/67th FG, Guadalcanal 1942, medium green and brown camouflage over light gray.

The decals are well printed and stenciling is included for one airplane.

Watch the painting instructions on this kit.  If you follow the recommendations, you would be painting the interior in zinc chromate and the landing gear struts in white. (?)  P-39 interiors were done in a dull dark green known as Bell Green on everything aside from the engine, guns, and magazines.  Also, the exterior paint on the P-400 are USAAF equivalents to the British colors, so don't break out your RAF colors for this version!


Forty years on, this kit can still hold its own with it's more modern competition.  It doesn't have the finesse of the Hasegawa or Eduard kits, but it also doesn't have the price tag of those kits  either, and the extra interior detailing is something the newer kits don't have!  There's plenty of detail sets and aftermarket decals to fix this kit up, but a stone-stock Revell P-39 is still going to be a good-looking model.  For many modelers of a certain age (read: U.S. modelers with AARP cards, including your reviewer!) this kit is an old friend that many of us cut our teeth on as kids, so it is good to see it back.  Recommended.

 Review sample courtesy of my (barely dinged) wallet!

Andrew Abshier

December 2009

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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